Mount Vernon, N.Y. - This is the continuation of our conversation with R & B star and star-maker, Jeff Redd, who while building his own singing career, received a demo tape of a young lady singing Anita Baker's Angel. The young lady singing went on to become known as the Queen of Hip Hop Soul - none other than the one and only Mary J. Blige. She traveled and sang background for him so she could learn the business. We discuss the early days and how fatherhood or the lack of fathering informed his early decisions.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Awesome! You have hit on some important principles for fatherhood. You said you did have uncles. Did you have a male mentor? What gave the picture of fatherhood and manhood that helped you become the man you are? Was it the lack of a father being there?
Jeff Redd: "It was definitely the lack of having a father. It was definitely the lack having of someone to talk to. Then being 8 years old and your father dies…You kind of know what death is but cannot comprehend it and grasp it. At that point somebody comes and tells you…One of the dumbest things is telling an 8 year old that he is now the man of the house. That was told to me.
"To me a man is somebody who handled his business, did not cry and if he has a problem, he works it out himself. These are all things I thought a man was and I was totally wrong. I did not have anyone to come in and show me differently.
"When I got older, I realized that, one - I had to make it happen. I was the one that was providing for my mother. When I was trying to get into the record business, I was not taking no for an answer. By the grace of GOD, I have got to make this happen. I tried to make it happen early. My mother did not want me to get into the record business because of the rumors she had heard if some get sin to the business they would end up on drugs. I had to wait until I was 17 years old to start performing. I did local shows. I never once thought about not making it. I did not know when I was going to make it but I believed that I was going to make it.
"When I first saw James Brown at the Apollo that is when I said to myself, that is what I am going to do. Then when Soul Train came on around 1971, I said I would be on Soul Train. I did not know how I was going to do it. I did not have a clue. I guess I willed it to myself and wanted it so bad that it happened. The morning I was on Soul Train, I said to myself, Oh snap - I am here.
"I remember having a conversation on BET Video Soul’s Donnie Simpson. He was asking me who wanted to work with and all of the people I named on the interview I wound up working with. This why I tell people you have to be careful of the words that come out of your mouth. Not even just the words but what you think. For there are such a thing as brainwaves; where, you can sit down an think about something and come a year later [and some will have an idea]. You will say ‘Oh snap, I had that same idea’. Once you think [something], it goes out into the universe and once you speak it, it goes out into the universe.
"It is an interesting journey. You have to surround yourself with positive people. I tell my sons that all of the time. I know that they are going to make mistakes. I know that they are going to have to learn some things on their own. My job is to give them a basic foundation of what they need in order to help them determine [the right or wrong] in the decisions that they make. I am not trying to teach what to think. I am trying to teach them how to think."
There is more to come. Let us know what you think.