All my life, my music and my family have shared a close bond. One of my greatest memories is waking up to my father in the kitchen cooking breakfast, singing an old Bobby Womack song. From that moment on, a connection was made, and I knew music was in my veins.
Growing up, I learned that music had its place in my family, and it seemed everyone revolved their lives around music. I happen to have had a huge family and we’re extremely close, so that meant everyone from my pops to my uncles, to my grandmothers and cousins played their part. I often remember weekends that I would stay at my grandmother’s house (which was like the center of the family universe) and by day it was all about the old records she would play while either cleaning or cooking, and at night it was more of a social club setting. My father and my uncles and older cousins would gather around—singing, and playing guitar.
I realized how important music was to my family; it represented togetherness in our lives. It was actually my uncle who was the first person to put a guitar in my hand. He was self-taught and schooled me to the first elements of music: picking notes, forming chords, etc. Both my father and my uncle went on to become members of the music group D’Italians, which had a deal with Mercury Records. The group later changed their name to 24 Carat Black, and although their albums never really received much props, they did record the heavily sampled track “Ghetto: Misfortunes Wealth.” But it was those gatherings which served as the blueprint for what would be later known as “Family Jam Sessions.”
Since I opened my studio, TekLab, I made sure to leave one Sunday open a month in an attempt to re-create those memorable family gatherings that I once was a part of. I went from banging the screen door for percussion to leading a session with mic’ed up instruments and real production. As a producer, I truly believe this is what it means to produce. What innocently started out twenty years earlier in my grandmother’s backyard transformed into a full live session with fifteen-plus family members present, all adding their input. With my pops in the vocal booth, my uncle on guitar, and countless young nieces and nephews all doing the, “Ooh, let me do it too,” the Willie Cottrell Band was formed.
Way before Nas and Olu linked up on “Bridging The Gap,” I had recorded several songs with my pops. It wasn’t until recently, while recording in the studio with Dion, that I realized how timeless these unfinished projects were. On the new album, the world will finally hear our work. The first record, “Josephine” was recorded about 2002, and was created at a Family Band Session; the other record, “People Going Down,” is more of an inside view of how an actual jam session might sound. There’s my pop’s singing, my uncle on guitar, me on the drums, even my little niece crying; my goal to bring these “Family Jam Sessions” to the next generation, and literally “bridge the gap”.
Hi-Tek feat. The Willie Cottrell Band, Ghostface & Pretty Ugly “Josephine”
Hi-Tek feat. The Willie Cottrell Band “People Going Down”
Both taken from Hi-Teknology 2, in stores October 17th.