Verse Simmonds Teams With Akon, Lands ‘WTT’ Song + More
When singer-songwriter Verse Simmonds wrote the lyrics to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Who Gon Stop Me,’ he had every intention of making those words ring true. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Virgin Island, as a youngster, Simmonds always wanted to pursue a career in music. In high school, he moved to Florida where he met future producing partner Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph. The two moved to Los Angeles in 2003, formed the songwriting-production team the Jugganauts and began their official descent into the music industry. Simmonds later landed an ill-fated record deal with Interscope Records, thanks to help from super producer Rodney Jerkins, but continued to get his foot in the door behind the scenes.
Since then, the Jugganauts have worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Akon and Rihann. But, as Simmonds continues to transform into one of the most sought after writers and producers in the game, he’s putting his energy towards solo stardom. His most recent releases, the ‘Sextape Chronicles 2′ mixtape and the love song ‘Boo Thang’ featuring Kelly Rowland, have turned the spotlight on his singing talents. The video for the latter has been viewed more than 1.7 million times on VEVO, and with the momentum still going strong, Simmonds is crafting his debut solo album to be released under Akon’s KonLive label.
It’s not easy working on projects for music’s heavy-hitters and finding the time to focus on personal efforts, but Simmonds has figured out a way to achieve balance. The BoomBox caught up with him in the middle of shooting four music videos — over the course of two weeks — where he broke down why he maintains his hustle, how he’s created his lane in the R&B spectrum and the story behind the song he landed on ‘Watch the Throne.’
As a singer-songwriter was the goal always to be a solo artist?
It’s always been the goal for me to be an artist. I just understood that at the time, to be a stronger artist, you have to be able to do a lot on your own. So early on, it was just about me, just kind of like perfecting my craft as a songwriter, as a producer as well as an artist. I understand that, so what sets me apart from so many other artists is the fact that I can write my own music [and] produce my own music as well.
Since your mixtape ‘Sextape Chronicles 2′ is out, are you now working towards putting together your full-length debut?
I’m doing both. What I wanna do is, I’m going to put out another mixtape at the top of the year then I’m going to go for the actual album come summer of 2012, so by then I’ll have everything put together.
Watch Verse Simmonds’ ‘Boo Thang’ Feat. Kelly Rowland
Do you have a title for the new mixtape?
I’m going to put out another ‘Sextape Chronicles’ [mixtape] and just keep that going. For the album, right now currently, the name is ‘Stories of a Bachelor.’ What I basically wanted to focus on is kind of bring in a realistic view to relationships, as well as love making and all of that. I want it to be really, really honest. I have a song on the ['Sextape Chronicles 2'] mixtape called ‘Love No Glove.’ Now it’s not something I promote as far as unsafe sex, but that’s kind of like how all of us got here. That one thing had to happen at some point, and nobody speaks on it in the kind of manor that I brought it across, but at the same time I also have [a song] on the mixtape, ‘Protection,’ which is basically the opposite of the ‘Love No Glove’ record. I just want to speak about things that people aren’t really talking about in a smart way that people can relate to.
You shot four videos for songs off the ‘Sextape Chronicles 2′ mixtape over the last two weeks. Can you give me about some of the concepts?
The name of [one] song is called ‘Striptease,’ the concept is I’m coming home after a hard day’s work, I end up coming home to a beautiful young lady. At the end of it, I think it’s only one girl in the room and it ends up being three or four. I’m single so I get to do that [laughs]. I’m shooting another [video for the song] ‘I Wanna See You,’ and my lead model for this video is Diamond from Crime Mob.
Soulja Boy’s girlfriend?
Yeah, Soulja Boy‘s girlfriend, that’s funny to me [laughs]. I think it’s going to be really great. This is another kind of imaginative thing — she thinks that I’m there but I’m really not there. I got the ‘Boo Thang’ remix [video] with 2 Chainz and Yo Gotti. It’s basically gonna be a fly piece. We’re focusing on fashion and style for that video, and then [for the video] ‘One Last Time,’ the concept behind that is again another bedroom scene — I’m doing a lot of bedroom scenes, you’re making me realize that, but it makes sense — she has to leave and I’m like, One last time before you go.”
When you do back-to-back videos like that do you use the same director?
I use a lot of up-and-coming directors. I just feel like once you know how to work the camera really well, you can do a video for me. Now I’m branching out into using more, new fresh up-and-coming directors that have new visions and new ways to shoot things because they’re hungrier.
How did you end up signing to Akon’s KonLive imprint, and how has he influenced your artistry?
It was kind of random to be honest with you because I been knowing Akon since ’03. One of my closest friends, Benny D, is his DJ and Akon asked me to come write for him. It kind of snowballed from there. We were talking and he had seen me doing my thing, I had put out my first single ‘Buy You a Round’ under Interscope at the time. I had got out of my [label] situation and he was just like, “Yo, we’re kind of building this whole new regime [at] KonLive, I’d like you to kind of be the face of that and just jump that off.” It’s something that I feel has definitely helped my career and helped me move in the right direction.
As an artist, the best thing about Akon is that he’s humble and he’s someone you can go up to and he’ll take some time with you and help you perfect it and put you on the game as far as the industry is concerned, what to look out for and what to do and not do.
Aside from your own album, what else are you working on?
Speaking of which, what do you think about Busta signing with Cash Money Records?
For somebody like Busta Rhymes, I think it might have been a great move. He’s been in the game for so long and he’s been able to be somebody people still looked at as a strong force in the game as well as a legend. So for him to find a new home with Cash Money, who is the hottest label right now, I think it could only help him. I think it could only be a blessing to move from there, it’s gonna probably give him five more years to just go hard. He’ll stop when he wants to stop or he’ll never stop. People will always be able to appreciate him because he’s created his voice and there will never be [a voice like his] after him.
You also worked on the ‘Watch the Throne’ album. How did you land a spot on that project?
They had actually reached out to us and wanted us to send some tracks to them and what we did was we locked in for like a week and was going ‘Watch the Throne’ crazy. Anything that we could do that we thought would fit what we thought ‘WTT’ would be, we did it. The first record that we actually did was ‘Who Gon Stop Me’ and it ended up making the album. We ended up going back in again and doing ‘Made in America’ as well. The ‘Who Gon Stop Me’ is the one I’m actually featured on vocally, as well as produced the record. God just kind of blessed us with that. It’s one of the biggest albums of the year, we’re just really happy to be a part of it. The whole concept [of 'Who Gon Stop Me'] was the space I was in at the time. I was like, “Who gon’ stop me?” Nothing gon’ get in front of us and what we’re doing. Let’s get it!
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