I didn’t start out as a John Legend fan because I found him to be awkward & not well developed in his stage presence when Kanye first introduced him to us all. I was tired of hearing “Ordinary People” & watching him perform it on every show sitting at the piano , plus I was beyond annoyed with him when I saw the video for the “Show Me Campaign” at a time when we as Africans were questioning the imapct & worthiness of numerous NGO’s & the global image of Africathat many of these NGO’s were using to be able to fill their coiffeurs to help us poor Africans who just could never help ourselves. I was unapologetically upset with John Legend’s words & depiction of Ghana through the “Show Me Campaign” as he said “There’s no comparison between America & here when it comes to the extremeness of the poverty here..it is not even close..” All I could think was REALLY?, has he traveled through some of the backwoods of Mississippi & other parts of the USA & seen the conditions of no running water & the high level of poverty there? Does he even understand that we Africans have our own traditions of self sustenance that doesn’t need the government in Ghana to set up soup kitchens & a welfare system in order for us to be our own brothers & sisters keepers? When someone is hungary they can go to their neighbor/family & will be fed because no matter what anyone says about Africa we do see ourselves as family & have a long tradition of making sure one another is fed no matter how little we may have to share- All of this was being taken for granted in telling a one-sided story of Ghana & many African nations who are bombarded with NGO’s taking the place of governments that refuse to serve their people& being plagued with the images & words of helplessness & hopelessness that does not allow Africans the mental freedom & opportunities to do for ourselves as entrepreneurs who have always historically shown our resilience in making do without fear!
My friend from San Francisco, a 6’8 plus, White ex-baller who probably knows more about & enjoys Black Soul, R&B music more than most people I know, came for a visit one day back to New York & he forced me to give John Legend a second listen by playing me his full CD & leaving it behind for me to consume it on my own time. I was also doing a deal with one of my clients & Mr. Legend’s record label at the time, so I was gifted with free tickets to go to see him at Radio City Music Hall in New York. I all of a sudden realized Damn! this dude is great & why the hell wasn’t the radio playing some of these songs like “Live It Up” & “Stay With You“, which showed his amazing retro soulfulness that he has now recaptured in a full album. This new album is amazing at a time when we need to put the education, consciousness & words back into the music because that’s what the youth & the majority of the people are listening to. I have watched John Legend grow & develop not only in his stage show, but also within himself as a man & as a human being in not only talking about it, but also being about it! John Legend has become a true leader of our time in his commitment to education & reviving & redefining a music industry that has gone back to its activist roots a la Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Nina Simone, Donny Hathaway, Joan Baez, Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin & so many others before him. Support this new project –Wake Up! by John Legend & The Rootsbecause this is right for the times & we must all take time to STOP! LOOK! & LISTEN!