Oscar-Winning Actor Jamie Foxx Talks His Solo Album, Unpredictable, And Writing Songs

Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx is renowned for his acclaimed acting achievements, in both dramas and comedies. From his TV debut on In Living Color, through movie hits such as Any Given Sunday, Collateral and Ray (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), Foxx has demonstrated his outstanding skills in a wide range of acting projects. And now, with the release of his solo album Unpredictable (on J Records), Foxx also demonstrates that he is an impressive singer, keyboardist and songwriter.

Unpredictable is a terrific showcase for Foxx, featuring collaborations with such top writer/producers as Kanye West, Mike City, Babyface, Timbaland and Harold Lilly. Foxx & West team up on the key cut, ‘Extravaganza,’ which marks the third time the duo has worked together. They previously collaborated on two songs from West’s albums: ‘Slow Jamz’ (from The College Dropout) and the #1 hit ‘Gold Digger’ (from Late Registration). The album also contains guest vocal appearances by other top artists, including Ludacris (on the hit single ‘Unpredictable’), Twista (‘DJ Play A Love Song’), The Game and Snoop Dogg (‘With You’), Mary J. Blige (‘Love Changes’) and Common (‘U Still Got It’).

Foxx has been honing his music skills for many years, and he released an album called Peeps on Fox Records back in 1994. He is very focused and serious about his musical career. ‘I’ve been working on music for the last 15 years,’ said Foxx. ‘I don’t do nothing sideways — if I’m gonna get it, I’m gonna get it 100 percent.’ Foxx did much of the work on Unpredictable at his home studio, and on a portable studio lent to him by hit producer Timbaland.

It was in February of this year (2005) that Foxx had an opportunity to impress Clive Davis (Chairman & CEO of J Records/BMG). He performed at Davis’ star-studded, annual pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. ‘I’d been to the Clive Davis party before,’ explained Foxx. ‘And I knew what it was like ‘ it’s high ground up in there, you got to come in legendary already. So I used a little of my comedy to break the ice, and then slipped my singing in on them before they even knew what was happening.’ Foxx performed ‘Slow Jamz’ with Kanye West & Twista, and then sang with Alicia Keys and Angie Stone. Davis was impressed with Foxx’s music performances, and subsequently offered him a deal with J Records. Said Foxx, ‘I knew I had performed in the right place for the right people at the right time.’

Foxx spent much of 2005 working on his album, while also acting in film roles such as the upcoming Miami Vice and Dreamgirls. He wrote the song ‘Heaven’ by himself, and co-wrote five other songs on the CD. One of the songs he is proudest of is ‘Wish U Were Here,’ which was inspired by his late grandmother. ‘It’s a heavy, heavy song ‘ we put it at the end of the album, because I want people to bump and grind and enjoy themselves before they get to that song,’ he said. ‘That’s the one that measures your soul.’

Another key track on the album is ‘Love Changes,’ which is a duet featuring Foxx and Mary J. Blige. This song (which was written by classic R&B writer Skip Scarborough and originally recorded by the group Mother’s Finest) truly demonstrates Foxx’s strong, soulful, singing ability.

Foxx is very pleased with how Unpredictable has turned out, and he is looking forward to aggressively promoting the album. When asked if it was hard for him to be so inspired and creative for this album, right after achieving such a career milestone with Ray, he said, ‘If you go to the mountaintop and you hit the very top, even if you go down a hundred feet, you’re still on that mountain, and you can still see a whole lot of things. We got a lot of things we passed up ’cause we were on our way to the top. Now we’re gonna go down and maybe set up a camp, have a barbecue down here, have a little party over there. That’s what we’re doing now.’

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima