By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
NT: Are you afraid of any black stereotypes your 9-year-old son Reese will have to deal with? BM: No. This is the greatest country in the world. But he's gonna have to deal with some shit. If it don't kill ya, it'll make ya stronger.
NT: Would you object to him listening to messages from rap groups like 2 Live Crew?
BM: Even I wouldn't listen to that shit. It's not good music.
NT: There have been reports of tension between you and Jay Leno after you left the show last January. True?
BM: None to my knowledge. But, you know, everybody likes a good tension story. But since most people's aspirations solely rest on money and fame, they would think that the only way that I would leave the show was because there was tension. But there wasn't any real tension. I mean, the reality of it is that The Tonight Show was a good job and music is a wonderful career, and I just chose my career over a job.
NT: Were you after the exposure from a national television spot, then you could leave and collect the benefits later?
BM: Not at all. I read all of the shit that the NBC spin department was talking about me wanting to play jazz and all that. I mean, what kind of imbecile, after playing some of the greatest concert halls in the world, would think that The Tonight Show would be the kind of forum for great music?
It was an absurd notion, but they had to put their spin on it to make themselves look good. And without getting into too much detail, I think it's safe to say that there were certain philosophical directions in regard to the show itself that I thought we could move towards. Not more so the music that I was playing, but the types of musical guests that would be on the show. I thought we were going in one specific direction, in a direction towards change and quality, and they decided to go in the direction of status quo . . . The Tonight Show is not a job that is about music. And if you have a pleasant personality and a cheery face, then you can get that job and keep it forever.
I mean, I respect them because they had to do what they thought was in their best interest, and at that point, I had to do what was in my best interest, which was to leave. Because if I were going to essentially sacrifice my music career for a while, it was going to have to be for something worthwhile. Not for money and cars and fine women. There's piles of that nowadays. NT: Has the paycheck helped you lure fine women?
BM: Unfortunately, yes.
NT: Do you have to be careful of gold diggers now that you're single again?
BM: You meet a girl in L.A. and she says she wants to go out, you take her bowling, and within a matter of minutes, you'll know what you got. NT: Have you dated outside of your race?
BM: Oh, I've done it. Definitely.
NT: Without a problem from your parents or hers?
BM: Fuck my parents, it's my life. I mean, I respect my parents immensely, but my brother Ellis' ex-wife was white.
NT: Was she accepted into your family without a problem?
BM: She was accepted into our family a lot quicker than he was accepted into hers. Me and my mother had a big argument about that shit, too. One of her cousins was lynched by white folks in the Fifties. So she still had a beef. I said, "Well, Ma, you're not fucking [Ellis' wife], so what difference does it make to you?" She knows how hard marriage can be. Ellis has to sleep next to his wife, he has to breathe her bad breath, he's got to make love to that woman, not my mother. I didn't understand what her beef was since her only job with the situation was to love and support her son. And if she couldn't do that, then I'd do everything in my power to keep her from going to the wedding and seeing them. That shit is hard enough. We don't need that. Then a week later, she came by and was like, "Hi! Glad to meet you. How ya doing? Congratulations."
NT: Did your presence on The Tonight Show help or hinder your career in any way at all?
BM: Oh, it helped me. I don't have to stand in line in restaurants anymore, and I get free sporting tickets. I went to Indianapolis and caught the Pacers game, they put me courtside and put the camera on me. So it helps.