Sound Check: Musiq Soulchild & Syleena Johnson–Where R&B Meets Reggae

9ineThe number 9 has many meanings and connotations that span from leadership to the spiritual realm. However, in the musical sense, 9 has a different meaning for singers Musiq Soulchild and Syleena Johnson. The number 9 for the duo means nine songs, in nine days to produce a collaborative effort that will go down in music history.  While both singers boast impressive careers individually, this time they have teamed up with reggae producer Kemar McGregor to fuse the sounds of R&B and reggae with an album of duets. Their new album, 9INE, is set to be released September 24th. spoke with both Musiq Soulchild and Syleena Johnson about their collaboration on their highly anticipated album 9INE. How did you two get together to work on a reggae album?

Musiq Soulchild: It really just kind of just happened. In a nutshell, I was working with reggae producer Kemar McGregor and listening to some of his tracks, so I did one record and then thought I want to do more since I was feeling inspired. I found out that he was also working with Syleena Johnson, so I said well I know her and he said well it’d be cool if you guys worked together, so I said cool let’s go. So we wrote the songs, one thing led to another, we vibed, and things took off from there. Where does the name of the album 9INE come from, despite it taking nine days to record nine songs?

Syleena Johnson: Well initially everything was very matter of fact. Musiq was just like let’s do 3 songs of yours, 3 songs of mine and 3 songs together and I was like yeah let’s just call it 9INE and he said yeah [laughs], so then it was let’s just complete it in 9 days. Really that’s all the time that we had to do this, because Musiq was in the middle of filming a movie and I was in the middle of filming R&B Divas Atlanta at the same time. The passion levels and the energy during this process were so amazing and it allowed us to complete this project very quickly and efficiently. Normally when people go into the studio, that’s unheard of, and here we are two artists, with strong minds, a man and a woman.  We should have been in there clashing, but this was the probably the smoothest project I have ever worked on. With both of you being Virgos it’s interesting how the dynamic in the studio went down, since Virgos are known to be perfectionists among other things!

Syleena Johnson: Yes, we’re brilliant and straight away! What can fans expect on the album?

Musiq Soulchild: Well, just a lot of peace and love.  We’ve always done R&B but this time we just happen to be doing it with a reggae vibe. It’s not that different content wise. The good thing is, it allows us to try something different musically. It was a no-brainer. Do you think it’s important for artists to tackle other genres?

Syleena Johnson: I know that the industry feels the need to label you so that people feel comfortable with purchasing your record. People go to work everyday and earn their money so they are very conscious of what they spend their money on. So if Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild have been creating soul music for years, then we turn around and do reggae, I don’t expect everyone to say they get it. I understand that our diehard fans will give it a try. One thing that I can say is that can they be afraid of it, but good music is music. I think that people should give it a try. You are never going to get away from the soul that we bring to the table because what we didn’t do was go in and try to be reggae artists on reggae tracks. What we did was take Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild and lead them into reggae music. It actually turned out to be something beautiful because music is universal. I don’t want to sound cocky or like I’m above anybody, but everybody will not be able to do what we have done. There are a lot of elements that come into play and the number one element is the chemistry that we have, the willingness and where your heart is in music. There are a lot of artists, but they don’t necessarily have music in their heart. It’s not something that just anybody can do, so it should really be embraced since this is really the first time it’s being done. So anyone that can and are capable of doing it will do it. Not everyone is capable of doing a collaboration album in a different genre. Do you fear any criticism from reggae artists and diehard reggae fans?

Syleena Johnson: No, not really.

Musiq Soulchild: No.  Not to sound cavalier, but I don’t focus on negative criticism. Simply because music is an art and it’s a subjective thing, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Yes, there is a standard but that has to be established in everything that you do, so you have to just meet that standard according to what’s established. I think that Syleena and I have covered those points, so anything outside of that I don’t sit here and make myself look stupid in anything that I do. I have done my homework and have taken everything into consideration to make sure this is a great project. I don’t focus on the criticism. Instead, I would rather focus on the people that are digging it and the positive responses. Will you guys be doing a duets tour?

Syleena Johnson: Hopefully that is the next thing that you will be hearing from us, that we will be going on tour.

Musiq Soulchild: We definitely hope to do one. What’s next for you individually?

Syleena Johnson:  I am working on my next album with Bangladesh. As for R&B Divas Atlanta and a season 3, we haven’t gotten the green light just yet.

Musiq Soulchild: I just signed with a good friend of mine, Warryn Campbell, on My Block Records, and so I’m just excited about the music we have been coming up with so you guys should be hearing something soon.

For more information and updates follow @The9ineProject on Twitter.

-Shameika Rene’

Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, Mosaic Magazine Charlotte, or her own websites, and Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.

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