This might be my favorite podcast in a minute. For the latest episode of A Waste of Time With ItsTheReal, Eric and Jeff Rosenthal sat down with the legendary Charlie Wilson for a fascinating conversation about his rise to fame with The Gap Band, co-writing “Computer Love” with Zapp, and his struggles with drug addiction and homelessness in the early ’90s.
Charlie also shared a bunch of great stories about his hip-hop collaborators, like how Snoop found him on the street and put him in the studio, the time 2Pac lost his shit when they first met, and how his wife convinced Kanye West to put Rihanna on “All of the Lights.” Listen to the full episode and check out a few of the best quotes below.
On Kanye West:
“I remember one time, we were in the studio. ‘All of the Lights’ and all that stuff was going on. Of course, when you’re in the studio with Ye, there’s no blurting out things. So [my wife]’s like, ‘yo Kanye.’ He stops, he was typing and looks up. ‘Hmmm?’ And she said, ‘You know who you ought to put on this record?’ He was like, ‘…who?’ She said, ‘Rihanna!’ And I just threw my paper in the air, my feature’s out the window! And he said, ‘Rihanna? Okay!’ I was like, ‘you just gave my feature away to Rihanna?!’”
On the alternate version of “Flashing Lights”:
“I do have a copy, and I’m probably the only one with a copy. Of course, you’ve seen that little dancing routine. Nobody was allowed in that studio with no camera. We were the only one with a camera in there. We never did get back to that record. I love that record.”
On the Rosewood movement:
“You couldn’t even mix a record without a suit on. If you were in another state, Ye would be like, ‘check this out, you got your suit on?’ You better say yeah!’”
On Snoop Dogg:
“I met Snoop in ’96. Snoop said he saw me on the streets and he said, ‘man, it hurt me so bad, I didn’t know whether to give you some money.’”
“[Val Young] kept telling me that Snoop wanted to meet me. So I went down to [the studio] where she was, there was 2Pac and all those guys. Snoop locked the door with me in there and wouldn’t let nobody get in. We bonded really, really fast. He asked me to start singing and he was like, ‘wow dawg, you still got them chops!’ We recorded a lot, I don’t know how many albums. Everything that he wanted me to do vocals on, I would do it.”
“I remember ‘Pac came in [the studio], he was talking about me. When I walked in, he just started jumping up in the air, because he had just said my name! He said, ‘man, if Charlie Wilson was here!’ So when I walked in, he just lost it. He was like, ‘dude, I just said your name! And here’s the record I want us to do together.’ I heard it, it was one of my own, it was just flipped a little bit. He wanted me to do the hook, it was a funky record man, it was bad. Snoop came and I said, ‘I gotta go.’ We locked ourselves in, and they were banging on the door like, ‘Pac wanna see Uncle Charlie!’”
“Before he got famous, I used to sing hooks for him. He flew me in [to New York City] to do these records. My brothers, we had a show. I remember Pharrell was there and my wife was trying to push him up on the stage. He was like, ‘no!’ He was all nervous. We had a great time back in those days. I told Pharrell, ‘let me tell you something man: you’re either gonna be the biggest producer in the world, or you’re gonna straight suck eggs.’ I said, ‘I know other people are probably laughing at your beats or whatever.’ Man, he cracked their heads wide open.”
On Nate Dogg:
“Before Nate Dogg died, he wanted me and him to do some records together. It was like a changing of the guard: okay, Nate Dogg’s done that sound, Uncle Charlie’s here now, so that sound became fresh to everybody’s ears. But then he had a stroke. We just didn’t get a chance to get it done.”