No topic was off-limits in a new, wide-ranging interview with Quincy Jones, one of music’s most prolific producers, artists, entrepreneurs and all-around multi-hyphenates.
Jones, who will turn 85 this March, told GQ that he has no plans of slowing down despite his advanced age; if anything, he’s looking forward to living until he’s 110, thanks to some treatments he’s been undergoing at an exclusive hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, six days each year.
“I feel like a child, man,” he said. “I’m just starting.”
Here are seven surprising revelations Jones made in the interview, including his thoughts on Taylor Swift and the current music landscape, his experiences with racism and his beef with Tupac Shakur (and how his daughter Rashida Jones got pulled into the mix).
1. Jones is not a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, and doesn’t have a problem saying so. “We need more songs, man,” the mega-producer said. “Fucking songs, not hooks.” Jones has worked with everyone from Michael Jackson to Aretha Franklin to Frank Sinatra, and counts the late Miles Davis and Ray Charles among his peers. When asked what he thinks is missing in Swift’s brand of pop stardom, Jones said it goes back to putting in the work.
“Knowing what you’re doing. You know what I mean?” he said. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve always heard the people that don’t wanna do the work. It takes work, man. The only place you find success before work is the dictionary, and that’s alphabetical.” On the flip side, current artists he’s excited about include Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Drake, Ludacris, Common, Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson.
2. The producer claims he has 22 girlfriends all across the globe. When pressed about whether he really was dating 22 different women, Jones responded in the affirmative. “Hell yeah. Everywhere,” he said. “Cape Town. Cairo. Stockholm – she’s coming in next week. Brazil – Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, and Rio. Shanghai – got a great girl over there from Shanghai, man. Cairo, whew.”
One important thing to clarify, however, is that he’s not hiding any of the relationships from the other women. “Yeah, I don’t lie,” he said. “And it’s amazing – women get it, man. Don’t you ever forget they’re 13 years smarter than we are. Don’t you ever forget it.” Jones was previous married three times. He also added that his daughters have set a new stipulation for him: no women younger than them; they compromised with women ranging between 28 to 42.
3. Frank Sinatra tried to set him up with Marilyn Monroe, and Jones had interesting reasoning for not dating her. “Frank was always trying to hook me up with Marilyn Monroe, but Marilyn Monroe had a chest that looked like pears, man,” he said. When asked to elaborate, Jones changed the topic. “Let’s not talk about it,” he said. “Come on, man. We killed it.”
4. He has always been aware of how his race played a role in how he was perceived and what obstacles he faced on his path to success. He recalled in particular one time when author Truman Capote refused to have Jones score the film adaptation of his book, In Cold Blood.
According to Jones, Capote “went back into the other room [after meeting Jones] and said, ‘I didn’t know Quincy Jones was a Negro.’ Truman Capote, that motherfucker, he called [director] Richard Brooks up on In Cold Blood and said, ‘Richard, I don’t understand why you’ve got a Negro doing the music for a film with no people of color in it.’ And Richard Brooks said, ‘Fuck you, he’s doing the music.’ Richard was tough.” Jones did end up scoring the film, and even earned an Oscar nomination for his work.
5. Jones also had beef with Tupac, who once called him “disgusting” for having interracial relationships. Jones’ daughter, actress Rashida, then 17, wrote a letter to the rapper slamming him for his words. “Tupac, if you learn one lesson, let it be that at least my father took the time to look at how fucked up life would be if he didn’t get his shit together early on. Where the hell would you be if Black people like him hadn’t paved the way for you to even have the opportunity to express yourself? I don’t see you ﬁghting for your race. In my opinion, you’re destroying it and shitting all over your people,” The Office alum (whose mother is white actress Peggy Lipton) wrote.
Shakur and Jones later made up and the rapper even dated Jones’ daughter Kidada, who was there with him in Las Vegas when he was shot and killed in September 1996.
6. Jones said he speaks 26 different languages. “I’m writing Mandarin, writing Arabic, writing katakana in Japan. I’ve been traveling all my life, and I guarantee I travel more than any motherfucker on this planet,” he said. When asked about his propensity for language, the producer said, “I don’t know. It’s just natural.”
7. He wants Donald Glover to play him in a possible 10-part TV biopic. The media magnate will turn 85 in March, during which time he will be honored with a Netflix documentary, a possible TV biopic and a TV tribute on CBS that his good friend Oprah will host. In reference to Oprah, Jones also made mention of his famous “Thriller ribs,” which the veteran talk show host has made on the show “four times.” When asked why they’re referred to as Thriller ribs, he said simply with a shrug, “Oprah dramatizes everything.”