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November 2005
GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN' : An Interview with Quincy Jones Part 2

GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN: An Interview with Quincy Jones Part 2

By Todd Gilchrist

Unlike few collaborators in Hollywood, Quincy Jones is a true Renaissance Man: starting in his teens as a musician and bandleader, Jones went on to work with the best and brightest in the music and movie business, including Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, and Steven Spielberg to name but a few. His scores for such ‘60s and ‘70s classics as “The Getaway” and “The Pawnbroker” are legendary achievements, and few before or since matched his innovative spirit.

After a ten-year hiatus between film projects (his last film work was one 1986’s “The Color Purple”, Jones returns to work with a decidedly different collaborator: 50 Cent, whose semi-autobiographical film “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” arrives in theaters this Wednesday. Blackfilm enjoyed the rare privilege of speaking to Jones about his work on the film, and about his illustrious career as a composer, performer, and producer.


Did they change the script much?

Jones: It follows the movie a lot. That’s half of the power of the story. I had to tell them to go and make sure Mister is meaner; they don’t want any violence, but I said no, he’s got to be meaner or there’s no reason for redemption at the end. But I’m telling you, my daughter called me up after the show – and she is tough – and she said, I have never in my life seen anything better. They’re doing previews now, they said if I could make any suggestions, make it now, but I couldn’t find one thing that I would change. Because, see, I didn’t see it with sets and lighting and costumes and all of that stuff; they were just doing bare bones stuff.


Did you see it at the Alliance?

Jones: I saw it in New York.


You never saw the Atlanta run of the show?

Jones: No. No, I didn’t. That was the show I saw, and I saw it there. Gail King came in and then Oprah came in and Oprah went crazy and put money in… I’m telling you, from what I hear, it’s gonna blow everything on Broadway up and out of the way.


Did you follow all the trial stuff with Michael and will there ever be any collaboration with him again?

Jones: We already did it. I think we did it, I do. We did “Thriller” in eight weeks. I don’t have three years to sit in the studio – I’m 72. That’s too long. Eight weeks we did “Thriller”.


Who then would you like to collaborate with that’s working now?

Jones: I’m not really crazy about that now, man. I don’t know. I’d like to write, like to do a hip-hop opera. I’m serious, you know, that you could do in a film. I’m doing this thing for Cirque du Soleil that’s the evolution, the genesis of blues and jazz from the Spanish Inquisition to the middle passage and Brazil and Haiti and Cuba and Puerto Rico and Caribbean slave ships all the way to rap. How that stuff got here, how it work, how it interacts and all that stuff. I’ve been working on it 28 years, man. It’s you’ve gotta go with what you feel.


How has technology changed your work or made it easier?

Jones: Nah, nah. I’ve just rode the technology. We had the first Fender Bass in 1953, didn’t know what it was, we did jazz records with it. But, I don’t know whether you saw it, there was an article in USA Today in 1999 and they asked, they had a portrait on the cover with a lady and Steve Case and Bill Gates and myself, and they asked each one of us in our own genres which piece of technology changed your genre the most. And I said the Fender Bass. Because the Fender Bass changed everything, whether you did Rock N’ Roll, Motown, nothing would have been there. Electric Guitar was in 1939, but the Fender Bass with it made an electric rhythm section, you know. The first synthesizer, we used that on “Ironside” before anything come out, because in pictures you find it first. The same with the Fender Rhodes – they used it in the movies and said ‘what else you got? This has been around for a while.’ And then Dusty Springfield in Chicago and Jerry Butler, they used it, their records became “the” sound. But I don’t know - you just roll with it, once you see it happen, like I saw the first video disc, all of it, the whole evolution of algorithms and FM technology and all the synthesizers. I’ve got my warehouse packed with that stuff, you know. Robert Moog said, ‘Why don’t the brothers use the synthesizers?’ and I said, ‘Because it don’t bend, man. The electrical signal, which you can sculpt into a sound wave or a saw tooth, you know, but it doesn’t bend, and if it doesn’t bend you can’t get funky, right? (laughs) So he got that pitch bender on there real quick, man, and Stevie Wonder did four Grammy albums.


What’s the secret to your longevity?

Jones: I’m nosy (laughs). Nosey, I am. I’m interested in everything. I read everything. I travel all the time. Since 18 years old, my saxophone player said every place you go you should eat the food that people eat, listen to the music that people listen to, and learn 30 words in every language and I did, you know, everywhere I went. It’s a great way to feel the planet. We were just in Croatia and I remember seeing Croatia [with] Sinatra when we first went to Vegas it was so racist up there that we had a guy assigned to us, that’s a 70 year-old guy from Croatia, and he taught me some Croatian. And after speaking it over there, they were lookin’ at you like you’re crazy, you know. But I don’t know, that’s part of being alive.


What was your own reaction to the controversy over the film’s advertisement?

Jones: I agree with it. I feel much better with him holding the baby, because there’s more values there. A lot of the guys say they aren’t role models, they are role models, huge role models, you know, and every time they see them settle something by blowing somebody away, everybody’s been through it, you know. It’s great to see somebody that’s supposed to have a hard edge like 50 Cent portrayed. His credentials when he first came on the scene was, ‘Yeah, I got shot five times, eight times.’ I mean, damn, there are 12 notes – you got four to go (laughs). But that’s not him, that’s the marketing sensibility and it’s got into that cycle of drama. Let me ask you guys, it’s got to disturb you to hear bitches and hoes all the time, doesn’t it?


Yes.

Jones: Please. What’s the lady from Spellman? Jonetta. They’re getting ready to get real ignorant about it. I don’t understand how the women take it, and then they start dressing like that. I’m serious, you know. And I asked Ice T once, I said ‘are you going to call your daughter that when she grows up?” I don’t believe it. Watch what you start, you know. It’s hip now, and to me it’s pimping the hood. They’ve decided to go, I’m not saying you have to stay hard, you can stay as hard as you want to, but you could teach and you could revolutionize education and you could do anything, I’m telling you. It’s that powerful.


But how do you get these young rappers to change their music when that is all they know?

Jones: But honey, that’s not a reality though. Two-thirds of them are wannabes. Ludacris and Shockazulu come to my house, his grandmother raised him, he’s got a college education. He says Mr. Jones, sir, thank you. I said, how the hell did ‘move, bitch, get out the way’ come out of your mouth. (laughs) I’m serious. The sweetest guy, well bred and everything, quiet. I couldn’t believe this is the same guy. “This is Ludacris?” So it’s all the drama, the killing, the death row, da da da da, and it’s bullshit. It is. It’s marketing bullshit. I’m not trying to be some philosophizing person, but I think that it’s going to go into something else that’s still just as entertaining, but it can take you up and lift your spirit. We’re gonna, right now I’m doing an album called Po’ No Mo. My album. Because they’re doing a tribute to me; Missy and Timbaland’s doing “Sanford and Son,” “Get the Funk out of my Face,” Upstarts did that and they used 50, Eminem and Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, Alicia Keys is doing “Body Heat,” because “Body Heat” was behind Tupac’s first hit. That was “Body Heat” on “How Do U Want It.” And that’s gonna be fun. Jermaine is doing “Secret Garden.” Barry White’s already on there, and they’re using Anthony Hamilton and Jamie Foxx and Usher. That’s gonna be smokin.’ They doing “Sister” with four girls, Queen Latifah and stuff.


When is that scheduled to come out?

Jones: I don’t know. I was supposed to be doing it during this, but there was so much crazy stuff and Iovine involved at Interscope now. I left Warner Brothers, got my masters, and went to Dreamworks, and then they sold Dreamworks to Interscope.


Do you have plans for collaborations with jazz musicians?

Jones: All of them. You’ll see Bob Dukes up there. The regulars, Joshua Redmanand all of them, but what’s interesting is what’s happening with Jazz. The white dudes, the Europeans, are tearing it up. And I keep telling them, Jermaine and I said, you watch it, Mick Jagger’s making 150 million dollars a year off of Delta Blues, but we ain’t interested. I’m serious. You don’t throw away your culture. If you know where you come from, you get where you’re going.


Back to the question of ‘marketing’ stars like Ludacris, isn’t that about people in charge of marketing telling him what to do?

Jones: Nope, absolutely. That stuff about record companies telling them what to do, that’s bullshit. Record companies don’t tell Dr. Dre nothing. Nothing! Or 50 Cent. Not a chance. Iovine’s gonna walk in there with Dr. Dre and 50 and tell them what to say? Not a chance?


So they are choosing to represent themselves like that.

Jones: He loves standing there with a gun, looking with that death row scowl. My son used to do that, you know, he’d work with Tupac and all that stuff, and we’d take a picture and he’d be smiling until we took it [and he would scowl] (laughs).


Have you had those conversations with Ludacris and those guys and asked them why they use those lyrics?

Jones: No, I mean, I know why. Because the problem is, they have pulled the culture into that arena. American culture overall has been dumbed down, I mean from television, you want to talk about reality shows, give me a break. […I want to put together] books on a Howard level, books with big letters, you know, ‘my name is Louis Armstrong [and] people call me pops!’ Make it fun somehow. And I’m going to do a Pixar 3-D animated film on that and the Cirque du Soleil thing that could travel too, and then start working on the school systems because I think it could give a spirit to a whole lot of little kids in the hood to think different about themselves to realize the power of what the lifestyle has created, you know. [Mimics a high-hat rhythm.] That was invented, you know. The drums were taken away, and we went to pat and juving and stuff like that when the drums were taken away, and when we came back, all that polyrhythm stuff, they didn’t go there, so there’s a [mimics bass line] that’s brand new, that’s going after 12/8, because it is in 12/8, but it’s a reinterpretation of it, and that’s why it’s so strong. That’s why it‘s represented by every country in this world. It’s awesome.


Do you already have a deal with Pixar?

Jones: No, we gonna get that stuff. We got a lot of stuff going on. They’re doing “The Dude” animated on MTV, a bunch of great stuff going on. And that’s going to be hardcore, because that’s going to be like the urban Simpsons. Everybody’s excited about that - Tyler Perry and all these guys are getting involved with that. That’s fun man. Something I think, it means something and we can have fun with it. I did Boondocks last week, I did the Christmas episode with Aaron MacGruder, we’re going to trade and have the Dude go to his show and have Huey come over and have some fun with it, but saying something too.


Part I

 

 

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