Having been one of the most distinctively resonant voices in Black music over the past several decades, R&B powerhouse, Johnny Gill, is still poised to “change the game.” He’s on his seventh studio solo album and he shows no signs of hanging up his microphone any time soon. The “My, My, My” singer’s most recent release, the critically acclaimed Game Changer, is an homage to pure R&B music as well as an undeniable testament to the enduring quality of the crooner’s gift and wealth of creativity.
“I felt that where R&B was, it was time to make some form of contribution to try to change the game for people to have a great level of respect for Rhythm and Blues; it’s where everything derives from,” he said of his intentions when making the album.
“[I] felt like ‘here’s my opportunity to give something to the music that has been here [and] has inspired us all.’”
From those intentions, which play into the apparent clarion call of late to “rescue R&B,” Changer was born. And like many R&B records of old, the album is a trove of soul-stirring singles all suitable for release. The current single is called, “This One’s for Me and You,” and features his cohorts from his “other gig,” New Edition.
“It’s just some grown folks stuff we wanted to do that we thought people would enjoy … right now where there’s a void,” Gill said of the single. “A guy by the name of Gregg Pagani, who worked with Charlie Wilson on a lot of stuff, is really a great writer and producer who wrote this song that was originally supposed to be for my album and for me, and then the guys heard it and were like, ‘man, we need to get on this joint.’”
The just-another-day-at-the-office proposition from his fellow NE members was a no brainer and he obliged
Speaking of New Edition, Johnny Gill joined the group in the late 80s and has been a pivotal member ever since. But given he had already begun making a name for himself as a soloist prior to joining, his solo outings have never been that much of a stretch. His albums, the first self-titled Johnny Gill and Chemistry, had already been released before the recruitment by NE’s Michael Bivins led him to the group.
The merging of those success-bound trajectories created an even stronger momentum that would propel the collective (intact and in several different iterations) to the next level. They achieved massive success as a group throughout the late 80s and 90s as well as spawning relatively successful solo (Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown and BBD) and smaller group projects (LSG and Heads of State).
Though Johnny is well aware of his worth as a solo artist, he’s very much ride or die with NE. He commented:
“I came into this game as Johnny Gill before I got into New Edition, I’m always gonna be a part of the group. All of us in New Edition have our own identity and that’s the thing about us that makes us so unique.
Still one of today’s most sought after touring acts, NE remains very relevant … and they wisely plan on stoking that ever-burning fire. Together with Jesse Collins Entertainment and their longtime manager, Brooke Payne, the group will co-produce a movie that will tell their story in detail.
“The New Edition Story is about to go into production … it’s about to start filming in a few months. It’s our life story. It’s going to be pretty huge … we’re excited about that and coming up with new music, as well, to keep the legacy going and beyond.
It’s gonna be quite interesting,” Gill said regarding the impending production.
The highly-anticipated biopic doesn’t yet have a release date, but it will eventually air on BET as a three-part miniseries once complete.
In the meantime, Gill’s focus is on Game Changer – which happens to be on his own label – and keeping his fans supplied with ear-tickling singles from the project:
“Well, it’s own my own label called J Skillz Records,” he says proudly. “The whole album from the beginning to the end, I made a conscious effort, so that’s why this album is still going strong after it’s been out almost a year. December 10th makes a year… and that speaks volumes for how strong this CD is.”
Johnny worked with a who’s who of writers and producers on the project to ensure he lived up to his reputation of delivering the goods:
“I worked with Babyface, Anthony Hamilton, New Edition … Claude Kelly, who’s an incredible writer, [his collaborative partner] producer Chuck Harmony; a guy named Wirlie Morris who did a lot of work with Charlie Wilson… just great songwriter/producers who gave me great quality work, Ralph Stacy, who wrote and produced on my last album, In the Mood, to just everybody. It was just awesome,” Gill says. “I’m in full control of everything that’s going on with this record and it’s been different and unique and a blessing that after 32 years to say I’m my own boss … I just want to keep putting out great music.”
By Gerald A. Radford