The Grammy Nominations Concert has become a star-studded annual event that is televised in U.S. on CBS. In addition to live performance, the event announces the nominees for the next Grammy Awards. The 2011 Grammy Nominations Concert was held November 20 at the Nokia Theater. Here is what this celebrity who attended the event said in backstage during a press conference in the media room.
Your character in the movie “Just Wright” was a professional basketball player. Can you play basketball that well?
Yes. I wanted to be an NBA basketball player. I didn’t have a stunt double in “Just Wright.” They actually hired a stunt double, but my ego wouldn’t allow that. I grew up playing basketball, but I had to show my game.
How do you find time to take on new projects and still work on your music?
I think about it like … if you want to do something, you make time for it. I love acting. I love making music. These are things I’m excited about. I wake up in the morning, dreaming about, thinking about these things. I feel like I’ve been doing music for a while, so it’s definitely an opportunity …
The music is something that I’ve been doing for a long time. It just comes so naturally, Acting is also something I feel natural at, but I’m also growing in it. I just feel like I could find a balance. I don’t get to hang out as much as I used to, but it’s well worth it.
How did it feel to be on stage with Grandmaster Flash at tonight’s performance?
That was one of the highlights of my career, like one of the best moments in my career. To be up there with Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Scorpio, and then LL Cool J and Lupe Fiasco, it made me feel like these are people who have left marks in hip-hop. Lupe is creating marks in hip-hop. People who have impacted the culture.
LL is a living legend. Melle Mel is a classic artist. He wrote one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever. So for me to be up there performing with him is just an honor. And then it’s hip-hop, so you get to have fun and get to express that raw element — and that’s what we did.
Can you talk about your role on the TV series “Hell on Wheels”?
To me, it’s one of its one of the most exciting roles I’ve ever come across. The character is so rich … First of all, the show just has so many dynamics to it. It’s really a show that takes place in 1865, but you’re dealing with subject matter and topics that really relate to today. My [“Hell on Wheels”] character Elam Ferguson is a freed slave who is strong and is a leader. And you can see the relationship with him and Cullen Bohannon [played by Anson Mount], who happens to be a former slave owner, a white man. You can see the connection between them.
I feel like this show really digs into the issues of America. It’s really a reflection of America. It’s about building the American Dream and what [lengths] you would go to to get it — and we relate as people. The show is incredibly written, and hopefully, everyone will go out and support it as well. It’s well worth it.
What can you say about your new music?
My new album “The Dreamer/The Believer” will be out December 20 [in 2011]. It’s produced by No I.D. The single “Sweet” is out right now. There’s a video we shot in Haiti. And my new single “Celebrate” is coming out really soon.
This music is hip-hop music that can relate to so many different people. It’s the music where you can feel the soul of hip-hop, the pulse of hip-hop, but it crosses genres and generations and demographics. I love the album. It’s one of my favorite albums that I’ve created. I’m excited for people to hear it. December 20!
You, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco are all from Chicago. How do you feel about the Chicago music scene?
I feel like Chicago is a special place that has a lot to say. The artists, the people who come from Chicago are authentic. If you look at Lupe Fiasco, you look at Kanye West, you look at Common, you see three individuals that really represent who they are. Lupe talked about skateboarding on the song. Kanye would talk about the death of his grandmother or visiting his grandmother in the hospital. I would talk about love that is lost or dreaming.
On my new album, I have Dr. Maya Angelou doing a poem. We bring the core of who we are and don’t try and sugarcoat it for anybody. In Chicago, you have everyday people. It’s a blue-collar city. And that’s why you have artists such as myself, Kanye and Lupe. And I’m very proud to be from Chicago.
Who else is featured on “The Dreamer/The Believer”?
Besides the production of No I.D., Nas is a featured artist and John legend. I’m an artist who feels like “Make it about the music.” It’s not about who you have on your album. It’s about you and the music you create.
And that’s what you should offer, because I don’t want people to buy into my album I’ve got whoever is the popular person or even just somebody that I could say, “I got 12 features.” I want them to really get into the music. I want the music, the album to be bigger than me. Somebody will just hear that music and be like, “Man, who is that? That’s just great music.”
Can you talk about the May 2011 controversy over you being invited to the White House?
When I was invited to the White House, and the controversy came up, I first laughed about what they were saying about me, because they called me a vile rapper. I thought it was humorous. I felt like the people who know who I am will know that that’s not truth.
And anybody who has visited my career or took a glimpse at it, they can say, “Well, this guy is not perfect, but the energy of his music is positive. It’s uplifting, He talks about love. He talks about God. He talks about hip-hop. And he may do some street things, but at the end of the day, it’s just positive music. It’s good music.”
I just felt like they didn’t know who I am. And I felt like also I was caught in a political crossfire. But the truth always comes to light.
I got to go to the White House. I performed the song “The Believer,” the song off of the new album “The Dreamer/The Believer.” I performed that poem. And the president and the first lady were no further than you all are. And I felt one of the greatest moments I ever felt in my life. It was a blessing.
For more info: Grammy website
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