Exclusive Interview With Author Dominique M. Carson
Dominique M. Carson is an award-winning community activist, freelance journalist, researcher, massage therapist, writer, reporter, and author. Carson's work has been featured in several publications including Ebony.com, The Grio, NBC News, Singersroom.com, Soultrain.com, Education Update, and Brooklyn news media outlets. She interviewed over 100 notable figures in entertainment such as Jermaine Dupri, Mulatto, Snoop Dogg, Master P, Charlie Wilson, Regina Belle, Patti Labelle, Kirk Franklin, and many more. She also collaborated with Brooklyn historian and journalist, Suzanne Spellen and launched a 118-page journal on Lefferts Manor, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Despite her impeccable work as a writer, Carson's writing journey began 22 years ago. Carson started writing at eight years old and it was a troublesome period in her life. Carson discovered that writing can be a valuable tool when you're going through personal challenges as a child. Her uncle Ricky and cousins, Niani & Fatima influenced her to express her creativity on paper as a therapeutic source. Carson took writing seriously after watching Teen Summit on BET and editing her fourth grade, classmate Erica Booker's essay. Carson says her elementary school teacher, Ms. Asregadoo encouraged her to embrace her artistic expression. She knew becoming a journalist was her destiny. With the help of her late grandparents and mother, she started submitting poems and short stories to different writing contests and was honorable before she was a teenager. Carson graduated from the prestigious Brooklyn high school, Edward R. Murrow High School in 2008. She says her writing improved greatly when she attended the school. Her hard work landed her a nomination for Princeton's High School Summer Journalism Program and a co-interviewer with the cast of Degrassi at the High School Journalism Workshop at MTV Studios in January 2007. It was around the time when Grammy award-winning rapper, Aubrey "Drake" Graham was on the show. After high school, Carson graduated from the City University of New York, Brooklyn College with her bachelor's and master's degree. During her time she wrote for Brooklyn College's Excelsior and worked at Brooklyn College's Office of Communications and Marketing. Her post-college life consists of writing articles, books, and adding another venture, massage therapy. As of 2019, Carson is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist. Carson's overall goal is to facilitate people's lives with her hands and words.
Of all of the celebrities you have interviewed, what made you want to pen a book about Jon B?
I actually finished writing a biography on a female R&B legend until someone informed me that you need permission to include artists' lyrics in the book. It doesn't matter if it's fair use or to illustrate a point. I was like what, are you serious, you have to be kidding. I was excited because the editor was already edited, designed, and ready for print. After countless phone calls from legal professionals and figuring out the price to include the lyrics, I decided to put the book on hold. I did not want to change the integrity of the book but it is already copyrighted. I can not mention the female R&B artist's name but she is a heavy hitter. Prior to the pandemic, I was thinking about an artist that I wanted to write about and I said to myself, I want it to be a male artist. I decided to write a book about Jon B because, for starters, he is one of my favorite artists of all time. When I was a little girl, I had a crush because I really respected his artistry and swag. Secondly, I interviewed him so I already had a glimpse of his interaction with the press and that sealed the deal. I believe Jon B. doesn't receive enough as an artist because he is multi-talented and knew he wanted to be an R&B artist before he entered the music business. Most white artists have to start off as pop artists before they can fully transition to R&B. Hence, they may have to be an R&B artist to get their foot in the down but Jon was not having it at all. Lastly, it was his fight to be an R&B artist prompted to write a biography about him.
What type of research did you do for your book?
I listened to his discography, watched old interviews throughout his career, referred back to my interview, paid attention to his social media handles, and watched his live performances to complete the book. It took me about four months to complete the research process for the book.
Have you ever had the chance to meet or interview Jon B in person?
Yes, I interviewed Jon 7 years earlier at Stage 48 in New York City. It was June 2013, to be exact and he was still in the early stages of being an independent artist. The interview was live and my god-sister, Christina attended the in-person interview. I was covering his concert at the venue for Soul Train winning online music magazine, Singersroom.com and I had the opportunity to interview him after the show. I enjoyed our interview and we had the chance to meet his lovely wife, Danette.
After completing your book what are some things you learned about Jon B that most people may not know?
He was the last person to work in the studio physically with Tupac before he died.
Tupac was already a fan of Jon B before they worked together.
Afeni Shakur encouraged him to release the song, "Are U Still Down?"
He wrote for England pop quintet, Spice Girls.
Your work, meaning the music will fall by the wayside due to lack of marketing and promotion.
Johnny J, the producer for Are U Still Down committed suicide at the age of 39.
Jon B. freestyled the song, "They Don't Know.”
Donell Jones sampled Jon's song, "Lonely Girl," from the Pleasures You Like album on his song, "Special Girl," from the Journey of a Gemini album.
I currently still play Jon B’s album “Cool Relax.” Which Jon B album is your favorite album and why?
Cool Relax is still my favorite of all time. It is a classic that features his signature song, "They Don't Know." Over 20 years, it is still rated as one of the best albums in the '90s. I believe "Cool Relax," was the album that was going to make or break him and he succeeded in the most profound way. Jon proved to the critics that he can stand out on his own and impact everyone from all races. He made history with Tupac on the song, "Are U Still Down." Now, I love the Mary and Method collaboration, "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By," and it is an iconic record in hip-hop. Yes, it is a Grammy-winning song but Jon and Tupac were completely different. Mary is the R&B voice of hip-hop so it would be ideal for Mary to be on the song and the chorus was previously recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. This was a song that Jon and 'Pac recorded together and it was a risky move for both of them. 'Pac respected Jon's melodic voice and Jon embraced 'Pac edgy and raw West Coast sound. Plus, I love some of the album cuts on the album such as "Bad Girl," and "Can We Get Down?"
Where is Jon B now? Can we expect any new music from him?
Jon B. is currently touring these days and a painter. Since we have encountered a pandemic in 2020, he launched the Vibezelect Cafe online on Instagram so fans can watch him perform live. He is a husband and a father of two daughters, Jon is currently finishing up his 8th studio album. While I was promoting the book on my social media platforms, he completed a feature with Contrast Magazine. Jon B. also released two new singles last year, Understand ft Donell Jones and Priceless.
Let’s talk about your work as an interviewer. You’ve had the opportunity to interview several celebrities. Have you ever get starstruck?
ABSOLUTELY! I would not be telling the truth if I said no. I've met quite a few celebrities but my favorite in-person interviews were Charlie Wilson, Eddie Levert, Isley Brothers, and Carlos Santana. Charlie Wilson and Eddie Levert hit home for me because my grandparents would play The O' Jays and The Gap Band. My grandfather was from Charleston, South Carolina so he knew R&B groups from the south. Then, when I interviewed Eddie Levert, my grandfather was reincarnated and he is the closest thing to Gerald Levert. The Isley Brothers and Carlos Santana collaborated together for the "Power of Peace," and I interviewed them live at Electric Lady Studios. It was wonderful since the studio is named after late guitarist, Jimi Hendrix's song, "Electric Ladyland. " I love interviewing legends because they paved the way for the younger generation of artists.
What’s it really like to interview celebrities?
It is truly a BLESSING! It is a dream come true because I am really a music junkie, especially old school music. I am elated that I met and interacted with media professionals that allowed me to interview some of my favorite artists in the music industry. Even though celebrities present themselves a certain way to the press, it is still a gratifying experience. I have shared these special moments with my fiancé, mother, cousins, friends, and other relatives. They already know once I start interviewing artists, I am in a journalist mode. In addition to my in-person interviews, I interviewed artists on public transportation, lunch hours while I am at work, at the beauty salon, while I am sitting in my aunt's chair, or right in the house. I have butterflies in my stomach before the interviews, whether it's in person or over the phone, but once we start the interview, the butterflies are removed from my stomach. I wished I had the opportunity to interview MJ, Prince, Biggie, Tupac, Betty Wright, or Aretha Franklin if they were still alive today. But, I interviewed CJ and T'yanna Wallace when she opened the Notoriouss store in Brooklyn and it was truly an honor. They are the representation of Biggie's legacy. I would love to interview artists from all music genres, that is the next step.
Tell us a bit about your work as a community activist.
I have been heavily involved in my hometown, Brooklyn since I was a sophomore in high school. My former educator and adviser, Sally Hipscher encouraged others to participate, H.E.A.R.T, a club that spreads awareness about HIV/AIDS and my activism began. It was important for me since a lot of my family members died of AIDS. In addition to activism, I started participating in events that implemented community service. As a result, I have followed those principles in college, protesting against tuition hikes, a campus representative at Clinton Global Initiative, or volunteering at my former elementary school, Public School 190. I was elated that I was able to continue with my community work as a Program Coordinator for Police Athletic League and Man Up! Inc, a non-profit organization in East New York, Brooklyn. My colleagues and I assisted East New York youth and adults with job development, career assistance, resume preparation, and becoming a valuable asset for your community. My colleagues and I won the "It's My Park Award," from Partnership for Parks in 2017. It has been a 15-year journey and I love giving back to my community. Even though I am no longer living n New York City, I am now educating others about massage therapy and self-care in Norfolk, Virginia. It is my duty as a massage practitioner to spread the importance of the healing arts and how and why it is a part of the health care profession.
Tell us about your career as a freelance writer? Do you have any tips for someone looking to start their own freelance writing career?
If you want to be a writer for monetary purposes, you are in the wrong profession! My freelance writing career began in 2010. I was an undergraduate student and at first, I started writing outside of campus media so I can earn extra credit in my classes. But, I started taking it seriously in 2012. As a final project for my News Laboratory class at Brooklyn College, one of my assignments was interviewing the original Tuskeegee airmen, Floyd William Carter, Sr. when they were promoting the movie, Red Tails. It was a humbling experience and I knew I was more than capable to be an entertainment journalist. I just needed the right connections. In the meantime, I was applying for numerous jobs as a staff writer, started graduate school, and worked at my alma mater, Office of Communications and Marketing Department as an editorial assistant. I was also interning for Singersroom.com, publicity firm Plan A Media, LLC, and my alma mater career center while completing graduate school. I was freelancing for other publications because I wanted to have updated clips. My grandmother used to tell me, "Princess, you never know who is reading your work behind the scenes." And as soon as she said that, Donna Summer's niece sent me a message on Facebook, stating that she enjoyed my editorial pieces on Donna Summer. But, after numerous rejections, temporary jobs, I decided to be a freelance journalist and go back to school for massage therapy. I love being a freelance journalist but I still need those 9-5 jobs associated with my field to pay the bills. Yes, I was interviewing some of the biggest names in entertainment but I still needed to think about my livelihood and well-being. It was not a decision for me to make but I was aging and I needed another plan. Now at 30, I believe God had another plan for me. It is like what singer, Lloyd said in his song, "Tru," when he said, "I had to find a new approach to an old dream." I wanted to be a journalist ever since I was nine years old but I needed to shift gears a little bit. Even though I've experienced financial hurdles, I knew it was important for me to write articles, no matter what. Writing is my artistry and I am proud of my body of work but there is more for me to do going forward.
Tips: 1. Keep writing! start writing for your college or local newspaper.
2. Network with other people in your field. No one will not know who you are unless you put yourself out there. The next person in your circle may present your next opportunity, big or small.
3. Take more risks, do not play it safe. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
4. Believe in yourself and your craftsmanship.
5. Constant work on your craft, I don't care if you have been a writer for 5 or 10 years; there is always room for improvement and growth.
6. Do not burn bridges, character is EVERYTHING! You do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
7. Intern during your time as a college student. You will learn so much about yourself professionally and personally.
8. Do not be afraid to step outside of the box, do not be afraid to be weird.
Can we expect any other books from you?
Yes, I will be writing more books. Next summer, I am writing about a legendary cartoon character. In 2022, I plan on writing about my journey as a massage therapist; it will be informative but entertaining. And then maybe when I am 40 years old, I will write a memoir about my life. The title of my memoir would be The Journey from Silence. The title stems from an article I completed for Education Update while I was completing graduate school.
Jon B is an R&B icon. He rose to fame against the odds in the late 90s, and his version of blue-eyed soul has captivated fans and rhythm and blues lovers for over a quarter century. Jon started out as a young boy from a musical family with a dream of making it big. From there, he worked with his idol and subsequent mentor, Babyface, who helped him prove the haters wrong, and top the charts. Ultimately, Jon had to deal with backlash about his skin color and credibility in the R&B hip hop world alone, but he did it, and came out stronger, and more respected, on the other side. Jon made history with Tupac, carved his own path, and even released music independently before the rest of the industry hopped on the trend. The fame and demise of his first marriage almost broke him, but ultimately, set him up for his greatest comeback, and a life of love with Danette. “Are You Still Down?” lays bare the proof that Jon B has been, and always will be, a groundbreaking, bonafide R&B star.
Professional Portfolio: https://dominiquecarson.contently.com/