#RTInterview: RL (Formerly Of Next)

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Growing up, music was different. Music is nothing like it use to be. I use to listen to artist like Koffee Brown, Floetry, Dru Hill, Jagged Edge, 112 and who could forget Next. Next was actually my favorite. RL, T-Low and Tweet…Those were my boys. It was 1997 I think and I was in the 7th grade slappin’ (playing) “Too Close,” I even had a dance, lol. I always wondered what happened to the group and like others, I assumed they broke up. I heard about RL doing mixtapes and heard a few songs, but wondered why he wasn’t mainstream. I had to find out, so I looked up the Singer/Songwriter and discovered a new single, “Boo’d Up.” I was blown away! He’s still got it. The beat is hot and his vocals on the track makes it even hotter. But don’t go off over this song, after connecting with the “Wifey” singer, I discovered there’s an album in the works, “5:15” and RL talks music, his past, Next and more with #RahTalk…

You are currently working on your sophomore album, “5:15”. What is 5:15?

I was born at 5:15, so I look at it as a new beginning. I went into this project as if it was my first album, my debut. I remember when we were first discovered, there was this fear. “Dang, if this doesn’t work, I’m going to have to go back and live with my parents, I’m a have to do all of these things.” Well it’s actually amplified now because if it doesn’t work, I can’t start over…I’m 36 years old, so it’s a different fear. But I need that, I think that a lot of times we start looking at the things that don’t actually make the music better. We look at “will I have a first-class ticket on this flight, Is the suite gonna have a view, am I in a big studio, do I have this engineer.” instead of really the struggle and all of that which goes into making really good music…That fear, that yearning for more and yearning for success. I think a lot of times, we become complacent, so this album is entitled 5:15 because I have that fear again, that same hunger, I have something to prove, I feel brand new.

What can we (the fans) expect from your upcoming project?

You can expect me to sing every song like it’s my last. You can expect to laugh, to cry, to smile. It will be about love, making love, about hurting, about cheating…Anything you can think of because I want my music to be timeless. In 10-15 years, I want to be able to sing these records. I want to make timeless classic music. I hadn’t come back for so long because I felt like “If I am gonna come back, I don’t want to come back half-assed and not on the level that I left on. Regardless of what everybody else is doing, I have to concentrate on what I’m suppose to do. I can’t worry about where other people are taking music, I have to be true to myself before I can be true to anybody else. It’s going to be the classic sound you’re use to updated with growth because I’m a better artist, a better writer, a better engineer, a better arranger… I really just feel like an improved me, because all I’ve been doing all of these years is trying to find myself and better myself like any other artist should. I’m not trying to be something I’m not, I’m not gonna get on stage and dance, do the running man and do back flips and all that, I wish I could. That’s not me, you give me a microphone, I’m a sing my ass off and convince you that it’s real.

Is there a set release date for the album?

It’s hard because I recorded 70 records for the album and I’m trying to get it down to like 15 songs and a couple of interludes and an intro. Most artist nowadays do 10-11 records, if that. I really want to go back and do album like I did the first ones. I will release another single, it’ll will probably be this record I did with my big-brother, Teddy Riley called “Sing” Everybody’s loving that record, it’s something slow and sexy. It will be right when the summer is winding down. I’ll promote “Boo’d Up” over the summer and then hit em’ with something nice and sexy. I want to show people that it’s an album, it’s a body of work. You don’t have to go and buy singles, I want a hot album, I want a hot body of work. I want people to grow with the music. When it grows, simmer and slowly escalates…That’s when it really makes a stamp on you and in your mind and your heart. It’ll probably be in the fall. The radio is talking about September, but I’ll probably push it back to October, right when it’s getting cold. I want it to be the soundtrack to your fall and to your winter. When you’re in the house and don’t feel like going outside, I want my music to bring sunshine.

Your first single from the album is called “Boo’d Up” … What is “Boo’d up?” 

I’ve always been known for anthems and I like taking words that might have been used in the urban community and take it to the masses. Look at Michael Jackson and the Moon Walk. He didn’t make that up, my man from Shalamar made that up, but Michael’s who you remember because he took it to a broader stage. For me, I looked at it like… People said “Wifey” because of me, they say “Ooh, I got that Butta Love”. I wanted to come up with more key words for society to take and say, “I’m going to use this.” My friends know, I hate going to clubs. I don’t like crowds because you can’t really interact with people and give them the attention they deserve because everybody wants to talk. I’m more of a home-body and I would hear my friends go, “your not going out tonight, man your gonna be in house boo’d up with somebody.” It was funny and they were right, That was more me. I rather be at the crib watching a movie, just chilling with somebody special, not worrying about crowds and all those other things… So I said, It relates to me, so that must mean it relates to other cats because I consider myself a regular dude. I do regular things, I just was given an extraordinary talent by God and I feel blessed by that, but my life is rather boring compared to many, so I said, how can I make this relate-able? And secondly, when I decided to come out with “Boo’d Up” I said, If a promoter says listen, you can come to our show and do three songs… I know I can do “Too Close” and “Wifey,” but what’s another record on that level, that’s easy listening, that you won’t get tired of, that you can play on the radio, that got that nice little groove to it, that tempo that I could put out and won’t alienate my fan base.

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Would you consider “Boo’d Up” one of your favorites?

“Boo’d Up” is not like my favorite record on the album, I’ve had interviewers come by the house and I played them snippets of the album and they go, “Ooh that’s crazy, why didn’t you come with this one?” Really…This is my jab, I got a few knock out punches that I’ve got ready… A few body blowers and I love the record, don’t get me wrong; I love performing it, I love that it sounds good on the radio and all that but it was a strategic move for me and not to get off the subject, but I think being that I learned from Clive Davis and KayGee from Naughty By Nature, it changed me. I can’t listen to music and enjoy it like everybody else, I dissect it. It hard for me, because I wish I could just listen to it, love it and enjoy it. I can remember being naive in the industry and after “Butta” Love came out, I actually wanted the next single to be “Stop, Drop and Roll.” That was my favorite record on the debut album, they decided to go with “Too Close.” I had written a majority of the record, but I didn’t like uptempo R&B like that and most of the uptempo R&B that came out when we were out had a rapper on there to save the day. Someone who was “relevant” at the time. We didn’t have a Biggie, or Da Brat or Jermaine… Which we wish we did, we were jealous but we didn’t have that and the only uptempo record that I had heard around that time, that was banging and didn’t have a feature on it was “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan. I really wasn’t into uptempos like that, I loved slow R&B. That was my thing, I could listen to ballads all day, maybe a mid-tempo groove but I learned from Clive and Kay that tempo and easy listening music is infectious and people will find themselves knowing the song and singing along without even realizing it. Now I understand the power of a mid-uptempo type record with a nice groove, that’s simple and have a subject that’s timeless.

If you collaborate with any other artist, who would it be? Name three. 

It would be Brandy because I love Brandy’s voice, Shania Twain because I love country music and the third would be a tie between Jazmine Sullivan and Fantasia, if your talking about female artist. I don’t think people realize what I can do vocally because being in a group, I always held back to be honest. I think that once I did step outside the group, like the Deborah Cox record, people started to be able to hear me as a vocalist because I was doing different type of records that we did within the group. I would love to work with those type of females that would push me to show what I can do vocally.

Take us back to the first day that you sign, I know your were only in High School, you were young. What was that experience like? What was going through your head?

We were just naive. It was about what I want it to be about now, all about making the best music possible. We all slept on the floor… We were with KayGee from Naughty by Nature, we had air mattresses. We didn’t care, we just wanted to make music, It was a hunger and that’s exactly why I titled the album 515…I wanted that same feeling. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t have to move back home to our parents house, that’s it. We wanted to make the best music possible and make this our life. We were willing to do everything we had to, no egos; just total humbleness and hunger to create the best music possible.

Is Next still a group, will there be a reunion?

You know what, I don’t even really call is a reunion because whenever groups have members that go outside of the group and do other projects, they consider it a break-up and I don’t… I look at it like, the stronger, the bigger and more experience I become, the bigger the brand is. I know that a lot of the public considered me the lead singer of Next, I don’t I considered myself just one-third of the group.

You were young when you entered the music scene, what advice would you give to a young person who wants to sing professionally?

I would tell them to be careful, only because followers and hits and all that on social media can have you fooled and radio can give you a big record and play it, but that does not make you successful. What makes you successful is a catalog of records, you have to learn how to diversify your portfolio. I look at myself, I co-own a lounge out here (Atlanta) with Peter Thomas (Bravo’s Housewives of Atlanta), it’s called “Bar One,” I write for different artists, I am an artist and I was touring with Next. I’m looking for different ways to stay relevant and to continue to use the blessings I have to go in other directions as well and I think that people have to learn.. You still have to be all about the music, but you have to better yourself as you go along. A lot of artist right now are running in circles, doing the same thing over and over again and it’s working at the moment but my question that I always ask about the artist out now is, “What are they going to be singing in 15-years that they sing now?” I get to still perform and make a nice living all over the world singing records I did in 1997…Well, actually recorded them in 1996 so for me, I’m blessed.

Any upcoming shows?

It’s funny because I’m everywhere and the bigger the single is becoming…I’m actually getting major calls, so I’m heading to Dubai soon and Amsterdam. I love going international because they really appreciate “real music.” I’m sure I’ll be all over the country this Summer because the record is really heating up and that’s a blessing. Look forward to seeing me all over, in a city near any of your readers…I’m just looking forward to being in every city because I feel like live is better for me.

JustRL.com | Facebook | Twitter 

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