When you think of Western rap icons like Run DMC, Tupac Shakur, Kid N’Play, never in the same train of thought do you think of European pop stars such as Sting or U2. And Why not. 2Pacalypse Now was corrupting the kids around the same time that Sting’s pop rock “All This Time” was circulating European cafe shops. And let us not forget U2’s “Achtung Baby” which was receiving acclamation and blasting reviews while Kid N’ Play threw out their platinum FunHouse album followed by Face the Nation, but still, never in the same sentence are these cultural icons intertwined. I guess at that time in musical history our musical palate was a little to similar too our literal palate; salt to salt, sugar to sugar. We adored our skinny European white guys who sung of Bloody Sundays and we loved our black men with high top fades who were doing the kick step, but sweet and sour, or the idea of sprinkling just a little bit of sugar in our grits was unheard.
These days however, the tide has changed. Eminem hashing things up with Elton John for “Stan”, Jay-Z fans and metal head Linkin Park groupies agreeing when it came to “Numb”, Nelly and Tim McGraw giving you “Over and Over”. You see, musical artist aren’t so exclusive to their genres anymore. Mr.Hudson is no different to this new wave of musical perception. Having his Straight No Chaser album out in the USA this past week, you can imagine how stressful and hectic his schedule has been. However, between the late night recording sessions, impromptu performances, and the weight that comes with being an overly attractive lad with the most GQ and Tom Ford of accents, Mr. Hudson took some time to catch up with Greedmont. He told me tales of love gone wrong, but also threw in funnier stories, which consisted of Wimbleton tennis outfits worn at the most awkward social situations, and skinny men who sing in high pitch voices.
Straight no Chaser was meant to be a cross between pop and hip hop. Mr. Hudson has stated that his musical heroes are of the Bowie variety, so all sorts of upbeat tempos and dance revolution tracks were in the works for Straight No Chaser, however titles like “There Will be Tears”, “Learning to Live” and “Everything is Broken” raises eyebrows because they juxtapose the Studio 54 rhythms that they’re laid with. On the feel of the Straight No Chaser album, Hudson states, “There’s two angles that I wanted to cover. One is to make an upbeat record that would represent different influences from hip hop, although I’m not a hip-hop artist, but working with artist like Jay-Z and Kanye West am influenced. Right after working on 808’s & HeartBreak, I broke up with my longtime girlfriend. The reality of it affected my songwriting. So you see, you have this album with these upbeat sounds but miserable lyrics.” The stellar, mellow “White Lies”, even has tinges of consciousness in it. “The pain in the single “White Lies”…I guess it came from guilt. When you sometimes have to break a rule to get where you need to be, whether that justifies it doesn’t make it right to do it.” Some of the songs on the album are auto tune tweaked and at a time when Jay-Z had just released “D.O.H” and T-Pain was doing excess, I asked Hudson about the sounds and techniques that he had wanted to incorporate on the Straight No Chaser album, “Auto tune is only on one in four tracks. It is one of the different effects, or one of many toys that we play with and utilize. You use it when appropriate.” He goes on, “It’s funny, we released Supernova which had auto tune, and a few days later, Jay-Z came out with ‘Death of Auto tune’ and it was like ‘uh-oh,” he laughs.
Hudson broke the scene with “Forever Young”, you heard a bit of him in “Say You Will” and although he is associated with Heavy acts like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Scott Mescudi, Calvin Harris, he is granted free name dropping rights, for the fact that he can stand alone. There Will Be Tears, features the rich, smooth texture of his voice and the Warhol reminiscent, acid trippy video shows the validity of those who champion him as being an icon. Kanye West once stated, “I believe Mr. Hudson has the potential to be bigger than me, to be one of the most important artists of his generation,” on this the humble Hudson states, “It’s terrifying. What do you say to that. He sees me as having a lot of potential.” On his slow encroachment of the music scene and his work ethic he used the funniest analogy, “I’ve always been a slowly, but surely kind of guy. I won’t crash on the scene like Lady Gaga. It’s not in my nature to break in, come crashing through the window in a red, leather jumpsuit.”
No, Hudson, is a more eclectic, willowy spirit. Before his rise to stardom, he states “I was doing things in London, pottering about. My dreams didn’t extend beyond London to save my life.” When he started doing impromptu performances with Jay-Z and became involved in studio sessions and producing for Kanye West’s 808, blogs, magazines, and music critiques were tuning their ears to his idiosyncratic tunes, Hudson was living a double life. In London, spending days and nights in his apartment writing and vomiting his soul into his music, but in the United States impromptu invitations from jigga man to take part in Saturday Night Live performances. “It really isn’t normal, it’s been sort of a religious experience. I’ve experienced the craziest of things. Jay-Z and I played at a wireless festival and Kanye West randomly came on. To go from my modest existence to a world of escalades, cold stones and unnecessary amounts of sneakers. Does a man really need six thousand pairs of shoes. But it started to become one lifestyle. However, I still like to preserve a corner of my life that is still pedestrian.” He went from writing lyrics in worn notebooks and humble pub performances, to excusing himself as he wedged his way into studio sessions with Plain Pat, Tony Williams, Young Jeezy, T-Pain. “You chip away and make music and then you get this call from Kanye because he wants to sign you to G.O.O.D. music. It’s amazing. He never told me what to do, instead he showed me how to work. I had all these guys, Tony Williams, Plain Pat, Big Sean, N-Dubz coming to the studio. I learned so much quickly. I got to work on other artists stuff, and some of my own”
At this stage there are of course comparisons, but even they have been compliments, Sting being one of them. “It’s happened fairly frequent over the past year, it’s a massive compliment. But what other English men do you know of with blonde hair singing in ridiculously high pitch. It’s a compliment, but a big shoe to fill.” Speaking of shoes, Hudson has a Louis Vuitton shoe named after him. When you start associating with Louis Vuitton, style is a must. Hudson’s, is more of a simpler variety. “My whole thing is that clothes should fit your body and personality.” He then goes on to tell me the story of the first time he came to the United States and was invited to engage in one of our nations most popular of sports: basketball. “The first time I came to America they asked me to play basketball, and I arrived in a full Wimbleton tennis outfit and they laughed at me. But I’ll go on to tell you that I scored the final wining three points,” he tells me in a fit of laughter. At this point in the interview, all sense of professionalism cedes as I join him in laughter and seeing that his attempts of humor are proving valiant, he continues in this tone. When asked if his future is forecasted as being sex, drug, and money ladden as the ones that West, Jay, and Mescudi have lately been living, he is quick to reply, “Probably,” but then grows serious as he reflects on the question. “No, I try to call my mother and school friends everyday and I keep my feet on the ground. I have an American work ethic. In London it seems cool to not try.” He goes on to address the work ethic of the rap and hip hop industry, “In hip hop you work hard and you’re not ashamed. There’s a big psychological difference, I embrace hip hop for it’s value.”
On projects that are coming up, albums, and tabs that Greedmont should be keeping, Hudson stated, “By the time records come out, we’re already listening and working on new stuff. I should be coming over to the states in a few weeks. I’m going to be in New York, going to some clubs. I think I’m going to try out dj’ing,” he laughs, “But I’m no A-Trak. You need to listen to Caspa, some guys over here in London that I’ve been getting into…also Nero-Innocence. If you come to my house that is what we play all day.”
[Words by Rose M. Bellefleur]