Miguel: Ahead Of The Curve
Hip Hop heads who were fans of the budding west coast underground scene back in the mid-2000s may recall a young man belting hooks on songs by Blu, Exile and others. Others may be familiar with the distinct voice after the song “Sure Thing” caught a crazy buzz on the internet. But alas, most recently just got familiar with Miguel Jontel when he released the single “All I Want Is You” which featured Roc Nation emcee J. Cole. It’s no bother to Miguel however. He’s been active behind the scenes as he’s penned songs and contributed to the likes of Usher, Musiq Soulchild and Asher Roth. But he finally received his time to shine on the debut album All I Want Is You (check out the review here) and gave fans just a small taste of what the ultra-talented singer/songwriter/producer has in store. If you aren’t familiar, you better catch up before it is too late.
TheWellVersed: The introduction to your voice to the world came courtesy of Exile’s album. Can you take us all the way back to how that came together?
Miguel: Blu and I met in high school. On the first day of my first year in high school I met Blu in a cipher. We actually ended up having our first class together – which was a computer class. He introduced me to a mutual friend of ours named Anthony Williams and we’ve been pretty much best friends ever since then. Through Blu I met a lot of the underground scene: Exile, Aloe Blacc, Stones Throw, Sound In Color, etc. There was a period of time when Exile was really popping with Emanon and that’s where I met Pac Div, U-N-I, J*Davey, Sa-Ra and all those guys.
TWV: You were like the voice of the underground…
M: Especially on the West Coast scene!
TWV: A lot of us were curious to hear what you had in store after being featured on all of those artists’ songs. But then you disappeared for a bit. What was going on where you pretty much vanished?
M: That was during the time I was being signed to Jive. I wasn’t quiet because of that. There was a period of like a year and a half where I was going through legal trouble. It was better to just lay low at the time. As I was getting tired of waiting for so long, I decided to drop the “Mischief” mixtape [download here]. I don’t know if you are familiar with that…
TWV: Absolutely. “Dig” and “Strawberry Amazing” are some of my favorite songs that you’ve done.
M: Ah that’s what’s up! So in the midst of this whole legal thing I was like “Fuck ya’ll” and decided to drop that mixtape. I got tired of people asking for music and not giving them anything. Really, the reason why the mixtape was called “Mischief” was because that’s what I was causing at the time. I should have been laying low and the label didn’t want me to do anything that would draw extra attention which might make it adverse. It was pretty much a battle of someone who said I was signed to them before I was signed to Jive. The whole thing was that they said I was signed to two companies at the same time. It could have made things a little more difficult. But luckily everything went smooth. After getting all of that resolved, that’s when I recorded “All I Want Is You” in Miami.
TWV: “Mischief” was the first time a lot of people got to hear a project coming from you. How much of that mixtape was music that was supposed to be on the debut. Songs like “Overload” ended up being an interlude on the album.
M: “Mischief” is closer to the sound that I would have made the entire debut like. Although “All I Want Is You” is fairly diverse, it’s not as diverse as the songs on the mixtape. But, for business reasons, “All I Want Is You” is a really great introduction especially because the song “All I Want Is You” was where newer fans were discovering me. As diverse as the album is, it’s not too far of a reach. You get an idea – especially when you see my live show – as to where I’m coming from and where I will end up going.
TWV: Do you feel like your debut album was merely scratching the surface for those who aren’t familiar with your catalog as to what they should expect on your next album?
M: Yeah. All I Want Is You is the tip of the iceberg. As far as the content goes, it is all relationship and romantic based. But there’s so much more that I want to discuss. But as an introduction, I felt that you just give them enough of you to take note of and maybe impress them. It’s kind of like a wedge starting to pry that door open so I can give the fans more of who I am. When the next album comes, it will be a lot more experimental and the subject matter will be broader.
TWV: Do you feel like you kind of have to play it safe initially to draw listeners in initially? After which, you can hit them with songs like “Strawberry Amazing?”
M: I think “Strawberry Amazing” would have been fine on the album. We actually wanted it on there but it just got really hectic. You know what? A lot of things that I would have wanted on the album really got sacrificed because of timing. Like me not being aware of how things work or scheduling – which is more of an internal thing that I can’t blame anybody but myself with. Put it this way, there’s one song on this album that I didn’t choose. I would have replaced it with another song. Even so, I don’t feel like I sacrificed my sound with this album or anything about me was compromised. It’s the album that I put together. When you read the credits, it’s A&Red by Mark Pitts and executive produced by myself. Even though it is not as avant garde as “Mischief” was, I don’t feel like I sacrificed myself. I just left a little more room to grow. [Listen to Miguel's collaboration with Esthero "The Many Times" here]
TWV: I had a conversation a year or so ago with Diz Gibran and Pac Div about why it was taking so long for you to release an album. “Sure Thing” had already generated a healthy buzz on the net and it seemed like the perfect time almost two years ago. What was taking so long for this album to come together?
M: A majority of the album was finished when I signed with Jive back in 2007. That’s another thing. You know that as artists we are always creating and ever evolving. I’m the epitome of always pushing the boundaries. This album really is how it is because where my mind is at now, there is no way I could put this music out later. This is the only chance I had to put an album of this kind out. The music deserved its chance and I think the label felt the same way. Right now is the only time this could have been released. I wouldn’t be able to put this album out two years from now. Or two albums from now. Or as my next album. I’m already two years ahead of the music that’s coming out. I’m just trying to catch my fans up. It took so long because of the whole legal thing. That had a lot to do with it. They were ready to put me out back when I signed during the spring of 2008.
TWV: How did people get their hands on “Sure Thing” to give it the buzz that it had? Did you anticipate the viral videos and all the attention it had?
M: Man, that thing grew its own legs. I just put it on Myspace. That’s all I did. I never, ever once reached out to people on Myspace and asked them to check it out. Never. It’s pretty cool to watch happen.
TWV: Did the label take notice of the attention you got from just making some good music?
M: To be honest with you, this is my candid answer to that question, if they did…yes and no. It was just a great selling point. Knowing that it garnered that much attention was like “Okay great, but you haven’t sold any records yet,” to the label.
TWV: This album ended up being pretty self-contained. You had J. Cole and really nobody else. Will the next album be the same?
M: The next album will be a little more experimental and even more self contained.
TWV: Is there a title?
M: Yeah I have a couple of working titles but I don’t want to reveal the names yet.
TWV: Are we expecting to see it next year?
M: It will be late next year. I’m still focused on getting the word out on the album I have. My debut will be a lot like the single, a slow burner. People will discover it on their own and that will make a big difference. They will fall in love with this album by finding it on their own. I think that’s going to be happening for a while.