John Legend Talks New LP, Rick Ross Rape Lyric Controversy — EXCLUSIVE Interview
It's been four years since John Legend has released a new studio solo album, but it's not like Kanye West's most consistent artist has been sitting around idle.
Legend spent that time opening for Sade on her world tour, recording a collaboration album with The Roots (2010's Wake Up), getting engaged to his supermodel girlfriend Chrissy Teigen (the wedding's later this year) and doing his philanthropic work on behalf of education.
Busy as he was, Legend says none of these endeavors get in the way of recording as much as the creative process itself, and his new LP Love In The Future is due in stores June 25.
"We wrote a lot of songs and spent a lot of time on it because we wanted to get it exactly right," Legend told The Boombox in an EXCLUSIVE interview. "Sometimes your creative process takes a little longer than you think."
Read on to hear him talk about Kanye West's involvement in the new album, whether or not he's going to sing at his own wedding, and his thoughts on Rick Ross's controversial lyrics glorifying rape.
When artists come out with a new album, they either say they're trying to go back to their roots or they're trying to go in a new direction with the music. Which way are you leaning towards on Love In The Future?
In some ways we have a lot of the essence from Get Lifted and Once Again. My favorite album of mine is Once Again. It's more beautiful musically and more rich, so I definitely wanted some of that on this album. Get Lifted has a certain rawness and pure soul I love, so wanted some of those elements too. But we did want to make it new as well and not just retread, so we definitely put some new things into it, with some new producers. There's some newer sounds on there.
How involved was Kanye on this album versus your previous projects?
He was more involved in this album than he's ever been on a creative level. He's listened to everything, helped me write certain songs, helped me reproduce and remix certain things. He really got his hands dirty.
Was that something you asked him to do, to get more involved? Or did he just step up?
It was me wanting him to be involved, but also him being really excited about it. For some reason, this time, where he was in his life creatively, and what he was feeling at the time, he wanted to be more personally involved this time and I welcomed it.
From one controversial collaborator to another, let's talk about Rick Ross. He's on your album's first single, "Who Do We Think We Are." You two have made some great songs together in the past, so we can assume you are friends. What are your thoughts on the lyrics on Rocko's "U.O.E.N.O.," where he's talking about slipping a molly in a girls drink?
People have a right to get upset if you make light of what is essentially rape. Because he talks about slipping a molly into someone's champagne, people think it's a little more innocent than the vision of rape most of us have, which is you know, a violent stranger takes a woman and forces himself on her. But anytime you have sex with someone without their consent, and that includes drugging someone without their consent, without their knowledge, then it's a form of rape.
So you think he deserves the ridicule he's received?
He's not the first rapper to say some things that are terrible, and he won't be the last, and we have to be a little bit careful about over-policing artists with lyrics. Part of what makes them interesting is they're playing characters and depicting a life that may or may not be realistic. We shouldn't take every rap literally and examine it for whether or not it's a good role model or good prescription for how you live your life. I listen to rappers talk about killing all the time, and I am never going to go out and kill somebody because of it. I hear rappers talking about robbing people some of the time, and I enjoy some of it [laughs], I really do, but I'm not going to go out and rob anybody.
We shouldn't take every rapper literally, but that being said, there's no reason for a rapper to encourage rape in a song, and my advice would be to just don't do it. Rape is a serious thing that hurts a lot of people, and it's been in the news a lot with Steubenville and Republican politicians talking about it. Rightfully, people are sensitive about it now.
You're involved in a lot of social and political issues, is this one of them?
It's interesting because the work I do, one of the charities I work for is called A Long Walk Home and they work with kids on sexual violence issues and rape survivors. I'm actually in touch with people who have been raped, so this issue is really important to me. I don't think anyone should make light of it in any song.
So if Rick Ross recorded those lyrics on a song with you, you would tell him to change it?
I don't really police other people on their creativity, pretty much ever. I don't say no, you can't say that, to anybody, unless it's on my song. If it's on my song, and Rick is putting out a song with me and he has the lyrics, I'd be like, "Dude, we have to change that, I can't represent that." If he's doing something on his own record, then that's on him. He's gotta bear the repercussions of it.
Okay, well onto a less controversial topic: Weddings. You're engaged, and I assume the wedding is soon, are you planning on singing at the wedding?
We have a date set and we know where it's going to be. We're not announcing it publicly, but it'll be later this year. I haven't decided what we're going to do for the music. Who knows though? Maybe I will sing.