• Christopher Williams – “They Made A Little Kid From The Bronx Love Music”

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    Christopher Williams, a Virginia native, surfaced during the tail-end of the ’80s, around the middle of the new jack swing era. His talents were not limited to those of a singer, but also an arranger, producer, and actor. “Talk to Myself” and “Promises, Promises,” a pair of Billboard Top Ten R&B singles made with Timmy Gatling and Alton Wokie Stewart, marked his arrival. Those hits drove parent album Adventures in Paradise (1989), Williams’ full-length debut for Geffen, to number 23 on the R&B album chart.

    Williams’ acting career began with New Jack City (1991), for which he was cast as an assistant to Wesley Snipes’ lead character. Just as notably, Williams contributed “I’m Dreamin,” a number one R&B hit, to the film’s certified platinum soundtrack. The singer moved to the Uptown label for Changes (1992), an album that generated another Top Ten R&B hit in “Every Little Thing U Do,” along with the Devante Swing (Jodeci) produced top-20 classic, “All I See.”

    Throughout his career, Christopher has followed in the tradition of robust soul vocalists such as Teddy Pendergrass, Jeffrey Osborne, and James “D Train” Williams. Ironically, his fondness for “D Train” was also shared by Chicago House Music Pioneer Steve Silk Hurley, Zonum from Spain, and Shannon “DJ Skip “ Syas of S&S Records. This lead to their creation of this remake of “D Train’s” “You’re The One For Me,” featuring the vocals of Christopher and Carolyn Griffey.

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    Q&A with S&S

    S&S: What’s your style of music? How do you describe it? Mostly contemporary R&B, adult contemporary, soul in the tradition of Jeffrey Osborne, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gay; like the rest of my comrades Johnny GIll, Brian McKnight, Joe. I believe we try to carry on their tradition, as well as James Ingram, Al Green, all those great artists that came before us. I definitely love all styles of music, but my style is love, soul, hope, inspiration.

    S&S: Who or what was most instrumental to you when it came to music? Most influential: Teddy, Marvin; secondary: Luther, Stevie, and Bob Marley Those would be mine. They’re major, but we’re just so different. I have a lot of different weird influences, Jimi Hendrix, though I’m nothing like him. I mean, I’d have to say Robert Nesta–Bob Marley, is one of my biggest influences. But when people ask me, I always feel like they’re saying, “What’s close to your voice?” I would have to say Teddy Pendergrass because of that tone!

    And my aunt, Ella Fitzgerald, but I can’t sing anywhere near like her! I think her influence was just setting the path before me. I think being related to her, her just being my aunt, and seeing her flip a switch and into an icon, it definitely, at a young age, instilled in me what was tangible for me with hard work and faith.

    I think I’m a combination of all those great people. They made a little kid from the Bronx love music.

    S&S: You’ve been in the business for quite a while now-30 years. Have your influences changed over the years or are they static? There are always traditional things that don’t change, but music expounds and it takes innovation and being true to what we are as talents. But the things that I glean to certainly change because there’s a different frequency in music now. 

    Now I’m listening to younger people, like Jazmine Sullivan, Chris Brown, HER, and even the people before them, like Alicia Keys, Mario, and some of the people of that genre. I think everybody brings something unique who’s really true to it, they’re god-given talent to it. I find myself finding their cadence like, “What is it that they’re saying and how do they express themselves?” So you’ve gotta keep your heart pliable and your mind open. If something makes you feel good, how do you then deny that it makes you feel good? I love music and I’m a fan of it, too. 

    S&S: This is also a way to keep yourself relevant for people who might not be familiar with your older music, right? Exactly. You know, having children helps keep you relevant. My daughters are always like, “Dad, don’t do that. Don’t wear that. Don’t.” [laughs]

    I have two daughters, one is 27 and one is 29. My youngest is such a fashionista that she is always the one like, “What are you doing? Don’t do that! Why does your hair look like that?” [laughs]

    S&S: What drives you creatively? My love for it, but also, I’m at a stage now where I wanna finite my legacy. I’ve been blessed to be in it and I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve enjoyed the journey–every day of it–through the ups and the downs. I always take my losses and my failures as lessons. I don’t count them as failures forever because they’re just meant to learn from. And that’s what drives me. 

    And, obviously, people who appreciate my music. They’re always telling me, “We miss you. It’s time. You’re waiting too long. Come on.” And I just always felt like, when it starts chasing me again, I’ll be ready and be available. And it seems like my season is coming back again. Glory to God!

    S&S: Do you feel like the music industry has changed since you first got into it? Oh, tremendously! It’s changed for everybody. When I first started, there were as many famous execs as there were artists and you, kinda, had to learn the ropes of that–who was who and what was what. And then, having friends who were artists on other labels, you’d meet their execs and so on and so on. Now, it’s a digital world, you don’t have all the execs. There are no more tapes, there are no more CDs. It’s all downloading and streaming. Even when you have a physical intellectual property and you can do a lot of the traditional things with it, you still have to be open and pliable to the new ways of the world. So all of that stuff is challenging. You’ve gotta be able to reach out in different ways and I’m just looking forward to tackling it in this new world.

    S&S: What kind of challenges did you face in the music industry? You gotta meet people who share your same common aspirations. When you have three different record labels there’s a lot of times you’re fighting over creativity and who’s in control. I’ve always been the executive producer of the records, but co-executive. So with each label, they get to a point. And that doesn’t mean that it was all negative, but we just didn’t reach our apex. 

    I’ve always felt that if you remix any great song and put it in a genre, you can expound on the success of the record, even when I first got in the business with Louil ittle Silas taking the MCA records and doing remixes. I’ve always had songs that are R&B/Soul, but I’ve strived to have those songs mixed into different formats and one of those formats I’ve definitely always loved is House. 

    I LOVE Colonel Abrams. He had a reign of terror in House and I used to be jealous, like, “Man, if I can just get one of them House records!” You get a big House record and you’re in the club and you hear it, especially in one of those rage clubs in Europe where it’s very eclectic and all kinds of people in the party and it’s a huge party, the place literally just goes UP!! It’s almost like when you’re at a concert. House remixes get people up! They get the party jumping!

    DJs mix stuff that fits their market. And if you let them do that, you’ll find some amazing mixes in it. We could’ve done that with “I’m Dreamin” and “Every Little Thing U Do,” but, unfortunately, the labels that I was signed to didn’t share that vision.  And then if I brought the DJs up as a straight-up producer, it was like, “You’re NOT a House singer!” Because they try to box in what people can do, whether they’re in business with them or not. So that was a lot of the reason why we didn’t.


    I’m excited about working with Skip and Silk! James “D Train” Williams is actually a big brother of mine. He and people like Alexander O’Neal were gracious to me when I was trying to get into the business. And to be able to do one of D Train’s big, big, big records is just an honor. So I was excited when the guys came to me to consider doing it and I was like, “This would be a great opportunity for me.” Once I got and heard the track and where they wanted to go with it, I felt free to just step up and make it full. Me and Carolyn, I believe, did a really, really good job and we had fun, too, cuz she’s like my sister and we just had fun. We’re looking forward to an exciting feeling with people on stage with this. I’m ready to just go knock it down!
     

    S&S: How much does your audience influence you and your music selection both in live performances and music you choose to record? Honestly, they don’t because what I really try to do with the people who appreciate my music is I try to remain an artist and be true to it and not try to use shenanigans or certain things to entice them. But what I do–I do like to communicate with the audience when I’m singing. I don’t just mean talking to them. I’m watching them like they’re watching me, so the energy that we’re feeding and sharing compels me to do things in concert that makes it organic and esoteric. 

    I just don’t do the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. So every city I go to, they’re not gonna get the same show. It is a framework of a show, but it’s also based on the energy, the people who may be in the first couple of rows. When I run-up in the back of the stage, who’s back there, what they’re doing. I never hold back energy, but I think any person in front of a crowd would be telling a tale if they said the energy of the crowd doesn’t help. You know what I mean? So I try to stay true to who I believe I am.

    And I love the ladies, I love women, so it’s always–women add an extra treat to performing because I think we have a connection. It always has been like that, since day one. They come to the show looking amazing. They vibe with me. They’re singing along and enjoying themselves so it only entices me. And sometimes I even act up with them. It’s a lot of fun.

    S&S: So, has there ever been a time in your career where someone brought you music and you were like, “Yeah, I wanna record this cuz this will be big with the ladies” or “This will be a panty-dropper” or …?

    Awww, yeah! For sure! Mark Morales and Corey Rooney of  Uptown Records, they brought me a song with a hook called “Don’t You Wanna Make Love Tonight” and when I first heard the first guitar lick and the first eight bars of the song, I was like “Oh, THIS is IT!” I didn’t even have to GET to the hook! It was like “name that tune” as soon as I heard the guitar go [mimics guitar]. I was like, “THAT’S IT! That sounds like I’m doing it RIGHT NOW!” [laughs heartily] And then we went on and recorded the record and it was amazing!

     

    S&S: So it IS fair to say that your audience DOES play into your song selection, too. Right? For what you choose to record? 

    Um…definitely. You know, there are all kinds of moving organisms and mechanisms that play part in it, but I think at the end of the day, when I’m listening, it really does have to be true to who I truly am and what I’m feeling musically. You know what I mean? And I think once that has been established, I’m like, “Ok.” I can actually go ahead and perform it and I can make it my own. I can really believe it, too. And I can communicate to the audience. 

    ◻S&S: What artists or genres do you enjoy listening to when you’re not working? 

    I really love Jazz because of my aunt, Ella Fitzgerald. I love Frank Sinatra, Sting, Sade. But it’s something about listening to music with no vocals, for me. It gives me a chance to think and grow about what I’m getting ready to do. It really does. Definitely that.

    S&S: Anything else? That’s it.

    S&S: WHAT? You mean to tell me all this time you’ve been wanting to work with Steve and Shannon, but you don’t listen to HOUSE MUSIC? Oh. If I’m ready to go out, that’s ALL I’m listening to. You know, club records–or some House Music.

    And I DO listen to a lot of gospel music. Sometimes one of my little brothers, like Gene Moore, will send me something and I’m like, “Man, this is amazing!” And then it will put me in that mood. 

    Sometimes I just go down memory lane with my old favorites. I play all the Stevie Wonder, all the Bob Marley, all the Marvin Gay, all the Teddy Pendergrass, all the Harold Melvin, all of Aretha Franklin, all of Sade, all of Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Gladys Knight alone. So it’s just certain voices. 

    When I’m really feeling like I wanna hear vocals, I’ll turn on Pastor Jacob Nelson, Marvin Sapp, Fred Hammond, Keke Wyatt moves me beyond measure, Ledisi. Their voices and their love for the music moves me. And Charlie Wilson. I can’t forget to mention him, he’s one of my favorite vocalists of all time. 

    So it’s different moods, but, honestly, when I’m thinking about creating, I clear my palate. When I’m sharpening my vocals, I put on phenomenal vocalists and they inspire me to want to be better and reach higher. Jill Scott–or Lalah Hathaway is another one who drives me insane. Her voice is just butter, like, just butter, like hot butter. [laughs] So there are so many people and I draw from what, I think, like I said earlier, all of these people’s commitment and their gifts from God just makes you feel good when they’re sharing them. But when I’m really just trying to think about what I’m gonna do, what’s for Christopher, what I’m about to do, I’m often listening to jazz. Most of the time, when I’m driving, it’s always jazz. With the hustle and bustle of the city, the noise, I kinda just want to hear background music.

    S&S: So when you say jazz, do you mean Smooth Jazz or Straight-ahead jazz? What kind of Jazz? Smooth Jazz. Traditional Jazz. Usually Jazz with no vocals.

    It’s funny. Even when I listen to my aunt, I intently want to hear phenomenal vocals. Or I wanna just hear my aunt. But when my palate needs to be clear, the thing that I personally want to do, I listen to Smooth Jazz, even straight-up jazz.

    S&S: So who are some of your favorite Jazz artists or Smooth Jazz artists? Bob James, Kenny G, Boney James, Jonathan Butler, some of the stuff Lalah’s done is amazing–Lalah Hathaway, Rachelle Farrell–I love when she touches the Jazz. It’s just a lot of different people. Jonathan Butler is one of my favorites and he’s done Gospel, Jazz and Adult R&B/Contemporary. And he’s had hits in each genre, which is also amazing!

    S&S: Have you ever considered recording in that genre? I did some Gospel stuff with The Williams Brothers and Wes Morgan. We had a group called “Five V Men” (pronounced Five Men). And we worked with Stan Jones, award-winning Gospel artist.

    So, I’ve had a lot of different musical journeys. When I was on Giant Records, I went down to Nashville and recorded with legendary James Stroud, who’s done just all the giants in the country business. 

    S&S: Do you have any favorite memories of growing up with your family? Definitely! My early mornings with my grandfather with his black coffee, no sugar, no cream, as my man, Heavy D, would say. That was in the Bronx. And my grandfather was a pastor, so our mornings were always very enriching. He would always give me some wisdom and some fruit from the Bible. And I believe it saved my life early on when I started venturing out and exploring with different things in my teenage years and my young adult years. And I believe, even now, it’s been the seed that has led me back to whatever is good in me–which is a lot. [laughs heartily]

    S&S: What is this I hear that you have some skills with a bow and arrow? Yeah, I do. [matter-of-factly] 

    I’m pretty good with the archery. But my sister’s still, I don’t know, she might be better than me. My older sister used to whip me up so much, so I had to get really good at it. She started out with it. I have an older sister who I was probably a pain in the behind to when I was younger. We used to do archery, bowl, we tap danced–she did ballet, tapped, as well. We tried gymnastics together. Archery and bowling are some things I still do.

    S&S: You’ve got some carpentry skills, too? Interior Design skills. Carpentry–I’m lousy.

    S&S: So, how did you get Interior Design skills? Tell me this story! I just love furniture! I do. I don’t know what it is. I love nice furniture. I love being around people who make furniture. I think that comes from being in Richmond and the North Carolina area. There’s a lot of hand-made furniture, wonderful furniture makers.

    Then once I started making some money, finally, in my early 20s, for me, having a nice place that you love being in, that’s peace and balance. I mean, I’ve always liked nice cars, but never over where I live. Give me a truck and some fly furniture and all the great foods I like in the house and I’m content.

    S&S: So do you plan on coming out with home furnishings soon? You know what? You never know. You never know. That’s definitely something because I’m getting into real estate now. I’m just getting into flipping houses and stuff like that. I’m enjoying that because, slowly, but surely, I get to staging. So it’s cool. I staged one and they were like, they like it and sold it. So, I was like, “Ok. Maybe I’m ok at it and we gon keep doin’ it.”

    Right now, I want the music to reign and I want to shoot this project about my amazing aunt that I’m hoping is gonna just be another jewel in film-making. She was an amazing woman who died with her money, with her faculties. She was strong. She was an amazing Black woman. So, I’m just hoping that I can do it some justice.

    S&S: How is she related to you? Is she a sibling of your mom or your dad? She’s my granddad’s sister. 

    S&S: And you have memories growing up with her and spending time with her? Oh, YEAH, plenty of them! We would fight about the Dodgers and Yankees like cats and dogs. [chuckles] She loved Jackie Robinson, but I used to tell her, “That ain’t the Brooklyn Dodgers no more. That’s the LA Dodgers. And I’m a Bronx bomber. Stop hatin’ on the Yankees.” And she’d be like [imitates Ella Fitzgerald’s inflection], “I DON’T LIKE THE YANKEES!” She was a Dodgers diehard and I’m a Yankee diehard, cuz I’m from the Bronx. I used to jump off the 4 train almost right into right field. [chuckles]

    S&S: So, definitely, you will bring a different perspective. Yeah, definitely. I mean, even funny moments like I remember my brother-in-law meeting her and she was, obviously he was excited. And this was later on in the years when she was starting to have some challenges. And she scared my brother-in-law half to death. But she kept saying, “Can I offer you something?” [laughs]

    I HAVE to put these funny things in her story. It kinda brings the humanness off of her life, because her and Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan–and people like that, like Josephine Baker–they’re almost like unimaginable. You’re like, “WHO are these people as human beings?” Because who they were in their gifts was like, “WOW!!!” How can you be that phenomenal?”

    S&S: Well, you realize that there are a whole bunch of us who feel that way about you? [pauses] I’m humbled. I’ve always been a fan of it and I was just a kid who was excited to get drafted in the professional ring and just be able to share the stage with my comrades, like my big brother, Gerald Levert, Johnny Gill, Al B, Keith Sweat, After 7–Kevon, Melvin and them, God rest the dead. It was like a surreal dream. You know, we did the AMAs, “U Will Know” and all of my brothers on stage–Stokely, all of us, Tevin Campbell, all of us together, Brian McKnight, all our voices joining in for a really positive cause, by a song that was written by a kid name D’Angelo, out of Virginia. And then to watch D’Angelo grow. My eyes have seen so much.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XW0Gf8Fc4H8 

    You know what I mean? I’m just thankful. I remember putting my voice on Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411”– “Yo, Mary. Pick up the phone.” And it’s there forever.

     

    Just funny things like Biggie E Smalls thinking of me from, honestly, smoking some trees with him! I’m just gonna keep it 100. Biggie Smalls, comin out with [inaudible], I mean he shouted me out just like, “I’m dreaming!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnprWvFHU78

    Singing “Feel the Fire” with Stephanie Mills, have her shimmy down on my leg.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vbOUNeb3AM

    Do you know what that did for my props when I went back home? They were like, “DOG! STEPHANIE MILLS SANG TO YOU AND PUT HER BEAUTIFUL BEHIND ON YOUR LEG! Did you slap her butt?” They were like, “I just wanna touch your hand.” [laughs]

    If people only knew how I was utterly shaking like a nervous rooster inside! Just like, “GOD!!”

    S&S: So, you were having a fan moment? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    Almost every night in concert. I went on tour with her for a year and a half, until we left. I’d say the last six months, after a year, I was like, “Ok. We gotta work!” You know what I mean? Some of these nights, we gotta work.

    I’m this little kid from the Bronx who’s dreaming. And now I’m getting ready to open up for Stephanie Mills and WATCH HER kill the crowd, learn from her, and then come out and do ‘Feel the Fire’ with her. I’m telling you, I was like, “Wow! God is amazing! I mean, like, GOD IS AMAZING!”

    Then that tour to lead me to the [Budweiser] Superfest and be on, share the stage with the GAP Band, Frankie Beverly and Maze. And then my other 90s contemporaries: Troop, Keith Sweat, Shanice Wilson, everybody, all the Uptown–obviously Jodeci, and Heavy D, Father MC, Soul For Real, Monifah. It’s just been a REAL blessing and a pleasure. Like I said, I’m just a kid who was dreaming and I got a chance to be in the professional ranks and people actually vibe with me. So, I’m blessed. You know what I mean?

    S&S: Do you ever step outside of yourself and look at yourself, like “I’m Christopher Williams? I am CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS.” [laughs heartily] Nah [chuckles]. No. Honestly, I don’t. Look, I’m no slouch, but there are certain people that are just like, WOW! I try to just, even in the hard part, cuz I’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations, I just take it. I accept it. And I say, “Maybe I could’ve done this.” I don’t second guess it or dwell on it too long. I put it into view. Forgiveness, repent. I try to really learn from it. And I don’t always learn from it. But I really try to. So, that’s how I live my life.There’s a lot of great energy coming towards me right now and I’m just thankful and humbled and I’m excited. I look at Charlie Wilson, and I’m like, “Ok, I’ve got work to do.”

    You know, I was a kid who was adopted. I was raised by my aunt, I didn’t really know my father. I met my mom, we made peace–thank God! But I’ve lived so many different layers and God has always covered me. When I was young, the music was like a song in my heart that kept me alive. It was like LIFE–it kept me alive! When I was a kid and I was, going through a lot of challenges, going back and forth from different places–from my grandmother’s house, to this, that, and the other, it was–all-in-all, it was beautiful, at the same time.  I try to stay in the moment and live it the most that I can. Cuz life is short. It’s a blip. 

    You gotta start focusing on your eternal life rather than just here. When you get to that place in your life, you want to use those 30 years to just do all you can to give back to people anything that you can share on this earth. What can I do to improve this place and the people that are gonna impact kids after me…the generations after me. 

    S&S: Are there any charities you are working with or excited to tell us about? I gave my life back to Christ in 06. I’m with City Church [Richmond, VA] and my pastor, unfortunately, tragically died last November. But now his younger brother, Pastor Chris Bradley, he’s been working with Bethel Ministries and Elevation and a couple of other wonderful ministries. So I try to just give to those things, be a blessing to the community–giving food or using the basketball gym and buying a bunch of pizzas and you know, just little stuff. And not just doing it, but actually being there while we’re doing it. 

    I started out going just to be a support. I wanted to keep everything clean and style the church. That’s the Interior Design thing going on in me. But Pastor was like, “Nah, nah, nah. I don’t want you doin that.” [laughs]

    So he allotted a way for me to teach the children theater, which was a lot of fun. Because of my involvement in the streets my whole life, where I come from in the Bronx, and what I’ve overcome, and just a lot of my brothers being locked up, I said I’d like to do the prison ministry.  I just went to him to help and I wound up, by using my voice and my jokes and everything, I would starting to be able to reach people. People would start saying certain things to me and I realized it was time for me not to just be closed about this. When I speak, there’d be understanding. I felt like God was using me for something and it became more and more involved. And they were pushing me, they would throw me out there. And it was great to do something that wasn’t with my singing voice, it was just communicating with brothers and sharing hope, love, and inspiration, but just in a different mannerism.

    That’s another part of my life. Like I said, there’s a lot of layers. Being an entertainer, for me, is one thing, but that’s not all I am. I know what it is to get another chance, not a second chance. I don’t believe He’s a God of a second chance, I believe He’s a God of another chance. And if you’re alive– sometimes people just need to know that there’s somebody like, “Listen, I know you feel forgotten. I know you feel destitute. But if you just start exercising a different muscle, you’ll get stronger in a different way. If you keep exercising pain, you keep exercising hurt, then you’ll hurt and you’ll hurt other people. You keep exercising negativity, you’ll be negative to other people.

    I’m far from perfect. I’ve still got that physical man, but I think the spirit man is taking over. There’s a better balance. It’s probably about 65-35 now. [laughs heartily]

    S&S: You have many more years left to work, though. I know I do. I’m excited, I’m amped up, I charged up at 53 and ready to roll! Better than ever! I’mma be 83 in Vegas with the flyest tux on, singing like Frank Sintra. [sings “Don’t wake me, I’m dreaming, yeah, oooooo. Don’t chu wake me, I’m dreamin’, yeah. Girl, I dream about you.” in the jazzy style of Frank Sinatra and laughs heartily]

    I want that Frank Sinatra gig at Caesar’s Palace 3.0 or whatever’s gonna be there. And prayerfully, like I said, the guy I’m working with, Amir Bayyan, is gonna have some amazing things in store for Vegas and different communities like Gary, IN, Flint, MI, and Baltimore. Just another brother who just has a heart as big as heaven and earth. He just has an amazing plan to be a blessing to people. 

    S&S: I’ve got two questions and I’m angry I forgot this. Are you an Android person or an iPhone person?I’m double minded. I’m both. [laughs]

    My personal is iPhone. The people I work with gave me an Android cuz they like Androids. [laughs]

    S&S: Oh, WHATEVER! So, what’s on your playlist? Right now? Deitrick Haddon and Pastor Jason Nelson and Busta Rhymes. Busta has something new with 9th Wonder–oh, my god! It’s amazing, historical. And the new Christopher Williams record, just to throw that in there.

    S&S: With everything that has gone on with you and your life being so documented, I can Google it and find good and bad, true and untrue, what is it that you wish people knew about you that we can’t find by Googling it? That out of all the things I am and everything that I dream to be, if you look into my heart, I’m basically just a worshiper inside of me. That’s what I was created for. And I think people are going to see, not in words, but in deeds. And the platform is entertaining, but it will be something greater than that. Glory to God, I believe it will be.

    S&S: Are there any questions that you wish people would ask you? Why are you taking so long to put your properties up? [chuckles] 

    We wrote an amazing story, the first movie I wrote, “My Brother’s Keeper,” a revamp of New Jack City. It was about marijuana prohibition and we were trying to get Drake or Chris to be my son and Lil Wayne to be little Nino, but his name was Nico. And the roles had reversed. My son was angry like Nino was. Nino’s son was a genius. It has so many twists and turns, it was dope. The first scene of the movie was me getting out of jail. And they say, “Kareem Akbar” and you see me–25 years later–just like the movie was 25 years ago. This was in 16, the 25th anniversary of the movie. 

    We put it on the morning show in New York and even the interns started coming into the joint when they were interviewing me. They were like, “Man, this story is crazy!” But Wesley didn’t really want to get involved in it. I’m not mad at him for it. I think Warner Brothers, from a license perspective, felt like, “We don’t have it the way you wrote it, with the dream sequences.” Wesley wasn’t in it, Warner Brothers didn’t get it. They shut it down. 

    Now, I’m so inundated with this Ella Fitzgerald story. So we’ve just moved on to that and the Theodore Pendergrass thing and the Sound of Philadelphia. We’re now excited about those two. Who knows? Once my season is starting to become more warmer and hotter, I think that’s when people will open up and be like, “Ok, now, whatever you tryna do, ok. Let’s do it.” 

    S&S: And on the flip side of that, are there any questions or references you wish people would stop asking or using? About Stacey Dash and Halle Berry. People always come but they don’t ask them about me. I’m like “That was 25, 30 years ago.” Look, I love them. That’s my son’s mom and Halle’s a dear friend of mine. Adults paths will pass again organically, if they are meant to–working together or, maybe, an event where my son is there and his mom is there, or whatever–organically. It’s time to move on.

    Then they start delving into other actresses, like, “I’ve heard you’ve been coupled with this one and that one and this one.” And I’m like, “Can we talk about my music?”

    S&S: That’s interesting because I DO see a lot of that and I remember seeing a lot of that when I was growing up, that there seem to be people who were so interested and I’ve never understood that. So, why do you think people are so interested in your dating life because it doesn’t really have any bearing upon what you do? Why are they so interested in it? I think, honestly, that’s partly to do with my record label because that was always a cheap crossway to market me without spending money, or buying billboards or advertisements or trying to put me in A-List situations with concerts and couple me with people who are on a certain level. That started superseding my music publicity. 

    I mean, I’ve never had a lot of press that said, “Hey. You know what? Chris can really act.”—until I started getting reviews doing stuff like plays. I’ve done “The Clean Up Woman,” with Jackée Harry, Telma Hopkins, Fred Hammond, “Miss Independent,’ with Robin Givens. And I’ve been in four theater shows and I’ve spent eight years going back and forth in the theater seasons being sold out on plays. Four of them are on videotape that are still available to be seen.

    I think I’ve got to this place now where I understand how I can control them, keep the integrity in them, monetize them the right way.

    S&S: What artist(s) have you been the most excited to work with? Aww, man. ALL OF THEM! Gerald Levert, Phyllis Hyman, Regina Bell, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Father MC, Heavy D, Mario Van Peebles, Wesley Snipes, Alen Payne, Vanessa Williams, Bill Nunn, Russell Wong, Ice T, Chris Rock, Faith Evans, [inaudible], Shanice Wilson.

    S&S: Are there any artists that you dream ( would like to work with)  of working with on a collaboration?There are so many: Keke Wyatt, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans–I’ve always wanted to do something with Faith. Then with the guys, there’s so many good ones I like. I love B McNight, I love Joe, Maxwell, I like Jaheim’s voice a lot, Sam Smith.

    Some of the young ones, too, like Jazmine Sullivan–I think she’s probably too young for us to correlate, but if there was some kind of unique project. That’s one of the things about my interest so deeply in films because I don’t have to be on the thing to collaborate with them. I want to be able to facilitate opportunities for these amazing artists. Just to be another outlet for them to express their talent, that would be amazing. There’s just so many: I love India.Arie–I think she’s gifted. I’ve always admired and wanted to do something. That might be interesting to hear our voices on something acoustic, me singing a real raspy baritone. 

    Lalah can go low, so that’s another interesting tandem. And she’s so gifted with the movement of her voice. And just her selection of what notes she sings–she’s so on-point with it and it’s effortless.

    S&S What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?  Find yourself, be true to yourself and just love everyday of the journey because, in this business or anything that takes extreme sacrifice to become successful–and it’s just a difficult business on top of that–you have to love it when it’s not loving you so much. And you cannot believe what “they” say, whether it’s really, really great–cuz vanity is just as bad as the hate and lies that people can spew on you. Remain even keeled, humble and thankful for all the great things that happen. And brush off the other stuff. Brush your shoulders off and keep it pushing.

    S&S: What can we look forward to next from you? I’ve got a lot of plans and it seems like the pieces are coming together with the team around me. So I’m excited.!

    This D Train remake. Out of nowhere, I’m working with Skip and Silk. I’ve always wanted to do it and it was just perfect timing. Then I’m dropping an R&B single in February–“Higher.” I think it’s gonna be a club banger, my biggest uptempo record–bigger than “Dreamin.” Me and 9th Wonder agree we’re gonna send the stems to S&S and have them make all the House and EDM versions that we wanna do with this song. This time, because we’re in control of it, I really wanna cover all the formats. 

    I have a new line of hats, “Chemelion.” I’m a Leo. I’m a lion. So I put CHE-ME-LION. The hats are really cool. They’ll be out for Christmas. I’ve got cigars that are coming for Christmas, too.  And the candles, “Lueur,” which means “glow” will be coming for Christmas. The candles come with a fragranced body oil that matches the candle.

    For 2021, I have a champagne that will be launched around July 4th. By August, I wanna have my first Christmas album ready. I’ve already done three songs. But I’ve had so many other things going on that I couldn’t make it this year.

    I plan to shoot my aunt’s life story. I’m working with some amazing people.

    Amir Bayyan, from Kool and the Gang, made Nile Rodgers, Teddy Riley and me part of his consultancy team for this tech deal we’re working on, iPrefer. The four of us will shoot our own intellectual property–whether it’s movies, television shows. We’re putting a gaming amusement park up in Las Vegas that’s gonna have the film studio and everything connected to it.  

    iPrefer is just an amazing visionary thing. It’s a $4 billion operation and it’s gonna help a lot of inner city children through tech and gaming, and be such a blessing to each city. So every year, like Madden comes out with “Madden 05,” it’s like, “Gary 3.0.” Next year’s joint is Flint, MI. Next year’s joint is Baltimore. We just keep going. So we can, basically, save, literally, economically, every city that this game touches. And it’s so many layers to it. When you see this thing come to fruition, you’re gonna be like, “WOW! This is CRAZY!” 

    This guy has an AMAZING vision for the future! It just keeps getting better and I’m really looking forward to his vision coming to fruition in 2021.

    I’m working on a television show that’s going to be a tribute to the Sound of Philadelphia with a live orchestra, all the dignitaries from Philadelphia. So it’s gonna be great! I’ve got a couple of my brothers who I think are gonna help me do the Harold Melvin and Blue Notes segment: Brian McKnight, Jaheim and Joe. We’ll spice up the Harold Melvin thing, hopefully, and do it justice. And then the duets with Teddy–I would love to come back out with Stephanie Mills. And hopefully I can get Ledisi to get up there on stage. She’s just a monster in every beautiful way. Her voice, her beauty, her style, her steed, everything. 

    So, I’ve got a lot of things in 2021, obviously, just looking forward to humanity healing and hopefully, coming together to find common ground. 

    I’ve had a great journey and I feel like I’m just beginning. Like I’m still dreaming. This is another chapter and it feels good. It kinda feels like in the beginning when it was all gravitating towards me. I’ve got so many new things going on and I’m just thankful to God that I’m still alive and still dreaming. I’M STILL DREAMING! You feel me? I’m still saying, “Don’t wake. I’m dreaming.”  Cuz I’m dreaming. 

     

    Q&A By:Shannon “Skip” Syas & Kathi BrownS&S Chicago

    Follow: Christopher Williams [Instagram] [Twitter][Facebook]

    S&S Records, Inc. (and S&S Chicago, Inc.) was established in 2005 by 4-time GRAMMY® nominated producer Steve “Silk” Hurley and global DJ/Producer Shannon “DJ Skip” Syas. Merging Hurley’s worldwide commercial success and Syas’ strong global following, the dance label has become home to numerous musical greats and one of the most respected blogs on the internet.

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