Music mogul Jeff Redd called us and told us about fatherhood
Mount Vernon, N.Y. – This is the continuation of our conversation with R & B star and star-maker, Jeff Redd, who while building his own singing career, received a demo tape of a young lady singing Anita Baker’s Angel. The young lady singing went on to become known as the Queen of Hip Hop Soul – none other than the one and only Mary J. Blige. She traveled and sang background for him so she could learn the business. We discuss the early days and how fatherhood or the lack of fathering informed his early decisions.
Jeff Redd: Jeff Redd (here).
NY Fatherhood Examiner: How are you doing Mr. Redd?
Jeff Redd: Wonderful and how are you?
NY Fatherhood Examiner: I am excited to be alive!
Jeff Redd: (laugh) I love it! That’s a good thing! I love it!
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Mr. Redd, I understand you performed last night
Jeff Redd: The Shadow had a grand opening in Manhattan. Fonda Ray and [I performed]. It was pretty cool, sold out – jam packed. We had a good time.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: That’s very good. I always start out with prayer. So will say this quickly.
HEAVENLY FATHER, I thank YOU for YOUR Grace and Mercy – first of all for YOUR FATHERHOOD. YOU made us in YOUR image and likeness, so fatherhood is very near and dear to YOUR Heart. Help us to speak words that are wise, that may be edifying to others. Let the words of our moUth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable, not only in YOUR Sight but so that others may take what is said and run with it – that they may apply YOUR Wisdom and grow as fathers. We are little abbas and YOU are the all capitals – ABBA. We thank YOUFOR your Grace And Mercy and as we go into this we honor YOU and thank YOU in JESUS name – Amen.
Jeff Redd: Amen. Amen.
Mr. Redd, Sol Real Record and MCA, doing A & R, I know you started in Mount Vernon at the age of 17. I know your parents may have had something to do with your success or you had mentors. Tell me about you family life, what was it like growing up in Mount Vernon? What are some of the thing from back then that has contributed to you becoming the quality artist and executive that you have become?
Jeff Redd: Well, I was raised in Mount Vernon and my father died when I was 8 years old. So, my mother had to raise my sister and I all alone. She never remarried. I’m talking about a woman who comes from the South, who believed in honor, respect and integrity. She never had a man laying up around us. So, growing up, it was interesting because, we were raised by a woman. A lot of guys saying they were raised by a strong woman; but, I do not care how strong a woman is, a woman cannot raise a boy up to be a man. Like my mother, she raised me to be a good person, who can provide for himself. I can cook, clean. I can do a lot of things, like I teach my son; but, she can’t tell you the things a man would tell you. So, a lot of things I’ve learned were trial and error. I did have uncles but, you are talking about coming up in a time when men didn’t really sit and talk to their sons. They were busy out working and we would go to school. You would come home do your homework. The conversations were very short and never anything extremely enlightening. They did not talk a lot.
So, now let us fast forward to me. I talk with my children every chance I get. I have to tell them something to help them get ready go out into this world. It has been an interesting journey thus far. I have four sons. One is 17. I have twins that are 12 and I have a six year old and we always talk. There are three things I tell them.
1) tell the truth;
2) be the best you can be and
3) make a difference.
Those are three things we talk about all the time. How are you going to be the best and how are you going to make a difference? It’s good. I just enjoy talking to my sons, seeing them grow up and understand who they are because they are each individuals. You cannot teach one the same way you teach the other. I just love it.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Awesome! You have hit on some important principles for fatherhood. You said you did have uncles. Did you have a male mentor? What gave the picture of fatherhood and manhood that helped you become the man you are? Was it the lack of a father being there?
Jeff Redd: It was definitely the lack of having a father. It was definitely the lack of having someone to talk to. Then being 8 years old and your father dies…You kind of know what death is but cannot comprehend it and grasp it. At that point somebody comes and tells you…One of the dumbest things is telling an 8 year old that he is now the man of the house. That was told to me.
To me a man is somebody who handled his business, did not cry and if he has a problem, he works it out himself. These are all things I thought a man was and I was totally wrong. I did not have anyone to come in and show me differently.
When I got older, I realized that, one – I had to make it happen. I was the one that was providing for my mother. When I was trying to get into the record business, I was not taking no for an answer. By the grace of GOD, I have got to make this happen. I tried to make it happen early. My mother did not want me to get into the record business because of the rumors she had heard if you get into the business they would end up on drugs. I had to wait until I was 17 years old to start performing. I did local shows. I never once thought about not making it. I did not know when I was going to make it but I believed that I was going to make it.
When I first saw James Brown at the Apollo that is when I said to myself, that is what I am going to do. Then when Soul Train came on around 1971, I said I would be on Soul Train. I did not know how I was going to do it. I did not have a clue. I guess I willed it to myself and wanted it so bad that it happened. The morning I was on Soul Train, I said to myself, Oh snap – I am here.
I remember having a conversation on BET Video Soul’s Donnie Simpson. He was asking me who I wanted to work with and all of the people I named on the interview I wound up working with. This is why I tell people you have to be careful of the words that come out of your mouth. Not even just the words but what you think. For there are such a thing as brainwaves; where, you can sit down and think about something and come a year later [and some will have an idea]. You will say ‘Oh snap, I had that same idea’. Once you think [something], it goes out into the universe and once you speak it, it goes out into the universe.
It is an interesting journey. You have to surround yourself with positive people. I tell my sons that all of the time. I know that they are going to make mistakes. I know that they are going to have to learn some things on their own. My job is to give them a basic foundation of what they need in order to help them determine [the right or wrong] in the decisions that they make. I am not trying to teach what to think. I am trying to teach them how to think.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Powerful, powerful, powerful – you spoke with the prophetic heart of a father. You give children hope and you give children warning. At Furthering Fathering we have principles. It forms the acronym H.E.A.R.T. – it stands for honor, encouragement, accountability, reconciliation and training. You touched on pretty much all of them. No wonder your sons seek to honor you because you exhibit that determination. Not only in your professional life but as a dad. That is very commendable. Did you have mentors? Is there anyone that you looked up to that helped model manhood, fatherhood even in your professional career?
Jeff Redd: I really didn’t, man. Honestly, I had uncles; I had a godfather who was a garbage man. My father was a garbage man. He and his wife always got a new Cadillac every 2 or 3 years. They always traveled to Kentucky to the Derby every year. I thought that was kind of cool. He took me to A.J Lester to get my first leisure suit.
I would see my regular uncles and they would just go to work. They would go to work, come home, eat, go to bed or go to another job because they had 2 or 3 jobs. That is all I would see, so none of them really had an impact on me. My mother had an impact because I used to see her work. However, as far as a man or male figure, honestly as far as things that you wanted, I look at some of the street entrepreneurs. They had some of the things I wanted. I did not want to do what they did to get them. But I knew I could get those same things they got.
The thing that alarms me about the children today, mine included, is that these kids do not dream enough. While talking to my sons and my little cousins, I’ll ask ‘what do you want to be [when you get older]?’ A lot of them are not sure yet. By the time I was 10 I knew I wanted to get into the record business. I just do not understand how it is that you do not know what it is that you want to do in life. I had to understand that not everybody is in touch with who they are. That comes with intuition and knowing, receiving and identifying the gift. Also, it is knowing that GOD gives you all that you need.
I tell people this all the time. You are working. There is nothing wrong with working. You have to pay your bills but you already have everything that you need – GOD gives it to you. Now, identifying what it is, then understanding how to utilize it are two different things. That is what I am telling the kids today. Just dream.
I have had several conversations with young brothers and I ask them what they want to do in life. They’re response is ‘I just want to make money’. I did that. I chased money. However, when you chase money there is never enough. I do not care how much you make, it is never going to be enough. So you have to be able to do something that your heart desires. I did a show last night and I got paid but it did not even feel like work because I was so excited to do the show. I was so excited for the crowd, it did not even seem like work but I called it work.
GOD gave me a skill and a talent and HE blessed me with a couple of records that have been played on the radio for the last 22 or 23 years. I have been able to eat off of that. I actually stopped for 15 years and became an executive. I stopped – I did not perform anything because it was not fun anymore. Thank GOD I was able to get an A&R gig at MCA. I went to make all of the K-Cee and Jojo records. I worked with a lot of different people. It all worked out by the grace of GOD.
A lot of the things that happened to me – just happened. This is something I also like to tell people, you have to be available. A lot of people are not available because they are consumed with a lot of stuff that really does not matter. You have got to make yourself available and keep moving because you are going to run into things. That is how it was when we were out there trying to make it.
I will never forget. I was trying to get [into] Uptown Records. I was doing shows and trying to make a name for myself. Eventually Andre [Harrell], came to one of my shows and I got my deal from there. Had I not been out [there] performing, and just trying to shop for deals, maybe I would not have made it.
You have to dream. You have to be able to go after your dreams. There is a sacrifice to that. You have to sacrifice for things. When I was in A&R, a lot of guys would come to the office with these demos that sound terrible but they had on $300 sneakers, belts, hats and gear and would say ‘you’ve got to fake it until you make it’. I would say you are faking it but the wrong way. You have to put the money back into what you are doing. Everybody believes you just have to look the part in order to get it.
You hear a lot of that now with people branding themselves – fake it until you make it. You have to be real specific when it comes to that because people are now seeing through a lot of things and you have to be able to be transparent.
All of these impressions that they get – so many distractions. That is all that it is – distractions.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: So it makes the voice of the father so much more important, because they have so many voices pulling them in a lot of directions. They have digital. They have audio, they have video. They have school. They have what is accepted legally and politically – but that does not speak to what is right and what is wrong. That is why fatherhood is a position of government. You look at Abraham and all of those people in the Bible. They said the family of – and those families became nations.
Jeff Redd: Absolutely. That’s right.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: So fatherhood is a kingdom-government position. So what you do say is very, very important. You did not get those voices when you were young but you still realize the importance and value. So, you speak to your sons authoritatively in love – giving them both the hope and the warning, which is what a prophet does. You go to GOD for them and you have the authoritative voice to give boundaries. That is very powerful. Now, we at Furthering Fathering do some youth leadership workshops with the acronym L.O.V.E., which stands for leadership, observation, value and empowerment. We were just talking about what they are receiving and how they see things and how you see the change. They are new and do not see how things were. How do you relate that to your sons?
Jeff Redd: I relate it a lot through music. We do a lot through music. I play them music and I always joke with them. I’ll say, ’now this is music’. I will show them how, in the [music industry] in the 60’s, they used to dress and compare it to how they are dressing now. The metaphors I use a lot are entertainment and music because that is all they know – what Drake says and what Drake wears and the same with Lil’ Wayne. I say to them look at this guy with all of these tattoos on his body. Most people do not realize that tattoos can destroy your liver because you have ink sitting in your body.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Exactly.
Jeff Redd: I will never forget. My friend did a show in Dubai. A gentlemen said to him he would pay him a sizable amount of money if you can get me three livers. We have all these tattoos and now our livers are shutting down because of the ink in our system.
I told them that story. I tell them about how it is significant, and what it means to have your pants hanging off of your behind. My oldest son – I caught him a couple of times. I checked him right away. You know what I am saying. I do not have the perfect kids but I had to let him know.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: None of us do (Laugh)
Jeff Redd: I was like, “Yo Money, what are you doing? You cannot be serious; Man. Do not do that around me and if I catch you doing it there will be consequences. That is another thing I try to explain to them. I do not want to visit you in jail and you say you did it because somebody told you to do [it]. You mean somebody used your brain for you. That is basically what happened. I try to teach them those things as well. There is so much that you have to teach them and you are not going to teach them everything.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: That’s right but father pressure has to have more PSI than peer pressure. They are impressionable and what we say has to have impact and weight. So, we have to tell them the right things. With my eldest son, if I had to say something to him to straighten him out, he would say with a sulk, I’m not your friend. I would respond, saying you are right. I am not your friend because being a father is better than being a friend.
Jeff Redd: That’s right. I like that.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: So, you have children that are 17, 12 and 6. So you are dealing with teens – the pants sagging was the teen. When you look into the eyes of your six year old what do you see?
Jeff Redd: In my 6 year old the interesting thing I see is that he is a dreamer. I see a lot of what we were in him. The twelve year old I see more who is staying their heads about right and wrong. The 17 year old – if you do not catch kids before they are 8 or 9 years old, its over. They have already formed their opinion about who they are. The 17 year old, by the grace of GOD, is doing very well in school. He is a senior in high school and he is going to college – and thinking about. I love it. I went to community college and I really did not do anything because it just was not my thing.
Hindsight is 20/20. Everybody is coming to me about getting into the record business – some with talent and some do not have talent. My main thing is if you want to get into the music business go to school for music. I won Grammys American Music Awards; Soul train Awards all kind of awards but cannot read or write music. So, I went totally backward. I tell them imagine if you get your degree in music they try and go out there and try and make it in the music business and it does not happen; then you can always go into a university and make $150K. Or you can go somewhere and be able to teach and train people and have a very decent life. So do not follow my path. My path is a path that is not really taken a lot. I had so much determination. Of course it happened by the grace of GOD but I had so much determination and strong will because I did not have a father – because I was told I was the man of the house. There was something in me to make want to do better and help others. I have been able to help others. I have been able to discover a Mary J. Blige. I was able to do other things that a lot of people did not do.
Another thing I teach my kids is that it is good to give and help others. They see me do that. My sons do not live with me. They come and stay with me for the summer and they stay with me for the holidays. I keep them the whole summer. That is when I’m able to work on them and have a good time. They get to see daddy work. If they come up one summer I may be a property manager. Then they come up the next summer and I am doing shows every other weekend. They go with me to the shows and see how I work. They have always seen how I work and make money. I want to show them that.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: I am the father of a blended family like yourself and visitation is not always regular and sometimes the distance makes the heart grow fonder. It gets you to concentrate on what you are going to say.
Jeff Redd: Yeah that’s true
NY Fatherhood Examiner: How is dealing with blended family, your professional life and those times. No one takes seriously the tears or heart of a man when he is missing his children. Those times when you do not have them what is that like?
Jeff Redd: It is difficult. When I am not with them I am with my mother. I was back and forth between California and New York. Seven years ago, I had to come and put her on dialysis. During that time dialysis was really deteriorating her body. [She had] broke her hips and getting ready to get her knees replaced. These are all things they see me go through. They have seen me pick her up and put her into bed, cook for her, dress her. When I am not with them, I have to take care of my mother.
I am thinking about them all of the time. I call them. I got to hear their voice. My thing is to be consistent with that. That is the only thing that kids understand is consistency. I have not always been the best with that. They know my heart and they know I am out there making it happen for them.
With my youngest child, I was a single parent for a year and a half. His mother was in between jobs and relocating. I just took him. I put him in day care. I volunteered at the daycare. He has seen his daddy fry fish to raise money for the daycare. He has seen me do shows for the city of Mount Vernon, running their entertainment program for the summer.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Wow! I work in the Mount Vernon School District as well.
Jeff Redd: Cool. When they are not there I focus on Mom. I make sure they have a place to stay, food to eat and clothes to wear. That is my job as well.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Since you have all boys, and they see how you relate to your mother, how do you teach them to relate to women who are not their family?
Jeff Redd: That is interesting. I do not have a bunch of women around my sons. I never did. I had one lady in particular but I never have women around my sons. I got that from my mother who never had men around us. Now I am sure she had men friends but we did not see it. It is the same with me and my sons. I see a lot of guys having different women and their kids see them with different women; however, there women I have been talking to for years that still have not seen my sons. That is not how I get down. They have met someone one time and that was somebody really special that I am thinking about spending the rest of my life with. I have a real strict policy about that.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: That is big for very often we look at honor as something that is only given upward. Like in Exodus 20, first commandment between human relationships it says honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land…but very often we miss that honor can be downward to the next generation where we honor their innocence. That is exactly what you are doing. You are honoring their innocence and their space.
Jeff Redd: Right. Absolutely.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Very powerful
Jeff Redd: And I smoke cigars. I go outside and they have never seen me. They may have some idea since I come in and smell like smoke; but they have never seen me smoking. In certain things, as parents say, a kid should stay in a kids place. They are robbed of their innocence at such an early age now. I want to try and keep some of that intact. You have to respect your children because here we are and I am now becoming a parent to my mother. So imagine if my mother was running the streets.
Imagine if some man would come up here and say boy sit down. Thinking about it now – I did not forget any of that. Kids do not forget. I do not want to have my sons throw stuff back up in my face. Of course years from now they will ask why are you not with my mother. I will explain that to them at the right time. Right now, it did not work out and that’s it. I will explain it to you when you get older.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: I also hear you say by the grace of GOD. Where does the Heavenly Father stand in this whole picture for you, especially HIS grace?
Jeff Redd: Well, it has always been like that. My mother taught us early and no I was not in church every Sunday. We would go to church and I would see my mother pray. We would pray every New Year’s Eve right before 12 o’clock. Everybody was on their knees praying bringing in the New Year with GOD. From an early age, GOD has been able to take me at 8 years old with no father in my life brought me up to dream and do anything that I wanted to do. I was able to do. That is why I always say by the grace of GOD go I. I am not perfect. He has taken me and HE knows my heart. That is what people do not understand. Karma is reaction to an action. If you do not lay good seeds…There were times it was rough for me Man and people would come up to me and say here you go [giving him what he needed]. For other people it may be other things but it is GOD for me. So at the end of my shows, I thank GOD. GOD is great. I am living proof. I am living proof that it can be done.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: And they say it is hard to tell or trick somebody who has gone through it. I had a stroke a few years ago and I know GOD delivered me. So, you cannot tell me there is no GOD. I understand
Jeff Redd: And your passion when you tell somebody about GOD. I am not saying it because it is the in thing to say. I have been thanking HIM all my life. Even when the times were not so good, HE is still good. People are always saying why are you smiling. There is so much that I have to smile for. Looking back, which I do not do, because I do not look back – but when you think back on all of the things you have gone through and where you are now – it is like WOW! There are so many signs that you did not do it yourself. That is why I love that poem about footprints. When you did not see your footprints, I was carrying you. And I believe that. I love the fact that I can tell people about HIM. It is our job to magnify HIS name. HE put certain people in position to do so and I believe that I am one of them.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Very, very, powerful. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity. Are there any projects that you are working on? Where can people catch you? Are there any dreams that you like to see come into fruition?
Jeff Redd: Right now I am doing shows. I did a single with a rapper named Will Trax. It came out pretty cool. I am getting ready to put out a fragrant shea butter GOD-willing in the next month or so. I am going to have a radio show with a quiet storm format via Internet at first. I want to work out the kinks and get it right. Then I will go to major radio stations, a WBLS or something like that. I am working on a book. I am doing the edits right now. It is a romance novel. I am just having some fun, man, making records. I am learning more and more each day of who I am and who I am not.
I am trying to raise my sons to the best of my ability. I am trying to give them all of the tools that they need in order to function out here.
People can hit me up on Twitter – TherealJeffredd. Hit me up on Facebook at Jeff Redd. I’ve got shows. I am still available. It is not easy but keep GOD first in all that you do. Trust your intuition – that quiet voice inside of you. You already know what to do. If you don’t act on it, act on it.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: I will pray us out and give you some closing words
HEAVENLY FATHER, we heard a word today that is going to bless fathers – a word about dreaming, a word about determination, a word about honoring the innocence of our children, about investing in their dreams, about setting their boundaries, about giving them hope about giving them warnings. Thank YOU LORD for a mighty and powerful word. We ask that the endevours of Jeff Redd that YOU keep YOUR Hand on it so that others hear but by the Grace of GOD. Thank YOU LORD for this interview in JESUS name Amen
Jeff Redd: Amen Brother. I love it Man. My closing words are to all the fathers out there, who are doing their thing, stay focused. Understand that there will be problems sometimes, especially with the mothers. They are very emotional especially when they want to be with you. You have to be bigger than that. Remain nice. You get more with honey than you do the other stuff. Just be more conscious of the fact that it is not about you at all. It is about the child. Most of the time the women will come around. Also understand and pay attention to your children. Listen to them because they are telling exactly who they are. If you do not listen you will never know who they are.
You cannot make them something that they are not. You can [try], but that will have a revers effect. Always put GOD first. Lean on HIM everything and every situation. It is never that bad where you have to ever consider ending it, man. Even during the rough times – sometimes you have to be broken down in order to be polished back up. So brothers our there stay strong, keep GOD first pay attention to your children. Teach them about the Word. Let them understand that our queens are very important. Treat women like the queens that they are. A woman gives the first impression on every male and female. If that woman is not right, that child is not going to be right.
When going through those situations where she is not calling you, keeping you away from your kids, you constantly have to cure her. People used to say, kill them with kindness. You do not kill them with kindness, you cure people with kindness. Be aware of that
NY Fatherhood Examiner: Thank you. I hope this is not the last time. Thank you Mr. Redd! Thank you!
Jeff Redd: No Brother! I really appreciate it, man. Please continue what you are doing. You have to keep teaching this. Like each one teach one.
NY Fatherhood Examiner: hopefully we can do some things in the future.
Jeff Redd: Definitely! Tell thanks to Sister Theresa for putting this together. She has done a lot for so many
NY Fatherhood Examiner: She definitely has. A blessing she is. Alright.
Jeff Redd: Alright Brother you have a good day and thank you so much
NY Fatherhood Examiner: This is Furthering Fathering where fatherhood is elevated and families are blessed; where an ounce of encouragement and accountability outweigh a ton of criticism