BJ the Chicago Kid Talks ‘Confessions’ Tribute; Calls Usher ‘the Closest Thing to Michael Jackson’
BJ the Chicago Kid will never deny good music. And if a song moves him enough, he would go as far as to pay homage with his own take on the record. He did this with the release of BJTCK: A Tribute To The Anniversary Of Usher's Confessions -- honoring the 13-year anniversary of Usher's Grammy-winning album. Since he sang backup for Usher's The Truth Tour in 2004, which supported Confessions, the LP does hold a personal place for the Midwestern artist. The Boombox had the chance to talk to BJ about the importance of this tribute EP, Usher's influence on him and what he's currently working on. Read more below.
What inspired the A Tribute to Confessions EP?
I'm a fan of Usher. Usher played and continues to play a big part of R&B music. And understanding that, it's only right to give him props for it. I just know he's making the best of it. There's nothing wrong with that, man. It shows humility and humbleness. It says a lot, and I think it's pretty cool. Hopefully someone will do one for me in 10 or 15 years.
How did you go about putting together the production and overall sound of the tracks?
That's the easy part. We did a D'Angelo one like that. We kind of have a series where we have fun when it comes to that type of thing. We just continue to follow our same regime yet let the differences speak when it comes to different artists and how they speak to us creatively. We kept the formula and vibe of the D'Angelo one and continue the expression and spread it out for the Usher one.
Has Usher heard the EP yet?
I'm not sure if he heard them. But honestly, my job is to do it, not seek any praise for it. My job is to give the praise. So I don't have an envelope for anybody to touch and put a thank you note in. If they hear it, cool. If they don't hear it, that's fine as well. And if it affects them, then that's beautiful. Some artists can say thank you. Some artists [don't] have to. If you hear it, I think it's amazing.
So how does Usher inspire you and your approach to music?
He's the closest thing we've seen to Michael Jackson, since Michael Jackson and before Justin Bieber when it came to pandemonium. You rarely see those stars in the music game like we used to, and I think it's just super incredible. I'm sure Confessions is diamond. If not, it's a few years from that. (Confessions surpassed the 10 million sales mark in the U.S. in 2012.) It's one of the biggest R&B albums in our time. It stood through time. And the whole thing with his relationship around it, all of that it, it was just perfect marketing. It was [an album of] perfect songs put out at a perfect time. You can't run away from that.
Regarding your own music, "Roses" is a beautiful song but a little heartbreaking.
"Roses" is simply a song about a guy who's caught up with a girl who keeps playing with him. She keeps playing with his mind, and it happens when you're caught up. And you're patient when it's something you love, not something you don't like. It's just one chapter of a man's life.
You were praising Usher earlier, but you have been applauded for your contributions to R&B.
You know what? I think you want to give people or remind people of the things that I have and get when I listen to music from before. I'm simply trying to remake or make a better version of the songs from my favorite artists' albums. I'm simply trying to overshoot my peers. That's simply where we at with it. I want to be great at what I do. Sometimes I think I'm a better musician and an artist than I am a brother or son or an uncle. [Laughs.] Being so focused and passionate at this, you know, it takes some other things. So you gotta make it count.
Since you released "Roses" in February. Does this mean you have more new music on the way?
Of course. I'm working on a new album as well. I'm in the very beginning stages, but I'm trying excited working on this new album.
Aside from the music you've been releasing, you also have experienced a number of big career highs like singing the National Anthem at former President Barack Obama's farewell speech. Have you gotten used to the praise and props, especially at this point in your career?
No, I never want to get used to that part. I think that's when you become an a-hole. [Laughs.] That's something I'm not really into being. You don't want to lose yourself, and I don't want to lose myself. I see how it can happen and how easily it can happen, but I try to keep my realest people around me.
What is your definition of success?
Everybody's definition of success is different, according to the person. My definition of success is to use something God has given me to create a way and multiple ways for my friends, family and peers to have something from that tree and plant their own tree. They can do something from theirs, and it can be extended and extended.