Nelson George: Where were you on Jan. 1, 1980?
Marcus Miller: I was just walking up and down Broadway in New York from one studio to another, playing sessions. I’d just been out in Roberta Flack’s band, where Luther Vandross was a backup singer [Marcus later helped produce some of Luther’s best records]
Nelson: How old were you?
Marcus: Twenty. I’d already been playing sessions for six or seven years.
Nelson: What did you think of hip-hop then?
Marcus: Well, the very first stuff, before Sugar Hill Gang, before any big records came out, the rhythm was all wrong. Just wack. But once they got that right, I kind of liked it. But only as, you know, a novelty thing. I was in a music store and this guy showed me one of the first 808 drum machines. That was something brand new to me. The guy says: “You know, this
drummer will never play too fast or too slow and he’s never late for the gig.” I found that, ummm….interesting. Then hip-hop just kept expanding to new levels and…. [let’s out an
explosion of air].
Nelson: What did Miles think of hip-hop?
Marcus: He got it immediately. He said to me: “Marcus, we’ve got to get with this. We’ve got to do this. This is the new shit.” Of course, Miles had already completely changed up four or
five times by then.
Nelson George, author of The Death of Rhythm & Blues and the new book Post-Soul Nation; Marcus Miller is a bandleader, fabulous multi-instrumentalist, and perhaps overall Miles Davis’s closest collaborator.