I met Shamarr at an in-store in Louisiana Music Factory Jazz Fest 2006. I was still with the Mouth and he was still with Rebirth. They were playing after the Mouth set, and during our set I sang Randy Newman’s “Louisiana, 1927,” and Shamarr got up and joined me on that song. I said into the mic, “I don’t know who that young trumpet player is but that was beautiful.” I asked him to play on Exit to Mystery Street and hired him for as many gigs as I could.
“Recording Bridging the Gap was Shamarr’s idea. He called me up one day and said, “Unc, I just saw a video on YouTube of Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong playing together; we got to make us a record.” I said cool and he said, “We’ll record old people’s music like you like and young people’s music like I like. You’ll sing my style, I’ll sing yours. The first song we did was “Instant Karma.” I showed him how to play four separate, simple piano parts which at first he thought was dull. Then we spread the parts out in a wide pan and they popped out of the speakers like popcorn and it lit him up. Then he gave me Kanye West’s “Heartless” and I went home to learn it. When we got back to the studio, I started singing it and he said, “No Unc, your phrasing ain’t right. Even though you put a melody to it, you still got to sing the rap phrasing or it will sound—”
“—50 and white?” I asked.
He wanted to write originals and I dig the tunes we wrote, especially “Love is Blind.” Shamarr saw that painted on someone’s car and wrote a chorus and loop for the song. He gave it to me as an assignment—it was to be my first original hip-hop verse. I wrote a verse, but it was pop song length, four lines and out. He explained that hip-hop verses were four times as long and made me go back and listen to Kanye again.”