Issue #90 - Digital Cover

Published on July 12th, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson

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Rico Love: Music’s Consummate Professional

By Jerry Doby

Rico Love is a Celebrated songwriter, producer, one of the masterminds behind the music as well as being an entertainer and artist himself. Rico dropped his debut solo work this summer entitled “Turn The Lights On” and set the tone for the airwaves coast to coast.

Love is the Grammy-winning producer behind hits like Usher’sThere Goes My Baby,” Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” and Mary J. Blige’s “Mr. Wrong.” This multi-faceted singer/songwriter/producer and serial entrepreneur, Rico Love talked with The Hype Magazine on his business philosophy, the meaning of family and how it feels to step out as a solo artist.

One of the hottest parts of this story is the interplay Love tells about with his son on the day of the interview. He was out as a parent escort to the zoo with his son and a group of classmates when we spoke and he related that “I talked to my son about this interview and how much I wanted to do it, so when it came time for him to join his friends on the zoo train, he told me “No daddy, don’t you have an interview to do? Go do your interview, I’m fine.” No matter what you think of his music or his business life…that was some real man *ish right there!

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Check out our conversation highlights below!

Everybody knows that you’re a musical magician, a wizard. But what they don’t know is as you see yourself from the outside looking in, who is Rico Love? What should we know?

I feel like the best way to describe me is as an artist. Anything I do I feel like I respect and build art. Whether it’s fashion, whether it’s core progression, whether it’s lyric, whether it’s melody. I respect the art form and I respect true artistic identity, you understand? I think the true way to describe Rico Love and who I am is just to say as an artist. I don’t want to limit that to music. I don’t want to limit that to art. I don’t want to limit that to [inaudible 00:01:14], I just feel like it’s one of those things where it’s who I am.

You’re a serial entrepreneur. 2013 you had a partnership with Interscope. You’ve got Division 1 going on. You’re killing the game, and at the same time you’ve got this magnificent voice. I’ve been listening to somebody else, and I was charting out the melodic and harmonic balance and all that good stuff, and I was, “Man, this cat is amazing”. Great timbre, intonation, intervals, it was just awesome. When you first started out what was your whole instruction, what made you decide that the music business was for Rico Love?

I just feel like it was the way I could express myself to the world. I feel like true artistry has done a disservice when it’s not exposed to the public. I’m not going to say we doing it for the okay of the public, because we definitely want to please but, we’re not, I’m not focused on accommodating everyone, if you will. I’m focused on being something brilliant. I hope that they enjoy it. With that being said I think what got me in the music business is was that it was as a kid, a place to showcase my ability, and showcase to the world whether they love it or hate it whatever. I feel like it was an incredible realm to be in.

You’ve been interviewed by everybody – their cat, uncle and dog in the media. Is there a question that we as journalists have skipped over that we should have asked Rico Love? Is there a question that you say, “Well why do they never ask me this? They’re always on to some other stuff”.

You know what’s funny about me? I say everything I want to say. I’m going to be honest with you. Most interviews are generic. Those ridiculous questions like, “What was it like working with Beyonce?”. Then you answer that and then they say, “Well what was it like working with Usher?” It’s “Come on man, be a little more creative”. So what I find a way of doing is I’ll use one question to segue into something deeper and greater. I don’t have a problem elaborating and building upon everything, being creative when it comes to answers.

Today you’re out doing the daddy thing, doing with your son, doing an interview. We’re interrupting your day, your life. So shout out to you

It’s funny, I was out last night til about 5:30, well this morning, I was out til 5:30 in the morning. I got home, I got to bed at 6 and then I remembered right when I was laying down I got to be a chaperone for my son at the zoo at 8. I lay down, I was, for half a second, I’m not going to say a complete second, for half a second I was thinking, maybe I could just not go. I said, “No, no”. I did my job as Rico Love the artist, producer, songwriter whatever. Now it’s time to do my job as a father.

That’s one of the things that very important to me. Even right now my son got on the train to do the other thing. I said I definitely wanted to do this interview I’m here, been here since 8. I’m, “Let me do this interview”. He’s, “Go, go do your interview daddy”. They become acclimated with the lifestyle, but he definitely understands that he comes first. I think doing that I give him the example of lending himself, giving up his time. Even though he loves me to be on the train with him, he’s “Go do your interview daddy” because he heard me earlier. I think I’m teaching my son inadvertently lessons in my actions. I think he understands at four years old already how important he is.

This is your story. What would you like our readers to know about Rico Love that is important to you to get across?

What I think people would be interested in knowing is that I’m very much a professional. I feel like sometimes the old guy. I feel like Bill Cosby. Remember Bill Cosby used to be upset when he didn’t like listening to bullsh*t music, he would be upset with them if they didn’t show up on time. Cliff Huxtable, it was really important to have basic manners and general principles and ideas. I really value those things. I value hard work, I value respecting people. I value looking people in the eye when you shake their hand. I value having real conversations and real interactions with people. I really feel like these things are very important, things that we’ve lost sight of in today’s generation. A lot of people would never guess that about me. They see the jewelry, they see the cars, they see the lifestyle and they don’t understand. I don’t know how to describe this. I’m very serious, I’m a very serious person. Almost to the point where it can make people uncomfortable. I hold people accountable to their actions, I hold people accountable for things they say. All I ask for is that people give me one hundred percent and when everybody’s doing it I’m super happy. If it’s not being done I can get very upset and I think it’s a very interesting fact about me that people would never know.

If you’re going to be on the team of Rico Love you need to be about your business.

Yes, be on time. Be respectful, treat people good. All the people around me I treat with respect and manners. I believe in that. I don’t believe in anybody feeling like they’re bigger or greater than anybody else. I’m into those types of things. It upsets me when I see that in others. I don’t see the respect given.

Our parents, they didn’t raise us like that, growing up. I think it was an underlining tone in which they would do things. That may be the reason I am the way I am.

Let’s talk about the video for the single, “Somebody Else” from your debut album “Turn The Lights On.” If I had never met you, or never heard your music, enjoyed your music, when I look at you on the visual, you’re intense, you look extremely serious. Then when you open your mouth and this full voice comes out you’re going, “Where did that come from, from this guy?”

I can’t even tell you, bro. I couldn’t even tell you. I can tell you something that’s very interesting that people may not know is that I just started singing seriously in 2008. I really just started singing. What happened was … I guess I always had the tone obviously, but I never exercised it. I started by career as a rapper. My whole life I sold myself as a rapper. Even when I was writing songs I had other people demoing them and I really viewed myself as a rapper. Until I started writing so many songs that weren’t getting placed and I realized that singers that I was hiring they weren’t giving me that conviction. They weren’t selling it; so that when presidents of companies would hear these songs they weren’t sold on them, until I started singing them myself because I knew the conviction, I knew the character, I knew the emotions that needed to be given. When I started doing it myself I kind of got good at it, and when you’re singing every day for five years, and you know how to arrange and produce a vocal, you know how a vocal should sound, it’s impossible for anybody who can hold a tone and not become good at it. I just have what I like to think of as a distinctive tone and I think that’s what makes a star. There’s a lot of people who can sing very well, there’s a lot of people who can sing circles around me but they don’t have that tone. They don’t have that distinction and that tone that sets them apart. They don’t have that conviction in their voice that really connects with the audiences and I feel like I have that.

I did a comparison. I pulled an Adele record and then I pulled a Rico Love record and I was comparing. The emotion, it’s exactly what you said, you connected with me and I’m not an R&B guy…[here Love interjects into my statement with some pointed questions!]

Before you finish, are you into the real singers?

Yes.

Were you into Frankie Beverly?

Yes.

You’re an R&B guy. A lot of times I was sitting with these guys in Crenshaw, I had an interview with this other publication, this real hood spot. I’m in the middle of the hood in L.A. A few of the guys said, “I’m not an R&B guy”. I named those same people and next thing, “Oh, man, I love them”. What happens is R&B has become so watered down that you think you’re not into R&B because of what’s in front of you. That *ish that you got in front of you is not R&B. That bullsh*t that people are hearing is causing us to become jaded. So what a guy will say is, “I’m not really an R&B type of guy”. You are, you love good music, it’s just that what you perceive to you as R&B hasn’t been quality for a lot of people in that they’ll shy away from it and then you’ll almost psyche yourself out and you’ll say, “I’m not even into R&B.” Yes you are, you’re into quality music. The fact that we’re having this conversation, the way you’re describing your question to me, I can tell you’re a musical guy. I think what happened is we just got jaded. We got too much of something, it kind of made us immune to it. So a lot of guys will think they’re not into it. They’re really into it so they’re just missing it. They’re missing the quality.

I’m missing Marvin Gaye. I’m missing Curtis Mayfield, etc.

I think a lot times, me and Tank had a conversation. He was, “They don’t want R&B no more”. I said, “No, they want R&B. it’s just that the R&B a lot of these guys are making is dated”. I appreciate Curtis Mayfield too but if I try to make a record like Curtis Mayfield, I’m the old man. I think the key is to find a way to make it today. I can’t expect for Trey Songz to be Gerald Levert. Gerald Levert is not going to be David Ruffin. And so on and so forth. It has to grow. It has to progress. So you cannot make music that sounds like it’s in 1990 and get upset in 2015 because it’s not working. It’s not supposed to work. It worked back then. It has to progress.

We’ve got to figure out ways to make music that’s quality, that’s current, that’s today; is speaking to the youth, speaking to the adults, that’s speaking to everyone. That’s what real music does. It doesn’t have an age, it doesn’t have a genre. Michael Jackson would always say certain ad libs. If you look at a song called “Enjoy Yourself” by Michael Jackson, he’s on these crazy runs, he’s on these crazy – he’s singing this amazing vocal performance. That was the last time you heard Michael sing like that. You know why? Because Michael knew. He said a five year old can’t sing along with that. He wouldn’t be able to keep up. The secret is to find a way to catch everyone, to make a song so incredible that you can’t say to yourself, “You’re too young to get this”. Nah. Ain’t no age to classic. If I put on “My Girl” right now. My son, four years old, is going to start dancing. You know why? Because of that playing. Not saying that will necessarily will work today, I’m just saying it’s so classic.

The party starts. You put on “My Girl”, the party starts. It doesn’t matter what age.

Absolutely.

The party starts. That was a great description. I’m not a musical guy. I’m a student of music because first of all I’m in school to study music. But I don’t play or sing or any of that.

I don’t play either. I don’t want you to limit yourself bro. If you’re a student of music, you’re just as much a part of it as I am. Everybody has their role. I just don’t want anybody who’s reading this interview to ever think for one second that they’re not as involved in the culture because they don’t play an instrument or sing a song or write a lyric. You are just as important to the culture as everyone else because you’re participating in some shape, form or fashion. Right now you’re relaying something that is very important to the public. You’re giving me a vehicle to reach people. You’re part of the culture, you’re a musical guy. It’s just your role is different. Our roles are different, that’s all.

Inspiring. I never really thought about it like that. If I reviewed a song I want to know what I’m talking about.

You don’t want to sound ignorant. I know where it’s coming from what you’re saying, you just respect it so much you’re coming at me in a humble way. You don’t want to insult anyone by saying … but you’re not insulting anyone when you say you’re a musical guy. Let’s just say that. You are. Embrace the culture. You love it. You got a hunger for it. You’re interested in the environment and the people who created it. That’s the best part of the culture.

I wish more kids understood that, because then they would realize they don’t have to try to make a record in order to be involved with the culture. Because people are doing it and they don’t really … they’re gifted it’s not that, but they just think that’s the easiest thing to do is buy a mixer and make a record, when that’s not my gift, that’s not my strong point. I would rather appreciate somebody who would say, “I don’t do that, but I have figured out a way to be involved in some other way”.

What about you, you’re a serial entrepreneur. After 5:30 in the morning, get up, get an hour and a half of rest and you head out on a family excursion. With a schedule like that, do you get an opportunity to decompress?

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been finding days now within my schedule where I can just be at home. I’ve got this beautiful home here in Miami and I just sometimes enjoy sitting down in the guest house and watching Netflix. Sitting down and enjoying my dog, things like that. I’ve been consciously finding time within my day. I purposely start my working day at 2:00 so that way – I wake up every morning around 7:30. Wake up at 7:30, get breakfast, have a hangover, [inaudible 00:19:33] school, I can hang with the dog, walk the dog. Those things like that, more than people realize are very comforting. They’re very soothing. Especially when you live a life of get up and go, get on the plane, get off the plane, interviews, do a show, get off the stage, go do an interview, go do this, go to the after party. Sometimes that chaos may start at 2:00 every day, but when I’m home at least I have 7am to 1:00 pm to be normal.

What else do we have coming up in 2015, what can we expect? I know you got some long range goals. Talk to me about the company, what you’re going to do as Rico Love the artist, as Rico Love the entrepreneur. 2015, you’re mixing fashion, you’ve got your partnership with Interscope, etc. what’s in the works?

Really I’m so excited about this album ’cause I feel like this album “Turn the Lights On” that released on May 19, is the beginning for the label. All of this stuff has been preparation. We haven’t even served the meal yet, we’ve just been in the kitchen, and kitchen prep. When we serve it we watch reaction, we watch people run to it and say, “I want this. So many other things on display but I want this”. I feel like that’s the beginning. I’m focused on that, I’m focused on branding the label and branding myself as an artist and working it that way because I feel like the quality in the music is very important and being able to always be associated with greatness.

Humbly, I’m proud of my career to say I’m consistently associated with quality. I don’t make fluff. I don’t make a bunch of songs about girls bending over, dropping it, etc. I make songs that are classic, you can always … when you refer to myself, that when you refer to my company, to my brand, you refer to it as classic, as quality, as substance, as something you can get and have fun out of. Drink and champagne and partying is an amazing thing to do and there’s nothing wrong with putting that in a song. I always want to be able to do that in a way that’s clever. Understand?

When people hear me say that a lot of times, people think I’m not going to make a record about meeting a girl or partying in a club or, you know. I want to find a way to do it … genius. I want to find a way to do it in a way that hasn’t been done before and say something that’s going to be, “Wow, that’s dope the way they did that”. When I hear “All About the Benjamins, when I hear “Mo Money, Mo Problems” when I heard “Make You Feel So Good”, I listen to those records I was, “Wow, that was classic”. You know what I mean? I’m always going to feel that way when that drops. That’s not a fad, in for now. That’s a classic vibe energy. That’s what I want to do with this album and this project, “Turn the Lights On”, is that. It has all of those moments and all of these different emotions and these different relationships. I just feel like I found a way to say it in a way that was clever and was well written, it took time, took dedication.

Like as the saying, “They don’t care until they know you care”. I don’t think people give a shit about what you doing until they know that you’re passionate. They don’t care. “Oh you’re writing a song, cool”. But if they see how dedicated you are to bring them something of substance, I think they respect it a lot more. They take you a lot more serious. The same reason why a doctor who performs open heart surgery will get way more respect than a songwriter. Until they realize that the songwriter does not have a job unless he creates something incredible. A doctor is always going to have somebody who needs a heart transplant. The songwriter got to go to work everyday to create something that has never been created before. Say something that has never been said before. Come up with melody arrangements that have never been done before every single day and do it consistently in order to make a living. If I don’t kill it I don’t eat it. If I don’t catch it and kill it I don’t eat it. That’s the way this game is set up.

When people understand that they can respect me the same way you can respect a heart surgeon. Respect me the same way you can respect a lawyer or biochemist, a nurse. I think that when they understand that passion behind it, see that passion consistently, they take you serious and that’s my goal. That’s what I want to do with my brand.

That’s a unique analogy. You brought in the the hunter – gatherers. If you’re a sociology person that means a lot that you made that reference. If I don’t hunt it, I got to kill it otherwise I don’t eat.

Exactly.

You also said something about delivering in a clever manner. Do you believe, how does your history as an MC, I don’t qualify you as a rapper, I qualify you as an MC because you’re on a different level lyrically. Does that play a part in how you create as a singer?

Yeah, even when I sing something I want to make sure say I something that is dope, when I say things like, “Every melody has a way of reminding me of one of your favorite songs”. That’s something so simple, but it’s, “Wow, every melody I ever hear has a way of reminding me of a song that you told me you love”. Those really simple lines like that in a melodic form, they may not be a punchline, they may not be as battlerap-esque as MC’s may come across, but I think that finding those lines inside of songs, finding the way they evoke emotion in just one line. You don’t care what came before or after that, when you listen to that line it’s, “Wow”. “I know we can’t turn back time, I know we can’t right those wrongs, but at least inside my mind it doesn’t seem like you’re gone. Even though I know you’re busy loving somebody else. A million miles past gone. I wish my bed was warm but you’re loving somebody else”. That’s a lyric. You know. Regardless how you feel about me, as a person, you could read that on paper and it could make you think. You could never have heard that song before and you can read it like it’s a poem and you’ll be able to appreciate it. I think that’s where the MC comes out of me even on my melodic work.

I was thinking about that, I was, “It’s actually a poem”. That could be a book of poems. Is that something you might have explored in your mind, things like, “Maybe I could publish these in a poetic book or collection or a special collection”.

I definitely always wanted to do a big coffee table book with my lyrics, lyrics to songs I’ve written. I was always interested in doing that. Then have pictures and manuscript to go along with it. Maybe different things, comp sheets, different types of things in the actual book. I was always interested in doing something like that.

[Laugh] That’s the ultimate term. Nobody says ‘coffee table’ book anymore. I thought I was the last person to use that term. This is the first time in over five hundred interviews anybody’s ever said anything about a coffee table book. I love that.

“Turn the Lights On” dropped in May. Any special gems for you you want to tell us about on this project?

Basically I really want people to understand that somebody else is the end of the story. The guy loses the girl and the story is saying how did he lose the girl? In “Turn the Lights On” the lights represent fame, success, money. How did fame, success, money affect me? I can make a whole record talking about how many cars I got, how big my house is, how big my watch is and how I got a bunch of chains and jewelry and all that shit. I don’t feel that’s giving anybody anything.

What if I told a story of this is what happened when I became successful. This is how I got jaded in this way. This is how started becoming immune to certain things to the point where I became emotionally. This is how I view marriage before I was successful and this is how I view marriage after I was successful. This is how I view infidelity before and this is how I view infidelity after. These are some of the things that made me selfish and these are some of the things that made me generous. I think it’s an interesting story and it leads up to this ultimate he lost the girl. After that what happens? Cool. What happened? Maybe you got at that. What’s more interesting is what about him made her leave? What changed him? I think that’s what the story of this album represents.

Okay. It’s kind of like from the streets to the suites kind of story, but it includes all the benchmarks that you hit in between. Then the repercussions of perhaps bad behavior being affected by the thing. Let me ask you this with the time we got. As a songwriter, producer, artist, entertainer, are you still able to still listen to music for fun or do you find yourself getting after it technically every time you listen to it?

Yeah, classics. I can listen to Drake for fun though. I can listen to Kendrick for fun. I can listen to Childish Gambino for fun. Kanye West, Jay, not Jay. I’m a little bit more critical with Jay. I’m a little bit more critical with Beyonce and Usher too. It’s possible for me to listen to those people for fun but those other guys I can’t. I listen to Jay, I listen to Beyonce, I listen to Usher. I’m thinking about what I think they should be singing. I’m thinking about, “I don’t want to hear this person saying this, I want to hear them saying this”, so some people yeah. Most people that I know never let me down, I can listen to them for fun. I can listen to classics for fun. New artists, ìf they’re extremely incredible I can listen for fun. I can find holes in their … kinks in their armor and I try to find ways, for myself internalize it. I never share it with the world. I would tell myself, “If they would have did this, this would have been a lot better”. Or, “That string section right there shouldn’t have been right there”. “That kick is a little dull”. “Chords don’t have enough reverb on them”. Depending on the artist, some people never let me down.

I find that to be interesting. I can’t read a book or a magazine anymore just for fun because I’m looking at writing style and content and how they chose the story. I’m wondering if that might interfere with your general enjoyment as a music fan.

You’re still a fan of it, you’re still respect it, but yeah, like you say you’re picking it apart. You understand greatness, you want everything to be great. It’s not from even a haters standpoint, it’s, “Man, that should be, it’s still like this, why don’t I feel this way”.

Is the biggest thing then from a layman’s side, is the biggest thing in the end, to create an emotional connection, to deliver something every time?

That’s it for me. If it doesn’t evoke emotion I don’t believe in it. You know what I mean? I don’t believe in it. I look at the “Drunk and Hot Girls” from the Kanye West “Graduation” album and I get emotional. I get it, I see it. You know what I mean? I think people confuse when I say emotion with content. When you can listen to a song like “I smoke, I drink, I’m supposed to stop but I can’t”. That makes you feel something because he said this in the realest way possible, rest in peace Mr. Magic. A lot of times when I say that people think I’m just super Lupe Fiasco’d out. Emotion comes in all shapes, form and fashion. We just got to figure out those things that are going to last to heaven or things that go away fast. Some *ish ain’t intended to be here for a long time. ‘Cause it’s bullsh*t. It’s fluff. It makes you happy right now. Ten years from now you feel ridiculous that you ever liked it.

You know what? I have one of those songs in my mind. I can’t believe I even liked that song. But it is dope, at the time. My song is Bobby Jimmy and the Critters when they did “Roaches”. It was hilarious, but really, it was a dumb song. In response.

I was going to ask you in your long and storied career with all the creations that you put together is there one thus far that you do believe could be your farewell to the world. “This could be my last statement”.

I don’t know yet. I think goodbye is so far away from my mind and I don’t even know what I would say. I intend on preaching love and passion and believing in something. I think that’s going to be a consistent theme throughout my career and it may not necessarily be the theme as the songs, just the theme in which I do things. I think when people see that, they see how intent I am and how passionate I am about something I think it transcends just music, or transcends just the melody. I think it’s more about filling something passionate for somebody, the same way I feel about when I watch a Kanye West interview. Whether I agree with what he says or not I respect his passion.

He’s definitely passionate. I believe why I asked that question, during my career it was a constant thing to have a burn box. In that burn box was your farewell letter to your family, etc. and it was one of the things that I agonized over the most. “Wow, maybe I won’t make it back from this mission but I’m not ready to say goodbye.

You don’t even allow that in your mind. Give no room for it. That’s how strongly our manifestation. We don’t even allow it to exist in our mind, it cannot exist in our physical.

What is the most fun for you? In the entertaining industry.

Performing’s the most fun. Writing a song is great but when you can actually perform in front of people, it’s fun.


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