Phil Collins Billboard Q&A

 

I didn’t get to show this here story enough love when it came out. I’m a huge fan Phil Collins’ early solo work. I wasn’t even born and when his debut solo set Face Value came out. Thanks to Lite FM and classic rock radio stations, I knew of the bangers—“In the Air Tonight” and such. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t do a Genesis/Phil Collins deep dive until I was in college about 10 years ago. I bumped into a Genesis documentary and had that, “Oh, these guys were the shit!” moment and bought a Genesis greatest hits album and Face Value. Clearly, I was late to the party. But damn, I enjoyed the hell out of it anyway.

I’d later find out that the genre he and the bunch were classified under is Progressive Rock. But what I gravitated towards was the subtle soulfulness of Phil’s stuff. I could always hear something a little deeper in his voice and instrumentation. “I Missed Again” has horns that, frankly, are Black as hell (something else I’d later find out is that it is Earth, Wind & Fire’s brass team blaring on it). Really, I could go on about how much I love Phil’s albums. However, I’m going to land this plane and get to my point.

Phil Collins on Face Value, Lost & Found Love, and Being White with a Black Influences

Late last year I saw that Phil was re-releasing a remastered Face Value, also adding demos and live versions of some of the tracks. So I jumped into my email and shot Billboard a pitch to talk to Phil about just that. And they were into it!

“He said, ‘No, man. You’re white.’ I said, ‘I know. But you don’t have to put my face on the cover.’”

Talking to the man was a joy. What was supposed to be a 15-minute chat inflated into an hour-long conversation. We talked about the crummy relationship that inspired the album, the love he found while recording and touched on several other subjects as well. But one of the most interesting moments was when he told me a little story about trying to get his record label to have “I Missed Again” played on Black radio. His label essentially told him, “You’re white,” patted him on the ass, and sent him out the door. Hilarious and disappointing at the same time. “I Missed Again” was a jammer.

Check out the Q&A. Enjoy.

Kendrick Lamar’s untitled, unmastered Scraps and Why Artists Should Package Theirs Like Him

Kendrick-Lamar-untitled-unmastered

Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. album artwork.

 

A few days ago news came out that the latest Star Wars movie The Force Awakens, which came on in theaters in December 2015, would be released on DVD in April. As is the case nowadays, the blockbuster movie will be paired with bonus features that include the chance for fans to see a documentary on the making of the movie, find of how the costuming came to be, and, of course, watch deleted scenes.

The latter feature is always a questionable one for me: “Why would I want to see what was purposefully left on the cutting room floor?” It’s a question I always wonder before inevitably pressing play. What occurs next is some version of harsh criticism (“Why didn’t they include XYZ?! That would have fit perfectly!”) or thankfulness (“Whew! I’m so glad they left this junk out!”). And the same goes for music and album releases. Though when an album comes out, the way its “extras” are packaged with the actual “standard” album is a bit more messy.

For example, the standard version of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo album technically ends with Frank Ocean’s words on “Wolves,” the thirteenth track on the album. It’s perfect. But what immediately follows Ocean’s thoughtful lyrics is a goofy Collect call from imprisoned rapper Max B. The Harlem rhymer, iconic for his cool ways effectively gives West permission to use the eventually scrapped Waves title. The entire skit is unnecessary. By including it on Pablo, Kanye is basically saying, “Hey guys, Max B approved of me using a title that I eventually decided against. Just thought you should know.” And because this bonus track sits right next to “Wolves,” it effects the quality of the album as a whole. From Max B on, four tracks that clearly don’t fit the mood of TLOP play, ruining the good standing of the actual standard album.

Kanye West: Pablo Creates and Loves Seeing You Flourish, Too

This morning I woke up to my younger brother’s text: “KENDRICK’S NEW ALBUM IS GREAT.” He was excited. As was I. The Compton rapper apparently released new material last night, just a year removed from dropping his critically acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly album. Once I hopped on my MacBook to check out the music, one glance at its track-listing told me that the cuts are essentially ones that were left on the cutting room floor from TPAB recording sessions. Their titles are all calendar dates, suggesting that the eight songs were made while Lamar was working on his Grammy-winning masterpiece. This collection is suitably called untitled unmastered. That says it all.

So with that in mind, I wondered what I usually do: “Why would I want to hear what was purposefully left off the album?”

Well, I do appreciate that Kendrick didn’t carelessly fling these songs at the end of Butterfly. So I can separate the two from each other. It’s a gift Kanye didn’t give me. And I for sure want to have more insight on what one of this era’s greatest musical minds was thinking and creating when he made his second landmark album. untitled unmastered. is not an album as much as it is a mixtape of rough drafts and ideas that didn’t make it out of the cocoon. Still, as marvelous as Butterfly is, some of those ideas, are bound to be good, right?

In this case, RIGHT!

“untitled 03 05.28.2013.” is this gem that he dynamically performed on The Colbert Report in December 2014. “untitled 08 09.06.2014.” debuted on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in January, another fervent performance of a song that I couldn’t listen to a studio version of. Until now.

Other tracks are solid, but are clearly sonically out of place on TPAB, like “untitled 02 06.23.2014.,” which sounds too trappy for the funky jazz vibes that dominate the true album. But it’s cool to know that Lamar wasn’t a complete shut-in and at least put some time in to trying out different genres within Hip-Hop.

It’s also crazy to think that all eight of these songs could have made the TPAB had they been shined up to 100%, which all don’t seem far from. As far as content, they all are Butterfly-worthy, from the apocalyptic future Lamar envisions on the opener (“The ground is shaking, swallowing a young woman/ With a baby, daisies, and other flowers burning in destruction/ The smell is disgusting, the heat is unbearable…”) to the culturally divisive third track to uu‘s closer.

So in the case of untitled unmastered., yes, I’m thankful that these tracks weren’t Butterfly bonuses. But I’m also glad these saw the light of day. Clearly, Kendrick loved them enough to share live, possibly finished, variants of them on television. And I’m looking forward to unpacking their content, which rivals TPAB cuts in most cases.

Other artists should adopt Lamar’s method of releasing bonus cuts/deleted scenes. Don’t ruin the shine of your proper/standard album by sitting it’s premature siblings next to it, as promising as they are. When you can recognize the difference, it’s easier to fully appreciate both.

DJ Khaled: Me Asking Him What the Hell He Does Musically

On Monday producer, hype man, Snapchat legend and all-around good guy DJ Khaled announced that he’s inked a management deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. It’s a huge feat, considering that Jay—a clear-cut mogul—is known at this point to only align himself with the best. Coincidentally, Khaled music label is called We the Best. Here’s his announcement vid’ below.

What, Exactly, Does DJ Khaled Do?

Khaled’s recent ascent and Monday’s announcement brought a story and interview I did with him for Complex a few years ago to mind. I had the nerve to ask him what the hell he actually does. You see, Khaled isn’t a conventional producer in the sense that he knows how to play instruments, actually produce complex beats, or compose. So when he’d get marquee credit on songs that truly star his buddies (rappers/singers) and had actual producers credited as the creators of whatever the hit is, most of us listeners would wonder aloud: “What did Khaled do?” Aside from yell, of course.

So I got him on the phone. He called me from his tour bus (Khaled hates flying) and I proceeded to humbly ask him what role he plays as a “producer,” hoping that his answers would be enough to make me lift the quotation marks from around the word in regards to Khaled being one. And they were. He had good vibes and was actually a great interview. I’m happy for his latest wins.

Read that story here. And if you don’t, “Congratulations, you played yourself.