As the days of his 85th birthday start to crawl in, legendary musical composer and immortal record producer Quincy Jones has spoken the unspeakable in recent accounts of all-inclusive interviews. In his most recent interview with Vulture, Jones dropped an abundant amount of knowledge surrounding the conditions of the music world mostly in conjunction with the mentality of musicians in the pop music world. Interestingly, the same concerns Jones shares regarding the pop world can easily be applied to the hip-hop world.
Despite the social media rage concerning his brazen remarks about Michael Jackson, Ivanka Trump, Marlon Brando and more, the interview is readily a guideline for those who consider themselves to be sincere about creating music.
Quincy was merry about modern day artists like Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper who based on their musical manifestations, Jones senses their ownership of formal musical knowledge. “Bruno Mars. Chance the Rapper. Kendrick Lamar. I like where Kendrick’s mind is. He’s grounded. Chance, too,” says Jones. He found the tactics of modern day producers to be “lazy and greedy,” and seeks no innovative input in today’s music production. Perhaps, the evolution of technology plays a part in this. But, does that justify the impotency of some of today’s music?
Here are all the jewels the class-act dropped that can assist hip-hop musicians to evaluate their intent and refine their content. The hip-hop musician is not only the rapper, but the label also applies to producers, engineers, and ghostwriters.
Hip-hop listeners must be open to melodic audible redundancy.
“That’s true about rap, that it’s the same phrase over and over and over again. The ear has to have the melody groomed for it; you have to keep the ear candy going because the mind turns off when the music doesn’t change. Music is strange that way. You’ve got to keep the ear busy.”
Buying a verse from a famed rapper or buying a beat from a notable producer does not guarantee the song will become a hit or gain massive streams.
“You could spend a million dollars on a piano part and it won’t make you a million dollars back. That’s just not how it works.”
A hip-hop measure reigns supreme when it delivers a message that in founded in worth.
“The song is the power; the singer is the messenger. The greatest singer in the world cannot save a bad song. I learned that 50 years ago, and it’s the single greatest lesson I ever learned as a producer. If you don’t have a great song, it doesn’t matter what else you put around it.”
Obtaining knowledge on the history of hip-hop culture and evolution of the hip-hop music genre is key to creating melodies that are timeless. Knowing the culture allows an individual to grasp the mentality behind the vibe of the art form.
“The mentality of the people making the music. Producers now are ignoring all the musical principles of the previous generations. It’s a joke. That’s not the way it works: You’re supposed to use everything from the past. If you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you’re going. You need to understand music to touch people and become the soundtrack to their lives.”
Gaining knowledge about music genres that were instrumental to hip-hop’s coming such as jazz, disco, funk, and soul is pivotal to becoming an exceptional hip-hop act.
“Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha?”
All elements of hip-hop culture are direct behaviors that stem from the traditions of ancient African societies. For example, the hip-hop emcee or the rapper emulates the oral tradition of the Griot. The Griot is the elder tribesmen of a village who through song embedded with lyrics and rhythm passed down the history of their tribe to the next generation.
“There are African qualities to Chinese music, Japanese music, too, with the Kodo drumming. It all comes from Africa.”