Quincy Jones III grew up Sweden, away from the publicity and attention his dad’s musical success – from Michael Jackson to "The Color Purple" – brought to the rest of his family.
By the time he decided to move to the U.S at 16, he was already a budding music producer; hip-hop head and techie who laughs that the buttons and gadgets in music studios got him more geeked than any other aspect of music production.
Living in the Bronx at the time, he worked with early Hip Hip bigs like T La Rock, the first artist ever signed to Def Jam, and Special K who emceed with Kool Moe Dee in the rap group Treacherous 3. “It was the perfect landing pad,” he remembers, admitting that back in that day (when it was no biggie to run into Melle Mel at the corner store) “nobody knew Hip Hop would get this big.”
Now, after creating the award-winning theme music for “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and a rack of hits for artists, including Tupac, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Prince, Ronald Isley, Queen Latifah, Coolio, Naughty by Nature and more, Jones finds himself at a new crossroads. He’s taken everything he's done to the Web. Now, he's making it his business to carve out new spaces and create new expressions for Hip Hop in cyberspace that are as complex, open, flexible and real as the music itself.
BET.com spoke with Jones from L.A. about Hip-Hop, the Internet, why Rap from the South is not exactly a new sound and life in the shadow of his famous father, Quincy Jones, Jr.
You’ve launched your Web site, QD3.com. Tell us about it.
It is a community hub. It has blogs, a video blog, video uploads and free QD3 content you can download to your iPod or MP3 player. Our goal is to find new ways to showcase the full extent of our own content with all the user-generated content on the site. By covering Hip-Hop culture from an intelligent point of view, we raise respect for it.
We also promote our DVDS on the site. So far, we've sold 1.75 million copies of our video “Beef."
What are you up to now – Beef Part Four?
Kanye West. Lil Wayne. Soulja Boy. All different styles. All sharing the Hip-Hop charts. Where do you think the music is going?
Back in the day, there was more of a dictatorship. Record companies decided what you listened to. The internet has brought more choice to the table. You can browse for video and music. Now, it’s about people creating vertical niches.
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What kind of Hip Hop do you like?
I’m pretty open. I really like conscious Hip Hop but I listen to everything. It’s amazing how Hip Hop has broken racial barriers to no end. How can it still have such a negative stigma when it has done so many positive things?
Is Southern Rap king right now?
Southern Hip Hop, the 808 long bass drum sound, used in most of those songs is not new. New York Started with planet rock, then it moved to L.A. and back down to the south with the Two Live Crew and the whole Miami sound. Back then, they sped it up. Now, they’ve slowed it down. That’s where we are.
Hip Hop is also exploding on the international scene.
Yes, about half of my Web site users come from other places around the world.
In some places, the music’s political while in others it’s mostly recreational. In Paris, it’s about giving the immigrants outside of the city a voice. They’ve created free-running, which is similar to how we came up with break-dancing.
Tell us about the video blog you have of your trip to Ghana.
I thought I was a brother until I got to Africa. Everybody thought I was white. They have a different sense of race over there – they don’t have the monkey of race on their backs. We constantly compare ourselves to the other. Our history re-started when we got over here. Over there, they have a foundation – a sense of inner peace that we could benefit from if we came in contact with it more.
They know everything about us and we know very little about them. They know everything about our artists, our music and our political history.
As an artist and businessman, do people always compare you to your dad?
The biggest misconception people have is that I grew up wealthy. My parents got separated when I was really young. I had an average life. Growing up in a Sweden, a socialist country, was very different than growing up here. But (my dad’s) is a great legacy to stand behind. Who wouldn’t want to follow that?
Are you close to your dad?
Yeah, we’re pretty close. We are friends. We can talk about music or anything else. We have a lot of talks. He has this multi-platform layout. He showed me that you don’t have to be confined to music.
You’ve said you believe the future of Hip Hop is on the Internet.
The hustle has transferred from the streets to online. If I were an artist or filmmaker, I would incubate myself online. You can paint the picture you want to paint of yourself online and get immediate feedback on your work. You should do it for as long as you can. If you aren’t financially independent, then you can strike a deal. That way you can walk in the door with something. Record companies don’t have the time anymore to cultivate talent. They want you to come in with $50,000 in regional sales, a number of listens on your MySpace page, etc.
You get excited when you talk about the Web.
I worked in the music biz and loved it but I never felt 100 percent. The digital world just speaks to me. It’s something I’m definitely excited about. I get all my news, information, videos, everything on the web.
So, what’s your formula for creating successful content on the Web for the Hip Hop generation?
You have to understand what these kids are saying. It’s much more of a peer-to-peer thing. They can smell a marketing message from miles away and they don’t go for it. That’s why some of the original content on YouTube has such an organic draw. You have to understand, for 18-24 year olds, the Internet is their number one media, followed by mobile and games. Television is number 3. That is radically different from people older than them. That gives you a good sense of where we are going in a few years.
What’s next for you?
2008 will be bananas! I’m working on a project that will help humanize Hip Hop, stop the glorification of violence among our youth.