From College Dropout to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Tony Williams can proudly say he has been instrumental in all of Kanye’s albums and the progression of his career. His voice is the vehicle in which each song on College Dropout can run smoothly from track to track. Without even releasing an official album (until now), Tony Williams is recipient of 4 Grammy awards and many more nominations.
It’s a wonder it has taken this long for Williams to kickstart a solo career, and add some soul to the much deprived genre of R&B. However, we understand the loyalty The World Famous Tony Williams has for Kanye and GOOD music in general, therefore, the introduction of a solo album after success of GOOD music feels natural.
In time for the release of The King or The Fool, we interviewed Tony Williams, discussing the album, his career, and his inspirations.
The Cypher: What was the main catalyst/ inspiration for The King or The Fool?
The World Famous Tony Williams: “The Genesis for KOTF came from a church sermon that I once heard.. The Bible is full of examples of honourable men, even, kings that committed foolish, grave acts that cost them severely. The gist is that there is a dichotomy that exist in all men. Ironically, the pastor that preached the sermon is presently incarcerated for “acting a fool”. It’s true. Actually, the lyrics and title of the song came about way before, I felt that it was compelling enough a concept around which to construct a theme for a project.”
What was the underlying factor that made you decide; it’s time for the world to hear a Tony Williams album?
“I wanted to wax nostalgic with the album. I can’t help it, that’s my signature. I’m a relic and I think that’s the appeal of my vocal style. Kanye discovered early on that using my voice the right way on his recordings was about as good as having an Otis sample. Not only is my singing style a throwback from the past, but my writing and arranging style is as well.“
Was it difficult to go towards an independent sound and identity after being a crucial part of Kanye’s direction and sound in the past?
“I still love the sound of Indie music. Commercialism ruins art at some point, it’s inevitable. I can’t deny that I’ve gleaned some invaluable skills when it comes to making commercially viable music, but I will say that it was never easy working within those boundaries. That approach is so unnatural to me. Real soul music is a pure form of an innate expression. It’s so tribal. While we’re in the womb, we hear a heartbeat, rhythm. R & B artists, today, have gotten too far away from the original essence of what music is and that’s what’s missing. My goal is to keep these most important elements in the music that I make. That’s how Kanye used me on records. I just did me and then he joined the two worlds.”
Will we see any surprise features on the album?
“There’s a few features on KOTF that I think perfectly compliment the project, but this project was about spotlighting me. We killed with the features on SOMBRAF, don’t you think? Of course we got the obvious Kanye feature, I mean c’mon. The illest thing is that I have two other cousins that contributed to the album- producer Devo Springsteen that co-produced “Diamonds Are Forever” and Raheem DeVaughn. Few people know that but my family on my mother’s side are the DeVaughn’s. Maybe I should sneak Jennifer Holiday onto a track for the next album, our grandfathers were brothers… that’d be dope. The joint with Raheem, also, features Stokley Williams from the legendary Mint Condition and John Legend, also, makes an appearance. I’m interested to see how people react to The Kid Daytona’s 16 on the revision of “Dreamin’ of Your Love.””
What are your thoughts on the state of R&B at the moment? What’s missing from artist’s arsenal that doesn’t make them as soulful as 60/70/80/90’s R & B?
“R&B music, in my opinion, has gotten lost in terms of what messages it sends out. When did we start limiting song concepts to sex, sex, and sex? Storytelling is some OG shit. We’re only limited, creatively, to the extent to which we can imagine. R&B music needs way more imagination. At some point, a long long time ago, every story has already been told. I make it my job as writer to give it new packaging. Rock operas are a concept of the 60′s and 70′s. Check out David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust“, or Pink Floyd‘s “The Wall“. They were huge works. There were, even, Soul Operas. Stax records released David Porter‘s “Victim of The Joke, an Opera” in 1971. If you’re not familiar with it, you should research it because that’s some real soul music history.,/span>”
Anyone that you would love to collaborate with?
“Has Sade ever collaborated with anyone. That would be the ultimate. More realistically, I’d love to work with Corinne Bailey Rae and Mary J. Blige.”
Which artists/musicians do you listen to when simply relaxing or zoning out?
“To me, the ultimate artist was Ray Charles because he transcended so many genres. That’s what I zone out to. I’ve always wanted to cover “You Don’t Know Me“, that was one of my grandfather’s favorite songs.”
Favourite record of all time?
“For years I considered the song “Footsteps In The Dark” by the Isley Brothers and about five Michael Jackson songs to be my favorites. Recently, I’ve realized that “Cherish The Day” by Sade definitely has to be considered a contender.”
Name one thing you try and do every day.
“My goal everyday is to be happy, so I try to make sure I surround myself with positive energy. Reaching my goals to be the best Tony Williams I can possibly be is part of that process. I’m still pursuing every goal that I set for myself in the beginning, kinda like a bucket list. I don’t want to live my life with regrets that I didn’t accomplish what I intended. In 2012 you’ll see me checking just a few more things off the list!”