Establishing his career with the legendary R&B group Next, RL has tallied achievements and awards for the past decade and is still keeping the numbers coming. With ground breaking hits like ‘Butta Love’, ‘Too Close’, and ‘Wifey’, Next topped the Billboard charts as well as receiving Soul Train Awards and American Music Award nominations. However, that was only the beginning. Venturing out and making his debut as a solo artist, the Minnesota native collaborated with Deborah Cox on her single “We Can’t Be Friends“, as well as a single on the Best Man Soundtrack entitled “Best Man” collaborating with Ginuwine, Tyrese, and Case.
Many may not know the significant influence RL has been continuously bringing to the table. Taking a break from the limelight, the songwriter has been working behind the scenes bringing you songs like ‘Bring Your Heart To Mine’ – Luther Vandross, ‘Come Here’ – J. Holiday, ‘Forcasst’ – Jamie Foxx, ‘U R The One’ – Usher, ‘Just In Case’ and ‘Anything’ – Jaheim , and ‘Valentine’s Girl’ – Mindless Behavior. Other big names include Big Pun, Tupac, Keith Sweat and Destiny’s Child. While taking a hiatus from the group he continued to maximize on his craft alongside producers like Jazze Pha, B. Cox, Kaygee, Battleroy, The Underdogs, Soulshock & Karlin, Oak & Pop, Saint Nick, Battlecat, Walter Milsap, DJ Quik, Allstar, Teddy Riley, Chad Elliot, Shep Crawford, The Ambassadors, and Tim & Bob.
Feeling like there is no better time than now to re-emerge, RL is going harder than ever. He is now in the studio working on his solo album titled “Minnesota Nights” which he states will give a sexy and confident feel while telling the story of his journey; the ups, the downs, the good, and the bad. The singer/songwriter is also taking dates for his tour locally and overseas in order to promote his new project. Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you couldn’t tell, he’s here to stay.
Recently RL caught up with Aries (another MN native) from UrbanBridgez.com and discussed his upcoming album “Minnesota Nights,” his mixtape “The Life,” NEXT, being a successful songwriter, who he’s in the lab with now and who he wants to work with, his thoughts on R&B/crossover and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell your fans about your new project you’re working on Minnesota Nights?
RL: It’s just a combination of me really taking my records and bringing it down to a really potent mix. Because I have like hundreds of songs that I’ve been recording over the years and everytime that I think I may have a project together…a fellow artist might come in and I’ll give them a record or two. Or I’ll get bored with it and wanna learn a new sound or some new things or be influenced by some new music and go back in. So now it’s finally a body of work that I feel represents me and what I’ve been through. The title comes from, you know when I was growing up I tried to kill myself as a senior in high school. I thought about it all through my adolescence so whenever I get the big head or feel like I wanna give up or I’m starting to feel myself I think back to those Minnesota Nights. That I was sleeping in that twin sized bed dreaming about the opportunities that I’ve had. So it puts things in perspective for me.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s the vibe of this new album?
RL: Sexy and R&B! One thing I’m not going to do is something that alienates my fanbase. There’s growth, musically and vocally, but I love love, I love talking about relationships, I love talking about pain and heartache, I love talking about joy. I think alot of people are missing their mark, alot of artists that we all grew to love & appreciated and all of a sudden you buy their album and the music isn’t what you’re use to. It’s one thing to grow, it’s another thing to alienate your fanbase. To pick up an album from someone you’ve been really feeling for years and it sounds like Spaceship music, you’re like wait a minute what’s that? I don’t wanna be that person you know.
UrbanBridgez.com: Who are some collaborators on this album as far as other writers/producers and artists?
RL: Everything on the album I’ve written and arranged besides the raps of the features I have on the album. Of course I had to go back home to Naughty By Nature, those are my big brothers. So I wanted to do an anthem, something that reminded you of them because they were underappreciated to me. People don’t realize the accomplishments they’ve had, so I went in and did like a dedication to them. I’m currently waiting on my features from Slaughterhouse, me and Royce are really cool and I’ve look out for Crooked Eye on some records here and there. I know they’re busy with their project, but they’re suppose to be on the album. That’s pretty much it, besides that I might put NEXT on a song to show people that the unity is still there. That album is still in the works as well, so that will probably be about it.
UrbanBridgez.com: When can we expect the lead single to drop?
RL: It’s hard to say. I have the mixtape coming first. To let people prepare themselves for what I have coming, but it will be most likely early next year.
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us a little about the mixtape and when we can expect that?
RL: I know management was talking about October 1st. But we’re doing this one a little different, we’re going to have someone sponsor it. So we’ll shoot a couple of visuals, do like a 6 city tour. It’s like an album I did like 18 records for it. Two remakes and 16 records, it’s called The Life. It’s really about fun and love, an extension of what the album is. It’s almost like a preview.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s the latest with NEXT and where do you guys currently stand as a group?
RL: We’re good, getting our legs up under us. Going over seas in October, doing alot of spot dates and I think we’ve recorded like 16 records for the new album so far. We’ll do like 20 more and then go through them to select the ones for the album.
UrbanBridgez.com: Do you ever feel under appreciated as an artist or songwriter?
RL: All the time to be honest. It’s funny I was telling Ne-Yo that I was jealous. You know I was Ne-Yo before Ne-Yo in a sense…and not to take away from him because he’s amazing. What I mean by that is I was a singer/songwriter but I was in a group so I tried to not add extra shine to myself and just tried to play my position. So nobody knew I was writing these records for Ideal, Jaheim, Luther Vandross and others, nobody knew that. So that’s what it was.
UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve always been sort of outspoken when it comes to the industry, what are your thoughts on the current state of R&B with some of the biggest artists now doing more Pop/Dance than R&B?
RL: Well the truth is most R&B stars these days want to be rappers or dance/pop stars. Which I respect and I understand the growth. But it’s sad when the hottest R&B album that has come out this year is Believe by Justin Bieber. It’s rockin’ but it’s R&B. People are realizing that they’re trying to crossover but it’s never been like that, they’ve crossover to us. We never had to crossover, we made the rules, we made the styles, we set the trends. Now we’re following up and trying to catch something that is unattainable. Look I’m going to always be black and have soulfulness in my voice and I embrace that, some people don’t. I think R&B is where it’s suppose to be, I don’t want to sound like the old dude in the club looking at young girls butts. I’m not bitter, I’ve accomplished and I just want to stay in my lane. I’m actually glad nobody is in my lane that just makes more room for me. I just don’t feel like it’s that real R&B like that, even with R. Kelly, he’s doing more of the steppers/old school sound, which is dope but different. I think music is just in a different place and I respect it and embrace it. But I feel you can still evolve but stay true to your fanbase.
UrbanBridgez.com: You’re an incredible writer and have written some great songs for other artists, who are some artists you’ve recently been in the lab with?
RL: They had me working on Fantasia, I just did another record for Mindless Behavior, those are like my little brothers. I did Valentine’s Girl for them. I’m suppose to go in the Jennifer Hudson soon, a producer friend called me about that. For me I just like working, the thing I won’t do is study the radio and try to give these artists records that are on the radio right now. I think that’s where alot of these artists are loosing, you go get their album and they’re getting this writer and that producer. Alot of these producers are busy so their music is starting to get watered down, so it might not be their best work because of rushing. I’m from a different era, like man I don’t care if it was a .10 interlude, I’m going to put my all into it because it represents me and it’s on record forever.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s your top 3 favorite songs you’ve written?
RL: You know it’s hard for me to say, I guess Splash from the Why Do Fools Fall in love Soundtrack. Only because we were on tour with Boyz II Men and Wanya and Shawn and those guys really influenced me and they’re the ones that really gave me the confidence and told me that I was a good singer because I never thought I was. So on Splash if you really listen I’m doing my very best Shawn Stockman impersonation. Off the first record my favorite was Stop, Drop & Roll, it was suppose to be the second single then the third, but it never came out. I guess last would be Remarkable from Jaheim’s album, it was suppose to be just a one person song but he made it a duet which I really wasn’t feeling. But that’s a record I really love.
UrbanBridgez.com: Who’s left that you haven’t worked with that you want to write a song for?
RL: Probably Brandy. She’s just the dopest vocalist besides Jazmine Sullivan. I think they’re dumbing it down when people just really wanna hear the realest from her. She’s so talented and I think rapping and doing these trendy records is cool and cute, but her fanbase wants her to sit there and blow period.
UrbanBridgez.com: Share something with your fans they most likely don’t know, that may surprise them?
RL: I’m extremely organized! I get up at 5 in the morning everyday, I usually take out what I’m wearing the night before. Like if I’m in a city and going to be there for a couple of days I take out enough outfits and the night before I pack up the one I wore that day. So when I get to the final day, there is one outfit hanging up. So yeah, I’m just extremely organized.
UrbanBridgez.com: Outside of your album release, what else do you want to let your fans to know to be looking out from you?
RL: I want them to just know I’m working and read the credits, because I’m tired of people asking, so what you doing now? I mean if they read the inside of those CD booklets, they’re going to see my name. I also want them to know that I get paid to do something that I would do for free! Even if you don’t hear me singing, don’t ask me if I’m still singing. I’m in some shower singing, somewhere humming or doing something. I’m always going to be singing, even if it’s not on TV, I’ve just been blessed to have the opportunity to do it in front of the world.
UrbanBridgez.com: Anything you want to say before we wrap up?
RL: I just really want to thank you for your time bro for interviewing me. I know you really appreciate my work and my craft, so that means alot to me. My music is like another child to me, you know. So it’s important and I think if everybody treated music that way that’s making it, there would be alot better music on the radio right now!