Exclusive Fashionably-Early Interview: Rico Love

Even if you think you don’t know Rico Love – you do.  Usher’s “There Goes My Baby,” Nelly’s “Just a Dream,” Trey Songz “Heart Attack,” Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation” feat Lil’ Wayne and Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams” are all songs that Rico has written and produced. He has contributed to Grammy Award winning works such as Beyoncé’s 2009 Best Contemporary R&B album “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” Usher’s 2010 Best Contemporary R&B album “Raymond v. Raymond,” and Usher’s 2010 Best Male R&B Vocal Performance “There Goes My Baby.” In addition, Love has written and produced records for artists such as Fergie, Chris Brown, A$AP Rocky, David Guetta, Wiz Khalifa and Mary J Blige. Rico has over 30 platinum plaques and nine gold to go along with his three Grammy’s.

After being featured on records with artists including Usher, T.I., Jermaine Dupri, Jamie Foxx, Rich Boy and Fat Joe, Rico released his debut solo EP Discrete Luxury featuring hit urban singles ‘They Don’t Know’ and ‘Bitches Be Like’ in 2013. Now, Rico is ready to release his debut major label album Turn The Lights On via his Division 1 imprint and Interscope Records. With fantastic releases ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘Days Go By’ already out, holding out until May 18 is going to be tough. Don’t worry though, during our interview with the artist, we cover the tone of the album, features, the current state of urban music, releasing Tiara Thomas, SESAC, and many other things. Start reading below, and get ready for his album, as well with upcoming collaborations with Wiz Khalifa & Snoop Dogg, French Montana, Waka Flocka, Action Bronson, Kevin Gates, & others to drop in the future.

Your debut album Turn The Lights On drops in stores on May 18. How does it feel drop your debut retail album as opposed to a mixtape or EP?

It’s incredible man. It’s like you wait your whole life for this. I feel like you have been writing your first album your life, so to get up to this point, then you know, living this much, I have something really authentic, and something to talk about, is what I’m really excited about.
I’ve only heard the first two singles – ‘Days Go By’ & ‘Somebody Else’ – & the album feels like it has more a “serious” tone than your previous projects. Do you feel the way you felt while you were recording made it sound that way?
I mean, everything I have ever created is serious. It might come off clever or humorous to people because some things aren’t typically said but everything I have ever written is serious & I take it very serious. I’d never consider anything I have ever done not serious, its just that on topics – people can take a little bit lighthearted – like a ‘Bitches Be Like’ or a ‘They Don’t Know’ or something like that but they are all dead serious.
With this project, I was being very honest, very autobiographical, speaking about certain time in my life. I was going through a tremendous breakup, but I think more than just the breakup part of it, its the reasoning behind certain things that change in a man when he becomes successful and it was a story I felt was a bit more intriguing then just talking about how much money I made and how much success I had and all the cliche things that most urban artists speak about. I wanted to talk about the mindset I was in during this particular time and how the success affected this particular relationship.

I read that you have some outside production on this album.
Yeah, yeah. DJ Dahi, Danja, Jim Johnson, Jack Splash
 What was the decision behind grabbing those producers? …Because we know you’re capable of doing it yourself as well.
Just exploring and making music. I don’t have an ego when it comes this – I just wanted to work with those people.
You also mentioned previously that you had features from Monica, Action Bronson & Raekwon for the album. Are those confirmed features for the album?
Nah, you see what happens is a lot of times… well Raekwon is on the album, the Monica record didn’t make the album because of clearance issues and the same thing as Action Bronson. Sometimes, you know, you can’t get records cleared in-time and certain samples can’t get cleared, so that’s how that happened.
I’m genuinely interested in hearing how the record with Action Bronson came together. I wouldn’t expect to see you two work together.
Why not?
I feel like he’s not really an urban act, and you seem to hit the urban/rhythmic markets very well and it doesn’t seem as if he is trying to hit that market.
You see what happens is when you create music that you’re passionate about, music from the heart, it doesn’t have genres. What happens is the consumer creates these genres, and they limit artists. They limit us in so many different ways and they feel like “oh I wouldn’t expect you to do this”, but when you look at the career I have, writing songs that I feel like are timeless records – I never made a career off flush records. I never made a career off those dance, poppy songs that are here today and gone tomorrow. I made a career off substance. The same reason why Raekwon jumped on my album with no problem is because they have respect for what I do and they respect me as a creator and the same way I respect them as a creator.
The only people that puts limits on it is the actual consumer and that is why certain artists are not able to grow like they would love to grow because certain people only allow them to be in this particular place – in this particular energy.
So, its just like I’m a fan of his music. We were in the studio working on his album actually and I said “Yo I got this record, you wanna get on it?” He heard it, loved it, and he got on it in five minutes. That was something just natural. Same with Raekwon. I sent him the record, he loved it, and he sent his verse back in less than an hour. Those types of things happen with creators when we don’t limit ourselves and we are honest and true to who we are.
I think it goes to show the respect a lot of people have for true music. I’m sure there are a lot of artists that Action Bronson wouldn’t of gotten on the record with. I’m sure there’s a lot of artists that Raekwon wouldn’t get on the record with. But I think when you get to know a person and I think that we’re not given that chance. Especially with underground fans, you know, they’re really self-righteous sometimes and they take themselves so serious. They feel like “well this ain’t keepin’ it real to this & this and this & that”, and a lot of times they will even say they don’t like something without hearing it because of the stigma on top of it, and when you get a chance to really live with a record and be honest with the music and just take away everything else and just say “I wanna listen to this music – I wanna take everything I think I know about this person and what they have done in their career and just say How do I feel about this song.”
It’s the same reason why Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett get come together and make an album and win Grammys for it is because Tony Bennett was able to say I’m in love with her voice, her tone, and how she performs on the record. Lets forget about all the extra stuff that we put on top of it and what we take away from a person’s talent just because of their personality, and lets just look at the gift & being able to focus on the gift, you don’t limit yourself.
That response sparked a question that I didn’t plan on asking. I feel like record labels aren’t really pushing records the way that they used to. Do you feel like that is hurting the artists a lot?
It is hurting music a lot. I think black music at the record companies are like the Yeezys. Nike doesn’t need Kanye West, they don’t need the Yeezys, but what does the Yeezy do for Nike’s brand? It makes them look cool. They are already a giant. They are making more money than everybody, but they don’t want to lose their cool factor.
So they say cool we’re going to keep the Yeezy but we’re only going to distribute a limited amount, and we’re going to charge a lot higher than the other things and we’re gonna make it more difficult to get, and we’re not going to super promote it or mass distribute it because we really could care less about it. We really look at it as something that’s a novelty, like lets make it cool and lets make ourselves look cool.
 Even the people that they hire in those [music] departments, they are going to take the time and invest in those people. They just say cool that’s urban music. If it sells? Great. If it doesn’t? Ok. And we’re not going to push it all the way or on all the formats. When you listen to the album, it is not an urban album. If a white guy sung ‘Somebody Else’, if Sam Smith performed ‘Somebody Else’, nobody would play it on urban radio. It’d be a top 40 record. We all know that. So, yeah, I think those record companies don’t pay attention to their artists on the black side, and that’s why I put $2.8 million dollars out of my own pocket over the past few years pushing my own projects, shooting my own videos, paying for my own tours, doing my own wardrobes, paying for extra songs on the album, paying for my own studio time, because I have to believe in it, and I have to be serious about it because I can’t put my life in somebody else’s hands.

So you launched your own imprint Division 1 and you have a 50/50 joint venture deal with Interscope Records. With your position at CEO, what’s on the horizon outside of your album for the label? Are you still working with Tiara Thomas? Any new acts we should look out for?
I released Tiara Thomas. Right now, I just wanna focus on making this album the greatest success. What I learned in this game is that you don’t get respect until you can do the numbers and you do well and you make a name for yourself. I’m not interested in bringing anyone else on until I can do something that is credible on this side [as a executive]. As a producer and a writer I have proven myself, as a executive I haven’t yet and I believe this album will prove that. I don’t want to bring anyone into this situation until I have been through this storm and I figured. I wouldn’t want to put anybody else into what this type of journey is until I have established Division 1 and doing so with this album.
I’m learning quite a bit about music publishing right now and I saw that you are with SESAC. They aren’t a huge company (2% market share), privately owned… I’m interested in hearing the decision to go with SESAC as opposed to BMI or ASCAP.
I was with ASCAP and BMI at one point, but SESAC really treated me like I mattered even when I wasn’t a big time songwriter and that meant a lot of me. When I was in a time of need they came through for me and looked out for me early in my career. I believe in that. Just like with any type of company – I believe in the management company, I believe in the publishers that nobody knows, I believe in the person that really wants to put in the work and cares about the actual creator and creative energy.
I’m not so into hype and name and brand, no disrespect? to ASCAP or BMI they are incredible companies, but when I was there, they really didn’t care about me because I wasn’t a big name and SESAC did before I was a big name.
Alright, well that wraps it up. Thank you & I’m excited to hear the album.
Thank you bro.
Pre-Order Rico Love’s Turn The Lights On Here.