'Essence' Founder Clarence Smith, Part 2

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Thirty-five years ago, Clarence O. Smith helped remake the media landscape when he co-founded Essence magazine. Now he's hoping to broaden the sonic landscape with his new record label, YOU Entertainment. In part two of our discussion, Smith talks with Ed Gordon about his new venture.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Thirty-five years ago, Clarence Smith helped remake the media landscape when he co-founded Essence magazine. Today, he's hoping to do the same with the music industry as he introduces a new record label. In part two of our conversation, we talk about his latest venture: You Entertainment.

Let me ask you this about the new project. And, truth be told, this is the music, obviously, that I grew up on, and some of my favorite musicians and artists are a part of "Love Pages." Talk to me about the genesis of this idea and we'll get into the project.

Mr. CLARENCE SMITH (You Entertainment): Well, I have felt for a long time that today's music scene has left a large segment of the population underserved. And I also think that the part of the population that may be overserved is being overserved with a menu that is much too narrow in terms of the broad horizons of music. And I guess I'm saying, Ed, that when we were coming up, we learned to appreciate all forms of music, from classical music, to jazz, to rhythm and blues, to show tunes and Broadway music, and just really a whole panoply of wonderful music that--each of which offered different communication.

And now I think that, while I happen to like--personally I happen to like rap and I happen to like hip-hop a lot, I do think there's been such a steady diet of it that the kids are being exposed to that they have almost come to think of any other music as being music for a different demographic than they are. And I think that's unfortunate. It stifles imagination and creative expression and I think that's very much needed in our young people. So my feeling was to do something about it, to try to bring back what I call music that engages people intimately and emotionally and intellectually and spiritually, and that's what caused the You Entertainment.

And that's why it's spelled Y-O-U, because it means you, it means every one of us, and it means we want to bring great music and reintroduce it into the lives of people and rekindle some of the poetry that this kind of music represents and offer it to not only the underserved market, but also the overserved market, which is presently being served in too narrow a vein.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) All you'll ever want, you'll ever need is you and me...

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Ever need.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) ...but like a fool I never made it clear, I broke a rule, and wouldn't hear the little things that take away your baby.

GORDON: Well, you have enlisted a fine group of people to do so--George Benson; one of my very favorites, Peabo Bryson...

Mr. SMITH: Oh, yes.

GORDON: ...Jon Lucien, Roy Ayers.

Mr. SMITH: These are remarkable people and I've been blessed to get to know them all and to have the opportunity through the Essence Music Festival, which I ran for 10 years, to get to know a lot of the musicians and producers and people who can produce this music. We think a lot of young people are going to be--are going to re-gravitate to this kind of music and start to produce it themselves.

GORDON: "Love Pages," the maiden voyage from You Entertainment, a collective of really musical giants and greats, and, Clarence Smith, we appreciate that you collected these people and put it all together, and we look forward to whatever comes out from You next.

Mr. SMITH: Ed Gordon, it's always a pleasure to work with you and I thank you for the opportunity.

GORDON: Clarence Smith is the chief of the recording label You Entertainment.

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