His name sounds like he fits the part of a suave kind of guy who dances like nobody business as he works the stage singing.
Suave? I can’t say for sure–we only met once, but he was extremely laid back and exuded great confidence (and comfort) in his skin. Unless you consider diamonds as part of ones suaveness–in that case, his chain confirmed he’s suave as hell. 😉
Dance? Eh, at least not from what we’ve seen in his recently released video for his song “They Don’t Know”. But then again he’s not even in the video. We’ll get to that later.
Music? Ah…that’s something this stellar songwriter and record producer is quite happy about these days. He’s venturing from behind the scenes where he wrote hits such as Usher’s “There Goes My Baby” and “Daddy’s Home”; Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”; Diddy “Hello, Good Morning”; Natasha Beddingfield ft. Sean Kingston, “Love Like This”; and more, to step out on his own as a solo artist.
Needless to say, when I had the opportunity to interview him at Blogoshpere, a media and blogging event presented by American Dreaming Magazine in celebration of the And1 Summer Remix here in Philly [which Love’s team, Division 1, played in], I was on it.
On the heels of his recently released first solo EP, Discrete Luxury, Rico and I sat down for chat in a room tucked away from the rest of the buzz happening that evening. We touched on everything from his business knowledge (both music and otherwise); lessons learned; career influences and mentors; his strategy for succeeding in the industry; breaking out as an artist; the most important thing in life to him; as well as his advice for others.
Of course that wasn’t all so with that said: ladies and gents, say hello to Rico Love…
RL: I don’t know. I don’t try to look for differences, I just be myself. I work hard; I really believe in substance of music and I really put the music first. I really take my ego out of it, and I don’t know if that differentiates me from anyone but I just know that’s who I am. If we look for our differences I think we focus on other people. When you’re different, you’re just different—you don’t really pay attention to it, you don’t notice it.
SS: Gotcha. So you’ve been in the industry for over ten years–
RL: Damn, it’s been that long?
SS: Hasn’t it? Don’t let me tell you–am I correct in my research?
RL: [chuckles] Yes.
SS: I thought so, [laughs]. So anywho, at this point–at least 10 years in–what’s one of the greatest lessons that you’ve learned about the music industry and how to survive in it?
RL: Don’t stop working—never stop working; nobody is going to feel sorry for you. There’s really no true friends in the [music] business; if you’re fortunate to find some—then you’re fortunate. But at the end of the day, it’s not about friendship [and] it’s not a popularity contest when it comes to writing and producing songs; it’s just about making hits and delivering. When you’re hot they fucking with you, when you’re not, they don’t.
SS: Well clearly you’ve definitely been “hot” but you’ve also been steadily growing and developing on the back end as a business man and brand, and now as an artist. How have you successfully made those transition’s in your career?
RL: I guess it still remains to be seen if I’m successful right? On the business side, I own my own label—I did my label deal with Interscope. [So, yes] I’m developing. I just work hard, I try to stay focus and learn from the people around me. I’m fortunate to have Usher, Diddy and Fat Joe as my big brothers; I’m able to learn from these guys–I literally talk to these people everyday. So I try to learn and get as much advice and game that I can get as possible. It’s trial and error also—you learn a lot [that way].
In the beginning: I signed a bunch of artists; I put a lot of money into a bunch of acts; I paid people’s rent; I threw people out; I took care of people’s family and I realized that I was doing them a disservice. I should have let them hustle and grind the same way that I did, and maybe then they would have the same hustle and drive that I have. So it’s trial and error; you’ve just got to really focus and understand and learn from the mistakes. And keep going.
I really believe in my company [Division 1], my brand, my “know-how”—I don’t want to say that I’m successful as an executive yet, but I really plan on being it.
SS: What would you say motivates you to succeed and grind as hard as you do?
RL: My son—I have a three-year-old little boy. Regardless of whatever, that’s the number one.
SS: Do you bring him the studio?
SS: Yeah? So when he gets older, will you nudge him towards music, too?
RL: Nah, he’s into cars. But yeah, he’s three-years-old and he’s with me all the time. He’s a “G”.
SS: [laughs] So you have worked–and still do–with some major artists in the industry. What kind of takeaways have you garnered as a result of being around them?
RL: Consistency and fearlessness. Not being afraid—I learned this from artists who were afraid. Not saying I learned it watching them be fearless; I learned what happens when you are afraid—when you don’t take a chance and take a risk and believe in your material.
I learned that [from them] and now I dropped my video on 106 & Park and I’m not even in my first single, not even in the video. That takes a certain level of courage to be able to say I want to make a creative peace, I want to make a digital art piece—a moving painting so to speak. I just wanted to challenge myself and what I’ve learned. A lot of people don’t do that; a lot of people don’t trust themselves. So that’s what I’ve learned watching people; I really trust myself.
SS: Now there’s definitely been a shift in music especially as far as the lyrical content. As a songwriter what is a change that you’ve observed?
It definitely fell off a lot. A lot of the records that performed very well on the Top 40 Radio and on the iTunes slot—a lot of pop culture. But then you have to look at it again and see you got Ed Sheeran and Mumford and Son—you got Adele, these are people consistently performing well as well. It’s a certain level of substance that’s going to be up there for a little while but then those records that really matter they sell albums. Substance is always going to win—it’s always going to beat everything else. You don’t see artists with a popcorn single selling 10 million albums. But you do see an Adele come around every once in a while.
I feel like Tiara Thomas is that future—one of those artists that’s going to sell album and people are really going to believe in and buy into. You have artists like Drake who consistently make great songs—CONSISTENTLY—of substance. It always comes back around to that.
SS: With your artist, Tiara Thomas, how did you determine that you wanted her on your label?
The first time meeting her she sang three songs for me—I was sold. If you can’t watch her sing and pay attention to her and say this girl’s a star—you’re in the wrong business. I offered her a deal before [Wale’s] “Bad” came out, before she was on the Wale record, before she gave him the record—everything; I was already on it. I had the ear—everybody else offered her their situations afterwards, including Wale. I saw it immediately.
SS: So what is it that you look for in artists?
RL: Superstars. Superstars. You have to have real, true talent. It’s something i can’t even really explain to you. When you talk to a star, when you look in their eyes and feel their presence—when they walk in the room, you feel like a star just walked in. Everybody stops. I can’t even put my finger on it, you just know they have it.
SS: You get that when you walk in?
RL: When I walk in? I never notice it. I’m just me. I’m sure people look at the chain.
SS: Pretty damn hard not to! [laughs]
RL: Maybe I’ll take it off and we’ll see [the reaction].
SS: You’ve worked with some artists at points in their career where, quite honestly, they were on their way to–and some even already–counted out. Why?
RL: I like breaking acts. When I wrote motivation for Kelly Rowland, nobody believed in her. When I did Nelly “Just A Dream” they had thought he was over. When I did Usher, “Daddy’s Home” and “There Goes My Baby” he was after the Here I Stand album—they thought he was done. They thought Trey was the new wave. And Trey was and is the new wave so no shade to Trey. Just consistently being able to work with people that nobody believes in—I think that’s the key because it’s left open. You have the whole industry trying to write songs for Rihanna or Beyonce.
End of the day you have to focus on the people that everyone is sleeping on—that’s how you’re going to get your money; that’s why I’ve been able to consistently win because I didn’t chase people. I look at the acts that I believe in—that I believe are dope. There’s no way you’re not going to tell me that Nelly isn’t a superstar, y’all can sleep on Nelly if y’all want—I’ma write “Just A Dream” and sell eight million singles. If I see something special in somebody, I don’t care what nobody say—I know one hit record can change all of that.
SS: Very true…it definitely can.
RL: Diddy worked on the “Last Train To Paris” album for three years. When I started working on it, they told me, “don’t do it, you wasting your time”. Then we made “Hello, Good Morning” and we had us a smash hit.
So at the end of the day, you have to really focus on everything around you.
You can find him on Instagram and Twitter, too: @IAmRicoLove.
– Sincerely Syreeta