Updated August 12, 2006Real Soul-men are few and far between in today's music market. Sure, there's a few around, most notably Anthony Hamilton, but long gone are the days of genuine, heart-string-pulling, make-you-break-down-and-cry Soul music of artists like Donny Hathaway.
But Governor Washington Jr. - yes, that's his real name - is trying to bring those days back.
Son of a Preacher ManIn a music scene increasingly dominated by Hip-Hop and watered-down R&B, Governor, who uses just his first name professionally, is a throwback. He's a old-school Soul artist in the tradition of such singers as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and Sam & Dave.
Governor's journey to music stardom started in his native Virginia, where he grew up the son of a preacher, Governor Sr.
"It was pretty regimented, I wouldn't say it was strict," he said of his early life. "There was a lot of discipline. We couldn't too much listen to secular music. I used to sneak and listen to the radio." While growing up, his interest in music increased to where he eventually played in his high school band. But to this day, he's still unable to explain what exactly compelled him to go into music.
"I don't know," he said. "It's just something in you that tells you, it's just that thing."
Ups & DownsAfter graduating high school in 1990, he helped form an R&B vocal group named Case Closed and they moved to New York City.
Although the group eventually disbanded, Governor stayed in the Big Apple and turned to nine-to-fiving and hustling to stay afloat. He eventually released his debut album, Another State of Mind, on small indie label Warlock Records in 2000.
But over the next five-plus years, Gov's career had it's share of ups and downs, of false starts and complete stops. At one point, he signed on with the Trackmasters production team and also recorded about half a dozen songs with a pre-fame 50 Cent.
He also worked with Carlos Santana and legendary producer Dr. Dre at various points. In fact, he recorded over a dozen songs with Dre - but due to label red tape, the songs are unlikely to be released, according to Governor's current label, Atlantic Records.
But through the ups and downs, Governor was undaunted. Sure of himself and his talent, he persevered and wound up getting with Grand Hustle, the label operated by superstar rapper T.I.
Upcoming AlbumFast forward to today: Governor's major-label debut, Son of Pain, is scheduled to be released by Grand Hustle/Atlantic on Sept. 12.
"It's bluesy but it's Hip-Hop," he explained. "A lot of the situations I talk about, people can relate to."
As a 'Hip-Hop blues singer, Governor tells tales of life's struggles, but unlike many of his musical peers, he leans much more toward the Blues and Soul parts of music. He also successfully weds his church boy roots with a Hip-Hop swagger. Like few artists that came before him, Governor manages to adequately balance the sacred and profane.
There's just one guest performer on the album, the rapper T.I., who cameos on one track. "This album is to solidify me as an artist," Governor explained. "I wanted to focus on myself and give myself some growing room. I'm not concerned with doing a lot of collaborations."
Among the gems on the album: "Forgive Me," the story of a man who's sorry for his bad habits, but can't seem to change; the keep it real motto of "Be Yourself;" and "Out of My Hands," a cautionary tale about a woman who's moving too fast and the man who can't/won't intervene in her life. Other songs have strong themes, as well.
"I incorporate a positive message into my music," he said. "It's not just about sex, or drugs or money."
'Music for the Moment'Considering his penchant for lacing his music with substantive messages, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Governor's not too thrilled with the direction that R&B and Soul music have taken in recent years.
"In my opinion, it's evolved to a watered-down state," Governor said of contemporary R&B. "It's not really something you can really blame the artist for - they're just trying to get in. It's watered down through label politics. It's killing the industry."
Part of the problem, Governor said, is that the music lacks a timeless quality.
Back in the day they released music that's still hot today," he reflected. "Most of these artists today, (people) don't want to hear from them tomorrow. There's a lot more one-hit wonders. It's music for the moment."
Destiny Fullfilled?So now, after more than a decade and a half of ups and downs in his music career, Governor has a very strong backing by a major music label in Atlantic Records and the endorsement of one of the hottest rappers in the game in T.I. All of Governor's hustling has paid off. And he says he always knew it would.
"I believe that this is my destiny," he said matter-of-factly. I can't rest without completing my path. It's not just me, it's something way bigger than me."