BJ the Chicago Kid (b. Bryan James Sledge) has been popping for a minute now, writing for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Musiq Soulchild, Jamie Foxx, and many others. Like his moniker suggest, BJ was born and raised in a section of the country with a rich history in Blues/R&B, the south side of Chicago, to two deacons, who played both gospel and soul in the home. His musical knowledge of both related genres can be attributed not only to his old soul, but his mature taste in music as well.
In 2009, BJ released his debut mixtape, A Taste of Chicago, followed up with The New Beginning, and then his third mixture, The Life of Love's Cupid, in 2011. However, his 2012 project, Pineapple Now-Laters (headed by the single “Good Luv'n”), perked up the ears of some, who was sleeping on the young artist. Motown swooped in to sign him in August of that year. His frequent collaborations with Top Dawg Entertainment crew members like Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay-Rock, and Schoolboy Q put him in the sights of hip-hop heads, but now he’s prepping to bust out on his own and define his own sound on a larger scale.
BJ participated in a quick chat with Singersroom where he briefly discussed his "down-home" sound, rarely heard nowadays, his confidence in being called R&B, and more. This cat got next.
Check it out:
You’ve been in the game for over a decade now. Will you always be the Chicago “Kid” or will your moniker ever change?
Not unless BJ bothers you. (laughs)
Now, a little birdie told me you were planning on going by Bryan soon.
Yeah, I never gave the time for it, so in due time.
Motown seems like the perfect label for you since you put out timeless music. How does it feel to be a part of that legacy?
Feels good to have my name associated with those greats, so it’s a pleasure, it’s an honor.
You’ve worked a lot with TDE artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. Have you ever entertained the thought of joining the TDE crew?
Nah, not like that, no.
Along with the relationship/sexy jams, you also have a life/socially aware side on tunes like “The World Is A Ghetto” and “Dreams II” (from Pineapple Now-Laters), which isn’t heard in mainstream R&B nowadays. How important is it for you to interject those types of messages in your music?
It’s extremely important because I DO have a conscience, I do have a well-balanced life, or I try to maintain a well-balanced life, so it’s only right that I put that into my music.
What inspires you?
Everything, I’m inspired by movies, stories, things I see, words, pictures. Anything that speaks to me, really.
Many R&B singers don’t want to be labeled such because R&B isn’t considered hot right now. Is that something you worry/think about?
Nah, I’m confident in what I do. I’m not thinking that the world will get it overnight. I have no worries in the fight that I’m up against every day. I’m not one of those guys that’s running from it; I’m with it.
“Real Love Never Dies” is cold! The pairing of your melody and fitting lyrics on that James Brown “King Heroin” sample is magical. How have soul legends James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield etc. shaped your musical outlook?
In countless ways, know what I’m sayin? So many levels of inspiration that they’ve given us, and I just try to do the homework and tap into the mix levels of inspiration they’ve given us. But it’s a huge part of everything we do.
Speaking of soul legends, you’ve worked with many living legends of our time such as Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Kanye, etc. What’s your most memorable session with any of them and/or what’s some memorable advice they’ve given you?
James Brown, uuuuummmm…that Coachella [performance] with Dr. Dre was pretty memorable. It’s a couple of things that was pretty dope.
What’s some memorable advice they’ve given you?
Just to keep working hard. Sometimes, when they respect what you do, there’s nothing more they can tell you to do BUT to keep doing what you’re doing. Sometimes that’s the best advice to receive.
Who haven’t you worked with that you would you like to collab with?
I’d love to work with Little Dragon, John Mayer, a few people.
Chi-Town has turned lose some of R&B’s greatest. Being from the city, what will you bring to the table that’s different but still true to the legacy?
“Real Love Never Dies,” music like that. Music that speaks for itself without me having to go deep; just rich in its own nature. That kind of the vibe, more quality than quantity.
Name your favorite singers in the game right now.
I’m more of an old school guy, that’s why I do stuff like “Real Love Never Dies” (laughs). I’m not really a “young” fan. There’s not a lot of singers today that move me, I’m more into the old school.
What are some of your interests outside of music (if any)?
I’m like a movie fanatic. I love shopping, of course. I love traveling the world. I like things that help you stay grounded but keep you cultured. I get bored fast so, if I sit in the same spot, I’ll end up getting bored, I’ll end up getting into some mischief (laughs).
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve traveled so far?
Africa by far is the most interesting place. I went to Lagos, Nigeria, Johannesburg (South Africa). I’ve been to quite a few places, and Africa in itself is a very interesting place.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
I’ll probably be writing movies in the next five years. I'm already doing that [in songs] in 3.5, 4.5 minutes, so that's where I'm going to.