Rico Love has been in the music industry for over a decade, but until now he operated mainly behind the scenes. Get to know the man who produced and wrote some of the hottest tracks in pop, R&B, and hip hop, and find out what he had to say about his debut album Turn the Lights On, VH1’s own Love & Hip Hop, and Usher, the man who helped Love launch his career.
You’ve been songwriting and producing for others for years. What is it like to be putting out an album of your own?
It’s a dream come true. I feel like I’ve been writing this album for 20 years. A lot of people don’t realize that I started off as an artist, so this is my opportunity. I feel like I’ve come full circle. I’m like a kid waiting for Christmas.
Had you ever released anything before your EP Discrete Luxury?
No. I released mixtapes and singles on soundtracks when I was signed to US Records a few years ago, but that EP was the first project released as a solo.
Speaking of US Records, what’s your relationship with Usher like?
Me and Usher are really good friends. He’ll tell you I’m one of the few people in his life that would tell it like it is. If he’s really on the fence about something, you can expect him to call me. Sometimes the student becomes the teacher, and in our relationship, he’s always big bro.
What can we expect from Turn the Lights On?
The story is riveting. It’s about when I became successful and how it affected my life, my views, and my interactions with other people. I feel like, musically, it’s advanced and polished. It’s some of my best work production-wise, some of my best work as far as writing goes, and it’s a real in-depth look. There’s no fluff on the album.
How many songs will be on it?
Between 12 and 15.
For how long did you work on it?
I’ve been working on it since I started the Discrete Luxury campaign, but September was when I hit a good groove. Before, I was making a bunch of records that were hits for the album but didn’t have direction. Now I feel like the subjects came together, and now that we’re on the homestretch, I feel like I completed an album. I feel like I got into a good groove and I really cultivated this sound.
Any collaborations you can share with us?
I didn’t do many collaborations. The few I did, I have on the record. I have a record that Raekwon is on. I have a record that I’m putting Monica on. I really was never into using features.
What was it like working with director Parris Stewart on the video for “Somebody Else?”
Parris is a genius. He wrote the treatment, came up with the whole aesthetic. I’m used to writing all of my treatments for my private videos and being really hands on, coming up with the concept, but I just took the backseat. I was really interested in seeing where he would take it, and he painted an amazing picture. You don’t know if those two people are really there, or if I’m there and she’s not there, or if she’s there and I’m not there, or if we’re both there and avoiding each other. It’s kinda an explanation of one of those relationships where somebody’s loving somebody else. Like, we’re in the same room, but we’re not even in the same room. I thought it was genius how he did it. It was saying so much without saying anything.
[Photo: Rico Love]
“Bitches Be Like” from Discrete Luxury is about women putting it all out there to try to get attention from men in the club, on Instagram, etc. Do you have an opinion on celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Nicki Minaj who don’t hesitate to show off their figures?
I let people have their own opinions. I think it’s in poor taste for other artists to comment negatively about other people when they’re not in the room to have a dialogue. If you listen to “Bitches Be Like,” it’s speaking to those people who can’t take care of their children or their families. I wasn’t judging, I wasn’t hating, I was saying, “What’s more important to you: having heels for the club or having your rent paid?” Kim Kardashian is a brand. I think the human body is the most beautiful thing. Being naked used to not be frowned upon in our civilization. I just think some things can be done in a more tactful way.
What was it like appearing on Love & Hip Hop and working with Olivia Longott from G-Unit?
It was cool. They just asked me to sit with Olivia and talk to her about her plan. Not sure if I would be interested in appearing on another reality show in that capacity. I’m anti-reality show until I find a show that shows black people in a better light. The episode I was on was a positive representation, but I would prefer not to contribute to a lot of this stuff because there’s a lot of foolishness now. They’re just finding people off the street that they feel would be controversial or could stir things up, and I don’t appreciate that misrepresentation of an entire culture. A lot of people in America who haven’t been around black people, their only idea of us is what they see on television and a lot of people don’t understand that we are a minority. If I was to do anything like that again, it would be in a creative capacity, a documentary-style piece where we would really focus on the art, less of the drama, and one day, people would be entertained by that.
Were you referring to Love & Hip Hop specifically?
Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, those other shows. Housewives. There’s a lot of drama. I feel like we can come up with entertaining television without people fighting. I’ve seen amazing shows with brilliant writers and they weren’t surrounded by controversy. I think we’re in this fad where it’s entertaining for us to have drama. I love what Kevin Hart is doing with the Real Husbands of Hollywood because it’s making fun of that. It’s showing people how ridiculous it looks.
Is there someone from L&HH that you think is the biggest success?
I don’t know if K. Michelle sold a bunch of albums, but I think she got the most notoriety.
Anything else you want your fans to know about the album?
I just want them to know that I took a lot of time creating it and writing songs that mean something. When I first heard Ne-Yo’s “So Sick,” I was like, “That’s genius. I wish I would have come up with that.” I want people to listen to my album and respect the time that was spent crafting the songs. I respect art and culture so much. That’s why I care so much about how we are perceived as African Americans because we aren’t doing as well as we used to because there’s a lot of fluff out here, from television to music and so forth. A lot of us aren’t taking the time to show how great we really are and our full potential. When people hear this album, I want them to hear that full potential.
Rico Love’s debut album Turn the Lights On is expected out May 19 through Love’s own label, Division 1, a partnership with Interscope Records. Buy his single “Somebody Else” on iTunes here.