The moniker Legend is no exaggeration. Most music fans know John Legend as Kanye West’s hook-singer and right-hand/left-hand man (hey, he’s a pianist too). But unlike West, he’s no college dropout. Legend has an Ivy League degree and a stocked resume: he’s collaborated with Lauryn Hill on her multi-Grammy winning album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, co-wrote Alicia Keys’ chart-topping song “You Don’t Know My Name” and appeared all over West’s debut album. After assisting other artists for years, Legend is now shining on his own (critics are comparing him to his idol Marvin Gaye) with his debut album Get Lifted, which includes production from gifted newcomer Devo Springsteen and of course, Kanye West. In between touring with Kanye West on Usher’s The Truth Tour, John Legend parked it in the mtvU hot seat to chat up his intellectual side (a jones for politics) and his not-so-intellectual side (his jones for Miami mayhem).
Q: Tell us about your craziest touring experience.
A: Will my mom & dad be reading this? I don’t think I can get into details. Let’s just say that it involved a bunch of alcohol and two enthusiastic Puerto Rican girls in Miami.
Q: What type of college class would you most want to take and why?
A: Well, I graduated from University of Pennsylvania, so I’ve already taken four years worth of college classes. But I wish I would’ve taken some philosophy classes so I could act more intellectual and profound sometimes. And I would’ve taken some more classes on international politics. I’m very into reading about current events and politics right now, and I wish I had a stronger foundation in that area. These are probably the nerdiest answers, but I’m just telling y’all the truth…
Q: What city in America is the most fun to visit and why?
A: Miami. See question 1 for rationale…
Q: What’s some of the best advice you were ever given?
A: Kanye told me to never listen to my record label. While the label is occasionally right, it’s a good practice to always come up with my own ideas for my project and take a lot of control of the entire creative process and marketing campaign (including video concepts, artwork, etc.). That way I make sure my music is represented the way I intend it to be.
Q: What’s in heavy rotation in your mp3/CD player right now?
A: I’ve been listening to my favorite albums from the last 5-10 years, to kinda compare how my album is gonna stack up against some of the modern hip-hop/R&B classics like The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ready to Die by Biggie, My Life by Mary J. Blige, and the Blueprint by Jay-Z
Q: The last good book you read or TV show you’re addicted to.
A: I like to read about politics. The latest book I finished is Imperial America by Gore Vidal. He’s got some interesting critiques of American foreign policy. I also just finished Michael Eric Dyson’s book about Marvin Gaye. Marvin’s a huge inspiration to me. My favorite TV shows: Chappelle’s Show, The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart. I love clever comedians with a unique perspective on American politics and society. Plus Chappelle’s from Ohio like me.
Q: What’s the first concert you ever saw? How was it?
A: I grew up going to church concerts. My mom was a choir director so we used to go to a lot of those when I was a kid.
Q: What are three items you can’t live without on tour?
A: My computer (Apple G4 Powerbook), my mobile phone/PDA (PalmOne Treo 600), my keyboard (Yamaha Motif 8)
Q: Who are your major musical influences?
A: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, my grandmother Elmira Lloyd (she taught me how to play piano in church).
Q: What random messages or tips would like to give to mtvU watchers?
A: Buy my album, Get Lifted!