Rico Love Talks ‘Turn the Lights On’ Album, Shelving an Entire Brandy Project, Marriage in America & More [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Music and poetry have been staples in Rico Love's life since he was a young kid in Harlem, N.Y., which makes perfect sense that he'd mature into the super producer and songwriter that he is today. Earning respect for writing songs like “Throwback” and “Seduction” on Usher’s 2004 Grammy Award-winning album, Confessions, Rico went on to pen tracks for the likes of Fergie, Diddy and Sean Kingston, among others. Even Beyonce found herself belting out four of Rico’s tunes on her five-time Grammy Award-winning album, I Am…Sasha Fierce.
But after years of grinding behind the scenes, Rico proved he was a worthy solo star with his 2013 breakout single, “They Don’t Know.” Thanks to radio rotation, the song became a hit and left fans wanting more from the producer-turned-solo artist. That same year ,he dropped Discrete Luxury, his first mixtape and followed it up with the free album, I Sin, in 2014. But focusing on his own career led Rico to shy away from writing for other artists, a role that left him powerless in regards to whether the songs were shelved or released.
Armed with his foundation of mentors, his own Turn the Lights On orchestra and a team he can trust with his Division One label (an imprint under Interscope Records), Rico is ready to finally make his major label debut. "Somebody Else," the first single to arrive off his Turn the Lights On album, shows Rico tapping into relationships and love once again, laying the foundation for his May 19 release.
Rico Love stopped by The Boombox to discuss his new LP, falling out of love with writing for other artists, how his baby girl will influence his music, having to scrap an entire Brandy project and more. Peep the conversation below.
The Boombox: People are more familiar with hearing you on other artists tracks or on the production end. Why did you feel like now is the time to step out on your own?
Rico Love: The music just started speaking to me and it just started to feel real. I mean, if you would have asked me that two years ago... think it happened with "They Don't Know." Most music lovers know me as Rico Love the producer, but 19-year-old kids and the average consumer they have no clue [that I have been in the industry as a writer and producer]. But I think now my name is much more synonymous with being in the front of the stage.
What producers are you working with on Turn the Lights On, besides producing yourself?
I worked with Danja on the album. Jim Johnson is also on the album. Jack Splash did an interlude for me and DJ Dahi. Besides them on there is also the TTLO orchestra, which are my guys they are playing on the album. But as far as features are concerned, I have Raekwon on the album, Monica and I have this new artist named Armani Ceasar, a dope female rapper. Action Bronson is on the album too. I didn't do a bunch of chasing the names for this album I wanted it to be organic.
Speaking of organic creations, tell us about your production process. Do you prefer when people send you beats?
It varies. I think with anything in music there is no one formula. Sometimes you may be driving in your car and you hear a melody and then you go to the studio and some guy plays the cords and you just start recording. I like to build from scratch. I rarely write to beats. That's why when people ask me can they send me beats it's pretty pointless, because I like to build up the song myself. I like to write more so to the base line or a cord progression. Then I loop in the lyrics, its like the music should hug the lyrics.
Lyrically you have a way of layering your words so that there is always a hidden message with your songs. Is their a track on your album which speaks to social issues or deeper issues you see plaguing our society?
Absolutely. I really tackle marriage in America and relationships. I have a record called "Proposal" and a one called "Stay For the Kids." I just wanted to talk about things that people are not really talking about. The obvious: love, relationships and marriage or the lack thereof. Sometimes they are difficult issues. Men have trouble with commitment and a lot of women force commitment on a man or vice versa. I am a man so I spoke on it from my perspective.
Watch Rico Love's "Somebody Else" Video
I know you have a son, but now you are anticipating the birth of your first daughter. How has becoming a father to a daughter influenced your music?
I mean it didn't happen yet, but I am nervous. But I always keep it a buck with everything that I do and say anyway. I don't think I am going to change that for my daughter. How I view "those" women on "Bitches Be Like" I am not going to change anything that I am going to say because I am not raising that type of woman. I am never the guy that says, "Bend over bitch bust that p---- open," but nobody ever gets upset with the guy who says that. These are guys who have daughters as well. But I will say they should take care of them f---in' babies and stop being in the club. But if I say it, then I like a super asshole. So when I write music I have to speak the language. I have to talk to you in the way that you understand.
What is a song on the album that you can't wait for fans to hear?
I am so excited about the entire project, but there is this song called "Trifling" that I think is really genius. It's like really smart. It's a ballad, the one record on the album that I am singing all the way through no rapping.
Did you write any songs for another artist, which you chose to keep for your album?
No. I haven't written for any other artist in like two years. I don't like it anymore. I don't like writing songs anymore because you are powerless. I did a whole Brandy project and I was all excited about the songs and then she said, "Oh, I'm just going to do The Game. I am not going to put these songs out." I am really passionate about this music. The same thing happened with Usher, when he put out the bulls--- "Scream" song -- he thinks it's bulls--- by the way too.
So I fell out of love with the whole idea of writing for other people. You just give up too much. It's like you have a baby and then you give it up for adoption and you never see that baby again. Now if I could executive producer a project, that's something I would do because that is a lane I can control. I would do that.
Watch Rico Love's "Bitches Be Like" Video
You're very transparent on social media and connect with your fans a lot. What's the craziest fan experience you've had thus far in your career?
Man, people talk a lot of s--- on Twitter and Instagram. They say anything from you are ugly to your kids and mother are ugly too. After a while it does get beyond annoying. You start questioning yourself like "Am I ugly?" But it is what it is. It bothers me because with this culture it's acceptable to ridicule other black people. The other day, this girl commented to me on Instagram, "I loved your song 'Somebody Else,' but then when I found out you were dark-skinned I didn't like it anymore." She was dark-skinned, so it was like, wow you don't even love yourself. But on the positive, you get people who respect you and love the music. So you have to weigh out the good and the bad.
You sing and you rap. Will we hear more rapping from you on this project?
Actually, I sing more on this project. What happened was, Hip-Hop Nation one of my favorite [radio] stations won't even play my music because they view me as a singer. No matter how dope the record is or if I rap my ass off, they view me as a singer. I had to realize that in this day and age, people want you to be who they want you to be. What I had to do was come up with a unique way to insert the rap so that people would accept it because the verses are undeniable. I didn't want to fight with people. I still did what I wanted to do. I just felt like why not do what they accept me for to the best of my ability. You take a record like "Somebody Else" and you are like, "Who is that rapping on the end?" I wanted people to think about things like that.
You're catch phrase is "Turn the Lights On" but what's the meaning behind it for the title of the album?
The lights represent fame and money and on this album, I wanted to talk about what happened to me when I started making money. I can make a record talking about my cars and my jewelry because everyone is doing that right now. I wanted to talk about the effects of those things and how you can become jaded. My perception of marriage and relationships are totally different now that I have money. My relationships with people in general are totally different. I stopped trusting people, because people tried to steal from me and cross me. It happens to everybody, but I don't think anyone explains that on an entire project.
You are also the CEO of Division 1, your label. How hard is it managing your solo career and that of artists on your imprint?
It's easy now because I am the only artist on my label. With [Tiara Thomas], I signed her based on amazing songs that she wrote but after the deal was done she didn't want to put those songs out. It was like I married this women and she became this women. It wasn't a bad thing. Actually I don't think anyone really cares.
What's next for Rico Love and Division 1?
The album comes out May 19, so I am going to go on tour in support of the album around then. The single is really taking off. I am really excited about the reception. I think that when this record takes off, people can start having real conversations about Rico Love.
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