A Close Look at 'Q'

Just as Quincy made the transition from jazz to soul, funk, and pop, so has he been at ease collaborating with the hip-hop generation—and not just musically, though he's done that as well on albums like 1990's Back on the Block. He's also been a mentor and role model for rappers on both musical and personal grounds, earning thumbs-ups from the likes of Melle Mel and Wyclef Jean. Ludacris sampled Quincy's "Soul Bossa Nova" on his 2005 single "Number One Spot," Jones even appearing in the video; Tupac sampled "Body Heat" for his biggest hit, "How Do You Want It"; and Kanye West sampled "P.Y.T." for his recent single "Good Life." Quincy is releasing a brand new hip-hop album with Akon, Wyclef, Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, and a host of others. In addition, Quincy and Usher teamed with Habitat for Humanity in 2007 to promote ongoing relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, later initiating a camp targeted toward getting Gulf Coast youth to complete a service project.

Rap has been an unofficial language of sorts for youngsters all over the English-speaking world for years now. But with the world shrinking more every day as songs travel instantaneously online and by satellite, Quincy also sees the possibilities rap offers for spreading positive messages on a global level. "I personally feel that the rappers could revolutionize education around the world," he says. "We've got the ear of every young person on the planet, and every country in the world has pushed their indigenous music aside to use our music, mainly black music, the Esperanto." Toward that end, in 1995 Quincy hosted a symposium of leading voices in rap music at New York's Peninsula hotel to exchange musical and social ideas. "If we come up with one thing, it'll be to realize that you can not afford to any longer be nonpolitical," he urged at the time. "It's great to talk about chillin' and everything else, but there's something more important. You have too much power to not be political. You have to say something. You have to talk about something. This is about talented people. But the content is real serious; it reaches the whole world." Also in attendance was future Secretary of State Colin Powell, who joked, "The real reason I'm here is that Quincy Jones ordered me to be here. And I take orders."

Revealed Quincy afterward, "I confiscated all videotapes and film to protect Colin Powell, who wound up staying for five hours instead of two. I didn't want anyone using photos or footage to damage him if he decided to run for the presidency, which he was contemplating at the time. Some of the younger rappers didn't even know who he was. When addressing some of the more confrontational comments from the floor, Powell maintained his South Bronx demeanor and authoritative cool throughout."

The idea of the summit, as Quincy observed a few years later, was "to get rappers in the hip-hop community to build their own coalition so they're not influenced by external forces, really. And they don't get blown away so young. It's unacceptable, and we've got to change whatever it is that's happening to cause it."

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