Folks all in a tizzy about Quincy Jones lately.
And I get it. "We Are The World 25" was unimaginably bad. Allowing the likes of Akon, Robin Thicke, and T-Pain to remake great songs that Q produced was ill-advised.
But if one were to look at these moves in the context of Q's life, they make sense. Quincy Jones has always been about staying current, whatever the cost. The old jazz heads vilified Q when he produced "It's My Party" and started moving away from jazz. Most black music journalists and historians thought he and Mike bastardized all that was great about Off The Wall with Thriller. And practically the entire elder generation of black folks got mad when started he working with rappers and scooped up a gang of Grammys for Back on the Block.
Y'all, this is who Quincy Jones is.
Part of the reason Q and Michael Jackson made magic together is that they were unabashed in their belief that you could make great music even if you are trying to reach a lot of different kinds of people. Indeed, in their minds, greatness is almost solely defined by how many people one reaches with the music.
Of course we know there's a difference between embracing a new genre like hip-hop and giving T-Pain, who lacks any ounce of musical ability whatsoever, free reign over a classic like "P.Y.T." But, probably, in Q's mind he's thinking "if this gets young kids to go back and listen to my old shit, I can dig it."
I don't know. He may be right. Back on the Block was my entry point into jazz and it is the moment I realized that there is a "black musical tradition" and that the music I loved (hip hop) was a part of it. That's valuable.
I mean, it still bugs me that Q: Soul Bossa Nostra exists, but then I remember that my uncle couldn't stand hearing Big Daddy Kane on "Jazz Corner of the World." The one constant in Q's life has been his ability to piss off purists and those who saw themselves as protecting black music and culture. Doesn't make anything he's done right necessarily, but context is important.
Q might seem like a senile old man but, really, he's just the same ole Q.