Over the last 9 years, the NAACP Image Award-winning television show “Unsung” has been a documentary series that has won over the hearts of music lovers across generations.
TV One’s signature music biography series sheds much-deserved light on some of the most influential, talented and sometimes underappreciated R&B, Soul, Funk, Hip Hop, Disco and Gospel artists of our time. TV One & A. Smith & Co. created an impactful show that celebrates legends who have made an indelible mark in music but may not have been as recognized or honored.
As R&B lovers, we are certainly fans of the show! ThisisRnB’s Rea Davis recently got a chance to interview one of Unsung’s producers, Jamecia Blount about the mission and evolution of the show, what to expect from this season, and her journey as a television producer.
Check out the interview below.
TIRNB: What is the mission of Unsung?
JAMECIA BLOUNT: The mission of ‘Unsung’ has always been to celebrate the music that has shaped our culture, the music we grew up on, the music that in our history that may otherwise not get a platform to be heard. The mission of Unsung has always been to tell the stories that haven’t been told. We want to tell the stories of people who influenced and changed the culture.
For me, ‘Unsung’ is about 1. celebrating the artist, 2. celebrating the music, 3. telling their untold stories. You have shows like ‘Behind The Music,’ but they are telling the stories of a lot more mainstream artists, not really the artists that were embedded in R&B so-to-speak, or the artists of our culture. They aren’t necessarily telling that story unless you are a Michael Jackson or a Prince or somebody like that. But there were still artists in our culture who were just as big, but we didn’t necessarily get to hear their stories. A lot of the artists we are covering are still working constantly. They are working, working, working. This show gives them more promotion for the things they are doing now. If we can give them this platform to help push their new project, to push their new music and let their fans know they are still doing stuff, you can still go out and see them in concert, that’s what it’s all about. We don’t want this music to get lost. Support ‘Unsung’ and go support their music if you don’t want real R&B to go away.”
How would you say Unsung has evolved?
When we first started, the show was really “unsung.” If you were not a true R&B person, you may not have necessarily known the artist. It would’ve been a thing where you may not know the artist’s name, but you know their song. Now, I think that’s broadened significantly. We have done over 150 artists, that’s crazy! The things we always have to defend with ‘Unsung,’ even when sometimes booking the artists or for other people [are], they’re like well you know I’m not a “has-been” or this and that. With a show that has been around for 9 seasons, there’s no way this show could be about “has-beens”. We’ve done all of these amazing artists and these artists are not “has-beens”. We’ve done Rick James, Sly and the Family Stone, Al B. Sure, The Ojays, SWV, Johnny Gill, Fat Joe, and many, many more! Many of them are legends who may have transitioned in their lives and or careers but none are “has-beens”.
How does it feel to see Unsung expand to now having Unsung Hollywood, Unsung Films, and Unsung with Hip Hop artists?
That is so cool! The crazy thing is when we switched over to Hollywood we didn’t have any issues because it had gotten so big. Now we approach some celebrities and they are like, “Oh my gosh, I love Unsung, I would love to do that show.” People you wouldn’t even dream of saying that. We’re like, “You watch Unsung?!” It’s been an awesome blessing. People know that ‘Unsung’ is going to tell the story with integrity. We aren’t here to be salacious. It’s not about getting in all of this dirt or talking about drugs. We are about telling the story. If the story involves those dark elements we have to tell it, but that’s not the main focus. We are about telling the complete story (whatever it may be), celebrating the artist, and promoting the artist. I think that when artists trust us with their story, they know that we’ve built a brand of integrity, and they know we are going to tell the truth. I think artists trust us to do that, and I think that’s why we have been able to expand the way we have.
What are some of the episodes that you produced?
Teena Marie was awesome to work on. She passed away a year later, and now she has this ‘Unsung’ to tell the story of her life. Fans can always have the story that they might not have had, had she not done ‘Unsung.’ I did SWV, Case, and Donell Jones. These artists are the music of my childhood. I remember getting my first car in high school riding around listening to Case after some stupid boy broke my heart. It’s just nostalgia in the fact that I get to listen to them tell me their stories when I was playing their CDs in my car. Some of their songs were on my little mixtapes that I used to make on my own. That right there for me is just…. I can’t even put into words how awesome that is for me for the artists I grew up listening to in my CD player are now sitting in front of me telling their story.
With this past season, I produced an episode on Jagged Edge. That story is bomb. They just had a lot going on behind-the-scenes. The one thing that I found with this story is a lot of things that fans found out on this episode, were not necessarily things on the internet. You might have heard a lot of this or a lot of that, but you never heard the complete story. And they never told it, they never shared it. A lot of things had to be left on the cutting room floor. 1. Because ‘Unsung’ is only an hour we don’t have time to get into all of it. 2. Somethings you know, you don’t need to know. The story was great. I appreciate the artists that come to me open and willing to share. I always say be open with me, tell me everything because 9/10 I’m going to find out anyway. Trust me to put the story together with integrity. Trust to know I’m not sitting here trying to make you look bad. We the producers are also fans of the music and of the artists we profile. We want to celebrate them; we want this to be a platform for them afterwards. Jagged Edge had the hits. If you are a true R&B fan you have to be a fan of Jagged Edge. They are so talented. They were writing their music, producing their music. Every song on their album you would play; you didn’t have to hit skip. Their voices are awesome. Their new album ‘Layover’ is also really good.
We did an episode on Shanice, Switch and The Dramatics also. It was a pretty good season. And we’ve got more coming later in the year.
When and how did you get your start as a television producer?
I moved out here [LA] from college. I graduated from Norfolk State University in 2006 and moved to LA in the summer of 2007. I didn’t have a job waiting for me when I decided to move across the country, so I was really trying to stay strong because when you move to LA and you are fresh into the business, it’s not really easy to jump in and get work. But at church this guy offered me a production assistant job position for a show on TLC, “Trading Spaces.” I didn’t know that I was signing up for painting and building stuff etc, but I made sure that I really worked hard and that they saw that I was going to do my best at everything. I knew that there was opportunity at this company. The company was A. Smith & Company. After that they were like, you did a good job and asked if I’d like to come on as a PA for the documentary American Gangster on BET. I made sure that I put in over 110% effort and that they saw my enthusiasm. At that point I was in with the company, so they let me work on any show within the company. TV One came to our company to do ‘Unsung,’ and Season 2 I transitioned over to an associate producer for ‘Unsung.’ I think one of my first shows may have been Teena Marie.
This is the first time I understood the weight of ‘Unsung,’ and these artists are trusting us to share the stories of their lives. How many times do you think of or dream you will be sitting across from your parent’s favorite artists or your favorite artists listening to them share their journey with you? I continued to work my way up, and it’s been about three or four years that I’ve been producing for ‘Unsung.’ My story is really unique with the fact that I found a company who wanted to see me grow and cultivate my career, and a company that invests in their employees.
I thought I was going to do more performance work when I first moved to LA. I auditioned for the Clipper Girls, and I auditioned for the Laker Girls. I got down to the last 30 girls out of 800 for the Laker Girls, and got cut at the last round. I was super devastated at the time, but God had other plans for me. I went to school for mass communication, but I didn’t have a straight path. I knew I was interested in entertainment, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Me meeting that guy at church was God opening this door for me, or setting a path for me that I really didn’t know much about. I was more focused on being an entertainer, but from this guy coming to me with this production assistant job it opened up a new world that I fell in love with. When you are out here in Hollywood, jobs are often gig-to-gig. I got in and have worked the entire 8 years for the most part. That’s sort of unheard of in Hollywood. I’m really blessed to have found the path that I found and to be working on ‘Unsung,’ a show that’s so loved and celebrated.
What other R&B projects do you have your hands in or would like to be a part of or see come to fruition?
I think I would like to see ‘Unsung’ expand even more. I would love to bring back ‘Unsung Revisited’ like following up with the artists after their episode. Maybe Unsung concerts. I’d love to do more to see what the artists are doing after their episodes. I’d love to do Unsung Unplugged performances also.
Why is it so important to have documentaries and informational programs like Unsung for our culture?
Because it’s our history. We need to have these stories continued to be told or else they are going to be forgotten. It’s a sense of celebration for us. To be able to go back and look at some of the accomplishments of the past, that’s what we need to go forward. That gives us a source of inspiration. There’s always an inspiring message. It makes sure that our stories are being told and that our history is not lost. ‘Unsung’ is so important because you can hear the stories about where a lot of the music originated. We’ve won 5 NAACP Image Awards. I think it’s amazing to be a part of something that’s uplifting that will hold a place in history to come.
Who are some of your dream R&B artists that you would like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
I would love to do Ginuwine, Immature, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dru Hill and The Time.
What’s next for Mecia?
I want to continue to do more in the documentary space, maybe something celebrating women. Someone like you growing up loving music and deciding to follow your dreams into journalism. I really want to share some of the stories of those who figured it out and have them share tips and tools to help those who may be stuck get to the next step to make their dreams come true. I have a heart and a passion for young girls and women because we aren’t always celebrated in the ways that we should be. Through reaching out and connecting we can make this girl power, this black girl thing go to another level and take it to the top. Whatever I do next, it will be in the space of inspiring and uplifting everyone.
I’m all about doing stuff that will inspire people. If we can continue to do things that continue to motivate and uplift each other through our own testimonies and sharing our stories by reaching out and connecting, I think that we will continue to go to another level.
-Interview by Rea Davis
Follow Jamecia Blount on Twitter @LoveMecia