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'Colors' Impact Stands The Test Of Time 30 Years Later

On April 15, 1988, America would be introduced to the gang culture running rampant in Los Angeles, California through rap acts like Ice-T and NWA, who chronicled the lifestyle in song and in music videos. Many may credit gangsta rap with ushering Bloods and Crips into the mainstream and movies for playing a part, particularly the film Colors.

Classics like New Jack City, Boyz N The Hood, and Menace II Society may be the first to come to mind when listing the pivotal films that spoke to the gangster aesthetic, but Colors played a pivotal role in shedding light on the ills of the inner-city and the strained relationship between law enforcement and urban communities. Directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, Colors became a box-office success, with a cast that included Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, Leon Robinson and Mario Lopez, all of whom would go on to become future stars and major players in Hollywood.

VIBE spoke to five West Coast rappers about the impact Colors had on taking gang culture worldwide and why the film still stands the test of time thirty years later.


What were your impressions of the movie Colors?
I knew it just looked real familiar to me, just from the look of it. I always thought though, for some reason, it definitely was told from a cop's point of view - it was a cop's vision of what gangs looked like. But then movies like Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society come out and it's more in the form of the eye of the street's point of view. It was the first to ever really show gang culture.

Favorite character from the film?
My favorite character probably had to be the one that Damon Wayans played, the sherm head that was dancing with the fu**ing teddy bear in the mall saying "I'm fu**ing your girl, Roccet, I'm fu**ing your girl." He had that little strange voice [laughs]. But when you look at that film, it had a lot of soon-to-be A-list actors in it. Don Cheadle fu**ing played Rocket for Christ sake. You had Damon Wayans, Leon, he was in it. You had a lot of people [in it] who became larger than life.

Favorite scene from the film?
The first drive-by scene where Rocket pulls up slow motion on the Blood with the door open and he says, "What up Blood?" and then it shoots straight then shows his mama crying the next day. I always thought that shit was crazy. The other scene when Rocket and the black dude from the Mexican gang, when they end up shooting each other at the end. I think he had a jheri curl, the black Mexican dude. That shit was crazy, too, when the Crips and the Spanish had their shootout.

How accurate do you feel Colors was in depicting gang-culture in Los Angeles and California as a whole?
Again, for it being the first of its kind and then me being very young for me to analyze it, I wasn't outside to give you the play-by-play if they did it, but just from the guys I know, they had it real authentic. The crazy shit was the opening scene, like when they in the jail with the Bloods and the Crips, that shit was crazy. I was like how in the fu** did they shoot this? Right now, there's a lot of intermingling with the gangs in the hood, which is cool, you know what I'm saying? I'm not here to promote separation, but if that was really accurate, I wanna know how did they get these two [gangs] to get together like this for this? Like I said, it’s the first time, so you can't - you're not gonna get it [completely] right. I would like to see what Colors would look like today in the modern form. That movie was crazy.

What are your memories of hearing the Colors theme song by Ice-T?
I was like, "Damn, this shit is hard as hell." Ice-T was crazy. I remember the video and at the end him saying, "I don't want you to die...peace." He goes crazy and all hard the whole song and all this tough shit for five minutes and then he goes "please stop, I wan't y'all to live," that was so funny to me for some reason [laughs]. It was hard and had some menacing a** sample. I don't know what the fu** that sound is. I just know when I heard that beat, I used to be scared cause I was little, you know what I'm saying? This song means gangs, I'm scared of this shit, you know what I'm saying? This song means murder. It feels like this song was played all over the city. The funny thing is we were just watching this video the day before yesterday and tripping out like, "Damn, this video was damn near six minutes long and this ni**a was just bussin'." It damn near show the whole movie if you watch the video.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film and if so, why?
I mean, it's a classic cause it’s the first time to put gangs on the big screen. It's a classic for that reason and that's the only reason you need. That's the first movie about Bloods and Crips and gangs in Los Angeles. Thirty years later, to see it started off as that and see what it is now, that's crazy to see. 'Cause now, on some deeper sh**, that was the first time somebody monetized off of this type of situation. Now it's used as a marketing tool to explode today's big artists and a few sports people and different things. Like it's damn near cool, which is crazy, but at that time, that was damn near like a horror film. That was scary, like "what the fu** is going on."

Mistah Fab
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
I was a kid, I can't even remember at what age I was when I saw Colors, but the West Coast is kinda split - California is three states almost. You've got Northern California, Central California and Southern California. Colors was very relevant in the culture of southern California, so outside of the world, everybody thought that California was all Bloods and Crips and where I'm from, Oakland, Bloods and Crips never existed. There's never been Bloods and Crips in the city of Oakland, so for us, it just painted L.A. as "wow bro, I ain't ever going to L.A., you can't wear anything. They be tripping over colors." Where we from, we say Blood and Cuz in the same sentence so it kinda gave us this whole stigma as kids, like "Man L.A., boy, that gang culture, they tripping. It's maini' out there, it's too crazy." The reflection of what L.A. was, we just thought it was all just gangs, kill you if you wear red, kill you if you wear blue, so that's what my perception of L.A. was as a kid growing up. Just being a young kid, not knowing until I went down there and saw the culture for itself.

Favorite character from the film?
Don Cheadle, man, Rocket. Rocket was a boss. Rocket don't smoke, Rocket don't drink, Rocket was a boss to me, man. Of course, T-Bone was hella funny, but I just think I liked Rocket. He was just the laid back lucid gangster. He was serious about his business.

Favorite scene from the film?
The high-speed, man, the high-speed was crazy. When High-Top was on the high-speed riding through the projects, but when he told, that kinda discouraged me. [The other scene from] Colors was the language and the conversation that Pac-Man had with the other cop and he told him, "Man, one day it was two bulls on the top of the hill, it was the old bull and the young bull" and he said, "dad, let's run down there and fu** one of those bulls up" and he responded to him and he said, "Let's walk down and fu** em all" and that stood out to me as I got older because it taught you a sign of patience. It taught you a sign of learning how to be mindful and be strategic in your attack. The element of surprise and how you're able to get more people when you're just slowly approaching. That always stood out to me, the commentary in that. The script was dope. It was worded very elegantly if you're able to depict those things in between and the decoding of that conversation. I always remember that part. That stood out a lot.

What are your memories of hearing the Colors theme song by Ice-T?
That was hard, I thought Ice-T was the hardest dude on earth. Like he was just hard! Like if you just listen to that, that was hard. That beat was aggressive, bro. You could hear the struggle, it was serious. It was serious man, just listening to it and listening to how dope it was.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film and if so, why?
You gotta think, at the time, I was a kid. I was only five years old when that came out so when I was able to watch it and know what it was, I was at an age where I could watch it with reasonable understanding of it. Where I was able to decipher what it was and what it really meant and then coming back to it and watching it as an adult, you even see more things to it. That was a hell of a movie, man, and I think the exploitation of the gang culture at that time, for one, the depiction of Southern L.A. gang culture, but [it showed] what it did to people. It made people wanna be involved with that culture so it was a good thing and it was a bad thing. It turned a lot of people out as well. Hollywood was used as a mechanism to get the gang culture to a higher level. If you look at a political view of it, the growth of what it did, it put it on a whole 'nother level and it traveled. It made the gang culture travel from just being a L.A. thing to all around the country and all around the world. I been in other countries where there was gang members and I was like, "Whoa, that's crazy" and Colors was the spawning of that. So Hollywood was able to use that tool as a traveling device to spread that cultural perspective to the rest of the world. And to anybody that's ever lost family and friends to the horrific details of gang-banging, it's different, man, it's crazy. It's always a good and it's always a bad, you always gotta take the perception of how you look at things.

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When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
My mother wouldn’t let me see it. I was living in Lynwood, CA. At the time and was already “cuzzing” her and idolizing the older Crips in our neighborhood. She said she wasn’t going allow us to see anything glorifying the violence we were witnessing daily.

How accurate do you feel Colors was in depicting gang-culture in Los Angeles and California as a whole?
I didn’t get to see it 'til 2000. And to me it was unremarkable, I didn’t finish it.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film and if so, why?
Colors, at best, was another classic ploy by the American government to further the chaos, violence and division in the black community. At worst, it’s a “well-intentioned” dagger jabbed in the back of the black community by yet another clueless white male fascinated with our plight and culture.


KXNG Crooked
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
I was a kid. I reluctantly went with my older brother who used to get into fights everywhere. He went because he was a very active gang member. Just like I thought, we got into a brawl after the movie. All I remember is pepper spraying two huge dudes. Yes, I fought dirty. I was a hundred pound scared young kid. I lost one of my shell toe Adidas during the scrap. [shakes his head]

Favorite character from the film and why?
My favorite character was Rocket who was portrayed by Don Cheadle. He reminded me of my male influences at the time. A super Crip. I grew up in the “hood” where people who make it out through means of an education rarely come back and provide the youth with positive role models so most of us looked up to the older guys on the block. Rocket was just like my older brother and all of his friends. He was very relatable.

Favorite scene from the film?
I have a few favorite scenes. I like the scene where Robert Duvall’s character tells Sean Penn’s character Pac-Man the story about the bull walking down the hill instead of running to hook up with all the cows. It’s a great lesson in wisdom and patience. I also like the scene where Damon Wayans' character T-Bone is describing the state police found the character Killer-Bee in. His description was hilarious.

How authentic do you feel Colors was in depicting gang culture in L.A. and California as a whole?
I think they did a pretty good job. I imagine they had a few real police officers and street guys consulting the directors and writers. They also shot in real gang infested neighborhoods so it felt authentic.

What are your memories of first hearing the theme song by Ice-T?
Gangster. Pure gangster. The beat is sinister. The storyline is a perfect depiction of gang life. From drug addiction to friends being shot, he covered all angles. The good, the bad and the ugly. That’s so necessary especially since some rappers glorify street life and never offer the negative side of being in gangs.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film?
The fact that we’re discussing the film thirty years later tells us it should be considered a classic. The cast is stellar. In my opinion, the relationship between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans on a street gang level still hasn’t been put on film in a better way than Colors did it.


Del Tha Funky Homosapien
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
Wow, the answer for [that] may be lost forever...had to be in like junior or early high school around then. Yeah, 'cause I believe NWA and all that really hadn’t dropped yet and unless you been in L.A. South Central, you didn’t have any idea that sh** was that bad out there. My whole family damn near is out in South Central L.A. I think I actually lightweight avoided seeing the movie at first. I was against that type of sh** back then, although I grew to understand it much more later and I don’t feel the same way about it now. But Ice-T, that’s the G.O.A.T., so on the strength of him being involved, that spiked my interest.

Favorite character from the film?
I don’t remember much from the movie. It’s been so long, but I do remember homeboy trying to do it to the stuffed bunny off of sherm/PCP. Disturbing, those types of things I seem to remember.

Favorite scene from the film?
Same answer really. That’s the main thing that stuck in my mind after all these years. Don’t smoke wet, hahahaha...

How authentic do you feel Colors was in depicting gang culture in L.A. and California as a whole?
It was the first wave, you know what I mean? Kinda was still Hollywood, but you know, it’s gonna be that, or you not coming out with no movie. I remember feeling like it was kinda lighter than it really was popping, didn’t seem as menacing as say, Menace II Society. By the time that came out, ok now I can barely watch that movie cause it’s too real. Sh** really be like that though. To think you could get used to that sh** is disturbing. Guess that’s where the fry comes in.

What are your memories of first hearing the theme song by Ice-T?
“Aw sh**, Ice done did it again!” That song got so popular. It actually had kids around me attempting to emulate that kinda sh**. Same with NWA. But see, them cats were more responsible than a lot of people may realize. When you really around the sh**, you tend to not glorify it. Ice-T definitely didn’t, he gave you the raw footage always in his raps, pure game. I always could appreciate that from Ice, 'cause not only was he dope as a rapper, but he also gave you something you could use out here that you won’t get in say a classroom.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film?
Of course, and you know why: it began to expose the craziness that had been hidden in South Central from the rest of the world. I remember New York cats used to clown us, like we all blonde chicks and surfers out here. Colors came out and it started to show you. You don’t even know half of what really be going on out here, the sh** is straight up war zone. How it could be hidden for as long as it was, or not believed to be really crazy.

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Saba's Rhymes Mean A Lot But John Walt Day Means More

“Act like ya’ll know, man. This a holiday,” boasted Frsh Waters, the co-founder of Chicago collective Pivot Gang and the opener of the second annual John Walt Day concert. It's Thanksgiving weekend and while families are gathered around the dinner table, lovers and supporters of Pivot Gang–comprised of Saba, MFn Melo, Waters, SqueakPIVO and a few more–filled the spaces of the city's Concord Music Hall to keep up a holiday tradition of their own.

With a newly-grown fro, Waters enters the stage with no introduction, a contrast from initial mic stand-clasping nervousness during the inaugural John Walt Day, launched at House of Blues Chicago in 2017. Walt Jr., the cousin of Saba, was killed last year and is the sole inspiration for the rapper's John Walt Foundation that brings the arts to children in the city.

The concert is a resounding tradition that his Pivot Gang brothers don’t plan to break anytime soon, with anticipation flooding the city each Thanksgiving weekend and a simultaneous celebration of Walt’s birthday on November 25th. The concert is just a piece of the loving puzzle Saba, Waters and the rest of the group created to keep his legacy alive.

With repeated crouching and soulful backing by Chicago band, The Oh’My’s, Waters regained balance after kneeling on an uneven speaker, referring to the crowd as "Church,” a christening that he echoes on the ending of "GPS" a feature from Saba’s well-received debut album Bucket List Project.


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Happy 26th @dinnerwithjohn Long Live my niqqa Johnny 📷

A post shared by Westside Cat (@frshwaters) on Nov 25, 2018 at 11:37am PST

Saba may have dropped the stellar sophomore project, Care For Me this year, but the continuation of John Walt Day means more. Sold out for its second year in a row with 1,400 in attendance, Pivot Gang house-DJ Squeak Pivot blares "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest as the crowd multiplies before his booth. Avid fans gather in all creases of Concord Music Hall, especially on the second floor, where a merch stand resides exclusively for John Walt items. A haloed painting of Walt (or DinnerWithJohn as listeners knew him best), sits next to an assortment of buttons and t-shirts, as a guest brings a newly finished painting of Walt to the show.

Between sets, the crowd roared for cuts by Chicagoans Ravyn Lenae and Noname, who’s Room 25 track "Ace" is cut abruptly before MfnMelo takes the stage. With orchestration by Care For Me co-producer Dae Dae and harpist Yomi, Melo flowed through "Can’t Even Do It" and briefly spoke to the crowd about Thanksgiving, inviting attendees with leftover pies to meet him after the show.

Strutting to Ariana Grande's kiss-off anthem "thank u, next," The Plastics EP rapper Joseph Chilliams poses freely, cloaked in a light pink teddy bear coat. “I made this song because there aren’t a lot of black people [in Mean Girls]. I realized that the fourth time,” Chilliams joked before performing "Unfriendly Black Hotties."

Joined by four-year-old Snacks Pivot, John Walt’s mother Nachelle Pugh pinpoints her nephew’s curiosity of joining his older cousins Saba and Joseph Chilliams as their miniature hype-man.


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John Walt Day It didn’t even feel real, so much love in the room. For the encore they usually yell the artist name or one more song or something like that. But on this night they yelled “LONG LIVE JOHN WALT”. I wish this could be everyday. I wish I could play you this new shit we just did. I wish you were here. Love you @dinnerwithjohn look at this coat” lmao 💗💗💗💗 📸 by my shooter @notryan_gosling

A post shared by Joseph Chilliams (@josephchilliams) on Nov 26, 2018 at 3:29pm PST

“It’s like Walter jumped into his body and he’s coming back through this kid," she said of the toddler's enthusiasm. "He’s studied Saba, he’s studied Joseph, and he’ll say 'Auntie, can I use your phone?' So he’d use my phone and watch the boys’ videos on YouTube. Joseph is a person that the kids look at and say ‘He’s so fun,’ and [Snacks] wants to be like him. Everything that they do, [Snacks] is studying them.”

Pugh credits Young Chicago Authors for sparking her son’s musical pursuits, with guidance by poet Kevin Coval. “Kevin mentored him until the day he passed. I really love and respect someone that can just work with kids and give them a place to express themselves creatively,” Pugh said. “Working towards a goal of creating something that I know [Walt] wanted to do, and to help others in the same token, that gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

The stage then transformed into a resting kitchen with illuminating lights on the bottom of side-by-side counters, with Care for Me co-producers Dae Dae and Daoud behind their respective keyboards. Once settled, Saba rushed the stage to perform "Busy," with a special appearance by singer theMIND. The pulse of the venue throbbed as Saba took brief pauses to talk intimately to the crowd. “I lost a lot of people close to me,” he said. “A song like "Stoney" is such a celebration of life. It’s crazy to think how long ago that sh*t was. John was still alive.”

As Saba diverted into memories of Walt’s life, Nachelle recalled the album listening event for Care For Me. “Saba wouldn’t let me listen to it. He didn’t even tell me that he was working on it until it got really close [to the album’s release]," she said. "Then, he warned me about "Prom/King." I think he was thinking about letting me listen to it by myself at first, but then he thought about it like ‘Nah, I’m not gonna do that while she’s by herself, let me just let her listen to it while she’s with everybody else.’ That was an easier way to break it to me, so I wouldn’t really break down.”

Saba capered into "Prom/King," but performing the heart-tugging ode to Walt was a first, even after embarking on his 2018 Care For Me tour.

“I didn’t know he was gonna do that. I didn’t think that he’d ever be able to do that. I don’t think he thought he’d be able to do that,” Pugh explained. “I don’t know if anybody captured the expressions, but I think he was in tears and he was just fighting through it. We went through this fight together on the day we found out what happened with Walt. When he got finished, he sat down, turned around and he looked at me and I’m like 'We did it.'”

Even with "Prom/King" being the most grief-stricken track on Care For Me, Nachelle revealed that the most poignant song about her son was "Heaven All Around Me," realizing the message just months after the album’s release. “I was like, 'Walter wrote that song through Saba,' she said. "That’s the song that gets me the most off Care For Me. I don’t think [Saba] intentionally did so, but it just put so much power behind "Prom/King" because you see what happened. He told a story.”

The storytelling of Walt’s legacy was fulfilled throughout John Walt Day, from Joseph Chilliams doing a comedic, warbled rendition of "Ordinary People," Walt’s favorite song to play on the aux cord, to the entire Pivot Gang reuniting to perform their ensemble track "Blood" for the first time. Walt’s presence was unwavering, with remaining Pivot Gang members continuing to carry his eternal flame.

“This year’s show, the passion was a little bit stronger, because at the time we did last year’s show, I think we were all still in denial, like 'We’re gonna wake up from this dream’ type of thing.' Pugh said. “I think we accepted the fact that [Walt’s] not coming back. They wanted to go as hard as possible because they were doing this for him.”


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JOHN WALT DAY was so beautiful. We gotta find a bigger venue for next year. I made so many new friends. Pivot tape up next 💪🏽🔥

A post shared by Joseph Chilliams (@josephchilliams) on Dec 1, 2018 at 5:15pm PST

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15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

Hip-hop may have become the Nielsen Music-declared most dominant music genre, but let's not overlook the strides R&B (including all its many sub-genres and cousin genres) have taken on the airwaves and within the culture in this year alone.

While persistent naysayers keep peddling the tired argument that "R&B is dead," the most recent news cycle has proven the exact opposite, as talks of a supposed King of R&B dominated discussions both on- and offline. Jacquees' lofty declaration notwithstanding, there's no denying that there are ample songs swimming around the 'Net from talented vocalists killing it within the genre.

For those looking to satiate rhythm and blues earworms—and in no particular order—VIBE compiled a list of the 15 bonafide R&B songs of 2018 (or at least ones that fall within the genre's orbit) that pulled us into our feelings each and every time we pressed play.

READ MORE: Let Jacquees Tell It, He’s The Jodeci Of This R&B Game

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Ian Reid

Let Jacquees Tell It, He’s The Jodeci Of This R&B Game

Rodriquez Jacquees Broadnax doesn’t want to be the bad guy of R&B. He says this with a sinister, yet warm smile. With year-end debates taking over social circles, Jacquees wants all the flowers for his glowing debut, 4275. “I ain't never had a year like this, I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this,” he says, as he raises his iced out wrist to draw his progression. “It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.”

At 24 years old, the singer knows a thing or two about the ever-changing genre. Nearly half of his life has been dedicated to music, specifically to quiet storm-like sounds that now take on new meaning in our adult love lives. He’s hibernated under the radar for some time with his 2014 debut EP 19 and released gentle falsettos and big name features with Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign and Trey Songz along the way.

But between his accolades, he’s been condemned for his favorable “Quemix” of Ella Mai’s “Trip” and now, his self-proclaimed status of “The King of R&B” for his generation.

"I just wanna let everybody know that I'm the king of R&B right now," Jacquees said in an Instagram post on Sunday (Dec. 9). "For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it's my time. Jacquees, the king of R&B.”

R&B artists like J. Holiday and Pleasure P shared their two cents on the matter while the game’s most elite like Tank, Tyrese and Eric Bellinger dropping stacks of knowledge on the gift of consistency, respect, and talent. But Jacquees has these things and then some with legends like Jon B., Donell Jones and Jermaine Dupri in his corner. Despite quick reactions from his peers, Jacquees is confident in nature and proud of his space in the game.

“I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one,” he tells VIBE, just days before his “King of R&B” comments went viral. “You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees.”

Jacquees’ music is just a branch of what R&B has evolved into. Over the years, artists like SZA, H.E.R., Daniel Caesar, The Internet, Miguel and many more have flipped the genre on its head by churning out music that not only speaks to the soul, but to their vocal abilities. Successful R&B records aren’t confined to rap guest verses and traditional instruments now take center stage. But Jacquees sits in an interesting space seeing as his style caters to a grey area of folks who just heard their first Monica album yesterday and now appreciate a good nayhoo like the rest of us.

With hopes to release his sophomore album in February 2019, Jacquees chats with VIBE about his confidence, making 7275 and why he’s the perfect leader for R&B today.


What have you learned about yourself as a human and an artist in 2018?


quees: This was my biggest year. I made the most money I’ve ever made. I dropped my album and was able to take care of my family. I ain’t never had a year like this and I thank God for that. I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this, (slowly raises a hand to the ceiling) It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.

I think I learned about my whole self in 2018. Being that it was my biggest year, I went through a lot of stuff personally, but I think the biggest thing for me was listening to other people but also trusting myself. I have a strong mind so more of listening to myself helped.

Do you think you're the good guy or the bad guy in R&B?

Who do you think I am?

I think you’re a sweetie.

I don’t wanna be the bad guy, I’m a good guy. I’m easy to deal with. I’m a sweetie, but ain’t sh*t sweet though. (Laughs)

You have a lot of ‘90s and 2000s influence in your music. Do you ever feel you might sound dated, or do you think you’re bringing new sounds into the genre?

I just think I'm bringing a whole new sound. When I was younger, someone told me if you switch up what you’re doing, someone else is going to do it and you’re going to be pissed off. Just stick with it. When I was 14, everyone was telling me I needed to make club records but I didn’t want to do it. I remember CEOs saying, “Just let Jacquees do that [what he wants,]” because it’s a clock.

I figured out how to get my records at the club without changing who I was. I remember making “B.E.D.” and finding my flow on my project 19, you know? That’s when I got my swag.

What does love look like to you right now?

I think about a family. I think about me, a girl, a kid or something, like a whole family. One day I’m going to have it. I’ll still be in the game but I’ll say, “Yeah, that’s my wife over there with our son and daughter.” I'm getting older, too. I’ve been in the game for 10 years for real, but I’ll be 25 next year and soon they’ll be a little Jacquees.

There are a lot of layers in today’s R&B, especially in the mainstream resurgence it’s had. In that, there aren’t as many young male black vocalists being pushed to the forefront. I want to know your thoughts on where you exist in the genre today.

I think there's a big wave coming back right now because even if R&B didn't die down they weren’t promoting it that heavy. Artists were making songs, they just weren’t being acknowledged on a mainstream level. I think the game is really putting R&B back on top. You know, you’ve got artists like me, Tory [Lanez], Ella Mai, H.E.R., so many people, you know what I’m saying? Of course, you had Chris [Brown], Trey [Songz], all of them but that’s when we were in school. It’s a new time, ain’t no big male R&B singers.

I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one. You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees. They’re not rugged like me. You’ve got Jodeci and Boyz II Men. I’m Jodeci, they’re all Boyz II Men. I’m street, they’re not street like me. You can hear it in their voice. There’s a difference.

It’s no disrespect to nobody because they’re all my friends, but I still wanna be number one. If we’re playing the game and I lose, I’ll be mad as hell but I’m still a good person. I just want to win.

As you should. Everyone wants to make the best music they can–

But I ain’t no hater either. The game is like a sport. The game is like high school. I remember being at this year’s BET Awards and seeing certain singers and thinking, ‘Oh, they’re seniors.’ I knew I was a freshman, but I saw Meek and all of them thought, “He’s a senior.’ You know how it is when you walk through school in the first year. Then the second you’re like, “I’m the ni**a now.”

When I did the Soul Train Awards in November, I felt like a sophomore that everybody knew. They knew me from my freshman year, but this time I’m playing varsity.

You’ve said before you want to do this for a long time–

Yeah, I want to make music forever and it’s my choice. I want to make enough money for me to turn down shows because now, I have to take everything I get. I always tell artists, you got this much time to make this much money. Because after that, sh*t’s closed. I've seen it happen.

For me, I know I got longevity in this game because I'm an R&B singer and a lot of R&B singers have longevity if you take care of yourself, you know what I'm saying? Even rappers, you know what I'm saying? You keep that flow going, don't do no lame sh*t, you know you’re stick around.

How do you take care of yourself?

You gotta take care of your health. That's number one. Your mind and your health is your biggest thing. Keeping good people around you...stay in good spirits with me. I like to keep good people around me. I like people around me [who] make me laugh. Smile, I don't really like people around me that I got to be like, “What's going on?” I just like people who are themselves.

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