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THE GRAMMY CLASS SPEAKS: BJ THE CHICAGO KID

BJ The Chicago Kid's In My Mind is up for Best R&B Album, and Anderson .Paak's Malibu, which the Motown artist contributed to, is up for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Find out his thoughts on collaboration and the creative process right here.


INTERVIEW BY SAMANTHA HISSONG

What do the Grammys mean to you?
The Grammys means everything to me. It’s pretty much the highest acknowledgement you get musically, so to even be recognized by them is probably one of the best things that everybody making music shoots for. 

What connects you to a song? How do you know when you’ve got something special? And how do you know when it’s done? 
How you know you’ve got something special, and how you know when it’s done is all about the feeling. Music is definitely not by the eye, but it’s by the ear and the feeling, and that feeling comes pretty much when it’s ready to. Sometimes in the first few tracks of cutting vocals, you know you got something. That feeling’s not afraid to come out and let you know you got some magic. 

What part of making In My Mind did you find most challenging? 
The most challenging part of making In My Mind was pretty much picking the songs. Creating the songs wasn’t a problem; we had a very, I guess you could say, tasteful selection of company at the studios. So creatively, that wasn’t a problem. Picking the songs was really just the hardest part of creating In My Mind.

We did so many songs even before the process of In My Mind, because we love working just to create music, we love creating music, period. We don’t wait for the album process to come or the timing of an album to come; we create just to create because we love it. So when something comes, there’s always more. 

So what was the most cathartic part of creating the album?
Actually seeing it come to fruition, seeing the album come out. The release date. There aren’t too many people that got to put albums out around my label or just last year period. A lot of people don’t get a chance to put albums out. A lot of people get shelved, a lot of them keep getting pushed back, it’s a lot of things. Putting out the album alone was a victory. 

In putting together In My Mind, did you intend on fans listening to it as a full album experience or song by song in no particular order? Since it’s a singles-dominated business out there right now, I was just wondering if the “album experience,” if you will, is important to you?
It is a singles-dominated industry, but I’m a fan of making full albums. I feel like that’s what I would always do. It’s hard to ignore the fabric that we’re cut from. I guess I have a more old-school mentality. But, honestly, the album is still the album, whether you listen to it chopped up or not. But for that person that does love that journey, let me still give that to him. 

In My Mind
isn’t necessarily a gospel album, but it’s definitely got that vibe backing it.
Yeah, I grew up in church… grew up on the block as well. But everything else is from life experiences, and simply just living life like we live it and not being afraid to put it back into what we do. 

What were some of the most influential albums for you growing up?
Man, Voodoo of course, Confessions, Donell Jones, Jagged Edge, The Commission, The Clark Sisters, John P. Kee, Daryl Coley, DMX [laughs]. Everything. I used to love Tony Thompson too. There’s Ken Burrell, anything Mint Condition, anything Jodeci, Brandy of course. We love Brandy; Brandy’s like a vocal god. And I like country music too. Dixie Chicks, for example, but there’s lots of different stuff. The storytelling and harmonies are like the golden lining in country music. I think country music and soul music are like cousins. 

How important is collaboration to you? What benefit does it serve you as the primary artist?
Collaborations are very important only with the right entities. A lot of this generation is forced to do it without understanding the true meaning and reasoning of collaboration. But, I believe in it, and I think that, done the right way, the fans or the supporters or the buyer admires that piece far more than he would any separate artists doing it by themselves. I mean, you’re providing an exclusive product to a fan base that is very limited but at the highest quality. Both companies came together to make this exclusive product; then they go back to their separate corners and continue life until they decide to do it again.  Of course, you can absolutely learn from each other and expand your sounds, but I think it’s definitely based off being a fan of both brands. That’s the biggest statement that a lot of people ignore. A lot of people just look at the product, but people forget about the adoration between these two higher powers. They normally don’t share this type of information. You know what I’m saying? [Laughs]. Nike doesn’t say they like Adidas. If they came together to do a shoe, the world would go crazy. It brings people together.

What was it like working with such creative forces like Kendrick and Chance?
Beautiful, but the same thing happens when I’m in the studio working with anybody. No crazy unicorns or glitter comes out of the sky. We both just catch up and laugh about life, talk about whatever’s going on in life and then go to the music. It’s always amazing to learn from other geniuses that I admire and that are fans of mine. It just makes the work a whole lot easier and cooler. 

You worked with Anderson .Paak on his album Malibu, which is up for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Tell me about working with him.
AP is my brother, man. Much respect and love to AP and the whole crew, Free Nationals, even the management crew. Both of our teams are very tight, our bands are tight, and we’re tight. I salute my brother. I’m very happy for him. I’m happy to see that he gets his roses as well. I think that’s one of the biggest mishaps of life—not being able to smell your roses right then when they give them to you. 

Is there anything else you’d like fans to know? 
Just stay tuned. I’m always working. I don’t know how to stop. That’s the problem; I don’t know how to stop working. I’m in my studio right now. No songs, no music, no concerts, no management, no record deals, and a hell of a lot of bills. I’m already in 2017, mentally.

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