"Ray Charles told me, ‘If you feel it, then you know it’s right,’" says Jamie Foxx.
"He taught me how to feel."
The release of Foxx’s long-awaited J Records debut, UNPREDICTABLE, demonstrates the lessons
the Oscar-winner learned at the feet of one of music’s true giants. With a wide range of sounds and emotions, and a breathtaking list of guest stars adding to the mix, the one-time music student at San Diego’s United States International University finally fulfills his true dream. From the party-starting
first single "Unpredictable" to the smoldering "Love Changes," UNPREDICTABLE reveals an artist ready
to play in R&B’s big leagues. Of course, Foxx’s musical skills are no secret — the album follows his appearance on Kanye West’s #1 single "Gold Digger," which reprised the magic of their collaboration
on last year’s Grammy-nominated smash "Slow Jamz."
That hit was just one taste of Jamie Foxx’s recent unprecedented accomplishments. In addition to winning the 2005 Oscar Academy Award as Best Actor for his career-defining performance in Ray,
he was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for his part in Collateral, making him
just the second male actor with nominations for two different films in the same year. Those roles, in conjunction with his acclaimed turn in the FX Networks’ Redemption, led to him being the first person ever nominated for three acting awards at the Golden Globes and four SAG awards in one year.
But Foxx, 37, is quick to point out that music isn’t just a sideline to his history-making acting career. "I’ve been working on music for the last 15 years," he says. "I don’t do nothing sideways. If I’m gonna get it, I’m gonna get it 100 percent." He did much of the work on UNPREDICTABLE at his own home studio, and even on the set of his current production, Miami Vice, he’s been logging hours in a portable studio lent to him by super producer Timbaland (who manned the boards on the album’s
"Can I Take You Home").
In fact, Foxx says that the success and notoriety he’s enjoyed since his breakthrough performance in 1999’s Any Given Sunday is sometimes held against him when he focuses on a different medium.
"I’ve been told many times, ‘I know what you did on the acting side and the Oscars and all that, but that doesn’t mean anything on the music side!,’" he says. "And that’s completely wrong, because the medium of television has bashed that in the head. Music is visual now, as well."
To convince the skeptics, he says, "I had to make sure that the album was tight even if I didn’t have anybody to enhance it." But in the end, Foxx was also able to assemble a line-up of guests that reads like a Billboard Top Ten chart— Mary J. Blige, Ludacris, and Twista all add their flavors to UNPREDICTABLE, with production by Timbaland, Babyface and others.
Foxx says that these collaborations all came together naturally. "Those are my friends," he says.
"These are people I’ve formed relationships with over the years, thrown parties for, hung out with."
The Texas-born former star of In Living Color and The Jamie Foxx Show notes that these artists all share a drive and passion he was able to relate to and learn from. "They’re all going to be legends,"
he says. "They want to win—not just for the monetary thing, but for the soul and the spirit. That history does something fantastic to your body and your soul. If it feels that good in the studio, when it gets out there with that Clive Davis presentation, man, people are in trouble!"
Hooking up with Clive Davis—Chairman & CEO, BMG, US, and the music legend behind superstars
from Janis Joplin to Santana to Alicia Keys—was part of Foxx’s vision for his music career. In 2005,
he engineered a performance at Davis’s famous pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, as a
way to showcase his talent directly to the top. "I’d been to the Clive Davis party before," he says,
"and I was like, I know how it is, it’s high ground up in here, you got to come in legendary already.
So I used a little of my comedy to break the ice, and then slipped my singing in on them before they even knew what was happening." A performance of "Slow Jamz" alongside Kanye West and Twista led
to an impromptu sing-off with Alicia Keys and Angie Stone. By evening’s end, Davis was a believer and, says Foxx, "I knew I had performed in the right place for the right people at the right time."
True to the album’s title, Foxx points to a few songs on UNPREDICTABLE as the most surprising, and thus the ones he’s proudest of. "There’s a song called ‘I Wish You Were Here,’ about my grandmother," he says. "It’s a heavy, heavy song — we put it at the end of the album, because I want people to bump and grind and enjoy themselves before they get to that. That’s the one that measures your soul." The track "Til I Met Your Sister," he says, presents a new perspective on a slippery situation. "It’s about a guy having this infidelity with his girl’s sister," says Foxx, "but nobody ever has sung about that in a way where it’s not embarrassing, it’s not jokey, it’s really serious—like, we really did click and there’s no way I can fight it."
So did he feel any pressure in following Ray? Was it hard to find the motivation to be creative after giving the performance of a lifetime? Foxx waves off such concerns. "If you go to the mountaintop," he says, "and you hit the very top, even if you go down a hundred feet, you’re still on that mountain, and you can still see a whole lot of things. We got a lot of things we passed up ‘cause we were on our way
to the top. Now we’re gonna go down and maybe set up camp, have a barbecue down here, have a little party over there. That’s what we’re doing now.
"We just didn’t let the curtain go down," says Jamie Foxx with a laugh.
"We’re at the after party right now."