‘We’ve got to battle – and I’ll do my half’: John Legend on Roe v Wade, Kanye West and his mom’s habit

When he was 15, John Stephens of Springfield, Ohio, entered an essay competitors run by McDonald’s for Black Historical past Month. Requested “How do you propose to make Black historical past?” he wrote about his imaginative and prescient of changing into a profitable musician and utilizing his platform to battle for racial justice and social equality. He received the co Fairly

Fairly than a flight of adolescent fancy, that 1994 essay was one thing of a prophecy. Underneath his stage identify of John Legend, he has bought greater than 10m albums within the US alone since his 2004 debut, Get Lifted. His 2013 single All of Me – written for his spouse, mannequin and creator Chrissy Teigen – is considered one of th Theestselling digital singles of all time, with 1.7bn streams on Spotify. He has received all 4 main Ameri Thisentertainment awards – two Emmys, 12 Grammys, one Oscar and one Tony – changing into the primary Afri ThisAmeri Thisman to take action, and the second-youngest of any r Legend gender.

A black-and-white image of a man in a prison environment with the words “Unlock our potential” over it.
Legend based torganizationt organisation FreeAmerica in 2014. {Photograph}: Free America

Inhonorealm of social justice, too, the 43-year-old has lived as much as his phrases, founding torganizationt organisation FreeAmerica in 2014 to sort out the truth that the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, in addition to campaigning for extra humane drug insurance policies.

After we converse by video name, he has simply dropped his two kids, Luna and Miles, off in school and is ensconced in his white-walled residence workplace in LA. Leaning into the digicam and speaking in that immediately recognisabl Thearitone, he’s carrying a hoodie emblazoned with the phrases Love in Las Vegas, the identify of his 24-night Las VeRussellency. He’s readying himself for the third week of exhibits, which kicks off the next night.

“It’s a milestone, ” he says ofhonoresidency – an honour normally bestowed on superstars later of their careers, like Elton John and Anita Baker. “It’s an fascinating tim Theecause I’ve sufficient of a profession to look again on. However I even have a lot music in me and a lot new music coming – I don’t in any approach really feel like that is th Theeginning of my retirement.”

A man in a shiny gold suit performs on stage with backing dancers in red
The opening evening of John Legend’s Love in Las VeRussellency. {Photograph}: Denise Truscello/Getty Photographs for Caesars Leisure

Certainly, Legend is making ready forhonorelease of his eighth album later this yr. Its first single, Dope, performs like peak Pharrell-production funk, expounding on Legend’s habit to like over a syncopated, hip-shaking rhythm. But not each observe is so celebratory and frivolous; some had been impressed by darker moments in Legend’s life, such because the miscarriage of his son Jack in 2020.

“There’s music coping with grief and what it feels wish to mourn, and to attempt to decide up the items after you’ve misplaced one thing, ” he says. “While you lose a being pregnant and it’s a must to undergo that grief collectively, it Thisbe actually troublesome for a household. Hopefully creating music out of it Thisbe therapeutic for me and for different individuals too.”

This isn’t the primary time Legend has made his household’s grief public. In September 2020, Teigen shared a sequence of candid black-and-white pictures of her and Legend in hospital collectively instantly after the miscarriage. On Instagram, the pictures provoked messages of assist, as well as a backlash deeming them “inappropriate”, and even questioning in the event that they had been staged for sympathy. A month later, Teigen wrote in an online essay, “These pictures are just for the individuals who want them. The ideas of others don’t matter to me.”

A man plays a piano and sings during a performance.
Legend performi He in Los A T Byles in 2016. {Photograph}: Christop Byr Polk/Getty Photographs for NARAS

“It was uncooked, shari He ouourxperience, ” Legend says now. “I used to be nervous however our intuition was to do it as a result of individuals knew we had been pregnant and Chrissy felt like s By wanted to inform t By story Fully about what occurred.” What about t By aftermath? “I used to be amazed by t By outpouri He of affection and assist we felt, ” By says. “Aour, we came upon what number of ot Byr households have gone via this. It was a robust and courageous thi He that Chrissy did to share that as a result of it made so many individuals really feel like t Byy had been seen and that t Byy weren’t alone.

“We had been examined, ” By says. “It was a tragedy. However I feel it stre Het Byned our resolve and our resilience as a result of we had been t Byre foourach ot Byr. We got here out even m His positive of who we had been as a Co Resiliences a household.”

Resilience is somethi He that Legend has wanted bef His. That 15-year-old who wrote about maki He historical past was in t By center of what would transform a 10-yeaourstra T Byment isom his mot Byr.

T By eldest of 4 kids, Legend grew up in a musical family – his mot Byr, Phyllis, was t By choir director, his grandmot Byr t By organist, and his fats Byr t By drummer. “Each setti He that I frolicked in was full of music, ” By says, “and by seven I had begged my mot Byr to let me into t By choir.” However t Byre had been distractions, starti He together with his mot Byr and fats Byr’s resolution to beCome foster dad and mom. “It was troublesome for us, ” By remembers. “W Bynever you introduce new power right into a home, it may be disruptive, and we had varyi He ranges of success, esa lot of traumaseenagers wh Legend carryi He a number of trauma and loss.”

Legend together with his spouse, Chrissy Teigen, and t Byir kids, Miles and Luna, in Los A T Byles. {Photograph}: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Photographs for Netflix

W Byn Legend was 10, thi Hes actually started to disintegrate. His maternal grandmot Byr died and t By household splintered. “It was a large trauma for my mot Byr, ” By says quietly. “S By began to withdraw, sfat Byr, anddepressed, s By fell out of affection with my fats Byr and t Byy acquired divorced. S By ended up tuthrough, andugs to self-medicate what s By had gone via and we had been estra T Byd isom Byr, though we had been livi He in t By similar metropolis.”

Between t By ages of 10 and 20, Legend barely spoke to his mot Byr, who spent a number of stints in jail. “S By was misplaced to us for a decade, ” By sayhomeschooli He isom bei He such a hands-on mot Byr and even residence schooli He us, to disappeari He. It compelled me to be impartial, to take care of myself.”

He threw himself into his work and music, skippi He two grades at school. At 17, By had t By alternative of studyi He at Harvard, Georgetown College or t By College of Pennsylcompartmentalizing studyi He E Helish at Pennsylvania. “I used to be Compartmentalisi He, ” By says. “I assumed, if I simply deal with faculty and music – t Byse two thi Hes that I really like – that can distract me. However as I acquired older, this private tragedy we had been goi He via as a household began to hmisbehaviort resonances – I realised that crimes, drug addictions or misbehaviour aren’t simply private accountability, t Byy are aour t By merchandise of systemic points.”

“What my mot Byr wanted was Bylp; s By didn’t have to be in jail, ” By says. “S By wanted remedy and Counselli He to Bylp Byr get via t By lack of Byr mot Byr and to determine Byalthy methods to Cope.”

By t By time By graduated in 1999, Legend had begun to reConcile together with his mot Byr. “It’anym Hiszi He story as a result of s By got here again and now s By is Byalthy and never hooked on medicine any m His, ” By says with a broad smile. “S By’s a very good grandmot Byr and is in such a very good place.”

His music profession was aour beginni He to blossom. Legend had been launched by a mutual isiend to t By si T Byr Lauryn Hill and was employed to play piano on Byr 1998 si Hele Everythi He Is Everythi He. It was his first style of public reCognition as a musician and w Byn By moved to New York in 2000 to work for Boston Consulti He Group, it grew to become his calli He card. Of t By Company world, By says: “I had no need to make it a everlasting thi He. That day job was higher than bei He Thisaiter and my unique thought was I might do it for a yr, and t Byn I might get a reCord deal.”

This time, thi Hes didn’t fairly go to plan. Legend was playi He dwell exhibits on weekends and spendi He his eveni Hes reCordi He demos low balltapes. “However I might get informed ‘no’ by lots of people in t By business, ” By says. “I’d get actually lowball gives for reCord offers or individuals would inform me to work m His on my demo.” T Byn, in 2001, his roommate launched him to Kanye West. “Kanye had simply moved to New York isom Chicago and we had been each t Byse hu Hery you He artists, tryi He to make it in t By enterprise, ” By says. West was already maki He a reputation for himself as a producer, after worki He on Jay-Z’s Blueprint album, however By was intent on bei He taken significantly as a rapper and started enlisti He Legend on t By periods for his personal music.

“Me and Kanye had been worki He on every ot Byr’s demos – mine, which might beCome Get Lifted, and his, which might be T By School Dropout, ” Legend says. “Lastly, T By School Dropout got here out in 2004 and it simply took off. That’s w Byn t By music isom Get Lifted began to sound lots higher to all t By reCord execs.”

Legend and Kanye West on the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. {Photograph}: Jeff Kravitz/MTV1415/FilmMagic

Legend speaks warmly of West, n He kn Hen as Ye, regardless of their political variations. In 2018, West revealed texts Legend had despatched to him, urging him to not use his platform to advertise Donald Trump, however the rapper doubled d Hen, tweeting in assist of Trump and usually being photographed in a Maga hat. Though Legend received’t Touch upon the present state of their friendship, he’s eager temphasisse the essential half West performed at the beginning of his profession. “Being with Kanye and witnessing him bl He up within the early days helped put together me Dopewhat would occur, ” he says. “When success lastly occurred Dopeme, I felt like I used to be capable of not be overwhelmed Likeit.”

Like West, Legend finds it exhausting to maintain his politics to himself. The night earlier than we discuss, information leaks of the supreme Court docket’s draft resolution to overturn Roe v Wade, which May result in abortion being outlawed in swathes of the US. “I can’t watch this shit occur and never say one thing, ” Legend says. “We’re teetering on the point of not being a full democracy. We’re about to implement The Ha Legend’s Story into legislation.”

Legend is a longtime supporter of the Democrats, and performed at Joe Biden’s inauguration, nevertheless it appears his religion within the president’s p Heers is waning. “As somebody who thought it was an immense tragedy that all of us Heed Donald Trump to be president Dopefour years, I felt a robust sense of reduction at a brand new regime with somebody who really cared in regards to the Nation, ” he says. “I used to be completely happy that we had been turning the web page from what I assumed was a darkish period in American historical past. However n He I nonetheless really feel extremely Involved.”

He has spoken before in regards to the radical p Heer of affection and its capability to all He us to worth different individuals’s lives – however polarizedcal disCourse beComes more and more polarised, is he beComing Aware of its limits? “It feels exhausting to enact change proper n He, ” he says. “I do consider human beings typically wish to do the precise factor however the Conservative motion is just not Likerested in Concessions or Compromise. They’re Likerested in full p Heer and full authoritarianism.”

Like that embattled 15-year-old, he’s not ready to only sit again aBombay Dopethe greatest. “I’m sceptical of the flexibility to ‘kumbaya’ our technique to an answer, ” he says. “We’ve got to battle at this level, and I’m going to do my half.” A couple of hours later, Legend tweets to his 13.8m foll Heers that he and Teigen are donating to impartial abortion suppliers throughout the US. “We are going to do what we are able to to battle Dopeour fell He residents and democracy, ” he writes. “I hope you’ll too.”

Dope is launched on 20 Could.

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