R&B veteran Musiq Soulchild has made his point pretty clear. Not everything is for everybody so “it is what it is.” After 15 years in the music industry, the neo soul artist remains relevant. But adapting to a fundamental shift in R&B culture hasn’t been easy. Musiq received harsh criticism after introducing a new rap persona The Husel in 2013.
Critics be damned, he’s currently focused on developing his artistic vision and contributing to the culture. Plans for his upcoming album include branching out with fresh material while staying true to his classic sound. One thing is for sure, his passion for music remains unchanged and his creative energy cannot be contained.
Musiq sat down with DC Fab! before his show at the Washington Convention Center to tell us about his new album, how he felt when fans abandoned him when he tried to rap and R&B culture in general.
DC Fab!: What direction are you taking your new album in? What vibe are you trying to give people?
Musiq Soulchild: I want to stay consistent with what everybody already knows, however at the same time I want to push it forward to not be stale and boring. It’s so many people in this business that try to redo what they did already not realizing that there was a time when people didn’t know who you were, and they weren’t exposed to what it is that you brought them… So, I’m doing my best to do a balancing act between people wanting the same thing over and over and over again, which I’m kind of re-purposing that need for being consistent. I don’t have a problem with being consistent, however, at the same time you have to be progressive. Otherwise what are you doing if you’re not pushing the culture forward? What really are you doing? What really are you accomplishing? …Somewhere between my second album up until now, I kind of got confused with that because I’ve chosen to concede to a lot of people’s opinions and ideas to what they thought the Musiq Soulchild brand should be and all of that. It afforded me some benefits I’m not going to lie, but…I’d rather just follow my natural creative instinct now.
And these people, these microwave celebrities are being used as the template that these people are being compared to. And it’s like, you can’t compare me to that. Not taking anything away from them but it’s not fair to compare me to that because inherently I come with more.
So you’re trying to stay consistent and appeal to your loyal fans?
Here’s the thing about that statement because how loyal are you if you’re going to dip when I do something you don’t like? How loyal are you? So I don’t think that I should be too concerned about that. And if you do have a problem with what I’m doing then that’s a you thing, not a me thing, because I’m still being myself. …If it gets to the point where you ain’t rocking with me no more, okay well it was a good ride, hopefully you come back around later on. I’m not rallying for attention, it’s way too much stress to do that. You can’t please everybody, and I don’t expect to please everybody. And now that I’m doing all of these multiple things, oh y’all really not going to like me now? Y’all better get it that I’m an artist and I’m going to do just that, be artistic and be creative. Everything is not going to be for you and that’s okay. It’s like food, it’s like clothes, it’s like anything else. You think a designer is somewhere talking about “Why they don’t like my clothes?” I’m still eating, (laughter) what’s wrong with y’all?
Are there any features you’re really excited about or is this just you making music and getting it done?
I don’t have any features on the next album. At least not right now. I reach out to people all the time but you know people get back to you when they do and they don’t when they don’t, but it’s fine. It’s no love lost or hate or nothing. It just is what it is. And everything happens the way that it happens for whatever reason that they happen for. And things will happen when they do happen. I’m not chasing nothing.
You’ve discussed that you’re trying to complete your album by this year. Is that timeline still the same?
Yeah, it keeps conflicting because myself and my label that I’m signed to we keep running into these “things” that come out of nowhere and we gotta deal with them and they become very, very time consuming. I’m being vague on purpose because there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that’s completely irrelevant right now but just know that we’re working on ironing out a lot of different things.
How do you feel about the landscape of R&B culture as it is right now?
That is an interesting question. I think answering that question also pertains to hip-hop as well — urban music, our music. I think through the years certain elements have been given a pass to represent our culture, which by default sort’ve set the bar kinda low; to the point where a person could do anything that seems like they’re doing something and can win. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually think a part of that is dope because it means that you really don’t have to do that much to get appreciated for trying to be creative. Cool. However, how it does become a problem is that people who do put in work are overlooked. Not even that they’re overlooked, that’s actually a by product of what is actually happening. They’re being looked at but they’re being judged and critiqued up against mediocrity. So you don’t get to appreciate it. We’re actually being perceived as doing way too much. But it’s like, I’m an artist I’m supposed to be creative. How are you going to tell me I’m being too creative? …Which is another issue: Social media. Most people get their intel from another person, their second hand intel, they don’t go check it out for themselves. They listen to another person’s interpretation of it and then they’ll say:
“Yea I don’t like that new music”
“They said it’s like…”
“Wait, what do you say?”
“Oh, I ain’t check it out yet.”
So how am I supposed to take your opinion seriously if you didn’t go check it out for yourself? You’re just saying what somebody else said that somebody else said about it. And that person that said that thing probably never really liked me to begin with. Or they’re just being arbitrarily mean. Because that’s what people do on social media. Because that is a profession. How mean can I be? What’s the worst crap I can say about this person? You feel me?
…And these people, these microwave celebrities are being used as the template that these people are being compared to. And it’s like, you can’t compare me to that. Not taking anything away from them but it’s not fair to compare me to that because inherently I come with more. So you’re actually downgrading me, and then you’re saying that I’m not good enough as that. I’m more. I’m giving you more, that’s not no ego, that’s just what’s happening. I’m giving you more. That person is only doing one thing and winning. God bless them.
…So I [said] all of that to say, I think that it’s in a state of confusion in the sense that there is a disconnect between artist and audience. And I’m doing my very best to try to help reconnect that. And I don’t have all the answers but I’m doing my best to figure it out one step at a time.
Check out Musiq performing his hit song, “B.U.D.D.Y” in D.C. last weekend:
Credit: Javonne Wiggins/IG