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The SoulBounce Q&A: PJ Morton Shares The Recipe To His Infamous ‘Gumbo’

SB: It seems that there’s a groundswell or R&B renaissance going on in New Orleans right now. The city has always been recognized for jazz and black music in general. In the last 20 years, bounce music has really been put on the map, not to mention Cash Money and No Limit. What do you think it is about the culture of New Orleans that inspires people to make music?

PJ: There’s a spirit of innovation there. Of openness. In L.A. or New York, there’s an industry attached to the creative process. But in New Orleans, we just want you to be dope and that’s all that matters and that’s really freeing to an artist.

We focus a lot on jazz because that’s the birthplace of jazz, but the reason we created jazz out of nowhere is that the city isn’t complacent with being the norm. That spirit is still there and that’s why there’s resurgence. I don’t think it’s a jazz movement, it’s just an artistic movement. That’s why I’m really happy to be in the middle of it with Morton Records. You’ve got Tank and the Bangas, Dee-1, Pell, all these amazing people. There’s about to be a wave of creativity there. I think part of it is this think tank of not being judged by anything in the world. We’re not following any waves, we’re creating our own.

SB: That’s interesting that you say that. I was thinking about what you had to say in "Claustrophobic" and the changes in audiences. Audiences are just looking for people who are dope, but as you say on “Claustrophobic,” the industry is looking for people who fit a certain mold. I understand that marketing and radio play are still important, but there are other avenues for people to discover new artists. What do you think is holding the industry back from letting artists really shine and develop their own spaces and niches?

PJ: I think it’s just a comfort level. When something new comes along, I don’t want to mess with my science. I want to stick with what I know. Whereas back in the day, when it was a huge fusion jazz, Herbie Hancock was playing arenas, Stevie Wonder was at the top of his game and Bob Marley, these people were out at the same time. The only requirement was to be dope. Then people would figure out how to sell it.

I think because there’s so much access now, the reason artists are finding other avenues and it’s working is the public is getting overwhelmed with the machine. It’s like every publicist and record label is telling you what they have is the best thing in the world. Audiences are like, I’ll be the judge of that. Just give it to me, and I’ll tell you if I think it’s dope or not. I think the machine is kind of scared that things are changing, and they’re not sure how to fit into this new mold of how people are consuming music. They see Chance the Rapper coming through selling records and winning GRAMMYs and the machine wants to know where they fit in.

SB: One last question: what makes your soul bounce?

PJ: Freedom. Being able to do exactly what I feel and people feel.

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