Last week, the Disney Channel premiered its latest original movie, “Let It Shine,” starring Tyler James Williams, Coco Jones, Trevor Jackson and Brandon Mychal Smith.
Inspired by the classic 1837 play, "Cyrano de Bergerac," the new made-for-TV musical is scored around the contemporary world of hip-hop and gospel music. Grammy Award-winning producer and MC David Banner contributed to the music’s authenticity, teaming up with co-writers Toby Gad and Lindy Robbins to pen the soundtrack’s “Tonight's the Night."
We recently caught up with the Jackson, Miss., native to hear about his contribution to the soundtrack and his new project, Sex, Drugs and Video Games.
How did you get involved with the “Let It Shine” soundtrack?
My agents brought the opportunity to me and initially I was like, “Disney? David Banner? Wow!” [Laughs]. But the thing that I realized is it's about great music. And I’ve been telling people this for years. A beat is a beat; until we put words on it, that’s what makes a song what it is. So it’s only about good music, and that’s the only thing that I try to bring to the table. When people hear the name David Banner, you can’t generalize it, you don’t know what the sound could be. But you know that it has quality and integrity in it.
Did you find yourself conforming to any changes in order to appeal to Disney’s audience?
My recording process was no different for the soundtrack. It’s amazing, but one thing that people try to do is put things into equations so other people can take it. There is no equation, there is no set way that I start off a record, because I honestly do believe that music is a blessing from God. And it’s a spirit. Some days it’ll come to you, some days it won’t. I just allow it to come anyway that it may come.
Were there any hurdles working with the actors who may have lacked studio experience?
My biggest obstacle was just communicating with different people. And I’ve actually been able to experience that beforehand in [advertising]. People’s description of the things that they want is so different. A person may say that they want “bright music,” but “bright” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in my world that it means in their world. So when I bring them back what I consider a “bright” track, it may be contrary to what they said that they wanted. Once you’re able to get passt that or find somebody who can translate what people really want, it makes it a lot easier.
If you had to choose a motion picture soundtrack to be a part of, which would it be?
It would be “Star Wars” for me. Because I’m black, it would make it a part of black history. And it would definitely be stellar! And as many times as they put “Star Wars” out -- every four, five years -- I know that it would definitely transcend time.
You recently released your latest music project, Sex, Drugs, & Video Games. In your opinion, how does the album define where you are in your career?
It’s a great conglomerate effort. This record is almost like a thesis of hip-hop. It’s political, it’s fun, it’s sad at times. Party music, revolutionary music, it’s just a monumental album. And for me it was a marker of where I’ve been up until now, and after this album, I’m definitely pushing forward. I’m going to push it to the future, push it past where everybody is right now. I’m going to be free and I’m excited about it.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
I just finished tracks with Ne-Yo [and] Jadakiss, but right now my main focus is soundtracks, movies and stuff like the Gatorade commercial. Because what I’m realizing is, in order for us to truly be able to move music forward we’re going to have to find a way to allow artists to be free -- meaning not having to worry about radio plays, not having to worry about the expectations of man. Because music was initially the artist influencing the culture and the people, and not the artist having to worry about all of these different constraints when they make music.
I’m just excited right now about creativity. With entertainment being in such a fragile place right now, instead of people fretting and worrying about it, this should be the time people are the most free. I always tell people, “You don’t have to worry about sales anymore; it’s going to be what it’s going to be. So you might as well be free.”