No, I’m not just now hearing about John Legend, but over the last couple of years, he has appeared on some projects that have really caused me to pay attention to him.
By now, everyone has heard John Legend’s “Ordinary People“… The one thing that I’m always reminded of whenever I hear this song is how refreshing it was to hear on R&B stations back in 2005 (i.e., amongst all of the Rap & Bullshiit on the radio). It reminded me of some classic ’70s, Steve Wonder-type shiit. I still love this song to this day:
John continued to release solo albums and work with other R&B/rap groups, but none of it really interested me. Then, in 2009, MSTRKRFT released their
debut second album “Fist Of God”. The album gave us a lot of electro-house hits, like “Fist Of God“, “Bounce“, and “Vuvuvu“, but it also had a song with John Legend on it called “Heartbreaker“. I wasn’t feelin’ the song at first, but it slowly grew on me, and it would eventually become a huge tune on BBC Radio 1 that year. I found it sort of weird that John Legend would decide to team up with some dudes who are best known for doing tracks like “1,000 Cigarettes“…?
Jump to 2010… The dubstep super group, Magnetic Man, releases their self-titled debut album and it has two huge BBC Radio 1 hits on it, “I Need Air” and “Perfect Stranger“. But it also has a song with John Legend on it called “Getting Nowhere” (which has gotten a little bit of airplay as well). And again I wondered how a major U.S. R&B artist like John Legend would agree to do a track for dudes like Benga, Skream, and Artwork…?”
John Legend also teamed up with The Roots in 2010 to release “Wake Up!“, a collection of classic soul remakes. I know that The Roots can damn near do anything nowadays, but I wasn’t expecting John Legend to sound so good with them (he should just go ahead and join the group already!). One of the tracks on the album, “Hang On In There”, has been getting a lot of play from the likes of Gilles Peterson, etc.
This is a remake of Mike James Kirkland’s “Hang On In There” from 1972, and it was actually Gilles Peterson who suggested this song to ?uestlove a couple of years ago for the “Wake Up!” project. I found a really good Gilles Peterson-John Legend interview where they talk about the “Wake Up!” album, discuss John’s earlier releases, his work with other R&B/rap artists, and his interest in other genres of music. After listening to this, it made sense how/why he would do tracks with MSTRKRFT and Magnetic Man. Also peep the Spanish Version of “Ordinary People” at the end of the interview that Aloe Blacc did:
As a bonus, I thought that I’d include a video of John Legend & The Roots doing a live cover of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up“: