Should I Spotify?

If you use Spotify, I hope it’s to stream albums you already own or plan to purchase, because they pay us shit. I don’t mind someone using Spotify as a means of familiarizing themselves with an artist or project. In this sense, it’s no different than going to the library or a record shoppe. However, repeated listening if you haven’t purchased the music is criminal.


“Spotify doesn’t pay on a “per song stream” model, exactly: the total royalty pie is split among all rights holders based on the percentage of total Spotify streams their songs garner. But the company estimates that the average song generates between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream in royalties.”

— Time Magazine

Spotify is a great tool, but should not be viewed as a supplement for buying music. You can’t call yourself supporting the artists you love when you’re unwilling to contribute financially to their business. If you’ve already bought the music, listening on Spotify generates passive income in a way that’s not possible by listening to your CDs or files you’ve downloaded. This is the upside to Spotify. But if you use Spotify as a cheap alternative, get hip to the fact that only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of money is going to the artist, and most of it is going to Mr. and Mrs. Spotify and their people.


— Nicholas Payton aka The King of Research


Do You Remember What It Was Like To Be Human?

Since the beginning of days people have prophesied about the end of days. There’s no way to make someone your slave without first becoming a slave yourself. It used to be that in order to capture a slave you had to become a slave to an idea that would make someone else less human in your eyes, and as a result you’d become less human in the process. In this virtual era, you can enslave someone from your phone in under 140 characters. There’s no blood involved anymore. It’s a timeline — a ticker tape of nonsense posing as news.

Even the greatest of human beings are dehumanized by us deifying them. That gives us an excuse to not aspire to the higher realms of our consciousness because we create the myth that certain attributes are unattainable. It’s also easy to blame someone else for your inability to evolve, when no one can ultimately stop you but you.

Fundamentals. It all comes down to principles. What makes us human? Is living enough? The more we venture into the virtual realm, the less human we become. Take away the tactile experience and we become androids. When we eat genetically modified organisms or foods nuked in a microwave that kill off all nutrients, we don’t get any fuel for sustenance. How long can we survive like this? Or have we always survived like this to some degree?

Let’s take my city of New Orleans, for example. There have been a lot of rumblings amongst locals about how the influx of post-Katrina gentrifiers are changing the character of the city and they’re creating a new New Orleans that is devoid of its true character. Is the problem really the New New Orleans, or is it that maybe the Old New Orleans wasn’t that great? This is not a slight to what I love about New Orleans, but a sharp criticism of what I found to be problematic about New Orleans decades before August 29, 2005.

Bottom line: You don’t have the right to bitch about the appropriation of a culture you didn’t care enough to preserve. Moreover, you have even less of a right when you are amongst those who have helped contribute to its demise. And as opposed to some people who look at the problem 4 or 5 steps down the line, my focus is at the root of the despair. Before I can blame the transplants on Frenchman Street for their parodies on traditional New Orleans music, I must first look at my peers and predecessors as to why many of them never took the time to study Armstrong seriously.


All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.

— Louis Armstrong

It’s not economics that’s the problem, it’s education. Information is free, but if you don’t want it, what good is it? We have to start caring more about culture, not because of how much money it brings in, but because it’s what makes us alive. I remember the tail end of when you could hear great music on Bourbon Street. Yes, it was a tourist trap back in the day, but you had many of New Orleans’ finest musicians as representatives. Most of those legendary artists got replaced by common cover bands, DJs, or souvenir shops. This happened way before the flood. The writing was on the wall by the ’80s.

Many New Orleanians are focused on campaigning against the new noise ordinances put in place by the newcomers. The gentrifiers have been instrumental in shutting down music in some neighborhood venues and on the streets of our city. I’m not calling any names, but some of these bands need to be shut down. I think it’s better for the music to not be represented at all than to be represented poorly. Campaigning on having our musicians respect the ancestry and moving the art forward would be a better investment.

It used to be that people could hear when a band was wack. You don’t need to be a musicologist to understand the culture. Phoning it in is the new in the zone. We’d rather see 20 mediocre bands down at the strip on Saturday night than two great bands elevate the landscape. It used to be that the elders decided who was next in line, now the polls from the local entertainment periodicals are the arbiters.

The difference between doing a piss poor job and a stellar one is not that big of a difference in terms of time, but in terms of focus and determination, they’re worlds apart. If you’re not going to commit yourself to a job, at least be humble enough not to accept it. If quantity is what’s most important to you, please step aside to make room for those who prioritize quality.

Whatever little humanity we had left over after the advent of the tell-a-vision, the inner-net has come to claim. It’s natural for us to be human. Babies come into the world in touch with themselves, get disconnected by false ideas, and spend the rest of their adult lives trying to recapture the original spirit.

It’s hard to de-vice once a device has you in a vice. A little advice: Don’t be fools for tools. They are a means, not an end.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Maharaja of #MFCOMN



Well, you’ve been waiting for it. Now it’s finally going to happen:


Come see us present a spectrum of Black American Music for free tomorrow afternoon at MetroTech in Brooklyn. Joining me will be Sarah Elizabeth Charles, vocals; Daniel Sadownick, percussion; Marcus Gilmore, drums; and Vicente Archer, bass.

Concert produced by Danny Kapilian for Brooklyn Academy of Music


— Nicholas Payton aka The Creator of #BAM



On Quincy Jones, Ray Brown, Brownie, Fat Girl, Fab, Art and Helen . . .

DISCLAIMER: Ray and Q, please excuse my gratuitous references to “Niggas” and “mothafuckas.” Know that I mean it with all the love in my heart…

Walking In Space . . .

Mothafuckas love to talk about Quincy Jones as a producer, but most have no idea how truly superb an artist he is. And before someone talks about all the ghostwriters Quincy commissioned, so what!? He’s still a bad mothafucka! I’d do the same shit Quincy did. Why turn down a good gig? This shit is a business, and the moment you’re no longer busy, you’re no longer relevant.

If your only association to Quincy Jones is Michael Jackson, you’ve got a lot of homework to do.  Newsflash: Quincy Jones was a bad mothafucka long before those records he produced in the ’70s and ’80s.

That said, I miss Ray Brown.

A lot of folks don’t know that Quincy was managed by Ray Brown through most of the ’70s. He stopped managing Quincy right before he hooked up with Michael. Ray told me he was drugged with himself for doing that. Ha! Can you imagine?

Ray Brown Rule #1: Either a gig pays so much you don’t care what the music sounds like, or you love the music so much you don’t care what it pays.

Ray Brown was one of the most astute businessmen I ever met. I still use his tactics to this day. Quincy got a lot from him. All the old school managers had to be gangsters to be successful. They were often doing business with them…

I Cried When Out Found Out Brownie Died

Clifford Brown08I remember really being into Clifford Brown when I was 12, 13-years-old and thinking he was still alive somewhere. I was crushed when I found out from reading the back of an album cover he had passed so young. I remember at that age everyone told me how much I sounded like Fat Girl. I had no idea who Fats was, so I started checking him out. It was then I realized how much Brownie had gotten from Fats Navarro. This shit ain’t linear. It’s a continuum. An ancestral heritage passed down from master to student.

This is the crux of #BAM. It ain’t about all that jazz, it’s about people.

I remember meeting Mrs. Larue Brown Watson around that time. She was such a kind spirit.


I was also once on a tour of Japan and Helen Merrill and Art Farmer were on the bill. Helen is such a sweet person. And Art was very gracious in taking time to talk to me on the bus… Quincy, Art, and Clifford were all on Lionel Hampton’s band together.

Q Summons Me for Qwest

I was playing at the Playboy Fest in the Hollywood Bowl years ago, and after my set, Quincy asked me when I was leaving Verve (my record label at the time) and coming over to Qwest. I could’ve died right there. What an honor!

Q on Ray . . .

“After he moved to Los Angeles, we started working a lot together,” said Quincy Jones. “We got closer and closer. After a while, Ray started to take care of booking gigs and travel. He was an astute businessman. Old school played everything. We all played chitlin’ circuits. And you didn’t sit around whining about what you had to play, man. You played it, and tried to make it all sound good. That’s what I loved about Ray. That’s where I think our chord struck, in being very curious about what the business side of it was and not wanting to be a victim. We wanted to be more in charge of our own destinies.

Listen to that trombone! When we were on the road together I used to give haircuts to my ancestor, Al Grey aka “FAB.”

“A man never plays more or less than they are as a human being, and Ray was a very confident, take-charge person. He played bass like that and lived like that. He ate 17 different dishes like that. Wherever we were, whatever was good, Ray knew what it was. He’d probably eat a 249-pound catfish if he tried! To me, he was the absolute symbol that if you empty your cup every time and learn to make it a habit, it always comes back twice as full. Give it up every time, man. Don’t save nothin’. I learned more and more about that from him all the time. In everything.”

Ray Brown and Quincy Jones = Autonomous Niggas.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Creator of #BAM