In House With Keke Palmer: Singer Talks New Mixtape, Virginity as a ‘Gift’ & Her ‘Masculine Side’
Keke Palmer is embracing her sexy side in more ways than one. No longer the fresh-faced youngster acting on the Nickelodeon sitcom "True Jackson, VP," these days the 18-year-old dons a little more makeup, her skirt is a bit shorter and she's a "sex enthusiast" tackling controversial topics like adolescents losing their virginity in the movie "Virgin Mary," due next year. The actress-turned-singer is obviously growing up and her forthcoming self-titled mixtape is a reflection of that maturation.
On her first single from the effort, the Kevin McCall-assisted "You Got Me," Palmer flaunts her vocal chops, singing of the "real thing" she has with her special guy -- the accompanying video also showcases the entertainer serving choreographed moves with attitude. The chanteuse feels right at home with her lyrics as of late. When she released her debut album, So Uncool, in 2007, Palmer had to deal with her handlers controlling much of her musical direction. Now, she's leading the charge and writing personal material with some added sass.
The Illinois native, who currently stars in the animated film "Ice Age: Continental Drift," visited The BoomBox to speak on her new movie role, a few tracks fans can expect on her mixtape, which drops this summer, thoughts about the "gift" of virginity and exhibiting her "masculine" side.
See Photos of Keke Palmer's In House Visit With The BoomBox
Your new single is "You Got Me" featuring Kevin McCall. How did that come about?
I was pretty much getting ready to record songs for my mixtape. I was working with [producer] Harmony. Me and Sherrod Lambert wrote the song together. [The song] is pretty much saying when you're in a relationship you try to tell your partner, "At the end of the day, I got you and you got me." It's a love song but with my swag on it.
Talk to me about your new mixtape.
For a long time with my music, when I was younger, I felt like it was me but not me. People would put their ideas and I never had full control of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to express myself. Now that I'm 18 and I had some time off and I was like "OK, now I really wanna be able to do the music that I want to do and put it out for my fans to see." I just want to put it out so they can get it, so they can have it, they can have a collective album, mixtape... where they can recognize who I am as an artist and they can see that for themselves from me, not from somebody else.
What was the last studio session you had?
The last studio session I had was for a song called "If Six Were Nine." I wrote it with Eric Bellinger. It's pretty much saying if the world was flipped upside down it would be OK because you and I are together. The track is so interesting because it actually has a sample from [Jay-Z's] "99 Problems." You have to hear it to really understand it but I thought it would be cool to write something out of that because the track is doing so much. But still be able to do it in a balanced way. So I came up with that song. It felt really good to me. When I was younger, a lot of times people would wasn't to control [the music] and wouldn't let me get what I wanted out of it. When I was with Eric, it was really collaborative. He wasn't telling me to "Do this." It was let me be free to do my own thing. Let me be free to do my own melodies, the ones that came naturally out of me.
Do you have any other collaborations on the mixtape besides Kevin McCall?
I didn't want to do too many collaborations because I wanted [listeners] to really get to know me. I did one because I love Kevin and it's good to have at least one. But the album is mainly me. Just them getting to know me and hearing me.
Watch Keke Palmer's "You Got Me" Video Feat. KevinMcCall
Who are you influenced by?
Brandy, Aaliyah, TLC, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson. Brandy's first album and Full Moon [album]. She represented every young girl. I think that's special. That's what I want to do. We don't have anybody in R&B music that does that today, and really represent what girls are going through and be that voice for them and really be able to speak to them through music.
So Uncool was your first album. What do you feel is the biggest difference from that project to this one?
They'll still feel the elements of me but it'll be a more mature version. It's just different sounds in it. I was really happy with my first album. I was younger then so I don't really know if people could really connect to that. I worked really hard on that one too.
"Ice Age: Continental Drift" is out now. What's a memorable experience you have of working on the film?
A lot of people don't know that when you film "Ice Age" they have you film it in a jail cell [laughs]. I'm just kidding! I guess it would be interesting to know that you really have to use your imagination for all of the stuff in the movie. Sometimes they don't have the clips. This movie took two years to make. You start in the beginning and then sometimes towards the end you might have to go in and record some more stuff and they might have a digitized version of what it may look like. So I have to make myself -- I'll give you an example -- I have one scene where I'm falling down a cliff, but I'm not only nervous 'cause I might be in danger; I'm nervous because I might bump into my crush. Now I don't know how I sound falling down a cliff and I don't know how to sound like I'm falling down a cliff when I'm bumping into the guy I like [laughs]. So I'm there like "Ohh, ahhh, oohh, ahhh!" It feels really embarrassing 'cause you're sitting there trying to sound so real doing that. You get used to it.
Your crush in the film is played by rapper Drake. Did you get to work with him?
I've met him prior to the movie but I didn't get to work with him on the movie.
What did you think when you learned Drake was going to be a part of the film?
They told me right in the beginning. They were like "You know Drake is playing in it?" At first I thought they were talking about Drake Bell. No offense. They were like, "No Drake the rapper." I was like "You playing?" [laughs]. It's so cool and fresh. For a big animation like "Ice Age," I think what makes them so cool is that they know what young people want and they know older people want. So they put all these people in the movie that everyone can identify with.
"Virgin Mary" is another film you're in, which debuts next year. Tell me about your character.
It's an independent film. It's different from what people have seen me in, in a good way. It's like real teenage life. The only teenage show I ever did was "True Jackson, VP," a sugar-coated version of what teenage life really is. My character that I play is curious, she's like "You know, look, I'm a sex enthusiast." Stuff like that. I get to be funny in a sincere way, not in a trashy way. You have people like that in school, where "Sex isn't a big deal to me." My character is so much more likable because she wasn't trying to hide her emotions. It's very true to life.
Why do you think it's important to tackle the issue of young adults losing their virginity?
I think it's important to tackle it because kids these days are having pacts to have babies, forget having pacts to have sex. It's true. I think it's good to depict that. This film is in the John Hughes form -- very true to life. The kids are smart and they make the right choices. Though they're young and they're teenagers, they make the choices off of what they truly feel. There are people who get married, lose their virginity then get a divorce. I think what the message in ["Virgin Mary"] is if you're smart enough to make the decision and you think, "You know what, this is a good person and even if we not together past this, I'm OK with giving you this gift." That's a gift [giving your virginity to someone], that really is a gift. If you're OK with that then move on and even if you're not with that person and you think they're a good enough person to deserve that, then that's all that really matters.
What's up next for you?
I'm going to release my next video for "Dance Alone." It tells more of a story. I'm excited for this video. It taps into the masculine part of me. When I listened to the song, I kept listening to it and the first thing that came to mind was Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." It's a 2012 flip on that. It's a young girl seeing a guy and wants to get that guy. She's saying "I don't want to dance alone." It's dance-driven. It's sexy yet it's cool and it's confident. That's a fantasy. I think that's what all girls want to be able to do, go to a guy and say "I know you want me" but in our minds we're too afraid to do that. It's really cute.