Future of Music: Will.i.am - Rolling Stone
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Future of Music: Will.i.am

How did you imagine 2007 would be, and how does that compare to where we are now?
From a technological standpoint, we’re further than I thought we would be. The only thing I think we’re missing is the flying cars. As far as racism goes, we’re in a weird place. Music is weird, too. Think about when the electric guitar was invented — what music was formed from that? Or how the electric keyboard created new forms of music, like jazz fusion and funk. Take, for example, the bass, the electric bass and the freaking wah-wah and how that formed funk and jazz and rock and blues and the harmonica. And here we are with the most technology in human history walking on the fucking planet humming and singing, and there’s no form of music formed, and I’m talking to you in Brazil on a cell phone at lightning speed. I’ve got the Internet pumping right now, and there ain’t no form of music in 2007? That’s fuckin’ crazy.

You produced Nas’ “Hip Hop Is Dead.” Do you think hip-hop is dead in 2007?
Hip-hop’s not dead, but people have forgotten the different forms of hip-hop, the different styles of hip-hop music. They only think one form of hip-hop is alive.

Hip-hop will be called something else, but it will be hip-hop.

Do you think the lines between genres will blur more? Will people think less in terms of that?
I think in the next couple of decades, people aren’t going to care what the title of a form of music is. They’re just going to have playlists, and they’re going to listen to whatever the hell they want to listen to it. People just want to get what they want to get when they want to get it. Those titles, those genres, only came about in yesterday’s world when things were all segregated. As much as racism still exists today, people don’t care. There’s no racism amongst people. There’s racism amongst corporations and what corporations think people want to buy.

What do you think the labels should be doing?
Record companies should be a tour company that sends the bands on the road and still puts the fuckin’ shits on the radio. The reason the song’s on the radio is so they can sell concert tickets and T-shirts. The labels should do research on the marketplace, and they should be the band’s merchandise company, going out and flooding the market and selling T-shirts. Billboard should have not just how many albums you sold, but how many fuckin’ T-shirts you sold, because that’s more money, and that’s my manager’s idea.

Do you think artists care anymore if they make music in the form of albums?
The record industry adapted to every single format music was put on. The record company itself started the vinyl, because Phillips and RCA made vinyl and phonographs. Then the eight-track came out and we adapted to it. We adapted to the CD. The only thing we haven’t adapted to is the Internet.

Is music as important to people’s lives as it was?
Yeah. Music still has an impact on people’s lives. It’s just that there’s more things around it. There’s more things to know. Music is a social thing, it hits you personally, and then you socialize about it. It just so happens when people were rebelling in the 1960s, they revolted and rebelled over music. Now there’s things for people to rebel and revolt about, but people ain’t revolting and rebelling because there’s no leaders. There’s no Malcolm Xs or Martin Luther Kings or Ghandis, there’s nobody now. It’s not because music isn’t affecting people, it’s just that for some odd reason, there’s nobody leading, and there’s no songs being written about leading people. People are comfortable with their devices and their upgrades and their instant gratification of whatever it is they want to do.

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