Syleena Johnson with Musiq Soulchild.
Syleena Johnson with Musiq Soulchild. Jeremy Horton
Circumstance might have led R&B musicians Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild to meet, but it was chemistry that got them to record an entire album together. They sat down recently with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, and talked about the spontaneity of the project and the emotional underpinnings beneath the surface.
Syleena Johnson on her relationship with her mother
My mom was a singer. And a lot of people don't know that. They only associate me with my dad [blues musician Syl Johnson]. But my mom wrote a lot of his music, and he never gave her credit for it. So me and my mom were always at odds. There had always been this tension between the two of us. ... I just kind of found this out this year. My mom, she had a hard life. She went through a lot of different things with her dad and went into different addictions or whatever. But now she's better — she doesn't drink anymore, she's working on her smoking, she's doing better now.
Musiq Soulchild on his experiences raising himself
[My teenage experiences are] a constant reminder of who I am. They play a fail-safe role for me to stay grounded. Because what I've been through — even though I'm like 13, 14 years removed from those days — to me that happened last week, that's yesterday to me. I don't forget things like that. Being out on your own, having to depend on others, not really having a solid place to stay, you know couch hopping. Though sometimes because you feel self-conscious about depending on people and you just got that thing in your chest you know, "I'm my own person," but at the end of the day you got to humble yourself to ask somebody for a couple dollars or something to eat. As a young man growing up in a city like Philadelphia, you can't be no punk. So you kind of got this wall that you have to consistently break down for your own betterment.