Quincy Jones detailed growing up in the gritty gangster culture of pre-World War II Chicago and explained how a robbery led him to music in a wide-ranging chat with Dr. Dre on his Beats 1 radio show, “The Pharmacy.”
“I wanted to be a gangster until I was 11, in Chicago,” Jones told Dre, noting his father was a carpenter for the ruthless Jones Boys gang where he and his brother regularly encountered guns, money and dead bodies. “It’s Chicago, it’s in the water — I don’t know what it is,” Jones added. “You wanna be what you see, and that’s all we ever saw.
“So there was an armory,” Jones continued. “We broke into the armory and eventually I broke into all the supervisors’ rooms and there was one where I saw a little piano in the room and I closed the door. Something said to me, ‘Idiot, go back in that room!’ I went back in the room and touched the piano and every drop of blood in my body said, ‘This is what you’re gonna do for the rest of your life.’ And it saved my life.”
Jones’ family moved to Seattle soon after, and he credited the city — and its constant rain — for keeping him indoors where he could focus on music. “Looking back, it’s heavy, man, it really is,” Jones said. “I’ve never ever bowed to the word ‘fear.’ The only thing that I had fear of was being offered an incredible opportunity and I was not prepared for it. And I said, ‘I’m not gonna let that happen.'”
Elsewhere in the episode, Dre and Quincy talked shop, delving into the role of the producer. Jones cracked that the job required taking the blame for everything from bad cover art to poor mixing if a song flops — and standing back as the artist takes all the credit if it’s a hit.
“You have to be everything from a babysitter to a psychologist,” Jones said of the artist-producer relationship. “You have to make so many decisions: He’s been on long enough for time to take a break, let him cool off or keep pushing. It’s a system of trust, love and respect that has to happen between two people.”
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“It’s a really interesting relationship you build during the making of an album,” Dre added. “Because in a funny way, you’re actually responsible for their livelihood. It’s a very extreme position to be in as a producer.”
The latest episode of “The Pharmacy” also featured Jay Rock freestyling over “All In a Day’s Work,” off Dre’s Compton, while T.I. also served up a freestyle over an original Dre beat. The entire episode is available via iTunes.