Musiq Soulchild may well be the last of the musical Mohicans, at least as far as the non-genre called neo-soul is concerned. (It’s just soul, people.) Since Aijuswanaseing, the Philadelphia native’s phonetically titled debut, was released in 2000, Soulchild’s output has been the most consistent of the loosely affiliated artists who reigned in that fertile era, a tony list that includes D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Maxwell and India.Arie. While some of those innovators have higher public profiles, none have released as many recordings or had as many insta-classic songs as the man born Taalib Johnson 35 years ago. Songs like “Love,” “SoBeautiful,” “Dontchange” and “Teachme” have made Soulchild the unofficial love guru of the hip-hop generation. He even penned a book about relationships—143: Love According to Musiq, published last year—that encouraged those seeking love to find it first in themselves. It may not have placed him in the “Think Like a Man” realm, but hey, Steve Harvey can’t create the perfect soundtrack for romance.
A multiple Grammy Award nominee, Soulchild has yet to win a statuette, but he’s enjoyed some respectable Billboard chart history in both airplay and sales over the years, including his most current LP, MusiqintheMagiq, a top digital album upon its release in 2011. Currently in the woodshed creating another project that lacks both a title and due date, Soulchild—the only local cat worthy of feting Philly’s incomparable Frankie Beverly of Maze, illustrated by 2009’s superb, step-inducing cover of the group’s “Silky Soul”—is coming home for a special one-night stand at the Blockley. Here’s his take on why he’s lasted this long in a fickle business.
To what do you attribute the longevity and consistency that you’ve had over time?
Ultimately, a lot of hard work. People don’t understand how much work it is to maintain a career unless you fit the overly promoted criteria that’s always put out there that you have to fit in to be successful. If you don’t fit within that, it’s pretty much a slippery slope for you. I definitely attribute it to the hard work. It’s nothing less than a blessing, really.
You are known for your songwriting. Is that still a valuable skill in this era of Auto-Tune and beats-as-hooks?
It still holds value, but there are many people out there that don’t recognize it. If someone comes across something that’s actually valuable, people look at it as being too much. At the same time, you have so many people hollering and crying about music not being real anymore, and nobody puts forth any effort and blah, blah, blah. But yet the very thing that people are complaining about is everything that people keep supporting and promoting.
It’s fair to say that you’ve made your living on the strength of your love songs. What is it about those kinds of songs that keep people tuning in?
I don’t care how many people like to hop on the bandwagon of what’s poppin’ or hot for the moment. At the end of the day, you’re going to want substance, and I want to be part of the people who are still there providing that substance. I don’t think people really acknowledge the value of artistry. Not just music, but artistry. Artistry is how we express our emotions,our thoughts, our experiences. We put all of that into this thing we call creativity and artistic expression. People want to capitalize on that and make money, but take all the money away. Take the business away. Take all the capitalistic elements out of it. It’s still a fundamental necessity of human beings to express themselves creatively. You can go back and research how much art has affected the progression of humanity. It keeps coming back to these fundamental things because these fundamental things are what’s necessary. It can be theater, music, dance or fashion–whatever it is. We’ll always have that passion to express ourselves. Those are the things that inspire us, and with that inspiration, we can go on to bigger and better things.
What inspires you?
I want to be able to leave something behind that people can pick up on and pay it forward. That’s our legacy as humanity: what we learn and what we do with it and what we pass on. I want to be able to pass on this music. I want to be able to pass on this inspiration through music. So many times, I have people come up to me and tell me how much my song inspired them to do what they do and to be better at what they do. They don’t do music; they have other passions. That’s an awesome feeling to know that you have a positive impact on humanity in some small way.
Wed., Jan. 30, 8pm. $35-$40. The Blockley, 3801 Chestnut St. theblockley.com
PW's Music Issue 2014