During a recent stop in Chicago, songwriter/singer Rico Love was the featured guest on the Music Choice Sound Check Sessions tour and spent some up close and personal time with invited fans.
Having appeared as a featured artist on records with Usher, T.I., Jermaine Dupri, Jamie Foxx, Rich Boy and other notable names in the music world, Love is also one of the most in-demand songwriters.
Hit records Love has written and produced include Usher’s There’s Goes My Baby, Nelly’s Just a Dream, Trey Songz’ Heart Attack, Kelly Rowland’s Motivation, featuring Lil’ Wayne, and Beyonce’s Sweet Dreams. His impressive repertoire of music credits comes from a non-stop work regimen and over 12 years of what he calls “hustle and grind.”
On tour with R&B recording artist Monica, Love addressed an intimate group of aspiring songwriters and producers in the House of Blues Foundation Room for a candid industry chat about the music business.
The Art of Songwriting
About his ability to write songs, Love said, “Songwriting is so natural to me on how I’m feel- ing. It’s like when I talk to my son. My son has a gift of telling me exactly how he feels: ‘Daddy, I don’t like this because of this or that.’ He’s only five and I think it’s a gift. People don’t value that kind of honesty.”
Mary J. Blige is among the mega-stars who has worked with Love; he penned Mr. Wrong on her My Life II, The Journey Continues album. Love recalled a situation that occurred with the Grammy Award-winning singer in a London restaurant, where a lady came up to their table crying and thanking Blige.
“Mary said, ‘It’s not because I’m famous; I figured out how to talk to her. But, that’s not why she’s crying – I figured out how to talk for her.’ So imagine how you’re feeling all of these things and there’s a muzzle on you?” Love explained to the audience.
“This is what she means, this is what he means, this is how she feels, this is how he feels and fans are like, ‘thank you.’ Remember how you would send someone a song because this is how I’m feeling?”
As the crowd nodded their head relating to Love’s example, he continued. “So, if you’re a songwriter or artist and your music doesn’t identify with people or who they are feeling, it doesn’t connect. When you connect with people emotionally, it’ll start to build fans because when people are connected to you the songs don’t have expiration dates.”
Being an artist himself, Love has had his battles for radio airplay. He released his first EP, Discrete Luxury, in 2013 featuring the lead single, They Don’t Know, which reached Number 4 on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip Hop chart.
His follow-up single, B*tches Be Like, was released in 2014 along with He Got Money, which took him on the road during the “Honest Tour” with headliner, Future. Each single released has built support through mixshow, club, digital broadcast and commercial airplay. In late spring, Turn The Lights On, Love’s debut album, was released on his own record label, Division 1, in partnership with Interscope Records.
Although he’s had solid success compared to other artists battling for radio play, there is still a great divide for Black artists making good music, according to Love.
“Urban radio is the only place where they’ll tell us that love songs don’t work anymore with Black people. But, Adele didn’t come out with Hello and sell on purpose?” Love wondered. “The same program director that’ll tell a Black artist that they can’t fit this format and this song don’t work will play an Adele record a hundred miles an hour on Black stations.
“They want Black kids to not know about love, or not recognize what being a man or being a real woman is about. These types of records are accessible on Top 40 rhythm radio.”
That statement was welcomed by cheers and applause from the group of young millenniums. “I can’t blame a program director for it because they answer to their boss,” Love continued. “It’s the pressure on them to say, ‘This didn’t research well,’ or ‘That didn’t research well.’ You don’t know the people that they are researching to; they are researching records to people who don’t identify with these type of songs.”
Love answered a couple of questions from the audience in regards to fighting for airplay when it comes down to the lack of traditional R&B records from artists such as Tyrese and Tank.
He responded, “I’m not going to compromise my integrity for a radio spin, but when you listen to my music, it feels current. I don’t like being bunched in that group. My issue is if you make a record that could work in all formats and it’s not getting an opportunity because I’m Black – that’s a problem. This is something people don’t want to hear, but it’s an issue.”
Raised between Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his mother and Harlem, New York with his father, Love admits that it was a rocky road breaking into the business – he often slept on the floors and couches of friends. But he doesn’t believe there’s a real formula of making it in the business.
“I didn’t have a car, no money, no way to feed my- self, but when I look back, it was some of the happiest times of my life,” Love said. “It wasn’t until I started making money that I started to see some of the highest levels of betrayal. So, you have to figure out your journey.”
He continues on the 22-city “Code Red” tour with Monica, wrapping up in New York on December 13. As Love builds, sharing his knowledge of the music business, he is working on producing a music conference to help others develop their craft.
“I saw up close and personal what the game was like from the highest level,” he says. “I would ask questions. When I was around anybody, I always introduced myself and told them what I did to make sure I built the relationship.”