Charlie Wilson – America’s Favorite Uncle By Phonz Reyes

It’s almost hard to believe that you’re talking to a well established artist who has been out since the seventies and still going strong when talking to Charlie Wilson. It’s almost like I was talking to one of my uncles when I recently interviewed Charlie Wilson from his hotel suite in Manhattan’s New York Palace last month. I had the chance to catch up with him before his new album, Uncle Charlie dropped this past February 17th, and I must say, this was one of the best interviews I was sent to do.

PHOTO: Christian LantryYou’d expect an artist such as Charlie Wilson who started off as the lead singer for the soul group, The GAP Band to now being someone the Hip Hop/Soul genre constantly looks to for the next hit, to almost be full of himself. That’s not the case when you talk to Uncle Charlie! He’s probably the most humble and down to earth music artist I’ve interviewed to date. Before I started the interview, I gave him a picture a female fan of his e-mailed me. She said she had seen him in Boston a couple years back at the Shell. He was him awe. Then I told him that my own sister seen him in my hometown of Milwaukee when he performed there and how he was supposed to do a twenty minute show but ended up doing a full performance and even having three costume changes. I told him that my sister said she enjoyed how he performed with so much energy and could not await his return to Milwaukee for another show.

He’s definitely a guy that you get the sense you can laugh with. He has experience in this industry and endless chart topping hits. He’s worked with everyone from Pharrell Williams to Snoop Dogg and has had an influence on the career likings of R. Kelly, Justin Timberlake and many more. His newest project, Uncle Charlie which happens to be his second solo release on Jive Record label is probably one of the greatest albums of 2009. His versatility on the album of being able to present to his audience club bangers such as Supa Sexxy featuring T-Pain and Jamie Foxx and Let It Out featuring Snoop Dogg – while still being able to connect with his fan base from back in the day with hits such as Homeless, What You Do To Me, and There Goes My Baby is phenomenal.

Besides the music career, Charlie Wilson is a man who stands for something more as well. With the recent discovery of prostate cancer, Charlie has become and advocate for the Prostate Cancer Foundation – going out to spread the consciousness of this disease to men everywhere. It’s a personal message for Charlie Wilson as he has caught his diagnosis in the early stages and is now doing better.

All in all, it was a pleasure interviewing Uncle Charlie, as he did prove to me he is really is ‘America’s Favorite Uncle!’



BE-New York: First I want to talk about your new project, Uncle Charlie. This is your second Jive Records release?

Charlie Wilson: Yes.

BE-NY: Your fourth solo album?

Charlie Wilson: I would probably say yeah, you know what I’m saying. One of my brothers was like, “yeah this is the fourth here!” And I’m like, “has it been four? I don’t count them other ones.” (Laughs) I only count these two. You know what I’m saying. Two for sure. So yeah, fourth one, yeah, yeah!

BE-NY: And it drops February 17th?

Charlie Wilson: Yes, February 17th.

BE-NY: So that’s next week?

Charlie Wilson: Yeah. Tuesdays a great day… yeah!

BE-NY: What can your listeners expect off this new album?

Charlie Wilson: Just some good feel good music. My first single is called, There Goes My Baby. It was written by Babyface and Calvin Richardson. So that single there is top five with a bullet and that’s one hell of a song. I’m telling you, I enjoyed singing it and by that song you can tell where my album’s going to be. I’m definitely happy about this project – it’s a lot of feel good records there.

BE-NY: Who did you work with as far as production and collaboration on this album?

Charlie Wilson: Of course Babyface, Cal Richardson, Greg Lugani, T-Pain. As far as production T-Pain, Carlos McKinney who did Dream’s. Reed Vertelney, Mark Nelcum who was on my last project. And that’s it. The features was T-Pain, Jamie Foxx, and Snoop Dogg.

BE-NY: How does the artist decide the first single?

Charlie Wilson: Those songs man have to feel good, feel right. You can tell if a song don’t feel right. I don’t care how many singles, how many albums you sold. If the record – if it feels good then you know it and feel it and you know that the fans are going to love it. Because if I love a song, I know they gonna love it. So yeah, I know when it’s right.

BE-NY: I’ve heard There Goes My Baby and Supa Sexxy featuring T-Pain. Supa Sexxy is definitely a club banger.

Charlie Wilson: That’s a club banger? (Laughs) Absolutely. And basically I’d love for you to let my record company know that that’s a club banger. Because I’m not trying to do too much. I don’t have to try and do anything because that record speaks for itself. It’s as simple as that, you know what I’m saying? That’s why I’m Uncle Charlie cause I can sing with whoever. I can sing with Babyface, I can sing with The GAP Band, I can sing with T-Pain and Jamie Foxx – it don’t matter!

BE-NY: Alright.

Charlie Wilson: That’s why they call me Uncle Charlie! Cause I am bridging the gap!

BE-NY: When you recorded Supa Sexxy, were Foxx and T-Pain in the studio?

Charlie Wilson: No. Only T-Pain was in the studio. T-Pain recorded four different songs, and we were gonna use all four of them. Now every time he did a track, my wife said “I like that track. Are you on there.” And he’s like; “shh” he made this little noise. And then the next track she said, “that’s nice, you gonna get on there?” And finally he just said, “I don’t know, I’m not singing with Uncle Charlie – he’s going to embarrass me.” And so finally he started this one track that ended up being Supa Sexxy. And my wife said, “T-Pain” he said, “I’m getting on this one!” He didn’t get a chance to finish, he just said “I’m getting on this one. This is hot to death! I should have had this one on my album.” He got right on it. Now Jamie… T-Pain played the record for all his friends, you know – so when he played it for Jamie, Jamie was like “Oh my gosh! I gotta get on that one!”

BE-NY: It’s kind of funny listening to the track and you
hear T-Pain and Jamie kind of comes out of no where saying, “yo this is Jamie Foxx, let’s get it…” so I really liked that.

Charlie Wilson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was like “I know you the greatest Uncle Charlie, but you ain’t doing this without me! Yo, this is J. Foxx – let me holla at her!” It was definitely some fun. He had fun recording it because we weren’t together. But after I heard it back, I was like “yeah he was doing his thing.”

BE-NY: Would you say it’s usually hard to collaborate with other artists on tracks?

Charlie Wilson: Yeah, because everybody’s busy, busy, busy trying to blaze their own careers up. So when you ask somebody to do a duet or something, it’s not that they don’t want to – it’s just that they don’t have the time to. It cause they’re always on the go trying to get their own thing together. You know, they already committed to somebody doing sixteen bars or somebody “I do this verse or this hook” for somebody. And I’m gonna take that time out while I’m doing my own thing. So it kind of scoots people back in the back. If somebody have time they be like, “Uncle Charlie? Hell yeah I can do that!” (Laughs)

BE-NY: After hearing the album, two songs I especially enjoyed were Let It Out featuring Snoop Dogg and Homeless, I really like the song Homeless. Will there be possible videos for these tracks?

Charlie Wilson: Man you know, I’m looking at my publicist Juanita over there. I would love to have videos for those. Snoop is ready to go on that one. He would in the drop of a hollow dime he would be ready to do it. Homeless… I would love to do a video for that one as well. We’ll see, we’ll see. Trying to get the label… Once we see what the next singles are, we can definitely tell what’s going to be videos for what.

BE-NY: You’ve worked with an array of artists throughout your career. Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell…

Charlie Wilson: Master P, Mystical. It goes, the list goes way back! Biggie… yo’ it goes back!

BE-NY: When you work the new school artists, what do you learn from them that you intertwine into your own music?

Charlie Wilson: How they write their beats and if I watch a song being born, I watch how they conceive it. It’s fun watching them how they do their thing. Because technology is different then from back in the day when we used to record. They way we used to record back in the day and the way you record now is totally different. I always enjoy how they write and how they record – I’m learning a lot from them as well. And once you stop learning, you minus well go on and sit it on down. Cause if you don’t think you got no more to learn – you out the game already.

BE-NY: What is the real secret as far as maintaining longevity in the music industry would you say?

Charlie Wilson: Man, I’ve been asked that question so many times and I still don’t think I got the right answer for it! Man, I think I’m just blessed man, I’m really blessed to be in this position where I am the only guy from my era, from anyone of my peers from back in the day to have a major record company to multi-million dollar record company deal. I’m the only one. So that’s a blessing right there. And to bridge the gap, the longevity part – I think it’s just the sound of my voice. You got to understand when I was in The GAP Band, we didn’t record for the era. See a lot of people was stuck in the era – that sound, just that one sound – it just was stuck. Like disco for instance. If you start playing Disco music and was recording Disco music – you was stuck! After that, then what? Disco went out – then what you gonna do? If you tried something else, that’s not your sound. So we was recording from the heart. And that continues all the way until now. My sound – I’ve just sing the way I’ve always sing. You can put my voice with any genre of music and it’s going to sound good. I think that’s why I’ve lasted this long. And of course the embracement of Hip-Hoppers. They have embraced me since the early nineties. So I just kept going. Everybody’s calling on Uncle Charlie for the hooks and different things. And then these elite producers – like Pharrell – who will have Uncle Charlie just go put the hook on somebody that’s real big – it just kept me going. So I think that’s one of the reasons.

BE-NY: What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of today’s R&B? For example the Beyoncé and the Usher’s – the ‘new school’ artists?

Charlie Wilson: Well I think a love song is a love song. If you have a great one, it’s timeless. And I really don’t think there’s any difference in a love song from back in the day up until today. The only difference is they have a different way of telling the story. The new generation… they have so many words that they singing. So it’s more like a book. When I first came out, the verses didn’t have that many words. You still said the same thing but you got to the chorus sing-along part. Now you got a sing-along part and then you got a B-section section in between and it’s sort of like, “what are you trying to say?” But everybody understands it see! And see that’s the reason why you have to get in where you fit in. I used to write them same kind of songs – it’s just a little bit different – but a love song is a love song. And if it’s a good love song then you winning anyways and it isn’t that much different.

BE-NY: Would you say ‘the artist makes the fans’ or ‘the fans make the artist?’

Charlie Wilson: The fans definitely make the artist! What you gonna do without fans? You gonna run around here ballin’ and all that spending a lot of money. And then reach another album – ain’t nobody buying it, then you gonna have to give up your ballin’! Cause you stallin! (Laughs)

BE-NY: Our magazine, BE-Entertained – tries to promote a lot of fresh new talent. The artists you see here in New York passing out demos in Times Square trying to get signed on and get noticed. For artist as such – coming up from ground zero – what words of encouragement do you have for them?

Charlie Wilson: Believe in yourself and never give up on your dream. Never give up! I don’t care what it might be – never give up on your dream. Don’t ever let anybody tell you, “you can’t” if you believe you can – you will. Yeah, don’t never give up. People was telling me all kinds of stuff – woulda, coulda, shoulda ten years ago. After I got clean and sober they told me “pssshh”, I mean nobody wasn’t paying me no attention. I’m like, “I’m clean, I’m sober. I can do this. I’m ready to do this!” It took ten years – ten years I was going from company to company and they was like “woulda, shoulda, coulda did it like ten years ago!” So I say never give up, never give up! Don’t tell me about nothing – no age, the way I look – cause I’m fenna sing your ass under the table! Come on! Excuse m
y French! (laughs) Let’s go – cause I’m gonna show you better then I can tell you! YEAH!

BE-NY: The music industry as a whole in comparison from when you started with The GAP Band is totally different. You see a lot of artists doing reality television shows, doing clothing lines, perfumes, colognes, wines. And then some stay in the spot light through tabloids and things going on in their personal lives. How do you feel about that as a well established artist? Is that just how artists are evolving now?

Charlie Wilson: Yeah, I think the artists that are out now – they need more than just a record to survive. It’s hard out here now. Like that song says, ‘It’s hard out here for a pimp’. It’s hard out here for a singer cause that’s the only thing they have. You gotta have more than just the record. And a lot of these guys can’t tour. See what I have is a fan base for many years. So I can go on shows any day of the week. And some of these people don’t have that. So they have to go after this, and this and this to expand. I’m glad that their getting it like that because back in the day a brutha ain’t fenna have a cologne and neither was a sister. Now, Elizabeth Taylor – she had her perfume, but you ain’t see no brutha or sister with no perfume! Now there are bruthas and sisters with perfume – that’s beautiful, that’s a beautiful thing. Now that let’s you know how everything has changed.

BE-NY: You recently went public with your diagnosis with prostate cancer. You’ve also became an advocate for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. How important is the awareness of this disease for men especially in the African-American community?

Charlie Wilson: Because it’s very important. One in three African-American men will develop prostate cancer – that’s just the truth! And this is a stage – like I do a lot of performing. So it’s time for me to do a lot of informing. I use the Prostate Cancer Foundation stage to inform bruthas that you have to go get tested because early detection is the key to long life. Because if you sit around and don’t get a test, man you gonna have some serious problems a little later on in life. So you have to just go –you gotta ‘man up’ and go get a test man. That’s all it takes – it’s a test. And know your family history cause your grandfather probably didn’t tell your father, and your father ain’t told you about it. See what I’m saying, because don’t nobody know because your grandfather didn’t never talk about it and your father never knew that his father died of prostate cancer. You see what I’m saying? Your father probably knew your grandfather died of something, but he didn’t know it was prostate cancer. So we have to know our family history and we have to share this knowledge. And that’s why I’m using this stage to share this knowledge. I have to speak on it. I HAVE TO speak on it!

BE-NY: Now is there a certain age that you should be getting tested, because I know it can be tested at your annual check ups.

Charlie Wilson: I don’t really know about if there’s really a certain age because I know of a brutha that’s in his thirties and he’s waited to late. So it don’t matter. Just go get a blood test and when you doing an annual check up – just check a PSA. And if its ‘000’ man you blessed. But every year, just check that number. And if you start getting a number, if some numbers starts showing up then every six months check that number. Check that PSA, get a PSA test. That’s all I’m sayin’! And my website,, not only can you see my videos and different things like that, but on you can see all the prostate cancer stuff and to donate to the Prostate Cancer Foundation – you can donate right there on I urge people, whatever you can give. Whether it be a dollar, five dollars – whatever. Because that goes to researchers and scientists to figure out why we’re getting prostate cancer now. Since PCF has been funding for these researchers, man it’s been a decrease of forty percent in prostate cancer. See what I’m saying? So if we can keep on funding these guys, we can figure out what’s giving us cancer. And this is why I urge for people to give whatever you can give. I know we’re in a recession right now. I know this economy is real bad right now. But if you have a dollar, if you have five dollars – that would be greatly appreciated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation because we need to figure out if we can stop it and nip it at the bud. If we find out something we can take to stop it then, man… I’m going to definitely be donating, I’m going to definitely be advocating, I’m going to definitely be talking on the music stage every where I can. I’m going to Iraq this month, the nineteenth – and I will be performing and informing those troops about prostate cancer. And we gonna be ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Yearning for Your Love’, and ‘Burning Rubber’, and ‘Early In the Morning’, and ‘Dropping A Bomb’, and ‘Charlie, Last Name Wilson’ and ‘Magic’ – we going to do it all over there! We going to have a good time, but I’m definitely going to continue and take this message to the third world.

BE-NY: As far as your treatments as of today, are they going well?

Charlie Wilson: I did a treatment called ‘radiation seed implanting.’ Now what that does, they went inside my prostate with some radiated seeds. And they go right to the source, right to the cancer source – and those radiation seeds only kill the cancer right there, and not any other cells outside the prostate. So, I’m fine right now. I’m in remission and man, I’m thanking God! Because of early detection. You see what I’m saying? Because my doctor told me, I got diagnosed in the latter of July. He told me “man this is February. If you hadn’t got early detection – you’d be in some serious problems and trouble right now.” Yeah, so early detection is the key!

BE-NY: Going back to your album Uncle Charlie, as far as promotions – you said you’d be doing the show in Iraq – what other venues do you have planned? Will you be doing in-store signings?

Charlie Wilson: Most definitely, I think there is a lot of stuff that is coming up that I know when I get back from Iraq that it will be a lot of promotional stuff that I will be doing. I will be doing… definitely a tour is coming shortly. Definitely the tour is coming.

BE-NY: Last question, how did you exactly get the name – Uncle Charlie?

Charlie Wilson: Well Snoop Dogg was the first one to start calling me that. And uh, 2Pac, then Pharrell – everybody from there! Mystikal, Master P – everybody started calling me Uncle Charlie. Dr. Dre… everybody started calling me that. Where ever I’m at walking down the street fans go, “there go Uncle Charlie!” So, I’m just ‘America’s Favorite Uncle!”

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