BJ The Chicago Kid: "Kevin Randolph, he’s one of the illest people that contributed things to my life, outside of my family. I would just sing and sing. He’s like, ‘Are you counting?’ He taught me how to count bars. He was the first guy to take that poem and say, ‘Why don’t you come to my crib, let me try to make some melodies. Let’s try to get you to sing these joints and see what it sounds like.’
"He was the first guy to ever really plant that seed. He got me my first placement ever with Ramsey Lewis. Like some OG king shit. Like now I’m older I’m like, ‘Wow.’ When I was younger I was like, ‘Man, where’s R. Kelly?’ [Laughs.] Cause I was so dumb, but smart at the same time, to be able to at least get that opportunity. That’s far more respected, no offense to R. Kelly.
"Kevin Randolph is a young guy, but he’s been a jazz professional since he was a teenager. And he’s this prodigy. But it’s very hard for musicians to make that transition to being a producer. A musician can play the most incredible shit, but a producer can play the most perfect shit in eight bars. Phew. Cold game right?
"So, he understood the transition and he began to pretty much help mold me as a songwriter, he began to help mold me as an artist. Not saying I was being a solo artist then, but he was just molding my music career [so that] whatever was to come, I would be prepared. He definitely understood that before I met him. I put a lot of some of the best music I could find in my system. Because of him, I met R. Kelly at Tracks at the studio."
"My first time seeing R. Kelly in Chicago, he had a white and black zebra du-rag on, a white wife beater, some basketball shorts, and some white Air Force Ones, mid-top, with all of the laces out. That’s how you know he was living at the studio. He was so comfortable, it was like his house shoes. And this was ‘99, 2000. He inspires me greatly, from my city. Him, and, of course, Kanye.
In my eyes, those guys, musically, can do no wrong. Without those two gentlemen, when it comes to the pride of my city musically, we wouldn’t have a lot. Of course with Jennifer Hudson and a lot of few other people, but those two are two of the main pillars of our city when it comes to music. I was working with Kanye on the Mission: Impossible joint ["Impossible"] with Twista, Keisha Cole. And my vocals got the feature love and everything. That was one of the first times I heard my voice on the radio.
My first time seeing R. Kelly in Chicago, he had a white and black zebra du-rag on, a white wife beater, some basketball shorts and some white Air Force Ones, mid-top, with all of the laces out.
"I did backgrounds on that and I sing at the very end. A lot of people was like, ‘I thought that was a sample.’ I was like ‘Yeah. Cool.’ [Laughs.] I’m a blessed individual, man. I’ve had many chances to witness some very life changing events. Like doing the Grammy’s with Usher and James Brown. Or being in Teddy Pendergrass’ crib before he passed away and he talked to me like, ‘So you sing, huh?’ Like he Tony Soprano and I’m the young kid trying to come and be a part of the mob. Like, checking my temperature.
"But he’s in a wheelchair with his mouth directing but he got Gucci’s on his feet. He’s still a boss in his way. He still hold the prestige that he’s built all these years, regardless of what happened. It was an honor to get checked by that man in his house. ‘So where you from? What part? So you sing? What you sound like?’ I wish I could’ve had Marvin do that. I wish Michael Jackson could’ve did that.
"I would love for it to happen with Bill Withers. I’m a huge fan of Bill Withers, he’s still living. Stevie Wonder. I would love to continue to meet my forefathers and the greats because this generation is full of instant mothafuckers. You go buy a camera, now you’re a video director. You hang with songwriters, now you’re a songwriter. We don’t have big homies these days to be like, ‘Nah I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t say that on the Internet, 'cause it’s going to look bad and you’re going to cut your bread off.’
"That’s needed in this generation so much. We wouldn’t have all this bullshit going on. This is an instant generation. It’s like quick grits, you rip the pack, you put hot water, and you mix it up, and you got your grits. I just pray we get some more substance."