Christion In a time when R&B was transforming from the New Jack Swing to more of a hip-hop influenced sound, a few vocalist emerged and really helped to elevate or maintain the integrity of real soul music. Christion, formerly of Roc-a-fella Records, brought the true grit and soul that is reminiscent of some of soul music’s greatest artists including Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Willie Hutch. Their first single “Full of Smoke” proved that the audience is still listening that can appreciate real music. Now on Mint records, Christion releases their sophomore release “Project Plato” which redefines their music, themselves, and an era.
Interview by Rob Schwartz
WHO?MAG: How did Christion first get involved in the music industry? Christion: It was a long time ago, about 10 years ago. We were real young in the game, just really trying to make our name known. When you’re young, you may not be in it for all the right reasons. We always had a political state of mind coming from the Oakland & Bay area and being raised in Berkley and we were always in this liberal type struggle. Our parents went through a lot coming up in a different time when the Black Panthers movement was going on over here in Oakland. They were into freedom of speech and the real talk. So that’s where we get a lot of our foundation from, lyrically and spiritually. We came up in a church and listening to old soul music. Our parents really put us really thick. We owe our parents for that because we were getting caught up in the new school of straight R&B. R&B to us is really just a fad type thing to us.
WHO?MAG: Why should an unfamiliar consumer go out and buy your new CD? Christion: If you want to listen to a well rounded album that you can get a little bit of everything, like we just don’t do what we consider a style of music, we actually have just have a style that we call the Christion style and that’s bringing back not just the soul, but were bringing back all different styles and elements of music where it could be reggae, hip-hop, a little pop involved, and it’s just a wide range of style and you can take those styles and pretty much figure out where we get our inspirations from past and present singers that have been around for a long time.
WHO?MAG: Your first album seemed highly influenced by Marvin Gaye while this album seems more influenced by Curtis Mayfield and Willie Hutch. Do you feel that music needs to come back from that error? Christion: That era will always be here for me and for Ski. This is where all the music evolved. Some of the old soul music. That’s where the music evolved from now. Now where did it go, I cant say it all went in the same direction, but I think that everyone says that our music reminds them of Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield, but we also take a lot of Sam Cooke, Sly and The Family Stone, The Beatles, and the Police, and all those influences are almost like a melting pot, a big ol’ pot of gumbo is what I like to call it which we blended together into our own sound. We feel that we created our own sound, but we know that if you listen to all these artists in the past that they had their major influence on it. To be compared to the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and all these wonderfully talented musicians of the past, we like to take that and just run with it. We love the fact that we are being compared to those types of music. We also want to continue to put out the music that people want to hear. I think people really want to hear music with a foundation, with really good lyrics and just actual music. With actual guitar licks, bass lines, everything.
WHO?MAG: Your first album was critically acclaimed by some of the biggest media, what is going to make this new album stand out from your previous release? Christion: I think this new album we added a chapter and it’s the jook joint. I think it has even more so of a well roundedness to it. The last album, we tried to perfect whatever we do and we try to master our trade as much as possible, but what we try to do is add new elements to the this album which we are very proud of, especially the Jook Joint section. Not only does it show that we can do a smoothed out melodic type music, but we can also go up-tempo on them and really get the crowd pumping. And this album right here is something that I like to call the icing on the cake because we put a little more on this album and a lot of time on not only to keep our sound, but to create a new sound also. And I think you guys are really going to enjoy this album because a lot of stories on this album, and I call them stories because we get a lot of the subject matter for our songs from actual events that have happened to us or to friends and family, or just folks we know from the streets. If something happened down the street, we are going to put it down on wax and you’re going to get that from Christion.
WHO?MAG: In a time when Roc-a-fella Records had quite a few R&B artists signed to them, you guys were pretty much the only release they put out. Can you talk about your situation with Roc-a-fella? Christion: What went down with Roc-a-fella was what happens to a lot of families and friends. Sometimes it starts out real good and then you have your little bumps along the way. Just to let you know, we still have a really good relationship with Damon and everyone pretty much at Roc-a-fella, and we still have contact with some of the people over there. What happened was that there were a couple of situations that didn’t go as well and we decided it was time to part ways. That doesn’t mean that in the future that we won’t be still business partners in some aspects, but it’s just a couple of bumpy things that happened along the way (KEN).
WHO?MAG: How did you get down with Mint Records? Christion: Mint Records, Phaethon Devlin Brown, Cookie Cook, Came to Ski and I and said we need to bring back what we are doing. Because we were still doing ourChristion: project and Alan was doing his solo project, I was doing a solo project, Ski was producing for a couple of folks and we all decided to go ahead and put this project together and we pretty much owe it all to Cookie Cook and Phaethon Brown because they had the faith that Christion would come back and just really lay down the foundation of what was really missing in the entertainment industry. That was the old souls with the knocking beats. Those cats brought us together.
WHO?MAG: Majority of your songs on your album pertain to street life and hustling. How has the street influenced your song writing and production? Christion: Everything that happens in the street and in my hood that we have been through even the hard times whether it happened relationship wise or something that happened to them through experience or the police, or whatever, we put it down in song format and we got so many songs that we did that some didn’t even make it onto the album. Tons and tons of songs. We also have been blessed by actually being able to dream songs. I’m not sure if it has something to do with our family traits because some of them were psychic, but I don’t know about that (haha). We dream songs, we think of songs. Whenever we have a subject matter that we talk about that’s a serious issue in the studio, we fill it through our beats. Ken will get on the drum machine and that’s it. We just take it from there. We just come up with our concepts from there.
WHO?MAG: So what advice would you give an upcoming artist trying to break into the entertainment industry? Christion: Just keep working hard and don’t give up your side hustle until you’re totally ready because in this game you have to be committed 100% and not only that. You have to be willing to sacrifice your time. Your money and whatever is inside of you because you have to bring it out and be able to put it on CD. If you don’t have that drive in you, then you won’t be able to survive in this industry. The best advice I could give is to be resilient and be good to everyone because you never know; you never might step on the wrong feet in the long run. Don’t go out there just thinking you’re the bomb and Mr. It. Be confident, but not cocky.
WHO?MAG: If you could fix one flaw in the music industry, what would that be? Christion: The music industry is cutthroat. People will take your concepts and run with them and not give any credit. You need to always give credit to the people that you came up listening and that you admire. Without any role model or anyone to look up to, I’m not sure what you have to look up to; I don’t know what you are looking for. You’re just going to be out there with no soul, just out there making music
WHO?MAG: What’s next for Christion? Christion: More videos, more tours, more giving to the people what we like to give them which is our music. We have a lot of stuff up and coming right now. We will be hitting a city near you, and if it’s not near you, give us a couple of months and we’ll be there soon. So we have some pretty thick things popping up right now