Rico Love talks Usher, social media, writing platinum hits & more [Interview]
Edmonton, AB – On July 5, Rico Love made a stop in Edmonton while joining Future on the Honest Tour. The New Orleans native had arrived at Encore after a 16 hour drive from Vancouver, so it ended up being a bit tricky to confirm a time for our interview. After about three or four time-changes, Rico’s tour manager finally locked us in and escorted us to his tour bus around 11 p.m. (Note to self: never choose cute over comfort. Trekking across the West Edmonton Mall parking lot, in 3 inch wedges, may as well been a mile. Lesson learned).
This was my first time being on anyone’s tour bus, so trying to contain myself and act like I have 100 times wasn’t easy. My eyes wondered, I chatted it up with the bus driver, and I wanted nothing more than for someone to ask me if I wanted a tour… it didn’t happen. The leather, the lights, the wood finishing – damn. Tour life is truly the good life. Rico eventually emerged from the back of the bus, looking fresh and refined as ever (after all, he was set to perform directly after the interview).
For those of you who are not familiar with this R&B star – his resume of artists he’s worked with is immaculate. He started his own label (Division1) in high school, and he taught himself to sing strictly from songwriting. Check it all after the jump.
“Some of my biggest hits were written in 10 to 15 minutes. But it’s not because I don’t respect the process, that’s just how fast it comes to me.” – Rico Love
Rico Love: Q&A
Interview conducted by Rosa Jason for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: What’s up Canada! I’m Rosa with HipHopCanada and I am here with singer-songwriter Rico Love. Welcome to Edmonton!
Rico Love: Hey, how you doing?
HipHopCanada: Good, good – is this your first time here?
Rico Love: Yes, this is my first time in Edmonton. I’ve been to Canada before. I’ve been to Montreal and Toronto, but I’ve never been to Edmonton.
HipHopCanada: And you were just in Vancouver last night -
Rico Love: Yeah, Vancouver last night – Van City.
HipHopCanada: I follow you on Instagram and saw that you had a 16 hour drive.
Rico Love: Yeah, it was serious. It was intense.
HipHopCanada: I just wanted to know – how do you manage to travel like this, yet stay healthy and ready to perform day after day? A lot of people would just burn right out.
Rico Love: You know what? I pray a lot and I take B12 shots everyday.
Writer’s note: At that point, I started to giggle because I thought a B12 shot was alcohol… and not vitamins. Just a little embarrassing.
Rico Love: I take vitamins, I eat right, and I work out. Plus my show is really intense as well, so it’s like a work out. I don’t have any voice overs or any backing tracks – I do everything live so it’s like an intense workout everyday. And I think when you stay in shape then you’re healthy everyday.
HipHopCanada: Absolutely. The more you exercise, then you’re always healthy. So I’ll just jump right into it – you’ve wrote some of the most notorious hits in hip-hop. But for some of those who may not be familiar – as far as your songwriting and producing goes – could you just break down your resume a little bit?
Rico Love: Yeah – you know – I’ve wrote songs like; “There Goes My Baby” [by Usher], “Daddy’s Home” [by Usher], “Heart Attack” [Trey Songz] “4 AM” [for Melanie Fiona], “Mr. Wrong” [for Mary, featuring Drake] “Hello Good Morning” [Diddy], “Just a Dream” [Nelly], “Without You” [David Guetta], “Sweet Dreams” [Beyoncé]…
HipHopCanada: [Whispering] That’s my favourite.
Rico Love: It’s a lot, it’s a lot [Laughing].
HipHopCanada: I read that you started out as a rapper and then eventually signed on with Usher. Can you tell us about how that transition from rapping – to singing and songwriting came about?
Rico Love: Well I was always rapping. I would like to say I was a way better rapper back then – cause I knew how to pop wheelies – it was like riding a bike. I knew how to pop wheelies and all that type of stuff back then. It’s all I did everyday, all day. When I signed to Usher – I came to his office and I needed money. And he said, “Instead of me giving you money, let me just give you an opportunity to make your own money”. He gave me this track and I wrote this song called “Throwback,” which was the first song I ever wrote, and it was on the Confessions album. After that I just kept writing songs but when the artist-thing fell through and I continued to write – I would have people demo the songs for me because I couldn’t sing. But they wouldn’t sing them right – they wouldn’t do them justice – so I just started demo-ing my own records and doing ‘em myself. I taught myself how to sing, to the point where a lot of the demos would sometimes sound better than the final versions of the song. So it was just kind of an easy transition.
HipHopCanada: So, no vocal coach? Nothing?
Rico Love: No vocal coach, nah. But if you do it everyday for years – not everyday for a few weeks – I mean for years and years of writing songs and cutting demos. If I were to play you my original demos you’d hear a huge difference.
HipHopCanada: In 2010 you started your own label, Division1. Was founding your own label a set goal you had when you first started? Or was it something that progressed as you became more successful?
Rico Love: I started Division1 in high school – it wasn’t established – but I started it in high school and I always believed in the brand. I wanted to have the next Bad Boy – that was my goal and it’s still my goal. It was idea that was birthed in my mind and I kinda watched in come into fruition. And it’s still the beginning, so we workin’ to expand on the brand but it’s something that’s always been with me before I got into the music business, professionally.
HipHopCanada: Did you have some help in high school? Do you have any colleagues that you still roll with from back then?
Rico Love: No. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: [Laughing] They didn’t make the climb?
Rico Love: Yeah – nobody made it. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: What are some qualities in an artists that makes you want to sign them? What “wows” you?
Rico Love: I love artists that just think outside the box and create music that’s just not – not typical but it’s still radio-friendly. I want people to want to be stars – not these hipster-underground people who act like they don’t want to be famous. I’m not into that, I want people to want to be “mega” and be superstars. I believe in that era – I remember when that whole Bad Boy, Roc-A-Fella, Ruff Ryder era – when artist wanted to be stars and wanted to be major. Now all these artists are trying to hide their music – and I feel that’s what cowards do. They’re afraid of the criticism and afraid of what the fans say on Twitter and Instagram, so they would rather stay inside and box themselves in and try to make it seem like they’re cooler than us. But I think it takes us courage to step out and not be afraid of what people have to say – cause they have a lot to say. So it takes a certain type of person. I believe in those type of artists who believe in themselves, and take a step out there to make great music and believe in being big artists [and big acts]. As far as what I look for – that superstar quality gotta be there. The thing that you can’t put your finger on; along with an amazing talent whether it’s rapping, singing or production – whatever it is – I just believe in genius level talent.
HipHopCanada: That’s so true how you say about social media – it does have such a huge effect on hip-hop. Back then in the Ruff Rider and Bad Boy era, we didn’t have all of that. So people just worked and grind. There was really no noise to be worried about, so I totally agree with you.
Rico Love: Yeah. And plus I think the fans respected the music and our culture more back then.
Rico Love: Now because it’s so easy to do – people don’t take it as serious.
HipHopCanada: Exactly. Now people just want to get those singles out on iTunes.
Rico Love: Fans are like, “Man it’s easy to do, I don’t respect what you do, it’s not hard work.” They don’t believe it’s hard work, but it really is a lot of hard work. They feel like they can just criticize. And a lot of the shock DJs – you know – Wendy Williams [I think] was the beginning and the Charlamagnes. No offence to them but I feel they spew such critical feedback to people [and to artists] that I feel like the common man feels like, “Well I can do that – if Charlamagne said that shit was wack then I can say it too.” So I feel like they lost respect for the art and for the culture, I think people don’t have any tact anymore. I always tell people that when I was a kid – my aunt made some food and I told her it was “nasty,” and my mother popped me. She said, “Even if you don’t like it – you keep that to yourself because it’s just in poor taste to do that.” I feel like we’ve lost that in this era, you got the least professional people who sit behind the microphone and tell you how horrible your song is. So now a person who works at the Post Office thinks that they can do that too, they’ve kind of lost respect in class for anything that they do. Certain things should be kept to yourself.
HipHopCanada: And then there’s that sense of entitlement – you couldn’t have said that any better. Now – I wanted to ask you about your songwriting process; with how many hits you have, how long does it take to write a song? And when you write a song – do you compose the music first, then add the lyrics? What’s your general process?
Rico Love: There’s no timeline on it. Most of the time it’s pretty quick though – because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking. I believe it’s about a feeling, most of the time I write to a cord progression and then build the music around the cords and lyrics. But sometimes I could just write something in the shower or something in the car on the way to the studio. I like to create at the actual studio – I love building and writing cords. Playing simple cords and writing a song, so it’s better to write the music around it. That way the music is tailor-fit to the song. That’s usually my process – it doesn’t take me long at all – some of my biggest hits were written in 10 to 15 minutes. But it’s not because I don’t respect the process, that’s just how fast it comes to me. So when I say that, I hate for people to think I’m arrogant. It’s because I trust myself, I trust my instinct. I believe in great melodies and I know when I hear a great melody – even if it comes from me.
HipHopCanada: That just goes to show how that’s a natural ability. Not anyone could just – for example – write “Sweet Dreams” [and compose the music] in 15 minutes and still be such a huge hit today.
Rico Love: But some people – it take three hours and it still be the same hit. I know a lot of the greatest songwriters in the world and it takes them 2 weeks to write a song. At the end of the day, the end result is more important.
HipHopCanada: That’s very true. I was actually at John Legend’s concert last week, during the show he explained how it takes him hours to write his songs. So everyone is different. I’m still impressed – I mean for 15 minutes – that’s pretty good!
Rico Love: [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: You’ve definitely been on your grind this year; you dropped your mixtape, El Presidente in 2013, then your EP Discrete Luxury earlier this year, and then just this week you dropped “He Got Money.” I know you’re working on your album – but what else is in store for 2014?
Rico Love: Right now, just building the album and finish creating the album. “He Got Money” is like a warm-up exercise, getting into album mode. I really want to explain to people who I am as an artist. A lot of people [mainstream] might think I’m just a singer or some “R&B guy.” I really want to introduce myself as I whole and I don’t want to give an album until people fully know who I am. That way you can really do numbers, so that’s what I’m focusing on; building a brand and building an album. Tiara Thomas – my first artist signed to my label – we’re developing her and she’s getting ready to drop her single in a few weeks. So I’m just excited about that and just focusing on building, growing, and making great music. I really think that people are going to be impressed with the album when they hear it, but I don’t want to rush it. I just want to take my time and make sure everybody knows me.
HipHopCanada: Well you’ve become very well-known. I’ve been following you on Twitter and Instagram and the presence is definitely there. So we’ll just wrap this up – thank you for taking the time to sit down with HipHopCanada. Before we sign off – is there anything you want to shout out to your Canadian fans?
Rico Love: I just really appreciate the love and support. When I tweeted out that I was going to be in Vancouver, I got so much love. And then today in Edmonton – a lot of people was tweeting me back. Then the response yesterday [at the show] was tremendous. It was just amazing people knew every record; from the mixtapes, to the EP and everything, so that’s really cool to be able to see that you’re puttin’ in work and it’s paying off. I can tell I’mma be in Canada a lot in my career. I look forward to it.
HipHopCanada: Well we look forward to having you back and we’re looking forward to your show – so we’ll let you get prepared. Thank you so much!
Rico Love: Thank you.
HipHopCanada would like to thank Universal Music Canada, Division1, and Gabrielle Bozza for setting up this interview.