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Sope

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Last month two-time Grammy award winner, Melanie Fiona touched down in London to headline a show at the O2 Academy Islington. This concert marked her first on British soil in over 5 years. So before she delivered a highly engaging, interactive and marvellous show we caught up with Melanie to discuss why it’s been so long since she’s been in the UK, the new album ‘Awake’ and much more.

Read all about it below:

Sope: It’s been 5 years since you last headlined a London show, so why the hold up? And what do you love in particular about London crowds and the city in general?

Melanie: Well yeah it’s been awhile since I’ve been back after touring and exploring other territories. I think one of the big reasons I never came back is because my second project was never worked in the UK. I was going through a lot of label changes at the time so I think that caused the 5 year void. But what I love is that from The Bridge to this 3rd album Awake which is almost finished is that I have the same fans, I’ve grown more fans and I’m able to come back here with such a strong presence after all this time. And it’s one of the reasons why I love London because it makes me feel like I’m at home. People here are true, they’re loyal, they’re music lovers and they understand where I come from.

Sope: What can we expect from the new album, what influenced it sonically and lyrically and are there any songs in particular you can’t wait for the fans to hear?

Melanie: Awake was inspired by personal events. Even before I started making the album – the word ‘Awake’ was something that I started to live by. I felt like I was going through an awakening, I was changing, transitioning and evolving. And that only came from pretty much my whole world being rocked from personal to professional – everything changing at once. It was a real test – and that’s where the term ‘Awake’ came from. I’ve been doing this project mainly with one producer Andre Harris and we decided we wanted to do this project together because we were both in a space of awakening and wanted to do something identifiable to both of us. The songs on this album range; some of them are very typically big ballads that people know me for, some are very relaxed chill vibe records. I didn’t want to limit myself on this album. I wanted a collection of feel good songs – and that can feel good on lows and highs.

Some of the songs I can’t wait for fans to hear is ‘I Tried’ which is the next single and it was also the first song I recorded for the album. I feel like that song was the catalyst because the song was about being in a dark place to being where you go from here so that was the awakening, I always feel like it’s darkest before dawn. There’s another song I love called ‘I Need That’ and another one called ‘Killing Time’. Also there’s a song called ‘I Want It All’ which is really special to me because I feel like it personifies the entire album.

Sope: You recently revealed that you worked with Stevie Wonder for the project, what was that like? And will that song be on the album?

Melanie: It’s a dream come true, I still relive that moment thinking did that really happen? And it happened with so much magic because it was just so random but so genuine. I don’t know if that song is going on the album but if it never sees the light of the day I’ll always have it for myself *laughs*. I would love to build a whole world album campaign around that song – it needs an official release for respect purposes. He’s amazing and that experience was truly incredible.

Sope: Do you have a release date for the album?

Melanie: I don’t have a confirmed release date yet. We’re looking at late fall in time for Christmas and the holidays. But up until then I’m going to be releasing music anyway, some may go to radio, some may not. I’m really okay because this album in this independent space is about the fans so I wanna get the music to them in any way possible.

Sope: How do you feel about being independent as opposed to being on a major label? And are you open to signing another major deal in future?

Melanie: I’m open to wherever the wind takes me, this current venture with a company like Primary Wave and being able to have major distribution from BMG as an independent artist is a good lesson and good test for me. It’s also a reward and a blessing knowing I’m responsible for my choices and knowing that I have a great team around me is a blessing. But sure if the right situation presented itself with a major label I would be open to that but it has to be right. For now I’m cool.

Sope: Since you are now an independent artist who no longer has pressure from a record label, what will define success to you in regards to this new album? Especially since you’ve had Grammy nominations, hit songs in the past etc?

Melanie: I think releasing Awake will be a successful thing, just to know I released an independent project. Also some marker of success would be visiting other countries and seeing fans I’ve never performed for before. But ultimately happiness, when this is all said and done if I feel I’m happier than I’ve been before then that’s the ultimate success.

Sope: When you were on a major were there any songs from your previous albums which you felt deserved more shine and attention? Me personally I would say ‘Priceless’ from the first album and ‘Bones’ from the 2nd album.

Melanie Fiona: I feel like on The MF Life, ‘Change the Record’ with B.o.B. should’ve been a massive record. That song is one of my favourites, I love performing it. I feel like it’s a fan favourite and everytime I perform it, I can see it’s a fan favourite so I know if more people heard it, it would’ve gone a little bit further. That’s the difficulty being in a big building, you have to play by the rules a little bit and whatever song they want to put the money behind you kinda just have to go with. But I don’t knock the songs that they chose because ‘4AM’ was a great success for me. I think on the first album ‘Ay Yo’ also had the potential to be great had there been a bigger push behind it.

Sope: Before your first album arrived, you put out a brilliant remix and covers EP with The Illadelphonics, which housed an amazing stripped down version of Monday Morning. Would you be open to doing a sequel to that EP and working with The Illadelphonics again in general?

Melanie: Yeah I would love to do that again, it was a lot of fun working with Questlove and the Illadelphonics. I always feel like performing stripped down is best for me. I actually did an acoustic version of The MF Life songs too. I just love the raw instrumentation of live music and the voice so I would definitely love to do it again. Infact what I probably will do with this album Awake is more intimate venues with just a guitar because I feel this is an album that garners conversation.

Sope: I’ve noticed in a lot of your interviews people bring up the Drake connection pnly in relation to the group you had back in the day The Renaissance. But they seem to forget he wrote ‘I Been That Girl’ which was one of my favourites from the last album, so my question is when are we getting Melanie and Drake duet?

Melanie: I would love to do that, the good thing is that we’re still so young and early in our careers. It’s all love, we talk about it everytime we see each other but we both never find the time to get around to doing it. He’s so talented and so sweet so I would love to see what we could do.

Sope: What’s your take on the state of R&B today and what R&B artists are you listening to at the moment?

Melanie: My take on R&B today is that R&B is changing a lot, not to say that there isn’t classic R&B but there’s a division between what R&B is and what R&B isn’t. At the end of the day, R&B is the foundation of a lot of music, it’s very important. So this whole debate about whether R&B is dead, do people still love R&B – I feel like people are changing what their perception of what R&B is but there is still a lot of great R&B out there but you just have to find it. I’ve been listening to Emily King who’s a friend of mine. I just love her project from start to finish – it’s a true real body of work. It’s definitely soulful but some people would call it Pop yet she has a smoky jazz voice. I love her, she’s such a sweet person and her project ‘The Switch’ is truly excellent.

Sope: Anything you want to say to your fans?

Melanie: I love you, I cannot thank you enough for your support here in the UK and worldwide for my life and my living, supporting and growing with me. I make this music for you and that’s what this project is about it’s from me to you directly and I hope you enjoy it

Check out the video for Melanie’s latest single ‘Bite the Bullet’ below:

Interview by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)

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br4NYqCM Dawn Richard has been making abundant waves and moves on her independent hustle for the better part of 4 years. And June 2nd 2015 is the day where Dawn will finally bring her electrifying show and artistry to the UK at London’s prestigious Jazz Café.  Two months ahead of what is sure to be a great London debut, we caught up with Dawn to discuss her latest album ‘Blackheart’ and much more. Check out the conversation below:

Sope: What can your British fans expect from your London show in June?

Dawn: A party and a full on experience. I’m really excited as it’s the first time I’m gonna pop my solo cherry over there. It’ll be one of those big experiences which we’ll share together.  I’m really excited to bring this era over there – It’s been a long time coming.

Sope:  Can fans expect you to perform songs from all your solo projects or is this just a ‘Blackheart’ affair?

Dawn: It’s the Black era, so it will just be ‘Blackheart’. Then in the next tour, it will be everything – that will be about a 3 hour show. That will be for the summer, it’ll be a huge thing. We’ll be in London again for a while.

Sope: In celebration of the London announcement, you recently dropped ‘New Or Lean’  tell us about how that song came together?

Dawn: I’m born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana so I wanted to do an anthem. Do something straight for home and something big. It’s been a while since I did something for the city, so that was the one. It was an introduction into the next era and I got to represent for the place where it all started.

Sope: So was the song a teaser of what ‘Redemption Heart’ will sound like?

Dawn:  Hmm maybe we will see. I wanted to see how people would receive the sound and see if they would like it. That was kinda the test to see if that’s something I would want to play with.  I always do that, I kinda put something out and see people’s reactions then decide it is something I can move with it. And obviously people liked it!

Sope: How does it feel to finally have ‘Blackheart’ out and what are the plans for the Blackheart era long term? Are there going to be more music videos than ‘Goldenheart’?

Dawn: More visuals, there will be more visuals. We’re gonna stretch out this one out a bit. I really love what this album embodies and what I’ve gone through with it, so we’re definitely gonna play with this one a little bit more. A lot more touring, we’re gonna stay overseas and really get reacquainted with you guys, hug you guys and touch you guys.  I’ve been giving so much attention to my American movement, so I want to get an affinity for what you guys like and what you want. So Blackheart is going to stretch for a while.

Sope: What are your personal favourite songs on the album and why?

Dawn: ‘The Deep’ is my favourite.  It has sentimental value and I wrote that with my father, the meaning behind it is so beautiful and so real.

Sope: Can you outline the inspiration and creative process behind ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Adderal Sold’ because the transition and production between those two songs and production especially on ‘Adderal Sold’ is outstanding?

Dawn:  Billie Jean was inspired by Michael Jackson’s idea of Billie Jean but I didn’t want to take on that big monster. I wasn’t trying to make another ‘Billie Jean’; I just respected the idea of Billie Jean and who she was. I wanted to do a modern day feminist take on who she was. So it’s this cool idea of meeting a Billie Jean and what it embodies. It’s like me having this conversation with her in the 3rd person and the idea of how she got around. Then by the end of it, there was an appreciation for her.  Leading into ‘Adderal Sold’, I wanted that story to continue, so you almost feel the respect of her and I and this blend between us and its melancholy. So the drums slow down, then you see this shift of my idea of Billie Jean turn into this ethereal and whimsical situation, so it’s this ride I watch this girl through.  I wanted to do that production wise as well as lyrically so you see this transformation of me observing this girl and almost going into her world, seeing what this music industry creates with women and what we become. So that’s why those two records are so special because it’s me outside of myself, watching someone else then me becoming that person because I’m along for the ride. It’s a gnarly experience, almost 3D like.

Sope: You’ve had a proven successful track record with Druski musically, so what was it like departing from him and going steam ahead with Noisecastle?

Dawn: Noisecastle is amazing; I think you can appreciate people for their talents you know. Just like how Druski was dope with what he did, Noisecastle is incredibly insane with what he does. I’m lucky enough to be able co-produce with these people and still find this friendship and this balance with all different types of producers. That was the point of trying to show the diversity between being able to work with multiple producers and still create something great. Noisecastle is no different, he’s the same alien as me, we dream the same, he’s on a different planet and there are no boundaries or restrictions with him. That’s what I can appreciate the most about him. I love the way his mind works, together we form this kind of Voltron which is fucking awesome.

Sope: So will you be doing ‘Redemption Heart’ with him or go with a different producer again?

Dawn:  If it works organically, absolutely. I’m not disappointed thus far and you don’t mess with magic so if it feels good, you keep going. I love him; he’s stuck with me so I don’t think we’ll stop collaborating, so yeah probably. Sope: Are you currently in discussions with any major labels? Dawn: Yeah I would love to be in works with them, we’ll look at our offers and see which ones work because that’s definitely something I want.  I love being independent, however I’m open to all things especially if it’s a good business move and it gets the brand out there.

Sope: What were your thoughts on how the media and the other girls portrayed and represented you in the wake of the 2nd Danity Kane break-up drama?

Dawn: That’s how they felt so I don’t dwell, it is what is. People are always going to have their idea of who you are. I can sit here all day and tell people who I really am, and they will still believe what they want to believe so I’m gonna let them have that. Those who fuck with me, fuck with me and those who don’t, don’t. I’m not going to consistently revert back to having to try and tell people or comment on how people feel about me. I did what I did for the fans, it didn’t work out and now I’m on to the next thing which makes me feel great and that’s give the fans some great music. That’s it – whatever everybody else feels or thinks, they’re gonna assume that shit anyway so they can have it.

Sope: What are your overall feelings towards the final album and can you tell us the two songs you wrote ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Two Sides’?

Dawn: I wasn’t really gonna be on the album, I told them they could take me off the album. I didn’t want to be a part of something they didn’t want me to be a part of but the label didn’t want to take me off. Legally the label wouldn’t have moved forward if I wasn’t on it they stated that. I was happy to at least give the fans what they wanted, I think the album is cool; it needed to be there, people needed something to get closure. As far as the two records I wrote, I think they’re great records, I love the way they go into eachother. To have ‘Tell Me’ go into ‘Two Sides’ was such a brilliant idea, I think people could immediately peg that’s one of my signatures. I think those records especially ‘Two Sides’ reign true to the situation at hand, it wasn’t supposed to but it’s ironic how it fits so perfectly now.

Sope: You have a very distinctive tone so I wanted to know who your vocal influences are and what is your thought process when laying down your vocals in terms of runs and harmonies?

Dawn:  I grew up loving Imogen Heap and Bjork. And one of my favourite female voices to this day is Alanis Morissette. Those voices really did something for me, growing up to me they sounded like cognac and cigar smoke, they had these cool tones that worked well with rock and alternative music.  As far as what I do organically, I just go in and whatever feels good, feels good I don’t force it. Leads and adlibs are cool but my favourite thing to do when I’m in the studio is backgrounds. I can go on and on for days, there’s this sense of peace and chanting. Like an army of bad motherfuckers always behind me, like a 1000 people in believing me and 1000 people behind me every time doing these counter chants which are so African, so Creole and so New Orleans.

Sope: Are you a Brandy fan? I hear some Brandy-isms in your voice?

Dawn: People want so badly for there to be Brandy-isms. I didn’t know about Brandy until college, I didn’t grow up on Brandy, I grew up on Bjork and Imogen Heap.  So there was no influence but I respect her. I think she’s one of the dopest singers we’ve ever had in our time. When I found out about her through my brother, I was like this girls voice is on a whole other level so the respect of Brandy is definitely there. She to me is the vocal bible, but I don’t necessarily take her style or influence into my music. I don’t think of Brandy when I think of the formatting of my music and I think it’s funny that only black people think that.

Sope: Any dream collaborations?

Dawn: I would love to work with Sango and Sohn and women such as Azealia Banks, Solange and Janelle Monae.

Sope: Anything to say to your fans?

Dawn: Let’s change the world one heart at a time.

Check out the video for Dawn’s latest single ‘Projection’ below:

Purchase tickets for Dawn’s London show in June here.

Interview by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)

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Bridget-Kelly-Interview-HypehairEarlier this month, Bridget Kelly returned to London to perform for her adoring fans at yet another sold out concert in the capital’s prestigious venue The Jazz Café. Following the blazing set we caught up with her to talk about everything from being a newly independent artist to issues with R&B in 2014 amongst other topics. Check out our conversation below…

Sope: You recently dropped the singles ‘I Won’t Cry’ and ‘Almost More’ so are those songs the official lead singles to your album or were those just to hold fans over until you’re ready to proper begin the album cycle?

Bridget: I’m just going to keep putting music out to keep people happy, to remind people I’m still here and that I’m still creative which to me is the most important thing. I’m going to be putting an EP out here in the next couple of months. I’m doing a maxi single for ‘Almost More’ – I’m just going to keep making music.

Sope: It’s been almost a year since you were last in London and in that time it’s been revealed that you are no longer with Roc Nation so are you completely independent or are you in talks with other labels?

Bridget: I’m completely independent – I’m just so happy to be doing my own thing. It’s such a different vibe; people are more interested to hear what you have to say. I’m not apart of something else that’s bigger than me and there’s a pride and confidence that’s come with that. I’ve been able to work with other people that I maybe may have not been able to work with if it wasn’t for me being independent of a label. It’s a really beautiful thing and I’m finding more people like it and are excited about what’s to come.

Sope: So this album! Is there anything you can tell us about the producers, feature artists, anything about the sound?

Bridget: Initially when I started I really wanted to make a project that was really going to be fluid from beginning to end. So like one track starts and it goes into another – like ‘I Won’t Cry’ goes into ‘Almost More’. I really wanted to have every single track on the album sound that way. However because we’re making an abundance of music we’re going to do that for the EP then if the album follows that format then it’s cool. Honestly I’m taking everything one day at a time, I think this is the first time in my life where I’m completely confident in everything I’m putting out, in everything I say and everything I think. I feel this is the most receptive that my fans have been to my performances and overall energy. I’m much more connected to everybody than I ever was.

Sope: On your first mixtape ‘Every Girl’, songs like ‘White Lies’, ‘Seek and Destory’ and ‘Love You After All’ had a strong rock influence and we haven’t really heard you on songs like that since, so will some of that sound resurface on the new album?

Bridget: Oh yes its coming back, it’s definitely coming back. This album is going to absolutely be more alternative than was it before. Definitely still soulful, I’m still a soulful singer at heart and still inspired by R&B voices but it’s definitely going to edgier than it was before. But I don’t think it’s going to be as dark, some topics may be dark but overall it’s not going to be totally focused on love and relationships. It’s really going to be about my coming of age so to speak – I’ve gone through a lot being apart of Roc Nation then not being apart of Roc Nation and all the personal things gone through just trying to find my place in this world outside of the label.

Sope: Do you think it’s difficult to break new R&B artists in this current musical climate since R&B is no longer seen as trendy or crossover now and also because of the artificial ways Billboard has recently been tracking chart positions which don’t really seem to reflect consumer interests and radio anymore?

Bridget: I think R&B is actually at the forefront of mainstream music but what I will say is that it doesn’t have as much colour as it did before. I think R&B has always been mainstream but nowadays it’s the Justin Timberlake’s, the Robin Thicke’s, the Sam Smith’s and the Adele’s that are really making soul music the tier to reach. So I will say that R&B has always been at the front but nowadays there’s no new Mary J. Blige or new Luther – Tank is the only one making classic soulful R&B that is really incredible. And Chris Brown but even then he always walks the line of R&B and Pop. I think there are very few women who are at the forefront and I think that’s because there’s no real middle ground for us to live. It’s either you’re independent trying to make on it on Instagram or YouTube or you’re Beyoncé – there’s not a lot of room to live and breathe in between.

Sope: Since your video for Street Dreaming, we haven’t really seen any visuals from you aside from a preview of Cocaine Heartbreak, so when can we expect to see more videos from you?

Bridget: The ‘Cocaine Heartbreak’ video is going to blow your mind. You might see a cameo from someone you know and it’s going to be great. There’s also a video coming for ‘Almost More’.

Sope: So is there anything you want to say to your fans?

Bridget: Just thank you guys so much for thugging it out with me. I know it’s been a really long journey and thank you for being so patient, understanding, responsive and receptive to everything I’ve put out thus far. At the end of the day I pride myself on the idea that I don’t see myself as this untouchable and unfazed artist. I’m still a regular person and still a fan. I started out as a fan before I was an artist so I still want to be able to relate to my fans.

If you haven’t already check out Bridget’s latest single below:

Interview by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)

Footage filmed and edited by Ryzard Akita (@Ryz_A)

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brandy-london-jen-kao-black-origami-fold-dressWhile returning to London after 4 long years to perform at the UK Live music showcase Musicalize , Brandy caught up with press from various outlets and YourMusicMyWorld was in the building. During this new interview we flipped the script on Brandy by asking her some questions that a lot of people don’t really ask her. Check out what B had to say and find out what music acts Brandy would join forces with for a R&B super group.

Sope: Hi Brandy how are you today? Enjoying your stay in London?

Brandy:  I love London. I need time here to work and play because such it’s a great place and I want to see everything. I want to sing and do everything.

Sope: Well I’m going to take a unique turn and ask questions that aren’t so generic.

Brandy:  Good! I’ll take that turn with you.

Sope: In recent years Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys have celebrated albums deemed as iconic in their catalogue by performing the entire album as a concert and since your ‘Never Say Never’ and ‘Full Moon’ albums are often seen as classics, would you ever see yourself performing one of those albums as a full-length concert?

Brandy: That’s a great idea and I didn’t know that they did that so I should *speaks to herself* “Get on it lady!”

Sope: My choice is ‘Full Moon’ but it’s your choice. The ‘Like This’ song is my favourite.

Brandy: *Sings snippet of ‘Like This’*. Yeeees what you know – you look a little young to know about that song!

Sope: Tyrese, Tank & Ginuwine have had huge success with their group project ‘Three Kings’ recently so would you consider doing something like that with two other females and if so who would you pick?

Brandy: You know I had that idea a while back and it was so funny, I asked around to see who would be interested and I didn’t get a lot of good responses because I definitely reached out to those artists who are solo artists and you know solo artists want to stay solo artists so I completely understand and respect that. But I don’t know who do you think would be a good suggestion?

Sope: I would pick Tamia.

Brandy: Tamia! She’s awesome. I almost cursed that’s how amazing she is.

Sope: Tamia & Melanie Fiona

Brandy: That’s such a cute group. Melanie Fiona is amazing and she’s so sweet.

Sope: My final question is and this may throw you off a little but ‘Brokenhearted’ is one of your most often covered songs by YouTube artists and aspiring artists, so I’m just wondering why haven’t you performed that recently and would you consider putting that back in your set list?

Brandy: I need to actually perform that song. A friend of mine has been trying to get me to perform that song for a while and I need to just go head on, buckle down and do it – no excuse!  I definitely will consider that. There are a lot of songs I need to do.

Sope: I could give you a list but we don’t have time! ‘Put That On Everything’, ‘Follow Me’  but that’s unreleased.

Brandy: See! – All those things. I just need to do a whole two hour concert huh?

Sope: ‘How High’ even.

Brandy: I wrote ‘How High’ and that’s a special one because I actually penned that one so I feel great about it!

Sope: And you did your thing on that especially in the rap.

Brandy: Thank you, you liked the rap? I got to Bran’Nu back to life because you know she’s gone but I got to bring her back.

Interview by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)

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Following the mass acclaim they’ve both achieved as solo entities, British R&B giants Jermaine Riley and Cherri V have come together for a full-fledged project as a dynamic duo christening themselves as Dora Martin!

Today marks the release of the first single from their forthcoming EP and it goes by the name of “Skyline” it’s safe to say that it’s without a doubt a delicious slice of alternative R&B which still has enough commercial viability and punch to hit the mainstream formats.  Sonically the track is very reminiscent to Timbaland productions from the early 2000’s and it does more than enough to showcase the duo’s exquisitve vocal talents and chemistry when harmonising.

Check out the glossy and sleek video directed by Shaun Riley below…

And just for the sake of it let’s take a look back at their first collaboration together with the sublime Peaceful Day”

You can catch Dora Martin in their inaugural performance opening for platinum-selling artist Brandy at the Indig02 on the 24th September. Until then download the new single on ITunes!

Make sure to keep up with Dora Martin and their burgeoning movement via Twitter, Facebook and their official website.

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harmonyYou may not have heard of Harmony Samuels but I can guarantee you’ve definitely bopped your head and listened to one of the many hits that he’s had a hand in composing. The British native has turned the music world upside down producing songs for big names in the industry such as Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Brandy, Kelly Rowland, Fantasia, Keyshia Cole, Maroon 5 and many more.

I recently spoke with the multi-talented producer for an in-depth interview touching on everything from his humble beginnings in London to producing Ariana Grande’s breakthrough hit to future career plans and aspirations.

Get into the mind of Harmony Samuels below…

Part I

Part II

Part III

Sope: How did you get your start in the music industry?

Harmony: There’s two phases to it, there was a music industry in London and then there was a music industry here which is two complete different industries. I guess in the industry in London I started off as remixer. I was remixing everyone’s songs at the time and if a record couldn’t get on Choice FM, they would ask either me or Tim Blacksmith to do the remixes back in the day.  That’s how I got into the game in London.  But after a while you know I needed to progress, that’s when I came to America and got discovered by Rodney Jerkins and it all sprung from there.

Sope: Are there any differences in working with American artists compared to UK acts and do you feel pressure as a British producer to deliver a high standard when working with American artists?

Harmony: You got to remember the acts that have broken in America have been very good, they’re high-end quality acts. So when you look at Adele, Emeli Sande and Labrinth, they kind of expect a high standard from you. I think England take more time in creating something more musical where over here if it’s hot just run with it. But if you get a big song out here it can go on forever, I just did a song with Ariana Grande which went crazy over here and took off by itself. But to be honest a lot of its really fast-food sometimes in America whereas in England, we take more time even with our single releases sometimes we need a 8 week or 6 week lead up.

Sope: You produced 3 songs on Kelly Rowland’s latest album so what was that process like especially with the song that reunited Kelly with Beyoncé & Michelle?

Harmony: It was amazing; unfortunately I wasn’t able to be in the studio with Beyoncé because she was in New York at the time but I was there with Kelly and Michelle, so working with them was awesome. Kelly’s my little sister, that’s my friend – she’s family. It was real spiritual, the song is really about her life, she’s not fronting or trying to sing songs she can’t relate to. I had already met her in London in 2007 so it was just a matter of time.  I was honoured that she picked 3 of my songs and put them on the album and ‘Gone’ might be her next single after I believe ‘Dirty Laundry’.

Sope: It’s also been said you will be doing all the production on Michelle Williams’ new album; is there any insight or exclusives you could share about that?

Harmony: Probably not all of it, but most of it like 95%. It sounds awesome, it’s a gospel album and as a church boy it’s a blessing to write songs about my spiritual side and her spiritual journey. And a lot of people will listen to the album and go “Yo that’s a gospel album right?” – It doesn’t feel like or sound like one but you just realise she’s talking about God and not anything crazy. She’s talking about life experiences and the good and bad of a situation so it’s quite enlightening.

Sope: What was it like working in the studio with Fantasia being the sole producer of her latest album ‘Side Effects of You’

Harmony: Fantasia’s album on the whole is pretty much a UK album because the guy on the other track is another British producer who was Naughty Boy. So I felt that album was a representation of UK producers flying the flag in America. But being the main producer was a vision of mine and it was a chance to prove to the world and people who doubted me that I could do the job and show that I’m not just an urban producer. Working with Tasia was amazing because she’s been through so much emotionally and the media buried her out here. So to see her come back with such force is very powerful and a good feeling to watch. Seeing the album going No 1 on R&B and No 2 on Billboard 200 is a very amazing feeling, not even just that the album did well but it’s amazing for someone to get themselves on their feet and have a life again because she was suicidal at one point.

Sope: You produced undeniably one of the standout cuts on Chris Brown’s FAME album which is ‘Oh My Love’ so tell about the creative process with that song and being in the studio with Chris.

Harmony: ‘Oh My Love’ and ‘Say It With Me’ on the FAME album were defining moments for me in America because both songs were made in a 24 hour radius. I went into the studio at like 7 in the evening and did ‘Say It With Me’ and the next day we did ‘Oh My Love’ literally 10 hours afterwards. Which is why they have similar feels if you listen properly but ‘Oh My Love’ was me and Chris just on steroids going crazy in the studio with no limitations or having to play by the rules. ‘Oh My Love’ is an expression of art and love of music, it was also our first time really connecting as brothers and ever since then we’ve had a great relationship.

Sope: Keyshia Cole’s ‘Enough of No Love’ is in my opinion one of the best R&B songs in recent years so how did that song come about?

Harmony: To be honest with you ‘Enough of No Love’ she kind of stumbled across that record. Like it’s weird because when I work with people they never really want to go in with me because they don’t know who I am. So what took place was, the album was finished and she was about to put out ‘Trust & Believe’ first. ‘Enough of No Love’ the actual beat itself was actually another song and it was Chipmunk’s. When she heard it she was like “Yo I love this beat please let’s try and make it work”. So Chipmunk was like “It’s all good you can give it to Keyshia” so the first single became removed and that became the first single which was exciting.

Sope: What’s your opinion on the state of R&B music and do you feel it’s a genre that’s generally unappreciated in the UK?

Harmony: Part of the reason why I don’t live in the UK is I feel they undermine urban music. The truth of the matter is they don’t respect it and don’t give it time. I feel it’s lost its value, it’s a got a worth now but I feel like in the UK we’ve never really embraced it, I mean we get the odd one coming through that do well but we’ve never embraced it and I don’t believe we ever will as a country. But even over here, it’s kind of lost its value but I’m fighting to bring it back – Justin Timberlake did an amazing job with his album so R&B is starting to find its ground. Brandy kind of birthed female R&B last year with her record and I was fortunate to get one on there. That was my dream anyway when I came here; I wanted to be one of pioneers who brought R&B back to the forefront. I’m happy with the fact that we’re making ground, Ariana played a big part – I don’t care what anyone says she’s a pop artist but ‘The Way’ is an R&B record.

Sope: Who’s the one artist you want to work with, that you haven’t had the chance to collaborate with yet?

Harmony: Hmm I don’t know I think Justin Timberlake is someone I’d love to work with because if you listen to his album there are no limitations.  I want to work with Jay, I love J. Cole – I love everything he’s about and what he brings to the table. I think Coldplay and One Republic would be amazing for me.

Sope: Are you working on producing your own artists?

Harmony: We have two artists; I have an American artist and a British artist. My American artist, her name is Jamia, she’s 16 years old and is the future Brandy to me – she’s very ‘Never Say Never’ meets ‘Full Moon’ and sings her butt off. She’s dropping at the top of next year. My UK artist her name is Carmen Reece, she was on the scene a bit in the early 2000’s, has an amazing voice and plays piano like Alicia Keys. Her sound is amazing; it’s like 80s disco meets Afro-beats with Michael Jackson chords and she’s the only one I know who can pull it off.

Written by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)

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Drew Scott is perhaps best known as being the former ying to Dawn Richard’s yang acting as the chief producer for the trio of forward thinking projects that were ‘Armor On’, ‘Whiteout’ and ‘Goldenheart’.  But now Druski is emerging from behind the soundboard to prove his worth as an artist in the forefront and further push R&B’s envelope with his superb musicianship.

The EP opens with the sparse ‘God of Vegas’ which is reminiscent of ‘Love Deluxe’-era Sade, it successfully sets the mood for the rest of what’s to come with its bewitching production and effortlessly stacked harmonies.  ‘Brooke Lynn’ and ‘The Way I Feel’ see Drew assert himself as a more than able vocalist boasting inflections dripping with the influence of Tank and Wanya Morris. Additionally ‘The Way I Feel’ contains flawless production, everything from the 80s inspired drum programming to the note choices with the electric keyboards is genius. ‘Sex In Paris’  takes a very distinctive approach to the topic of sex which is usually overwrought with generic clichés and knock-off R.Kelly beats , but Drew being the young innovator that he is sets himself apart from his contemporaries as it’s not positioned in the common sleazy manner.  Furthermore let’s be real how many times have you heard a French Accordion in contemporary music period, let alone urban music. It’s just another testament to Druski’s individuality as a producer. Harder-edged and more accessible sounds are experimented with ‘Normandy’ and ‘Mulberry Street’ which all show Mr Scott is capable of shifting between genres with ease with ‘Mulberry Street’ being the most impressive. The EP comes full circle as it closes in the same ethereal vein as it began with ‘Gotham City’ comprising possibly the best indication of Scott’s talents as a writer and it once again highlights the warmth and richness in Drew’s tonality.

From start to finish, the listener is taken upon a whimsical journey making sure for an aural experience which is both imaginative and refreshing. The quality displayed here is far beyond those of your average R&B EP’s and mixtapes and if this is what he’s serving for free, just imagine what would be in store if and when Drew drops a full-length album.

The market of male R&B crooners has just found itself toppled over…

Rating – 4/5

Recommendations

  • ‘God of Vegas’
  • ‘Brooke Lynn’
  • ‘The Way I Feel’ (SINGLE/VIDEO ALERT)
  • ‘Mulberry Street’
  • ‘Gotham City’

Written by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)

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With Kelly Rowland recently announcing the release date of her 4th studio album, ‘Talk a Good Game’, it has come to my attention that she will be battling fellow songstresses Ciara & Ashanti for the prized position at the top of the charts (or at least the highest placing in the Top 10). Join me in evaluating the prospects for each R&B diva who are all dropping their new albums June 4th below…

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Maurice is a singer/songwriter that completely embodies the freshness and originality that’s has been lackluster in today’s music landscape. The Chicago, IL native is poised and ready to continue the rich history of Pop and R&B music that has come before him.  His soothing vocal tone is just as equally matched with the catchy melodies and creative story telling style that  comprise his songwriting abilities. His talent for songwriting has landed him the opportunity to write songs for a variety of artists such as the late hip hop rapper Heavy D, R&B crooner Mario , R&B songstress Chante Moore, emerging pop artist Jessica Ashley , and through invitation into songwriting camps for artists such as Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, Luke James, and Jennifer Lopez. Maurice’s constant juggle between writing and his artistry has given him a chance to work with an array of producers. He has been able to create songs with the likes of some of the music industries best and the brightest  such as Chris Henderson (Jamie Foxx) , The Outsyders (Britney Spears, Keyshia Cole) , Fanatic (Beyonce),  JR Rotem (Sean Kingston, Jason Derulo),  and DemJointz (Rihanna, Christina Aguilera) to name a few. But now, he is ready to step from behind the pen and give you a look into his world with his upcoming EP ‘Love, Life, and Stereo’.
You can check out his new single ‘Goodbye’ on Soundcloud and the EP can be downloaded here.

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5 years. That’s how long it has been since pint-sized powerhouse Tiffany Evans has released a musical offering.  Of course there have been free single releases for fans (‘Won’t Find Me’), leaks, failed starts to album campaigns (‘I’ll Be There’) and a series of unfortunate label politics with Columbia Records and Music World Entertainment.  Despite these issues Tiffany has finally released an EP to appease her fans until the release of a new album. This new release is perhaps the first of its kind to sport influence from R&B’s second golden age; the early 2000’s with its soulful ambience and melodies that harken back to the wondrous time when Jermaine Dupri and Missy Elliott were writing and producing inescapable hit after inescapable hit for almost all of the leading crooners and songstresses at the time.

The EP contains production turns from the likes of B.Fresh, ChrisNTeeb, Elijah Blake and Maad Scientist with Evans herself contributing penmanship to all the songs. While the material is very enjoyable with the vocal performance and harmonies being displayed are nothing short of mind-blowing, however as a whole it fails to highlight Tiffany as her own artist with the majority of songs reminding me of other artists. The set opens with the horn-infused ‘143 (I Love You) which easily could’ve been found on Beyonce’s ‘Dangerously In Love’. The superb and radio-ready ‘Do Better’ while difficult to not bop your head to bares strong reference to the work of Amerie and ‘I Can’t Fight’ has Keri Hilson circa 2008 written all over it but all these comparisons I’ve made are not to say these songs aren’t brilliant because they are but hopefully the creation and recording of this EP has shown Tiffany what kind of direction she should take when crafting her much anticipated second album.

The set falls a bit flat in the middle of the set as mediocrity begins with the dreary ‘I Ride 4 U’ and the pedestrian ‘Tell A Chic’ which comes across as awfully unnatural. Disappointingly ‘Lois Lane’ follows in the same fashion despite the high quality of its lyrics by Elijah Blake. ‘Note to Self (Looking for Love)’ appears to signal a change of pace but overall it fails to live up to the greatness of the EP’s opening songs.

Thankfully the quality picks up and we see the first signs of Tiffany coming into her own with the lush and passionately sung ‘I Found You’ with its minimalistic production and wonderfully restrained vocal showcase. We finally arrive at the set’s most supreme track – ‘If You Love Me’, this song is simply the bizness. Everything from the richness of the guitar strumming to the live feeling of the production to the extraordinary vocal climax is just excellence.  The EP concludes with the dazzling and sassy ‘U Got a Woman’ which recalls the spirit and fire of the funky soul sirens from the ‘70’s. Songs like those are without a doubt the direction Ms Evans should definitely take with future releases because she definitely has a knack for songs that lend themselves to live instrumentation and soulfulness.

Overall ‘143’ is a great piece of work which succeeds in showing everyone the sheer talent that Tiffany beholds while showing that she can be contemporary and current while still maintaining her spunky spirit and independence.

Rating 3.5/5

Recommendations:

  • ‘143 (I Love You)’
  • ‘Do Better’
  • ‘If You Love Me’
  • ‘U Got a Woman’

Written by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)