Charlie Wilson On Success Of "One I Got" & Who He Would Face Off In A Verzuz Battle
Charlie Wilson remains the king of the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart this week with his latest single "One I Got," taking us back with a sample of The Four Tops' 1972 classic "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)." Chart success is not new to the iconic singer and former member of The Gap Band, so what's he after next? A golden gramophone, he says. Wilson is currently working on a forthcoming album and says he's feeling his best yet.
"I am so honored with 13 nominations but I’m coming for the win! Honestly, I’m in the best space musically that I have been in my whole career. Mainly I’m just having fun. I’ve been recording a lot and I’m working on my next single," he said in an email conversation with GRAMMY.com last week.
"Rap music continues to evolve and I have been fortunate to participate and contribute to the genre for so many years," he says.
But it hasn't always been a smooth ride for the artist, who has battled addiction and homelessness (Wilson's been sober for a few decades now). his resilient spirit is intact, especially now as the world deals with an ongoing pandemic, not to mention renewed racial tensions and a fight against police brutality. (He tweeted a message to Breonna Taylor a day after a grand jury did not charge the police officers who shot and killed her.)
The charismatic singer spoke to GRAMMY.com about his career longevity and success, the inspiration behind his latest hit, who he would want to face off with in a Verzuz battle, how he stays positive through this tough time and more.
Congratulations on claiming another No. 1 track on Billboard's Adult R&B Songs airplay chart with "One I Got." What inspired this song?
Thank you! Yes, I’m so happy to have another #1 single back-to-back already from my upcoming album. In my music, I always like to celebrate women. I've also been a longtime fan of the Four Tops and their song, "Ain't No Woman." My inspiration is the "One I Got,” my wife, she has been standing by my side for 25 years.
You’re also a collaborator on Nas’ recently released King’s Disease. How was it working with him on "Car #85"?
It was great to be in the room with Nas and Hit-Boy, who produced the album. Nas explained to me the story behind "Car #85," which is a personal story he wanted to share. I’m so proud of Nas that he’s still doing his thing and happy to contribute to his vision. We had a lot of fun, as making music should be and I look forward to doing more with them.
You’ve collabed with rappers a lot in the past. Why do you think rappers from all generations continue to reach out to collaborate with you?
They call because they know that Uncle Charlie got that special sauce, LOL. But honestly, I think it’s because I bring authenticity and soul to their songs or maybe they just want to impress their mamas (or grand mamas) that they have Charlie Wilson on their song. LOL. Rap music continues to evolve and I have been fortunate to participate and contribute to the genre for so many years starting with my nephew Snoop Dogg all the way to present performing our song “Earfquake” with Tyler, the Creator at the GRAMMY Awards this year.
We’ve watched iconic figures go head to head on VERZUZ battles. A lot of people on social media would love to see you be a part of it. Are you open to doing one?
Yes, of course. I love that it has brought so much attention to Black artists and highlights all the good feelings and power of Black music for our fans to rally around. It’s a win for our culture and music community on many levels. When they’re ready for me they know where to find me!
Who would you personally like to head off with?
Stevie Wonder is a friend and one of my idols so it would be amazing for us to sit together and just go through our hits and goof around together like we always do. Also, Lionel Richie. He came from a group, I came from a group and then we both went solo, though me much later in life. And our collective catalogs span decades. We each have hits for days both old and new. However, I may have a few more newer hits though. LOL. Bring it, Lionel!
You’re an iconic, successful solo artist. What was the biggest challenge going from being a part of a group to going solo?
The biggest challenge going solo is branching out from the group and creating your own success as a solo artist. With an established group, it’s easier for people to want to take the path of least resistance and work with the name or group that everybody knows. When you go solo you have to pave your own way of creating and building your new identity while trying to keep fans and create new ones. For me, I also had the added challenge with the stigma of my drug addiction. It took a while for the industry to embrace me once again after I gained my sobriety. I had to prove myself and earn the trust of people to support me and my new career.
What are you up to now music-wise?
I’m working on winning a GRAMMY! LOL! I am so honored with 13 nominations but I’m coming for the win! Honestly, I’m in the best space musically that I have been in my whole career. Mainly I’m just having fun. I’ve been recording a lot and I’m working on my next single. I have a few surprise collaborations with other artists coming out soon as well. Since going solo 20 years ago, I have been fortunate to have a great management and label team at P Music Group, headed by Michael Paran, who has spearheaded my solo career. Together we are in full control of my destiny and that allows us to create the best music and live experience for my fans. There’s so much going on in the world.
You’re a positive, hopeful figure on social media. How are you staying grounded?
I try to spread as much love and light as I can during these trying times. Whether through my music, social media, or a virtual performance my goal is to stay connected with my fans and bring them some joy. This is the longest I've been off the road and I miss my fans, band, dancers, and crew. It's been challenging but on the bright side, I am getting to enjoy some things I didn't have time to do when I was always on the road performing. My wife and I always start each morning with our daily prayer and the time at home gives me a chance to write and record songs, take long walks, swim, or do cardio in the gym. We've also been catching up on TV, watching great movies and talk shows and keeping up with the news. I’ve been given a second chance in life and music so even though times are uncertain I will always thank God and say, “I’m Blessed.”