Hiphop Intervjuer Musikk R&B

My interview with The-Dream

Søndag 15. september besøker selveste Terius Nash, alias The-Dream, Rockefeller, etter å ha overbevist i tåkehavet på den kortlivde Kollenfestivalen sommeren 2012.

Da gjorde jeg dette intervjuet for D2, med mannen som også er hjernen bak monsterhits som Justin Biebers «Baby» og Rihannas «Umbrella». På egen hånd er The-Dream derimot mest opptatt av å redde r&b fra pop og hiphop.

Her er hele intervjuet mitt med Drømmen. Mer om mannen her.

ØH: So, did you write any songs today?

TN: No, unfortunately no. But you have no idea, I am writing a song in my head right now, it’s called “Fire Your Road Manager”. It’s just one of those things that’s uncontrollable. I have no control over it, music is oozing out of me.

ØH: What’s the difference between the songwriter Terius Nash and the artist The-Dream?

TN: Well, the songwriter is not as specific, it’s more broad. I write for anybody, about anything. But The-Dream as a solo artist is definitely the guy who writes to a specific culture and definitely a specific genre, which is r&b, and kinda stays in his place.

ØH: The 1977 album, released as Terius Nash, was almost more of a soul album?

TN: Yeah, it was definitely different. And more complex emotionally than I have ever been. Definitely more soul, you’re right.

ØH: What’s the status for r&b in the States today?

TN: It’s holding on by a thread. It’s really scarce, nobody really believes in r&b as they once did. I think I can get away with it, because I’m a songwriter for a select group of popular artists. That keeps me able to stay true to a certain part of myself, where others have to reach and dig for that hip-hop. The colours of r&b lost its way when it started competing with hip-hop.

ØH: Has this situation changed in the last five years?

TN: It has definitely changed, but hip-hop still finds a way to win. Even when we get on the road, hip-hop borrows from us and takes it back. Drake is a prime example of that, he is exactly what I was when I started with Love Hate in 2007, but he is considered a hip-hop artist, when in fact he probably is more of a r&b artist more than anything. It’s not about if he sings or not, but what he’s talking about, things in relationship, things from rhythm’n’blues and the blues.

The 90’s were where we lost it though. All of those songs, other than R. Kelly, needed a feature from a rapper. At that particular point we lost it, and we have never recovered. I remember putting out “Falsetto”, and people asked me if I wanted to put a rapper on it. I said “no, it’s a sex song. Why the fuck do I want another guy, it’s not a threesome – the wrong way”. This is the things I get to fight for, just because I’m a songwriter. If I was a regular r&b artist it wouldn’t happen. Now I get to fight for r&b – all day long.

ØH: You’ve said earlier that today black people do pop songs while white people make soul?

TN: It’s the truth. It’s the pressure from labels that want us to chase the pop charts, and while we’re chasing and not being true to our roots, then Adele is coming out and doing these soul records. It’s hard for another one of my friends to sing that record, and have it overwhelmingly accepted as a r&b record. It has to be big and glamorous, and r&b has never been big and glamorous. I have this saying: if it goes #1 pop it’s not really a r&b record.

ØH: Let’s talk about Atlanta, your hometown. It’s an important musical city, but it doesn’t really have a specific sound?

TN: There’s lot of colours, lots of sounds. The movement is like Motown, but you’re right, it doesn’t have a specific sound. In the 90’s we didn’t’ have an identity, we just liked music, marching bands was big. You had west coast rap and east coast rap, and in the middle of that Atlanta was getting all those things, combined with the hurt of the south. It became a melting pot. I can specifically point out music that is from Atlanta, but I can understand why no-one else can tell the difference.

ØH: How do you do that?

TN: The 808 drum is always in Atlanta, it’s always relevant, the low-end. We had cars with speakers in the trunks, and if it didn’t have that low-end, we wasn’t fuckin’ with it, we weren’t going to put it in the car.

ØH: So it’s car music?

TN: Bingo! I believe us country folks from the south are the only ones who still appreciate the car music period. I still have to listen to mixes in the car. It’s more fulfilling, you want to feel the bass.

ØH: Is it correct to say that your music is about love and heartbreak, sex and hate?

TN: It’s about relationships, and they are depending on all those things: Love, sex, lust, the hate of love. You’re never going to figure it out, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. I just have a great job being able to keep writing the same bullshit over and over again. You’re never going to figure it out, you’re going to have angles writing about it: My heart got broke this way or that way, but the point is that you got your heart broke. Your heartbreak is not going to stop, but it’s just gives me a job to do.

ØH: You write a lot about women, but also make songs for women. How do you do it, do you just flip it?

TN: I’m just sensitive anyway. I was real close to my mother before she passed, knowing what she needed from a man, what she spoke about intimately. I am good at expressing it.

I think men are so simple that it’s not really that much to speak about. It’s boring as fuck: “I was in my boxers, I watched soccer, that was my day”. Women are more complex than that, they wake up, get their hair done, do their makeup, worry about wrinkles, and whether her girlfriend slept with her husband, if they should wear high heels or flat heels today, whether they want an apartement or house in the future, or if they want to switch their religion. Women are wonderful puzzles, and so complex in their thinking, and this gets me something to do.

ØH: You mentioned R. Kelly. Can you tell me some more of his importance for r&b in the 90’s?

TN: Wow! … [long break]

He’s a stand-alone. For seven-eight years he held r&b at a certain pace by himself. He was alone, and you can’t say that about anyone else. In the 60’s there were a lot of great artists, and even though Michael is Michael he started out in a band, with his brothers. And he had Prince as competition in the 80’s.

When R. Kelly reigned we didn’t debate who was better than R. Kelly, he was the greatest in his time. What he means to me, is the phrase “stand-alone”. I will respect him for that time he kept r&b alive, when he was battling a massive hip-hop culture all by himself. Anyone can’t be r&b, it takes something special to talk about heartache, being able to be sad and be okay with being sad, and being able to love a woman and without feeling that you’re giving up your balls and nuts to do it – you have do be strong loving a woman.

ØH: But do you feel that Kelly lost it at some time?

TN: He didn’t get any competition, he got bored. Around 2004, or maybe a bit earlier. When he started to rap on his songs, he did it because he felt bored. He’s doing more classic stuff now, and he can do whatever he wants to do. He’s the r&b god.

ØH: Do you get bored being compared to newcomers like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean all the time?

TN: If someone say I am new, it’s probably because someone just stumbled upon me. In 2007, when I made Love Hate, nobody had made an r&b album like that in a while. I had to question myself: What’s the r&b lane, what’s the angle? Here I was basically, after writing “Bed” for J. Holiday, figuring out the lane, this is what r&b is:  A strong, intimate, love, affectionate, Sunday morning singing “I love my mother, but I want to fuck your daughter” type of record.

It’s just the fact that r&b was always never about a hustle mentality, it was always blue collar working music. Hip-hop came from hustling, and you can still be a hustler if you sing today, without being r&b, versus this worker that’s singing about love and heartache. You can have the hustler guy with the beautiful voice. Chris Brown is more hip-hop than r&b, while R. Kelly and Frank Ocean is r&b.

We just made a great r&b record with Beyoncé, 4. And Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel by Mariah Carey was definitely r&b, while many people wanted a pop record from her. They wanted a big massive sound, but we wanted to make an r&b album, a good fucking album where she could sing. I am r&b from heartbreak reasons, even though I have my hat back, my Jordans on and my gold chains on. The picture of me is hip-hop, but the soul, what I feel, and the emotions I carry round is all r&b. My heart is still broken, and that’s where rhythm and blues came from.

Intervjuet ble opprinnelig publisert i D2.

Av oyvindholen

Father, journalist, author, and journalist in D2/Dagens Næringsliv (www.dn.no).

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