Legend Has It
There are some guys out there who would hate on a man like John Legend. Ivy league education, skills on the piano, one of the most soulful voices in contemporary R&B and a female fan base that rivals Oprah's â€“ yeah, it's the kind of resume that has some of us regretting not taking those piano lessons. But for the men who were able to appreciate Legend's 2004 Grammy-winning debut Get Lifted, they heard a man singing about issues not unlike their own - no-good women ("Used to Love Uâ€), infidelity ("She Don't Have To Knowâ€), and grinding to get yours ("Live It Upâ€).
As he prepares for the release of his sophomore effort Once Again, the former Coming King talks man-to-man with KING-MAG.com about the hardships of being in a relationship, jealous male fans, and college football.
KING-MAG.com: In your video for the first single "Save Roomâ€ you look like you're juggling more women than a circus clown has bowling pins, what's the message?
John Legend: The idea was [video director Brian Barber's]. I caught a lot of flack for this one because I talk about cheating on the first album, so everyone assumed that this is me showing me cheating on the first girl with seven girls after that, which seems a little implausible because it's not true. How can one manage to cheat with seven different girls?
How would we know? We have problems with one jump-off, let alone seven.
Exactly. So the idea of the video is that the women are one woman. She kept slipping away and changing to a different woman.
Going back to the infidelity accusations, word on the street is you have a girlfriend?
What does infidelity have to do with my girlfriend [laughs]? They're totally unrelated subjects.
Not necessarily. I thought if anyone would know the two go hand-in-hand it would be you, pimp. It's hard for the postal worker to stay faithful, much less a jetsetter who can sing and play the piano.
It's harder, because I'm on the road. I'm traveling. I'm meeting all kinds of people, all kinds of women all around the world. It's more of a strain on anybody, any relationship. So you gotta stay in touch, try to bring her out on the road whenever possible. You know, just to minimize the distance.
But at the end of the day, I'm sure she understands. I'm sure you told her up front, "Hey, my last name is Legend and I have to live up to it in all areas of my life.â€
I mean, no woman should accept a man cheating on her. I think they should expect him to be faithful. No matter what. That doesn't mean you're never gonna fuck up. No woman should go into it like, â€˜I'm cool with him cheating on me.' I wouldn't respect a woman that's cool with me just messing around with any girl. That's not sexy to me. I want her to fight me on that.
Careful what you wish for, you might end up in a real life fatal attraction. But consider this: your boy Kanye West once said, "R&B dudes get all the ass.â€ Is there any truth to that?
Well, the thing is, Kanye was more famous than me when we was on tour so he was doing better than I was but I had like my share. I think the fact that I sing didn't hurt. But he still was winning because he was the superstar at the time, and I was his background singer, so he still was winning on that.
The video for "Save Room"
Well a Kanye West backup singer is probably doing better than most men. Do you find a lot of dudes hate on you for who you are?
Dudes are different. They don't want to act like they like you. They like [goes into a mock thug tone], "I mean, you know, I like your music though.â€ And then some of them like, "Yo, my girl really like you.â€ The funny thing is, I write for us. If you listen to my lyrics, I'm writing the stories about what we going through with the ladies.. And a lot of guys identify with it, but they know how crazy they girl is about me, so they they be like, "I mean, yeah, I heard that nigga gay.â€
But you do understand why they get mad?
Yeah, I feel bad, because I feel like dude want to hit me, ya know? Like, I'm with his girl, taking a picture andâ€¦
He has to take the picture.
Yeah, he has to take the picture, and I feel bad for the dude, because I try to not flirt with his girls or because I'm not trying to steal his girl in front of him or something like that. That's rude [laughs].
Well is there some humbling piece of information you can give us about yourself? What can't you do?
I'm not the greatest athlete [laughs]. I grew up in a family where we all loved sports, we all watched sports a lot, we all played sports, but I was the worst athlete out of all of them.
That's why you played the piano.
That's why I was playing the piano, yeah.
So what sports do you watch?
I love football...college football the most. My favorite team is Ohio State. That's the only team I grew up truly loving as a kid because we grew up just forty minutes west of Columbus and we had some family members who played for Ohio State, so we've always been serious about Ohio State. We're looking forward to them beating [University of Michigan] on November 18.
We can hear those crazy Wolverines sharpening their claws now. So when your family was playing sports, you were playing the piano. What lady did you want to impress the most with your Stevie Wonder skills?
My first one that I hung up pictures of was Debbie Thomas, the black figure skater. I used to hang up Sports Illustrated pictures of her from my uncle's Sports Illustrated magazines. I would hang up pictures of her because I had a crush on her.
Debbie Thomas? Are you serious? That name barely rings a bell, What about someone like Beyonce?
I met Beyonce, obviously she's one of the most beautiful women in the world.
What about Halle?
Halle Berry, I got to meet her. That was amazing. I was pretty much speechless.
Yeah, but we heard she's not too into R&B singers anymore.
I can reconvert her.
Come back to earth John, specifically the United States. Which cities have the finest women?
Here's one: Phoenix, Arizona. That's underrated. A lot of young, college types, they got the schools there.
Well you know all about girls in school. What was going to school at University of Pennsylvania like?
When you go to college and a place where you meet people from all over the world, in a big city like Philadelphia, it just broadens your perspective on life. No matter if you actually finish your degree or not, it's important to accomplish that, but you already start learning from day one in the classroom. You learn from just being around a friend from Pakistan or a brother from Atlanta, or a sister from France. You just meet people from all over the world. And if you're use to this small little microcosm of the world and you put all these people from all over the world in one place you learn about life. I learned about more music than I listened to growing up. And just being an English Major and African-American studies concentration, you just learn about your history, we focused on music as well as literature. And you also just learn how to express yourself better. I had to read more interesting things to expand your mind. So all those things, I think, made me a better artist.
Yeah, but that kind of education costs, does John Legend still have student loans?
Yeah, I had some loans, but their gone now [laughs].
Of course they are. You ever get on your boy about being a college dropout since you're a college graduate?
Naw, he's richer than me, I have no reason to talk about him just because he didn't graduate college.
Oh yeah, that's simple mathematics. But since you were an English major, do you still get your bookworm on?
I'm reading a biography of Bob Marley by Christopher John Farley. I try to read as much as possible especially on the road and on the bus. And I read a lot of periodicals about current events as well, The New Yorker, The Economist, The Atlantic.
Wow, John Legend reads The Economist?
Yes I do. And I look at the great photos in KING Magazine.
Ha! Of course, we're required reading.
**John Legend's album, Once Again is available in stores and on iTunes now**