From D’Angelo and Erykah Badu to The Roots: The Philly producer legend, Soulquarian, and keys virtuoso shares his story.
In the late ’90s, when a group of musicians from Philadelphia, Detroit and New York got together at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios and called themselves Soulquarians, their roles were summarized by James Poyser as follows: “Ahmir Questlove was the thinker, D’Angelo was the innovator, Jay Dee [AKA Dilla] was the genius… and I was the Jamaican.” Poyser’s humility downplays his musical achievements. Born in Sheffield, UK, to Jamaican parents, raised in West Philly and mentored by Gamble and Huff, Poyser has scored credits for producing, songwriting and playing the keys on numerous influential soul, hip-hop and gospel recordings. A member of the legendary Roots crew, he cut his teeth in Philly’s alternative rap and soul circuit with artists like Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo and Common, and executive-produced Erykah Badu’s spiritual diva soul. He’s worked with Mariah Carey, John Legend, Rihanna, Adele, Big Sean and Nas — and the list goes on. His late-night gig with the Roots on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show gives him a prime-time spotlight, proof that although he’s come a mighty long way, this musical overachiever is far from finished.