Legendary singer/songwriter Al Green pulls no punches in this exclusive interview with Bayer Mack. The good reverend is back with his new album, Everything's Okay, and recently spent a few minutes talking with us. In addition to the new release, Green discusses his role as the "preacher of the Hip-Hop generation," making babies, and his return to secular recording.
MVRemix: What made you originally want to make that transition back into secular music?
Al Green: I ainít went nowhere. Yíall [the media] the ones going somewhere. [Laughing]
Al Green: Youíre worried about whatís secular and what ainít secular and whatís gospel and what ainít gospel. On ĎLove and Happiness,í I said be good to me and Iíll be good to you, and weíll see each other walk away with victory. Now whatever you want to think about that, Iím gonna let you do that. Thatís not my business. Iím doing what God told me to do. He said sing it.
Al Green: And thatís what Iím doing.
MVRemix: Lots of people have too much tradition and not enough substance.
Al Green: They forgot they got here some kind of way, and it wasnít reading the Bible.
Al Green: Make sure to put that in the interview. [Laughing]
MVRemix: What do you think about ďHip-Hop gospel,Ē like Kanye West with ďJesus Walks?Ē
Al Green: I think thatís good. I heard the [song] ĎPrayerí by R. Kelly. The only thing they are doing is picking up on their roots and where they come from.
MVRemix: Why did you name the new album Everythingís OK?
Al Green: Everythingís OK, because in America some of our people go through so much hell, torment, and misunderstandings. Everythingís revolving [around] sort of gang related stuff. Iím saying Everythingís OK. Only thing you gotta do is work it out, only thing you gotta do is try.
MVRemix: Do you think so-called ďgangsta rapĒ focuses more on problems than solutions?
Al Green: Yeah, itís sad. You know weÖ and [other] people done made it across the Atlantic [Ocean] on the [slave] boat. It takes the strong to survive, making that trip across, packed in there like sardine. Then you have to stand up for three months in squalor, in urine and everything else. Only the strong survived [and] made that trip. Everybodyís gone through it -- Jews gone through it, the Negroes gone through it. The people in Iraq gone through it. Everybodyís gone through it, so I really donít take it to heart when black people start talking about how hard they had to do this. Iím black and I had it hard too. I picked cotton, chopped cotton and everything else, but I still ainít gonna let it get me down.
Al Green: Iím gonna keep on truckiní.
MVRemix: So Everythingís OKÖ
Al Green: God Almighty! Do you see this lady right here? Oh my GodÖ thatís enough to get a preacher off his pew right there. This little lady got out this Mercedes boy, she had on some jeans and I guess she hurt them jeans. [Laughing]
MVRemix: Where are you?
Al Green: Iím standing in front of the store looking at this woman walk back to her car. Now she got everything shaking.
MVRemix: Are you in New York?
Al Green: Naw, Iím not in New York, Iím in Memphis, Tennessee baby.
MVRemix: Your classics, like ďLove and HappinessĒ and ďLetís Stay Together,Ē are staples in the streets. What does the new album have for people who love that old Al Green sound?
Al Green: Good flow, thatís what weíre doing. Al canít do no more than what Al can do.
Al Green: Al is doing Al. Alicia Keys, sheís doing good. Tamia, sheís doing good. Destinyís Child, all of them doing good. Itís just that when you get down to the stomp stomp and you really gonna do some bump bump, you gonna need the reverend -- and heís going to bring the thing on home. I am the minister of the Hip-Hop, R&B era. Iím the preacher you [write about] and thereís no other preacher out here like the Rev. Al Green. Iím still down with the Hip-Hop Ė RUN DMC and some other guys. I sat down with Snoop Dogg and he was like whatís up Reverend Al! I am the preacher for this generation and these are our children thatís doing this music. Thereís no sense in jumpiní up and down saying how bad it is or how good it is because they are our kids and we the oneís that taught Ďem. It ainít no sense is us saying, ĎWell, oh itís just terrible.í If it is, you pointing the finger at yourself and at what you did.
MVRemix: For the time that you were just specifically focusing on gospel music, there were reports of people trying to sneak into your service with tape recorders.
Al Green: Right.
MVRemix: So what do you do? Pat them down? How do you stop somebody from sneaking in service on Sunday morning and capturing a live performance from Al Green?
Al Green: Man they gonna sneak them tape recorders in there any kind of way and we canít stop them. While youíre preaching or something, somebody will snap a picture just as sure as you born. So thatís just the way it is. You put yourself out there at the church were itís a public place for religious worship. Therefore, I really canít complain too much about it because they just love you. Itís like the people from Ireland the other day. They said the only thing we came over here to do is just come in and be in the service with you cause we know how you sing R&B, but we want to see how you do in church -- if itís [just as] graphic or emotional, heart wrenching. [Laughing]
Al Green: If God give me a gift, canít nobody take it. If God take it, canít nobody get it back.
MVRemix: What do you say to people who might have a problem with you doing secular music?
Al Green: They got here some kind of way. They mama and daddy wasnít reading the Bible [at the time].
MVRemix: What prompted you to stop singing secular music at the peak of your career?
Al Green: I was converted. I was actually born again. I was really converted. Some of these people say they were converted, but I donít know about that. God gave me the ministry of love and happiness and thatís the ministry weíre carrying around. Everybody in our group knows weíre going to sing, but they know itís a deeper meaning behind what we say. Iím singiní for yíall -- to get yíall something going on at three oíclock in the morning. Iím saying this for the public. They the ones that buy it. They [thinking of me] at the house with some chick at three in the morning. I meanÖ [Laughing]
MVRemix: Itís something they can relate to.
Al Green: I drew the picture for you to relate to it, but there is a deeper meaning behind the thing.
MVRemix: Do you think most people miss the meaning?
Al Green: A lot of them do. A lot of them miss the meaning on purpose. They miss the idea, but still we canít condemn them -- until they come to the knowledge. They may miss some of the meaning of it but until they do... [Pauses] Even the preacher had to notice that! Excuse me thereís a fine young lady walking by here. Pardon me sir. [Laughing]
MVRemix: No problem. Have you ever considered doing something with a Hip-Hop artist?
Al Green: AbsolutelyÖ I love it. I mean we planned it on the next album weíre writing now. We gonna have some other people on the album that share.
MVRemix: Rev. Al, this has been a sincere pleasure and honor talking to you today, sir.
Al Green: Bless my pasture. Man you keep on keeping on.
MVRemix: I canít wait to get to Memphis. Maybe Iíll sneak in and catch one of your services.
Al Green: Come on outÖ and donít forget your tape player. [Laughing]