Manhattan’s site for the Black Lives Matter mural was organized by Harlem Park to Park, featuring work of Harlem artists ...
AmNews: Do you regret not taking the producer credit?
Adams: Of course, there is an element of regret. I would have been Dr. Dre 10 years before Dr. Dre was Dr. Dre.
AmNews: It seems like your career didn’t take a very straight path. Like you put on many different hats as an arranger, musician, songwriter and producer.
Adams: When I was 12 years old, I had the notion that I wanted to be a record producer. I didn’t really know what a record producer did, but I grew up in an era where studiousness and attention to detail and knowledge was rewarded. If you put in the work, the reward would come. If you had talent and did the homework, you would eventually rise to a level of comfort and success. Life is not like that now. We’re in a time where it seems like everybody knowing who you are, regardless of what you do or don’t do ... Now, anyone who has a computer and buys a $100 of software can call themselves a producer. Everyone is not going to be a rap star or TV reality star.
AmNews: Maybe because of your attention to detail and professionalism you’ve gotten the opportunity to collaborate with Red Bull Music Academy. I think when you get so big and your career is all about being seen, you miss prestigious if not intimate opportunities to do concerts and in conversations.
Adams: The thing I like about Red Bull Music Academy is that they are dedicated to keeping things alive. I did their lecture series in 2013, and because of my credits, they put me in a book called “For the Record,” which they called conversations with people who formed the way we listen to music. It was a brilliant idea. You take an established artist, which would be the equivalent of a master, and a new artist, which would be the equivalent of a producer, and you put them together and let them have a conversation. That became a chapter in the book.
Even with all the talent in the world, if you don’t study the craft and try to learn from the masters who came before you ... when you look at Michael Jackson, and people to rose to the height of success, a lot of it was talent, granted, but a lot of it was study. You can look at Michael and say, “He got that move from Sammy Davis Jr.” Or the way he pronounced his words, he sang clearly—his ultimate success came from him being hooked up with Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones is one of the best producers of our lifetime. I’ve always said, I want to be the Quincy Jones of the next generation. I want to be thought of as someone who could do anything and someone was good at everyone who did.
AmNews: I’d like to step into the present and ask, with over a thousand credits under your belt, how are you going to put together a two-hour concert for Red Bull Music Academy Festival?
Adams: Interestingly enough, the challenge was choosing the music. We’re going to have live musicians, there will be a core rhythm section, and then we’re going to have string and horn players. We are bringing in Black Ivory and some other great singers, and we’re talking to several people right now. I want to start the show with a medley of songs as an introduction. Then different acts will come in and do full songs live.
AmNews: How do you feel about music today? If you consider there to be pitfalls in music today, where do you think the problem began?
Adams: Greedy people. Back in the ’80s, which some people call the “me generation.” The same attitude that lead to the corporate raiders on Wall Street hit the music industry. The Republicans said, “If we give tax breaks to corporations, they’ll have more money to hire people.” But that’s not what happened. The corporations bought other corporations and took the money. It was no longer about art or the quality of the music, it became “Give me a song like the other one.”