Uncle Charlie Talks New Album, His Respect For Hip-Hop And Why Kanye West Is The Best

Charlie Wilson is in high-demand. Which is news to the 57-year-old singer-songwriter who was a platinum star as a member of the late ‘70s and early 80’s R&B-funk trio The Gap Band. Three plus decades later, Wilson has enjoyed an artistic and commercial rebirth following collaborations with Snoop Dogg (“Beautiful”), Snoop and Justine Timberlake (“Signs”) and R. Kelly (“Charlie, Last Name Wilson”). Now after experiencing Billboard chart success with his comeback albums Charlie, Last Name Wilson (2005) and Uncle Charlie (2009), the heavily influential vocalist is again making his presence felt in the hip-hop world, appearing on Kanye West’s upcoming work Dark Twisted Fantasy. VIBE talked to the re-energized Uncle Wilson about his thoughts on his unlikely reinvention, his early connection with the rap world, the recent death of his Gap Band brother and why Kanye is the best producer on the planet. —Keith Murphy



VIBE: You are set to release a new single (“You Are”) going into nearly 40 years in the music business both as a member of the Gap Band and as a solo artist? Are you amazed that a new generation of hip-hop artists and R&B fans have embraced you?

Charlie Wilson: It’s been amazing to know that I’m still wanted. I’ve been in the studio with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Kanye West. This particular single, “You Are,” is basically about a strong man who has the support of a stronger woman. It’s going to be the wedding song of the millennium. When we were writing that song I was thinking about Michelle Obama and how she stuck by her man from their college days all the way to the Senate and all the way to the White House. She’s just a strong woman. I feel the same way about my wife. She’s the one who told me when we got married 15 years ago, “Hey, I’m going to show you that we are going back to the top.” She did not let up on me when I didn’t have the belief in myself to [make a comeback.] She’s my anchor. Sometimes she tells me what licks to sing on my songs. She’s all in my damn business [laughs]. You want to have someone like that in your corner.

Your brother Robert recently passed away. People are finally starting to acknowledge his influence as a songwriter and a bassist. What did he mean to the legacy of the Gap Band?

When you listen to all those Gap Band hits like “Burn Rubber” and “Outstanding” you hear that bottom. He was the anchor of all those songs. My brother was a true showman. I had to duck his bass just about every live show we did because he was so energetic; he would spin on you in a minute. He was the other frontman who was just as powerful. My brother used to tune his four-string bass down so low and go deep on the songs. You can hear it on “Yearning For Your Love.” Everybody was trying to figure out how he played those low notes, but he played his bass like it was a guitar with a lot of vibrato. To lose a brother is just crazy. I watched the Jacksons lose Michael a year ago and I was one of millions of people witnessing that tragic loss. But now I can understand what Janet, Randy, Tito and all those guys were going through. Before my brother passed, we were talking about doing a Gap Band reunion. It’s still hard for me to talk about. My brother was incredible.

During the height of the Gap Band in the early 80s, rap groups were starting to tour with R&B and funk acts. Did you guys share the perception of the majority of your peers that hip-hop was just a fad?

I remember going on the road with Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick. Let me tell you something about Doug…when they released [“The Show”], it was a wrap after that! But we had a good time with those guys. They actually picked up a lot from being on the road with Gap, Zapp, and Parliament. Doug just took it all in and absorbed all the things we were doing onstage. They learned how to take hold of a crowd and not just use the song to entertain.

A lot of the R&B bands back then were dismissive of hip-hop acts because they didn’t play instruments. How shocking was it to see these young rap artists show up onstage with just a pair of turntables and a microphone?

[Laughs] Actually that’s what a lot of the guys around me used to point out… that the rappers didn’t play instruments. But I never used those words. I didn’t care that they were using turntables because when I saw hip-hop first come in, I would just watch those guys do their thing. It was a new form of expression and that’s how they came in the game. I respected that. Some of them even started getting bands to back them up. They were advancing hip-hop. 

You talked briefly about your staying power. Why do you think the hip-hop world has gravitated towards Charlie Wilson?

Wow. I really don’t know the answer to that. But I think it may be because I can still sing [laughs]. I have to blow my whistle a little bit. These young artists trust in what it is I’m going to deliver. The generation is getting younger. I just got finished doing a song with The New Boyz. Uncle Charlie with the New Boyz?! That’s crazy. Those guys were not even alive when we were releasing the third Gap Band album. It’s just been incredible. The stars are aligning for me. I’m truly blessed. I was just in New York for a week with Kanye.

One of the new Kanye West songs you appear on is “See Me Now.” How did that collaboration come about?

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Issa Rae And Kumail Nanjiani Talk Their Black And Brown Dynamic In 'The Lovebirds'

As our latest op-ed points out, black romance films are having a moment, and The Lovebirds is adding a comedic twist to the matter. Ahead of the MRC/Paramount Pictures' premiere on streaming platform Netflix, VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle sat down with the film's lead actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani to discuss the refreshing black and brown dynamic between their characters.

"I think it was just more exciting to me [to take part in a different romantic dynamic]. It was just that, and I didn't realize until later," said Rae. "Obviously with working with Kumail, it just like 'Oh, I haven't seen an on-screen pairing like this' and [I] was excited to play with him cosmetically. But yes, it's exciting to see a new and fresh dynamic in movies like this."

"When you see a portrayal of Pakistanis in American pop culture, generally, you're seeing certain lanes. You don't see us being light or funny or fun that often," said Nanjiani. "My family is very, very funny. My friends are very funny, so it wasn't even an attempt to try and show that [brown characters can be portrayed differently]. I just wanted to show how the people I know are. My mom and my dad are some of the funniest people I've ever met."

Watch the full interview above. The Lovebirds is streaming on Netflix now.

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Man Who Recorded Murder Of Ahmaud Arbery Arrested

A third man has been arrested in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s murder, was taken into custody on Thursday (May 21), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced.

“The family is extremely relieved,” attorney S. Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s mother, said in response to Bryan’s arrest. “We didn’t know if this was going to happen, but we all knew that it should happen.”

Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, while out for a jog. It wasn't until two months later that his story went viral prompting an investigation by the GBI after the local D.A., who was previously over the case, declined to make any arrests.

According to jail records, 50-year-old Bryan was booked into the Glynn County Jail on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Bryan made his first court appearance on Friday (May 22) where his lawyer filed a motion for a speedy trial.

Bryan accompanied father and son, Gregory McMichael, 64 and Travis McMichael, 34, as they followed and cornered 25-year-old Arbery before the younger McMichael shot him to death. The McMichaels claim the shooting was self-defense.

Father and son were arrested for aggravated assault and felony murder earlier in the month. All three men are being held at the same jail.

The mugshots of Gregory and Travis McMichael, who have been charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) May 8, 2020

Merrit noted that Arbery's family hopes the men will be convicted. “Well obviously we want to see the arrests lead to a formal indictment then a vigorous prosecution and conviction. But there are other people we believe were involved. We spoke with the DOJ earlier today about their investigation into the corruption that delayed these arrests in the first place.”

An attorney for the elder McMichael claimed that the pair are victims of a  “narrative driven by an incomplete set of facts.”

“While the death of Ahmaud Arbery is a tragedy, causing deep grief to his family -- a tragedy that at first appears to many to fit into a terrible pattern in American life -- this case does not fit that pattern,” attorney Frank Hogue said. “The full story, to be revealed in time, will tell the truth about this case.”

The murder remains under investigation by GBI in partnership with the District Attorney Joyette Holmes of the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.

See more on Bryan's arrest in the video below.

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Quavo Talks Earning His High School Diploma At 29

Quavo officially belongs to the class of 2020. The 29-year-old Migos rapper announced that he graduated from high school on Friday (May 22).

“Finally can say I graduated high school class of 2020,” Quavo captioned an Instagram post of himself sporting a blue cap and gown.


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Finally Can Say I Graduated High School Class Of 2020 We Lit 🔥 Now What College Should I Go To? 🧐 And To Celebrate We Gonna Drop SMASH TONIGHT 🔥🌊 BERKMAR HIGH NAWFSIDE BABY

A post shared by QuavoHuncho (@quavohuncho) on May 21, 2020 at 4:26pm PDT

Now that he's a high school graduate, the Georgia native is considering attending college, as he shared in an interview with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Radio alongside Migos members, Takeoff and Offset. During the talk with Tunechi, Quavo expounded on his decision to get his diploma.

“I was doing stuff for the community and schools… always involved and just me being considered like a dropout you’re not really like an alumni,” he said before explaining that one of his former high school teachers is now a principal and encouraged him to get a diploma. “He hit me up like 'you should go back and get it.' I went back and got it.”

Quavo added that Weezy was, “definitely one of my inspirations for going back to school.”

The rapper, whose birth name is, Quavious Keyate Marshall, attended Lilburn’s Berkmar High School, where he was the starting quarterback for the 2009 season. Quavo dropped out of high school in his senior year.

Peep the Migos’ Young Money interview below.

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