the insider: miguel
we got an exclusive listen to the r&b master's new album, "do You."
Miguel once described his sound as "fly-funkadelic-intergalactic-hip-hop-meets-sexy-orgasmic, crazy dope shit," but told us that he'd like to amend and simplify that. "The music is dangerous, sexy, scandalous, and dynamic. And most importantly—honest."
Like he is with his music, he was open and honest with us about how he's reinvented himself. But don't worry, the new Miguel still sounds a lot like hip hop colliding with "sexy, orgasmic craziness." And it's still dope.
You describe yourself as "awkward and confident" in your Twitter profile. What's up with that?
I've always felt a bit awkward and socially challenged because I'm a thinker. Sometimes I over think. I've learned to be in the moment and be present, but it's something that i'm working on. My life has always been about this weird line of in-between. My father is Mexican and my mother is black. I grew up in Los Angeles, which is made up of those two ethnicities and I've found myself always having to walk the line. I've had to make decisions early on about how much of me is Mexican and how much of me is black. My mother is very religious and my father isn't. I had to find who I was.
How did you finally figure it all out?
When I got frustrated with trying to live up to other people's expectations I started to make my own decisions about who I am and who I want to be. It's a tough process. I started to learn what works for me, what I really believe in, and I took the time out to really consider what I stand for. As the picture started to come more into focus, I felt a little bit more sturdy. I think that's what makes this album different. Whatever place in my life this is, I've never felt as balanced as I am right now. I think it shows in the delivery and the sonic approach. All of that is very deliberate and tailored to who I am.
Do you find that it's easier now to put forth work that is more you?
It's easier on my ambassadors at the label because they believe in me. After having a bit of success those people are willing to go to bat more and say, "let him do his thing." Now it's easier for me to take risks. Even on the business side—we released the album in three parts. That has never been done.
What was your strategy behind that?
It was to engage different kinds of listeners. I don't discover new music on the radio. That's not where I got to find new music. I found myself on my favorite blogs, consuming in smaller doses. It was addressing that sensibility in people. We don't all have the time to devote an hour and twenty minutes to one artist. We're being bombarded by so much information, so many different songs, and new artists. So giving people my album in sections makes it more palatable and hopefully they won't feel like it's as much of a commitment. Even if you're not one of those people, they can wait until the entire album drops. It's a way to engage different kinds of people.
What do you like to do when you're not making music or listening to it?
I'm constantly going through photos: Images online, trying to get photographer's books. David LaChapelle is always going to be at the top. He somehow gets artists to come out of their shell and be risky. I would love to work with him.
What is your favorite song of all time?
Good Thoughts Bad Thoughts by Funkadelic and right after that: Bohemian Rhapsody.
Is there any type of music that you can't stand?
The one thing that I do love about myself is that I can find the positive in things. I don't always focus on the positive, but music is one of those things that for some reason I can always find something. I might be like, "oh that line is crazy" or "that chain was unexpected" or, "I can't believe they went from this chord to that chord" or "the syncopation of this beat is an interesting choice" or "there's so much personality in this—I wouldn't have approached it that way."
You're often compared to Prince and Baby Face. Do you agree with those comparisons?
I am a huge fan of both artists, so obviously I'm influenced by them because I grew up listening to their music. I also grew up listening to Bill Withers, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Queen, and The Beatles. All of those influences have made their way into my music. I'm a huge fan of theirs and I appreciate that I may remind people of some great quality of theirs because that's what I aspire to become.
Which current artists do admire?
Kanye West, Björk, and the poet Saul Williams. He's fearless and creative. Everything he does is very deliberate. He has a way of not being too abstract. A lot of poets get more into the delivery of the poem and the style of it than the point. He's always direct about the point he's making. that's influenced by way of communicating through my art. That's what influenced my new song "Do You."
What's the best part of your day?
There best part of my day these days…talk to my girl.
Sorry ladies, Miguel is taken. Even though we did wear matching his-and-hers motorcycle jackets yesterday—not by me.
Listen to his single of the new album titled, "Do You."