Veteran singer Betty Wright, who rose to fame in the ’70s with hits like “Clean up Woman” and “Tonight is the Night,” gives an approving nod to today’s hip-hop geniuses.
Her recent collaboration with musical heavyweight Rick Ross, on Sanctified, a single from his latest LP Mastermind, which debuted as the No. 1 album in America and has sold close to 200,000 units, solidified the ever-present connection between soul music’s mothers and fathers and the musically gifted children they inspired.
The gritty soul-stirring hymn that Wright proclaims on the track: “It’s a new day, I have been born again, I have been born again,” rings true, considering her rebirth through this collaboration makes evident an appreciation by hip-hop’s reigning class for timeless music that speaks to the spiritually seeking heart of society.
In a recent interview with The Grio, Wright talked about being a featured artist on Sanctified, her philosophy about the music of today, and her perspective about how hip-hop artists are communicating to God through music.
How has the reception of Sanctified been so far for you?
You know, I’m sure it’s controversial and I’m sure people are saying I fell and bumped my head. But see, what they don’t know is God uses simple things to confound the wise. I have people on Twitter saying they hadn’t really thought about how the blood of Jesus washes away sins. They hadn’t thought about the things that Kanye is saying until this record came out. [The song] put them in a spiritual mindset, so that’s a beautiful thing.
You’re a religious woman and a lot your background is in gospel music. How do you feel about the lyrical content of the song — all the talk of groupies and chasing money?
I hear young people on this record saying, “Are you going to help me Lord? Because listen, every time I try to do right, there’s always some woman in the lobby waiting on me, trying to get established. They want to get famous off of just being with me. And I’m trying, but boy, I’ve got demons.” [When Kanye] says, “Lord, you sent me a message saying I’m too aggressive. Me? I’m too aggressive?” he’s talking to God. They’re not doing anything that we don’t do in prayer; they’re just doing it in their way. Can I tell a man how to talk to God? That’s a one-on-one, baby.
What is it about Kanye musically that made you want to collaborate with him?
I respect genius. You’ve got to see the genius in that kid. You can talk about him, you can say he’s crazy, you can say whatever you want to say, but at the end you’re going to have to say he’s a genius. You’re going to have to say that. Hands down. Hands down Rick Ross is a genius. Hands down Diddy is a genius. Hands down Kanye is a genius. All of them. DJ Khaled, who called and put it together, who can always find me when nobody else can find me.
Why are rappers today so intent on sampling the soul singers from your era?
It’s real music. After you know the real, it’s hard to take the fake…You recognize that there is a fatness to the bass, there’s a depth to the drums, a keenness and an eerie sweetness to the strings. There is no substitution and that’s why they keep going back and bringing it up to date.