Before there was Rick Ross, there was another Boss, and that Boss, Bruce Springsteen, has a new album out this week called High Hopes (incidentally, he's probably headed for a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200). Bruce has aged pretty gracefully—not only does he look a decade younger than he actually is (64), he also does hip stuff like give a keynote talk at South By Southwest and listen to hip-hop.
In an interview with NPR's Ann Powers, he spoke on the subject a little bit, specifically mentioning his admiration of Kanye West. Powers asked about several songs on his albums that have credits that read "loops by Bruce Springsteen," implying some familiarity with the type of sampling techniques used in hip-hop. Bruce's answer was revealing: He's a fan of Yeezus, and he also likes classics like Biggie and 2Pac. Unsurprisingly, given Springsteen's own political bent, he identifies with the politics of Public Enemy, too. Check out his full response below:
I wonder if at some point in your listening, because I know that you listen to everything and one of the things I treasured about your South By Southwest talk that you gave was how you erase genre and you said, "We should embrace everything that sounds right to our ears," and I wondered if hip-hop was something at some point that kind of, the light went on for you and you got it or how does that work in relationship to you?
Well it was so present, you know. At one moment particularly you had "White Lines" and this was stuff that was talking about what was going on in the streets and in the inner cities with people who were struggling. And that was something that, I mean, I had my own context for that, you know, that I wrote about it in my own way. But it was the music that came along and gave voice to those things outside of what was then considered a protest music context, you know, and did so really beautifully. And so, you know, I'm not well-versed in it but I have listened over the years. You know, Public Enemy, Notorious B.I.G., I listened to Tupac, I listen to Kanye West. Kanye West is incredible, you know. I mean, the record-making facility, you know, there's a lot of hours in those records and they're ...
He's a perfectionist like you.
I mean some of these, there's like, just the production. And I saw him on television, he did the song called "Blood on the Leaves" on the Later...With Jools Holland — it was fantastic, you know. He's a very, I still find him very interesting. I'm not necessarily driving [to] it in my car, you know. I probably fall back on the stuff that I listened to as a kid or something if I'm driving around. But I do listen. I listen to a lot because there's a lot of information in it and it's just fascinating record-making.
Read the rest of the fascinating interview here, and find out how Bruce feels about some of the acts he's influenced more directly, like Arcade Fire and country singer Eric Chuch, as well. Or, you know, get to work on that "The Glory"/"Glory Days" mashup because it isn't going to make itself.