By Chuck Arnold and Jessica Herndon
Updated July 08, 2013 12:00 PM


On headlining the second night of the big Essence Festival

It’s a great honor. It’s the epicenter of what soul music is about. [The artists] all powwow, and it becomes like a big lovefest. This is my third time. I remember starting out [in ’06] with the big Afro, and I was so freaked out. I had never been in front of so many people in my life!

On his fan base

When I was 22, most of the people who listened to my music were, like, 45. In some ways it was seen as a problem, but it’s the best thing. I don’t have to deal with the changing trends. And the kids that grow up with my music—I am shocked. There will be 20-year-olds singing along to my songs, and they’re like, “My mom loves you, man!”

On “Fire We Make,” his current duet with Alicia Keys

We go back a long time, but the person who really played a major role in putting that together was Swizz Beatz, her husband. Alicia and I plan to do more. She is going to be my Tammi [Terrell, Marvin Gaye’s duet partner].

On just turning 40 in May

If I could be 19 again and shoot straight to 40 and feel as good as I feel now, I would. It’s how you rock it!