Eric Bellinger Talks ‘Cuffing Season’ Album, Working With Game & Moving on From ‘Anaconda’ Fiasco [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Like The-Dream and Ty Dolla $ign before him, Eric Bellinger is setting himself up to be the latest behind-the-scenes songwriter proving he's a star in his own right. It's been a long time coming since he's penned multiple hits for other artists as part of the Writing Camp -- Brandy's 'Right Here (Departed) and Beyonce's 'Halo,' among them, and more recently, Chris Brown's 'New Flame'
So will Bellinger work his way out of the shadows of those rays of light? That remains to be seen, but he has been working toward a solo career and his new mixtape, 'Choose Up Season,' is proof of that. The project drops in a year when R&B has undergone a renaissance as new stars and more ambient sounds grab attention. The crooner, who's clearly talented with his soothing voice and crafting catchy tracks, has an easygoing, yet confident personality that says, "Why not me, too?"
While he's looking toward the positive end of fame, the Compton, Calif, native actually made negative headlines earlier this year regarding Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda.' The rapper claimed Bellinger didn't have a role in creating the song, although he thought otherwise. He's moving on from that bit of bad news and other rappers like Game, who has a feature on 'Choose Up Season,' are in his corner.
Bellinger tells The Boombox that he has more in store for his growing legions of fans. The questions, of course, are when is the material coming and will it stick? Check out what the rising star has to say below.
What are you feeling as ‘Choose Up Season’ approaches -- relief that it’s finally here or is it more so excitement?
I think it’s more excitement because I’m not a guy who’s uptight or worried a lot. It’s really just so much fun for me that I really just want people to hear the new music that I’m putting out. It’s exciting to see the new fans come aboard and realize that I’m responsible for so many of their favorite songs. I’m actually coming to the forefront.
How long has ‘Choose Up Season’ been in the making?
I’d say four months we’ve been putting it together. We did a bunch of songs for it and just picked the best nine instead of having a big body of work.
It’s interesting that ‘Choose Up Season’ has been in the making for the past four months. Summer is known as the turn-up months. Is the project geared toward cuffing season?
‘Choose Up Season’ caters to the single life actually, but I’m putting out an album that’s called ‘Cuffing Season.’ 'Choose Up' is kind of like the single life, so out of all the people that you’re dealing with, you gotta choose. So it’s more so choosing and taking about dating different girls. My album, ‘Cuffing Season,’ is gonna bring it all the way home -- really lock in on love. There are positives to love rather than just being out there.
So ‘Choose Up Season’ thematically leads to the new album?
For 'Cuffing Season,' what kind of work have you been putting in?
The ‘Choose Up Season’ is specifically to market the album. The ‘Cuffing Season’ is completely about how the single life is overrated: It’s cool to get you a wife or boyfriend or whatever you want to call it and settle down to turn up with your partner rather than being out there. Like the benefits of not having to scroll through the cellphone at night.
So for an artist who makes songs for both cuffing and the single life, do you have to get into a certain mindset for either?
Luckily for me, when I was making the songs I was really in my single life swag. There were pros and cons. In the beginning it’s turning up in the club, and at the end, it’s like, “I choose you… Now it’s like this is weird. We were supposed to be having fun. What is this? Now it’s awkward. Now you’re trying to catch feelings.” I go through the whole process. I tell a story throughout the ‘Choose Up Season’ and ... at the end of the ‘Choose Up Season’ I say, "To be continued." As soon as it gets to ‘Cuffing Season,’ the intro is called ’20 Missed Calls.’ It’s about how you’re not about that life no more and that you’ve matured. You realize how helpful it is to have someone that you call your own -- like the Bonnie and Clyde type of love.
Who are you working with on ‘Cuffing Season?'
I’ve been working with D'Mile a lot. He’s like my favorite producer and we’ve already done nine joints together for ‘Cuffing Season.’
I heard you did a remix to Makonnen’s ‘Club Going Up on a Tuesday.’ Do you take inspiration from any other artist when you’re making your own work?
I like to pull from everybody and mix it all together to make this gumbo of music. If it’s rap, I love rappers’ cadences. Me as an R&B artist, I like to switch up from cadences and put a little more melody to it. That ‘Tuesday’ song was crazy and I thought it would be a dope idea to market ‘Choose Up Season’ behind the project. A lot of people are loving that joint.
Listen to Eric Bellinger's 'Wednesday'
Did Makonnen give you any feedback?
No. A lot of people do remixes to people’s songs and hit them on Twitter. I’m just like, “If he hears it, he hears it.” It’s more so like respect thing -- I really love that song. I didn’t like at him a bunch of times.
A lot of people really reach out for help, but I don’t like to reach out for help. I like to do what I do, and if people are a fan of it, they’ll hit me up. Not if I feel like I’m bugging people. Let people live their life and when they come to you, that means you’re doing it right.
I saw you had a few collaborations with Game recently. You had ‘Or Nah’ and ‘Awkward’ from the mixtape with him. How did you guys connect?
We first did a song together a couple of years ago in one of his last mixtapes called ‘Death Penalty.’ It’s actually me, Game and Fabolous. From then on, we just stayed cool. He kind of took me under his wing -- we’re both from Compton -- and he was like, “Yo, I got you.” We started just working together.
I got some songs on ‘The Documentary 2,’ so we’ve just been vibing it out like crazy. I just feel like if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, you know.
Listen to Eric Bellinger's 'Awkward' Feat. Game
Did he give you any advice making the mixtape and ‘Cuffing Season?’
He was just like, “You gotta sell that music.” I’m just big on the fanbase, but he’s like, “Bro, you still need to sell it.” He helps me with making business decisions … He’s really good at what he does, not only on the music side, but on the business side.
In a way, this pushes you past the ‘Anaconda’ issue over the summer, right?
That’s another thing. I really didn’t pay it too much attention, because I know that I’m doing so many other things. For me to focus on this one negative thing would bring a dark cloud over all the positivity that I have going on.
So I’m just like, keep it pushing, keep putting out great music, keep building my fanbase, keep working hard in the studio to bring out good singles so I can get on these radios and these clubs, and just build. The production side, the writing side and the behind-the-scenes stuff, that’s just really what I do for my job. But for fun is this artistry. This is what I’m really trying to do.
Any date in mind for ‘Cuffing Season?'
I’m thinking around Valentine’s Day. Around first or second quarter. It depends because the project is already finished. So I’m gonna gauge it by how ‘Choose Up Season’ is doing, how my singles are doing, how my radio is doing, how the interaction with the fans is. If something happens … For example, Jay Z says Eric Bellinger is the next kid and everybody starts sticking for me, boom, album is gonna come out the next day. You know what I mean? You never really gonna know what’s going to happen nowadays. You just have to be ready. You have to be completely overly ready to put the project out at any minute. I just wanted to use the ‘Choose Up Season’ as a marketing tool to get people in the mindset of the single life. Then I’m gonna switch it up on them and go all the way about love.
Sort of like what happened with Makonnen and the Drake co-sign.
Exactly, bro. You just gotta be ready. With Kendrick, Dr. Dre really stamped him. Kendrick was out of here after that because he was able to stand firm on what Dre said. It’s like, “He said that and now I can back it up with this great material.” If something happens, we’re gonna know and my camp is gonna be like, “It’s time. Let’s go.”