Many people think once you get signed to a record label that you’re living on Easy Street, but in all actuality, signing the contract is truly when the work begins. The musical jack-of-all-trades known as Rico Love knows that fact all too well. When he was originally signed to Usher’s Us Records in 2004, he was still looking for a major payday. Rather than Usher just handing over some money for Rico to get by, he gave him an opportunity of a lifetime by handing him a Just Blaze track which went on to become the popular album cut “Throwback” off of “Confessions.”
Fast forward nine years and Rico Love is still one of the most sought after songwriter/producers in the business. We caught up with Rico Love in a Philadelphia hotel lobby where we talked about we talked about him stepping back in front of the camera with his new EP “Discrete Luxury,” which can be purchased on iTunes. We also spoke about him signing up-and-coming artist Tiara Thomas and what he hopes he’s remembered for.
TUD: Can you tell me about your EP, “Discrete Luxury” and the concept behind it?
RL: Most people just put out a single and that’s how they rock. They’re like, “That’s my single and I’m gonna work this until my album comes out.” They may put out a mixtape to accompany it. But I wanted to do something different. If you noticed, I didn’t talk about the project. I hinted towards it. I put out little vignettes to tease up the fact that something was coming. I just wanted to release music so people could get an overall idea of who I am as an artist as opposed to bringing one single to radio where I’m singing. And then what happens when on the next record you hear me rapping? People would be confused. I wanted to release a broader body of work so I decided to release five songs on iTunes with a video and a single at radio just to attack the game. This is the start. I didn’t expect it to take off the way it’s taken off.
Basically, when I use the word “discrete,” which means separate or away from. It doesn’t mean better than. There’s no level of arrogance. It just means I’ve worked to a certain status in life. Instead of me talking about this status in life, I wanted to talk about these different relationships I’ve had with different women since reaching this certain level. “Discrete Luxury” is the setting and not the subject. So it’s about once I acquired a certain level of success and how I’ve seen things change in my relationships and interactions with women.
Some people say that being an artist, songwriter, producer, and a label executive would be a bit of a conflict of interest. What do you say to that?
Man, I just work. At the end of the day, when you don’t have a deal or anything going on you are your own manager, executive, and you’re just doing whatever you can to work. It’s your vision, your idea, and your business plan. Right? With me, it’s just that I have a 50/50 partnership with one of the biggest companies in the world [Interscope Records]. I mean I have a staff that makes sure the day-to-day runs smoothly, but I just want to be involved in and control everything. Why not own everything? Anybody who says that is a small-thinking type of person. I think big. Why wouldn’t I want to own the company I’m signed to?
Tiara Thomas is also signed to your label Division1. How did you two link up and start working together?
This guy named Le’Greg Harrison brought her to me. He owns a company called The Board Administration with Wale. He brought her to me and said he wanted me to sign her because he’s brought her to a lot of places, but that he would trust me with her. So I signed her because I thought she was the most amazing artist I’ve ever seen. She actually played “Bad” for me before she gave it to Wale and everything. I wanted to make that her first single. But…it all worked out anyway. But yeah, she played me that record and I was just like, “I have to have her on my label!”
Would you say she’s the female counterpart to you on Division1 considering you both sing, rap, and write songs?
No. No. No. She’s her own artist. She’s Tiara, man. I can’t even…there’s no way to really describe her artistry. She plays guitar, she produces records, she writes songs, raps, and just makes music. I do all of those things, but we do them in different ways. So I would never wanna say she’s the female version of me. I wouldn’t want to belittle her in that way. She’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Lauryn Hill.
Do you think the artist who are hugely successful now would be as successful without the Internet and social media?
Without the Internet, a lot of people wouldn’t be discovered as quickly. I think the internet is a good tool now. There’s a lot of fluff that you have to cipher through. But at the end of the day, we have to use everything can to our advantage. I’m not going to lie, when I first saw DJs mixing off of CDs, I was mad because I like old school shit. I had to realize that nobody wants to carry those heavy crates around. Now, it’s not fair because some guys aren’t even mixing their own records and that kinda annoying to me. At the end if the day, those are the DJs that don’t last.
I appreciate and embrace social media for what it is. I just know that talent is talent. I don’t give a fuck how many Twitter followers you have, you’re not going to stick around if the shit is not hot.
What direction do you see hip-hop and R&B heading in?
I believe you just make music. The strong will survive. There are always artists that people thought lacked substance. That’s not a new thing. I think the key is to stay alive and to make records with subjects. Give the record a subject! Give people something to connect to. It doesn’t necessarily have to be positive or negative, but give people something to feel. There’s some music that I don’t like or connect to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it has a place in music. People judge too much. Then again, only the strong survive. Those people who make music without substance, I don’t expect them to be around too long. I always tell people that talent gets you here. Hard work keeps you here. Substance and content is what makes them remember you.
When you retire from making music and from the industry all together, how do you want people to remember you?
RL: I want people to compare me to the greats. I want people to argue in barbershops that I was just as good as Babyface and Quincy Jones. An I trying to compare myself to them right now? No! In no way, shape, or form can I compare myself to them now. When I’m gone, though, I want to be apart of that conversation.
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