It was music history personified as Quincy Jones shared his career insights with rapper Ludacris during the “I Create Music” interview at the ASCAP Expo (April 23). The audience in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel’s packed Grand Ballroom remained riveted as the legendary music man reflected on his six decades in the business and working with such groundbreaking artists as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Paul Simon and Michael Jackson.

Ludacris got the session rolling by asking Jones for the secret behind his industry longevity. “Serious commitment,” answered Jones, who reminisced about growing up in a then-rough and tumble Seattle after moving there from Chicago with his family. He credited a simple gesture—touching a piano—as the turning point in his not becoming a gangster. “I touched that piano and every blood cell rose up in my body. It saved my life.” From there “it was about learning to be a good musician.”

Referring to Jones several times as his godfather, Ludacris took the 77-year-old back through lessons he learned in a multifaceted career that moved from musician (jazz, R&B, pop, hip-hop) to arranger/composer to label executive (Mercury) to work in film (“In the Heat of the Night,” “The Color Purple”) and television (“Sanford & Son,” the Emmy-winning score to “Roots”). “I didn’t want to be held back by borders,” noted Jones. “I never turn my curiosity off; I stay nosy.”

From lack of writer’s block (“I just relax and open the terminal to a higher power”) to working with Michael Jackson on the first of his pioneering solo albums (“that’s when I discovered the power of being underestimated”), Ludacris and Jones moved through a fast-paced 90 minutes. Also covered: Jones’ favorite recording (“Somewhere” by Aretha Franklin: “That was pure magic; I still play it every day”); one goal he still wants to achieve (“one of these days I want to sit down and tear songwriting up”); and what he’d like his tombstone to say (“born in 1933; died in 2033”).

Asked about the future of music, Jones declared, “You have to have melody, rhythm and harmony. But what’s missing most of the time now is melody. Melody hits you straight in the heart—and you need that.”

As for what he’s taken to heart from Jones’ career, Ludacris told Billboard.biz, “He’s given me a whole new perspective on limiting myself. Given everything I’m doing now, people would say I’m far from doing that. But Quincy makes me feel like I’m only getting started.”

Ludacris joins Usher, Q-Tip, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend and others on Jones’ forthcoming new album, “Q: Soul Bossa Nostra.” Now slated for late August/early September, the set features the recently released lead single “Strawberry Letter 23” featuring Akon.