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In entertainment, the person in front of the camera or behind the mic often gets the bulk of attention and fanfare from the public. However, in recent years, the folks behind the scenes penning the lyrics and lending their genius to the final product have began to emerge into the spotlight. In the realm of R&B, Rico Love has shown the ability to thrive from either vantage point, as the recording artist/producer has built himself into a household name, while quietly crafting some of the genre's biggest hits over the past decade.
First scoring a songwriting credit on Usher's Confessions album, Rico Love has since worked with superstars like Diddy, Chris Brown, Mario, Ciara, and more; resulting in a track record that has made him one of the most sought after pens in the game. In addition to his contributions to the success of other artists, the Louisiana native's transition into becoming a recording artist has also been a fruitful endeavor.
After deciding to shelve his first studio album, The 5th Element, in 2007 to focus on songwriting and producing, Rico Love unveiled a pair of EPs and two studio albums not too long afterward.
REVOLT TV caught up with Rico Love and got the scoop on his latest album, Even Kings Die; his thoughts on the state of R&B music in 2019, and what plans he has up his sleeve for the near future.
You closed 2018 out on a high note with the release of your sophomore album, Even Kings Die. How did it feel to get a new body of work out to the public?
I never planned on doing another album. But, I just think that art sometimes imitates life and life sometimes imitates art. In this situation, I had lived so much, and I had went through so much, and it started coming out in the music, and I started writing songs that I thought I couldn't give to anybody else. I started to tell a story that was consistent with what I was living and I knew...I felt like I [had] to put this out... It was one of those situations that in doing so, I think I came up with some of my best writing and Even Kings Die was just an emotional release for me. It was my opportunity to express things that I felt like only I could express.
What inspired the title of the album?
Even Kings Die. It means that no matter who you are, no matter what your status is, no matter how high up you feel like you are, one thing that's inevitable is the fact that we're all gonna die. And the worst things can happen to the greatest people and when I say greatest, I meant the highest up. And no matter who you are, where you're from, what your background is, we all have in common that we'll have heartbreak. We'll go through things that inevitably are gonna effect us.
One song from the tracklist that jumps out is 'Whole Lotta Sex,' which features Teedra Moses and Ball Greezy. What's the backstory behind that collaboration?
I wrote most of the album in this vineyard in Malibu, California. I had rented this cottage and it had a studio in it, and I was vibing, and I wrote that song when I was out there. Teedra Moses -- who's like a sister to me -- we were having dinner and I told her to come back to the studio, and let's vibe. I played her the record and she was like, 'I wanna get on that record.' She gave me a verse and then, I wanted to add Ball Greezy because his melodic sensibility is uncanny, and I just think that he has a way of existing inside of a beat that I feel like a lot of these rappers could definitely borrow from. So, I just feel like sonically, I wanted to try the things that weren't necessarily obvious.
Another key feature on the album is Bryan Michael-Cox, who's one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation. What was it like working with him and how would you describe your relationship?
B. Cox is like a big brother to me. He was around when I was 17 years old running around from studio to studio, when I had went down Atlanta to try to make it in the business, sleeping on peoples' couches. He was like my big brother and always mentored me. So, when I became successful, he was one of those guys who always gave me great words of advice and he's one of my close friends. So, I had this record that I felt like it would be dope if he did a dope background on. He could sing the background on this record and create this beautiful arrangement, and I just think it kinda took the record to the next level. He's always been like an OG to me.
Speaking of songwriters, who are some of your favorite pens in the game at the moment and why?
I think Jozzy, she's next up. I think she's gonna be a very successful writer in the future, she's doing her thing. She just did a deal with Columbia, as well, her artist stuff. But, she's always been one of those young up-and-coming writers I had my eye on that I felt had an extreme level of talent. I just think her ability to take chances, and trust the melody, and trust in what she believes, a lot of that is very important when it comes to songwriting. And then as far as legendary, timeless, I feel like Ne-Yo is one of my favorites ever. What he does, and how he tells a story and paints a picture; I think it sets him a part from so many people that we've come across. He's one of my favorites and one of the guys I looked up to early in my career also.
Have you gotten a chance to get on the road and perform any of the songs from the album. If so, what records would you say the fans have been gravitating to?
I haven't performed too much on this record yet. I've been focused on developing the We Love Music Conference and Rico Love Presents projects that I haven't hit the road yet. But, I think 'Fight For You' is a record that I've been getting great feedback from. 'God Forgives' is one that's been getting a lot of energy and 'Shine' has been getting a lot of love.
You recently unveiled the visual for your single 'Fight For You,' which finds you caught in the middle of a love triangle with two women that ends with a surprising twist. What was the inspiration behind the treatment for the video and the song itself?
I just think sometimes we have to ask ourselves, 'Are we really fighting?' Are we really putting an effort towards changing our situation? Are we really doing what we say we're doing? Sometimes our own demise can be our own lust... So, I just think it was autobiographical the way that lust can be a person's demise and just something I can speak to myself -- as my own testament of my truth -- in that visual.
Aside from your own music, you've also kept busy helping create hits for other artists, one of them being City Girls' single 'Twerk.' How would you describe the energy in the studio during the creation of that song?
It was so quick and easy. Those girls, they're young and fresh. So, we were in the lab and I just kind of put together the record, and they trusted me, and they cut it. They were very easy to produce. They were just cool and mild-mannered. You would think they were wild, crazy chicks. They were totally opposite of their music in the sense that they were just kinda cool down-to-earth girls. So, we had a great time making that record and I really had fun. I never really expected that to be a No. 1 record. I'm blessed and fortunate that it was.
How did Cardi end up on the record?
I think they reached out. When the record came out, they told me that she was gonna be on it, but then later, I think she didn't really get on the original version. But, after the record came out, I got a call from P and he said, 'I'ma send you this Cardi verse, she jumped on it,' and the rest is history. And you know what happens when she gets on a record? It's gonna be a different type of energy that's gonna be on it.
One project you've been working on that's created excitement is your Rico Love Presents series. What will that endeavor entail and how did that idea come to life?
I'm finding really talented people. I'm paying them and I'm writing records for them, and producing the record, and putting it out on my platform, and owning the master. It's a way I think [that] is gonna revolutionize the way record companies are ran -- the way production companies develop, so you don't have to be necessarily married to some of the acts. You can just do work for hire. Especially for a person that had a catalog that's extensive as myself. You can just kick some of the music that's unreleased, cut it on these artists, release the music and you own it. And I think it's a great investment and a great opportunity for unheard, unseen talent to be seen and heard. But also, an opportunity for me to get on these records that should be heard and should be felt by the people.
You mentioned the We Love Music Conference. Can you give us a few details on that?
The We Love Music Conference, this is our fourth year. We did Africa last year, this year will be our second year in Africa, our fourth year in the states and it's basically an opportunity to help develop songwriters, producers, artists, managers [and] A&Rs. It's a series of lectures in a two-day process and also a thing called 'speed-readings' where artists are encouraged to mix and match, and introduce themselves to new writers and new artists, and new people that they've never heard of before. It's just an opportunity to develop emerging creatives, help them build, and let them know how great they are, and how to hone in on their own abilities.
R&B seems to be in the best place it's been in, in years in terms of new talent emerging and ushering the genre into a new decade. How does it feel to see R&B coming back to prominence and who are some of the artists [who are] the head of their class?
It's so many great artists, man. You got Brent Faiyaz, you got H.E.R., you got Ella Mai, Kehlani. It's just so many dope acts. I'm even developing a lot of new talent. This girl named Mia Arianna -- who I think is incredible -- she's coming out of Rochester, New York. I think that it's just always been an R&B world 'cause all of these rappers are singing anyway. It's just now, the singers are taking it back to the forefront. Melody is gonna always rule. It's the most infectious sound, sonically, that people have. So, it's just about taking ownership and listening to people doing it at a high level, and I think a lot of people are realizing that there's an incredible amount of talent who can do that in today's era.
What artists' projects are you currently working on that fans can look forward to hearing in the near future?
Natti Natasha. I'm working on Trey Songz, Usher, Kash Doll, Dream Doll, Hoodcelebrityy. Tons of new projects that I'm working on, staying busy. And I'm executive producing the new Big K.R.I.T. album.
What's next for Rico Love?
Look out for this Rico Love Presents: Emerging Women of R&B coming out in June. And I'm just looking to develop and build brands, and build artists and develop new ways for us to release music.
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