Estimated reading time: 29 minute(s)
(Blogger’s Note:Â Cedric MuhammadÂ is a Former Wu Tang GMÂ Turned Economist- Songwriter. He isÂ a unique political, business and macroeconomist who has influenced the worlds of culture, electoral politics and finance. .
As President of CM Cap, he has advised a range of individuals and institutions from first-time entrepreneurs to international governmental bodies. He has been published or appeared in respected financial media such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Financial News.Â
I recently caught up with him to discuss significance of his newly released song “My African Violet” and more.)
Brother Jesse: Congrats on the release of “My African Violet”. I must
admit, you caught me off guard because I had no idea you had this type of
musical repertoire. Who and what instilled in you a love for music? What is
your musical background from your younger years?
too (Laughs)!Â What I mean is that as I
grew in other areas of life, I suppressed that
part of my being and personality. To answer your question, much of my musical
DNA comes from my Father â€“ a jazz connoisseur from New York Cityâ€“ and my
maternal Grandfather a Physician-Musician who began playing the alto saxophone,
growing up in the Panama Canal Zone.Â Dad
would always break down the elements of records he played by artists like Thelonious
Monk, Quincy Jones and Jimmy Smith.Â And
Grandpa put the first instrument in my hand as a young boy.Â I recently came across an article written
about how he married the practice of medicine and music in his life.Â In it he talks about the sax like a
scientist.Â Both my Dad and Grandfather
thought deeply about music in a conceptual and intellectual sense and I think I
get that from them.Â Our home was always filled
with Jazz, Gospel, Soul and African music.
I ushered in Hip-Hop, of course. I have no formal training in music but
I have studied the family record collection and liner notes â€“ a university in
and of itself.
Brother Jesse: Have you ever personally recorded and released your own song
before? Do you have some secret-unreleased-Area 51-type mixtapes stored away in
your basement of your musical genius that we should know about?
in 2004, with Eric Canada, â€œThe Streets are Politicalâ€ which won Source magazine mixtape of the month (http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1187 ) but this is my debut in terms of
writing and producing music.Â As for â€˜Area
51-type projectsâ€™ I still have the old mixtapes of DJ Jay-Ski (https://twitter.com/DJJaySki) and myself from high school.Â He and I started making beats in 9th
grade on a Casio SK-5.Â He went on to become
one of the most successful on-air DJs in Hip-Hop and itâ€™s hilarious to hear me
at age 15 sounding like a young Mr. Magic. I used to send the cassettes to my
friends in school on military bases all over the world. Iâ€™ll leak those tapes
exclusively to you!
on a national and global scale. Is that what caused you to put your music to
the side? If so, did it ever bother you that you made that move instead of
deepest question I have been asked. The answer is yes and yes but for different
reasons. I gravitated to the business side of music as a teenager because I was
genuinely more attracted to the
deal-making and behind-the scenes elements of art.Â I still
am.Â But at a certain point, after
becoming proficient in that, I became dissatisfied.Â You are doing so much critical and analytical
thinking that you become imbalanced.
Then it gets worse because people tend to want to only deal with you on
those terms.Â They categorize and stereotype
you in their own minds â€“ only seeking that part of you.Â You become incarcerated in what I call
identity prison.Â Thatâ€™s why my closest
friends are people who respect my accomplishments and work but who donâ€™t equate
me with that limited manifestation of
who I am.Â We are more than our work.
allowed myself to express and just needed to become creative again, to find
balance.Â One of the most important
persons who helped me through the transition was James Mtume.Â What makes him unique is his emphasis that
intellect is not separate from art, it is actually the highest form of it.Â He told
me that what I was doing as an economist was actually artistic expression and
so he always related to me as an artist â€“telling me there was a musician inside
of me that I just wasn’t feeding.Â I was
starving the dude.Â We talk to this day for
hours about music theory; great artists in each generation; the contemporary
sound; politics; current events, and it all flows, seamlessly.Â Heâ€™s friend, mentor and now a godfather to
the music and ultimately release ‘My African Violet’. Did you have any apprehensions
since the industry has changed in many ways? Or were you confident since you’ve
kept up with the pulse of the industry?
finally convinced me that I was only going to get so far only managing
artists.Â The language of rhythm, melody,
harmony, lyrics, verses, bpms and time signatures is often the only thing they
understood.Â I had to become what I was trying to influence. I
wasnâ€™t intimidated by changes in the industry because I stayed in tune with it
through the lens of commerce and because I established the habit of listening
to new music released each week, regardless of genre.Â I did have some apprehension when it came to
technology.Â Itâ€™s a long way from
arranging music on an SK-5 to using a Maschine Studio and Pro Tools.Â And of course social media has almost totally
changed how people perceive you.
writing Hip-Hop columns. As a young man, did you see the spiritual significance
of the african violet when your mother gave it to you? What has studying it
taught you about yourself?
the heart to the head and to the heart, with layered meaning. I
need big concepts that cause me to emote and I want the listener to feel the
intensity and the subtlety of what is being expressed. I found all of that in
reflecting on the first life I had the responsibility of caring for â€“ given to
me by the Woman who Allah (God) used to give me life, my Mother.Â There are so many lessons I learned from
unsuccessfully caring for this plant â€“ the creative and destructive power of
sunlight and water and the dynamics of soil.
At ten years old I was getting a preview of something I would read the
Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teach on â€“
the connection between reverence for Women and reverence for the Earth.Â As a man I have fallen short of that
view.Â But even deeper than that â€“ most
women donâ€™t make the connection.Â That is
why I wrote the lyric, â€œâ€¦canâ€™t believe how much youâ€™ve grown.â€™Â Iâ€™m trying to convey
to women and young girls that no matter what has happened to you; it can be redemptive
and is beyond the power of any man to define for you, because most canâ€™t comprehend it.
I want them to feel the tension created between the dark minor chords of an
acoustic piano and the polyrhythm of African drums and then, how that can be released by the â€˜sweetnessâ€™ of a kalimba and
piano melody brought to crescendo.Â There
are simple and complex things you can do to bring out emotion through sound
frequencies. The first time we raised the piano an octave in the chorus, I got
goose bumps and tears formed.Â The higher
pitch made me feel something, and brought back a flood of memories. Â For each person it may be different, in terms
of what moves them. The core message of the song is how both nurture and neglect feed the growth of life.Â In the East African remix, with Khaligraph (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WRv95Fw6S8 ) â€“ an incredible lyricist from
Kenya, who rhymes in Swahili and English – it is more about celebration and
Brother Jesse: Do you plan to take ‘My African Violet’ on the road? Would you
ultimately like to perform it in Africa on a stage set surrounded with violets?
Well, maybe not exactly like that!
bring out the electronic, acoustic and African instrumentation.Â And you know it Jesse â€“ we have to have a minimum of 50 flowers on
stage with perfect lighting.Â There are
so many shades to that color that can change with the lyrics and sound.Â Weâ€™re gonna bring you in to consult, and then
maybe Kanye.Â Iâ€™d also like to produce a
visual performance in fine art galleries that have captured the beauty of the
‘Cedric The Economist’? Can those two persons co-exist? Do they get along?
Artistâ€™ at my Super Bowl Party.Â But Iâ€™m
finding that the â€˜Artistâ€™ is making me an even better â€˜Economist.â€™
on why you wrote it, you have a deep love and passion for music. What advice
would you give to people who may have put a passion to the side and wavering on
picking it back up?
return to a first love in artistic expression of any kind, that alone would be
worth it.Â Too many of us are killing,
negating or denying our true selves out of the fear of failure or because we
care too much about pleasing others or unsettling an image that has formed
about us.Â The other thing I would say to
those of us with strong ideological or religious beliefs: donâ€™t use knowledge,
rituals and rules to shield the essence of who you are.Â These are only meant to point you to a
greater Unseen reality that lives on the inside of your Soul and that Force which
created the Universe, Love.Â
something Minister Farrakhan expressed on Twitter, recorded in the book you
were blessed to compile, The Teachings
2.0 (http://store.finalcall.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=BK-TEACHINGINS ) â€œâ€¦.music is a companion of Islam.
Both represent a universal language.â€Â His words dovetail with what my Grandfather
once said, â€œLearning music was part of my
Brother Jesse: Thank you my brother!