[Exclusive] Former 'Next' Singer RL Talks About Self-Esteem Issues Growing Up, A Successful Solo Career & His Admiration for Singer Brandy
Music Times caught up with singer RL formerly from the 90's hit group "Next" at the Resorts World Casino where he exclusively opened up to us about his comfortability on stage despite growing up with low self-esteem, his thoughts on R&B music today and why his thinks singer Brandy is a transcendent voice in this era.
Music Times: What's going through your mind before you perform?
RL: To be honest, I try to get angry.
RL: Because I feel like the only time an artist should have ego is when he's creating or when he's performing. It's almost like an athlete, when you get on the court or on the field, it takes a certain edge to give your best. So it's what I've done since I was younger because I grew up with low self-esteem -- I've had it since I was five. The only time I ever felt comfortable was on stage or when I was singing and creating. What it did was it gave me an inner confidence so I actually am offended to people on my stage right now. Holding my mic, singing in my audience, I feel like it's almost like you're sleeping with my woman right now because that's how important music is to me. And I think a lot of times that's why shows and performances and other artist's music suffers and it goes down because they don't have that same edge when they're creating and when they're performing. You'll go to a show and go damn, that's all they could do? I could have half the voice, I'm still going to try to sing my ass off. I'm going to jump on the speaker, I'm going to do something because it means that much to me.
MT: What are your thoughts about R&B music today?
RL: You know what, it's funny because people say real R&B or they'll say 'What do you think about bringing R&B back?' What we do is we categorize and right now the music that I'm hearing isn't R&B, but it's music. I can't be mad at that, I just stay in my lane. The hardest thing for an artist like me -- I'm 37 and in the black community and in the urban community, that's old. White folks have kids at 45, but you talk about the urban community, they want to age you. Plus, I came out at such a young age, people think I'm in my 40s or something, so I pride myself on taking care of myself, taking care of my boys and being relevant without trying to be the old man in the club trying to be cool, if that makes sense. And I really feel like I give the newer artists respect. My biggest issue and fear for them is in 10 to 15 years, what records do you hear right now that you'll want to hear like you hear mine?
MT: How was it transitioning from "Next" to your solo career? Was it hard for you at first? Or you just knew that was something you were destined to do?
RL: Well I did the group thing because of my insecurities as a person and I liked the camaraderie and the brotherhood, but to be honest, and nothing against those guys, but they're real blood brothers. I have no relation. So I always felt alone anyway and people always say, 'Well how is it recording by yourself compared to with the group.' To be honest, the majority of the records were recorded by myself with KG or with the other producers and then we'd bring the guys in. They, not to take away from them and their talent, but they delegated the task of creating to me on a majority of the records, so I was prepared for that. The only difference was I didn't have to record a record and then send it to somebody to learn their parts. It was done.
MT: Do you have any projects coming out?
RL: Well I was working, I have been working on, and the album is done, WQRL, but I don't know if it's going to come out now. Because you got three individuals, it's Wingo from Jagged Edge, Q Parker from 112 and then myself. We got a whole album done called Give It Up For Love but we also got other things we're working on. I got my solo album called 515. I recorded over a hundred records for that and I'm continuously writing for other artists. It's funny because people go 'So where are you at now?' And it's finding my niche. I've written for Mindless Behavior, you go from Luther to Mindless Behavior and for me, I just like creating, no matter who it's for, where it's set, it's just fun to create.
MT: Is there anybody that you want to write for now?
RL: Probably Brandy. The reason I say that is because what happens is, as an artist, we all have insecurities. That's the thing about being an artist, we're sensitive. We're trying to find our niche instead of just being who we are. And I think Brandy's one of the transcendent voices of my era, of any era, and you can hear somebody and they're holding their talent back, doing what's out now, trying to figure out how to go to this hot producer that's hot right now. When I was coming up, it was about let me find that dude that's in the basement right now with his little beat machine, just creating dope stuff without all the technology, that's just dope, so I can be the first one.
And I'm noticing a lot of artist's that I've worked with and looked up to and I'm a fan of, they're trying to find a certain sound, or they're copying and that's why urban R&B is losing, because you've got people like Justin Timberlake. As a matter of fact, the best R&B album of last year to me, was Justin Bieber's. Why? Because he's just doing what he loves instead of saying let me go work with this person, let me go find this niche or let me do that. I think that certain artists now a days are saying this producer, he's hot right now, let me go work with him. Well, by the time your music comes out, he ain't hot no more, there's a new hot dude that you could've found in somebody's basement and used him instead of chasing something that's not there. It's like studying what's on the radio, well by the time you come out, that's not hot no more.