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Jamie Foxx Making His Case With Music

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2009

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Though it may appear otherwise, things don’t go Jamie Foxx’s way all of the time.

Just most of it.

He is, after all, an Academy Award-winning actor (for playing Ray Charles in 2004’s “Ray”) with plenty of film and TV credits, a stand-up comic of some repute and, alongside that, a singer whose last two albums — 2005’s “Unpredictable” and last year’s “Intuition” — have sold platinum or better. But Foxx has discovered that success doesn’t necessarily keep resentments at bay.

“I was trying to get this hit song from this one (writer) for (‘Intuition’),” recalls the 41-year-old Texas native, “and he said, ‘I’m not giving you this song.’ I said, ‘Why?’ and he said, ‘Because, well, I want to try to sing the song myself.’ I said, ‘I didn’t know you were an artist, but this song really speaks to me as a Jamie Foxx record.’

“We went back and forth for about four months, and all of a sudden, it comes out. He said, ‘Man, you already got movies. You already got Oscars and everything, man. Why you gotta have this? Why you gotta have everything?”

Foxx laughs at the memory. But what’s no laughing matter, he says, is the perception that, even with three albums under his belt, he’s not serious about music.

“I’ve been trying to break down those preconceived thoughts that this is just a hobby for me or that, y’know, ‘He’s already got enough,’” explains Foxx, who also has a popular radio show, “The Foxxhole” on Sirius XM and is creator of the MTV reality show “From G’s to Gents.”

“It’s sort of like the blessed curse; people want to work with you, but sometimes they don’t take it seriously until they hear the records and they see the direction that I’m going and can see it’s for real, you know?”

The truth is that Foxx, who was born Eric Marlon Bishop, was on a music trajectory well before acting became his focus.

Raised by his grandmother in Terrell, Texas, he began taking piano lessons when he was 5 years old, fed a diet of mostly Christian music both at home and at the New Hope Baptist Church, where he was a part-time pianist and choir leader. His grandmother was so devout that she told him he was “going straight to hell” when she saw pictures of him dancing during his seventh-grade year. “That’s how strict it was, man,” Foxx recalls with a laugh. “My grandmother just didn’t want me playing any music outside of Christian music.”

But that didn’t stop Foxx, who also was an accomplished high school football and basketball player, from singing in a band called Leather and Lace. He was ultimately accomplished enough to receive a scholarship to study piano at United States International University in San Diego, but he caught the acting bug after getting up during open mic night in a Los Angeles comedy club in 1989, subsequently landing spots in the cast of TV’s “In Color” and in the sitcom “Roc.”

Foxx did release a modestly successful album, “Peep This,” in 1994 but by that time, acting was his primary focus.

“Ray,” however, brought him back to music. Foxx, under strict supervision from Charles himself, played his own piano parts in the film and, while promoting it, spoke about his ambitions to get back in the music game. He quickly wound up with feature spots on hits by Kanye West (the chart-topping “Gold Digger”), Twista (“Slow Jamz”) and Ludacris and Field Mob (“Georgia,” which sampled Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind”). Most importantly, Foxx wound up with a deal from J Records and an “Unpredictable” success.

Released just before Christmas in 2005, the album rode Foxx’s high profile to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making him just the fourth Oscar winner, along with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Barbra Streisand, to also top the record charts. The album launched four singles, including the Top 10 title track with rapper Ludacris, and snagged Foxx an American Music Award for Favorite R&B Soul Male Artist and four Grammy Award nominations.

It certainly gave him every reason to approach “Intuition” with confidence, but Foxx claims he wasn’t at all cocky.

“With this album, we didn’t have any movies,” says Foxx, who was in-between 2007’s “The Kingdom” and this year’s “The Soloist” when the album came out. “We didn’t have any of the outside sort of help like we did with (‘Unpredictable’).”

He didn’t have to worry, however. “Intuition” debuted at No. 3 and has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. His single “Blame It,” with rapper T-Pain, hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. But Foxx is happiest that “Intuition” shows off a broader musical palette.

“‘Unpredictable’ had more slow, bedroom things,” Foxx notes, “which was great, but when we went on the road to perform it we had these big crowds and all those ballads so sometimes it would ... not lull people to sleep, but I had to work a little harder to keep people’s attention.

“With this (album), man, like the Timbaland track (‘I Don’t Need It’) and the alcohol track (‘Blame It’) with T-Pain, people hear this and just go ... I mean, Babyface heard (‘Blame It’), and Babyface is all the way R&B, and he heard ‘Blame It’ and just went absolutely nuts for it. So we got lucky and fortunate in the sense we got legitimate club, international hits and the tempo was way up when it needs to be.”

Foxx, who talks about releasing another album before the end of this year, also worked on “Intuition” with West, T.I., Ne-Yo, Fabolous, Lil Wayne, Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius and the team of The-Dream and Tricky Stewart.” It’s a formidable, Grammy-pedigreed cast of characters, and he considers it a sign that his musical credibility is continuing to break down the “roadblocks” he’s run into previously.

“I think, especially for the next record, it’ll be even easier to get people to work with me and feature with me,” he predicts. “I’ve got so many ideas I want to get out there, but it’s just about proving yourself all the time. I’m still a rookie at this, you know? You can never just sit back and say, ‘Hey, I’ve done it’ or ‘I can rest on the last album I did.’ You’ve always got to reinvent yourself and do great work.”

Jamie Foxx performs at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday (Aug. 6 and 8) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $79.75, $59.75 and $39.75. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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