A small crash course: Dr. Mathew Knowles is the brilliant mastermind that brought us Destiny’s Child before music began its transition from primitive Rhythm & Blues, to flat out R&B and Pop with a little Neo Soul on the side.
Knowles is founder, President and CEO of Music World Entertainment, INC. He has a Masters in Business and Strategic Planning as well as a Doctorate in Business Administration for Strategic Leadership and Organization Culture. He received a Doctorate of Humane Letters from his Alma Mater, Fisk University; however he spends a great deal of his time lecturing at Texas Southern University.
The historian finds absolution in truth, and will stop at nothing to enlighten readers, by strategically sharing anecdotes in his tomes.
In fact, Knowles released two books, The DNA of Achievers, and Racism: From the Eyes of a Child.
He recently published his sophomore manuscript, The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music. The prodigy said that he’s touring the book in South Africa, Cornell University and a few other places. “I enjoy writing, I enjoy researching and I enjoy learning. I enjoy sharing that knowledge, because a little knowledge is a little power, and a lot of knowledge, the worlds is ours,” says Knowles metrically.
Dr. Knowles is known for throwing caution to the wind as he challenges readers with thoughtful titles that stimulate the brain in a unambiguous manner. He also has a knack for weighty storytelling.
“It seems as though that I have the ability to come up with these unique titles. This came about a different way. I taught at Texas Southern University for 8 years, and fall semester of last year, I was asked to teach a third class. It was a special topics class. I didn’t know how many students I had. There was no topic. Literally, on my drive to the university, I came up with this course title, “Emancipation of Slavery Through Music,” because I wanted my students to do research. That’s something a lot of our HBCU’s don’t do. I wanted them to research the impact that music had on slavery, and the impact on post slavery, even up till today. I shared credits with those 10 students at Texas Southern University as co-writers of this book.”
‘Most people don’t know that slavery in America is from 1526 to 1867. It means that my great grandfather was born a slave. My great, great, grandfather, was a slave. That’s not far removed from now, which explains as I researched, some things that I didn’t understand about black folks like, the reason we like to dance and sing. When those 4.5 million slaves came to America, and when they got in those ships, it would take two years to get to America. They would hum and chant, cry, and that’s the way it helped them get through. It was medicine for them, and all the suffering that they were enduring at the worst of times. That’s what this book is about, telling those stories—Telling how during slavery that they used to have codes in those songs that tell them when and how to escape.”
Knowles said that depending on the era and artistry, whether R&B, Jazz, Pop or Gospel, listeners should still feel inspired by the messages thumping in music today. He also said that Solange was his favorite artist, that’s unafraid to speak her truth through song.
Knowles with daughters Beyonce and Solange/ Photo Credit: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
“Solange is unafraid—She is not afraid to speak her truth through music. I admire Solange tremendously, especially this last album. She spoke her truth, like, “Hey, regardless of who I am, when I get to the gate to where I live, I gotta go through all these explanations of why I should be there. We saw that recently with T.I in Atlanta. I love that. I love how she almost uses poetry to tell a story, and that’s what music is about. It’s touching that muse inside of us. Music is derived from the word muse, which is that spiritual thing, that feeling and belief that’s inside of us.”
“I didn’t know 20% of the slaves that came through America were Muslims, the 12.5 million slaves,” says Knowles when asked about his favorite subject from the book. “It’s fascinating to me, when I look at the instruments like drums, the banjo, and the harp, were all created in Africa.”
While talking about the countless elements of music, it seemed pivotal to ask Dr. Knowles his thoughts about the passing of Aretha Franklin, the woman whose voice was declared a natural resource circa 1985 or 1986 by the Michigan Legislature.
“She was an icon, but more importantly, when we look at her death, and we look at people from around the world who came to honor her and celebrate her life—It shows the impact she had on the world. That song, “RESPECT," a lot of people don’t realize and understand what she meant in those lyrics. She was asking for respect in her relationship, asking for respect as a woman, asking for respect. That was a big song. That’s where we are today as Black People, African Americans, Bohemian Americans, Brown People—We are wanting respect, and that’s the challenge we have in America today, is getting the respect from the majority that will soon be a minority."
Speaking of respect, Knowles talked about his views on the misappropriation of music exhaustively. “I have mixed emotions. You know, as someone who has been in this field, now, for thirty years. Beyoncé is unquestionably the number one female artist in the world right now, and the success from a lot of my artist like Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan and the OJ’s, the ones I’ve had the opportunity to put out an album and work with. I think in a way, imitation is also paying homage. I don’t look at it negatively. This is not intellectual when someone does a dance. It’s not intellectual property how someone dresses, so I look at it differently than the way a lot of people look at it. My favorite artist is Justin Timberlake. I think he’s dope, but someone else may look at it and say he’s trying to be black. I think Justin Timberlake has artistic value as an artist, and he can do that. I don’t think there is color in artistry.”
As someone who identifies racism at the core, he acknowledges other inequities going on in the world like the partiality with Colin Kaepernick.
“I’m proud of him. He’s paid a dear price. Sometimes we have to pay a dear price to get our message out. That’s part of being a leader in leadership. I’m so proud that he got an endorsement deal without being on a team. I hope that our people understand, and especially our young people understand that [sacrafice]. A lot of millennials don’t understand. They feel as though life is equal. It’s not. It’s not,” he spoke agitatedly, fed up with the ones that don’t get the bigger picture, and equally appreciative for the ones that do.
“There is people in power that want to eliminate us off the United States of America. If we don’t exercise our right to vote, all of us—Young, old, black, brown, if we don’t exercise our right to vote in this November election, it’s going to be a price that we’re going to pay as people. Some folks don’t understand how important it is. I talk about this in my book, “Racism: From the Eyes of a Child… I’ve gotten beaten, I’ve gotten jailed, and I’ve gotten hit by electric prodders so I could have that right [to vote].
'They’ve also created major policies in senate for music. Before the 60’s, the artist that didn’t get any revenue for songwriting, the policy is giving them an opportunity to make money. Our elders, jazz and blues artist, that never made the kind of money that artist today are making in music, it’s because they got it taken from them. They didn’t know any better. They didn’t have the representation.”
Knowles spoke sobering facts— Even in interview, he is glaringly erudite, which is the reason his books are so popular.
This brings us to the closing of such a fulfilling convo-- If you’re none the wiser, and want to know about the origin of “work songs,” and its systematic usage through common people, grab a copy of The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music.
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