How was Memorial Day Weekend in Miami this year?
For me, I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of the weekend down in Miami. I was in Myrtle Beach and South Carolina. I had the chance to get down to Miami on Sunday for a show at Club Dream. I actually missed most of the festivities, but it was a good experience for the one day I was in Miami.
I’m assuming you’ve been in Miami for past Memorial Day Weekends. For those of us who haven’t been, can you give us a picture of what goes down during that time?
There’s a lot of people, a lot of alcohol and a lot of sex. Those are the three things that coincide with the Miami Memorial Day Weekend. If you’re looking for a good time, it’s definitely an experience worth having. Definitely come with single status. A lot of big artists are in town for the weekend and there’s a big, overflowing crowd. It’s a good experience.
Your new album, Definition of Real, is dropping June 10. What’s different about this album compared to your first album The Real Testament?
Actually, for me, there’s not a lot that’s different. I’m still talking about a lot of things that are important to me, from No. 1 to 15. I think everybody will be able to identify with the material that I’m putting out on this project. I know a lot of times people try to do transitions in their music to show growth and to their craft, but I just try to make music for who I am. If people look at it as growth, that’s cool. And if they don’t, that’s cool too. But at the same time, I didn’t change my formula when making this particular album. It’s what I like to call reality music. I’m talking about real things that are going on in the streets on a daily basis.
Did you get what you wanted in terms of production for Definition of Real?
I don’t try to let resumes influence anything that I do. I was trying to get stuff from established and unestablished producers. “Bust It Baby Part 2” is from J.R. Rotem. He gave me some great records on my last album and I felt it was only right to stick to what was working for me, so he’s got the lead single on this album. At the same time, I have my own producers from my own production company on here as well. It was an opportunity to bring these guys to the forefront on this particular project. I wasn’t trying to force it. I got the material first before they became a part of my company. I got a lot of great records on this album and I know the streets are going to be satisfied with it.
Your single “Bust It Baby Part 2” has been doing well on radio so far. Are you happy with its performance?
I can’t even describe it in terms of me being pleased in the space that I am right now. I’m truly honored to be where I am right now and I know that comes from a higher power and from being blessed by God. It’s my primary focus for thanking Him for all of the success He’s given me and to be where I am at this stage in my career. The song is No. 2 at urban and No. 3 at rhythmic. It’ll be No. 1 before my album comes out on June 10. I’ll have another No. 1 record. I had the first one with “Shawty”. I had a top 5 record with “Hypnotized” and I’ll be back with another No. 1 record. I don’t think there’s too many cats who have been able to do this early on in terms of their career on a national level and be able to produce what I was able to produce on radio and maintaining my street following as well.
Why do you think you’ve had the success you’ve had in the game so far?
I just like to make what I call honest music. I think anytime you’re making honest music that people can relate to, people do. I think when you allow yourself to get caught up, you can be in what I like to call uncharted waters because now it’s forcing you to talk about things that you’re not really familiar with. I think people can relate well to emotional and heartfelt records. Females dictate a lot about what goes on in our society and our top 10 records at radio are probably female-driven records and I’ve always had those records in my arsenal since I’ve been Plies. I try to cater to that situation but when you purchase my album, I talk about what’s important to me on the album. I think the combination has worked great for me so far.
There are no rappers making guest appearances on Definition of Real, which is the same route you took with The Real Testament. Why do you go that route on your albums?
I feel like it’s important to give people all of me. I get singers when I feel a certain record needs a certain melody to it and I try to get people who can actually sing. That’s kind of been my formula and I’m comfortable with it being that way. I’m not talking down to anyone else, but for me, I just like to give people me throughout my album as much as possible.
A lot of artists on major labels are struggling to get release dates and promotion, but you’re dropping two albums in a span of 10 months. Do you ever think about that?
One thing I’ve learned about this business is that you have to create your own situation. You have to do whatever you can to make them follow your movement and your situation. And then the label sees the opportunity to recoup what they’re investing in artists. I have to take the initiative nowadays and create a faster situation for myself. On my freshman album, The Real Testament, I knew I couldn’t force them to do anything as far as having a sophomore project drop real quick. I think they’re trying to get the lead on it and I’ve been blessed to be able to make the music that the streets appreciate and that the people relate to on a national level around the country.
And my success makes me look at my situation and understand why things are happening around me and the way in which they are happening. Everything that has happened in my career hasn’t been good, obviously, but I’ve been what I like to call semi-successful. For me, I’m probably more surprised that people understand how important it is for me to remain humble. I do know that this is going to end one day and I’m just trying to prepare myself for when that time comes.
The Real Testament went gold in a time when albums weren’t selling well. Why do you think the album did so well?
I think it’s the honesty in that music, whether it was from “100 Years”, which I got a lot of backlash from. It was an honest song and it was my viewpoint on the prison system as a whole and I had a totally opposite record in terms of “Shawty” and “Runnin’ My Mama Crazy”, which was an emotional record. But that was a record that we were all familiar with. We’ve all put our moms through some heartaches and some trials and tribulations. I just think that that’s my key to success – honesty. And my music is not for everyone and I think the fans are able to take away a message from my music and I think that’s the important thing.
You didn’t even sell 100,000 copies of The Real Testament in its first week, yet the album went gold. How closely do you follow album sales?
Yeah. To be at the level I want to be in, you have to follow everything and see what the temperature is in terms of record sales as a whole. So for me to see 96-97,000 records sold in the first week, it definitely wasn’t something that I was overjoyed about. In my situation, I thought they would have given me a better response. But then I sold another 400,000 records after the first week and that’s the most impressive thing about my situation. First week numbers are funny sometimes. They can be about the hype of a particular individual, but after you hear the project, you can see if the fans really bought into the project when you look at the sales in the sixth and seventh week. You can really tell what the public thinks about your project there. For me to sell 500,000, that’s monumental. For me to sell 97,000 the first week and then 400-something thousand after that, that was a testament to the project I delivered on The Real Testament.
Your new single is “Please Excuse My Hands”. Did a specific incident inspire that song?
Nah. Actually I had the chance to go back and make sure I had everything lined up in the proper way for the release of this album and actually that record, I needed up sending it to Jamie Foxx at first and he couldn’t do that record at the time because he had just shot a movie. But then I got a call back probably about two or three days before my album had to be turned in. It actually got turned in and then I got the call that he wanted to be on the record. So I had the chance to work with him and Dream was on the record too. That was a record, man, where I felt the recipe had success written all over it. The record is doing terrific right now and I think in the next couple days the record is going to be shipped. On our end, that record has the potential to be another hit record. We’ll see how it does.
Was it different recording without your brother, Levatte, who is currently incarcerated?
Not really. My brother never gets involved in my music. It’s weird because he tells me all the time that he’s probably my biggest fan as far as what I choose to talk about in my music, but he’s never really been a part of my recording. He’s kind of the brain of our company, of our corporation. I still have the opportunity to get my direction on the business side from him. I can’t talk to him as much as I would like to, but I still get to talk to him and make sure that we’re still on the same page on the business side.
Do you find yourself getting more into the business side of things instead of focusing entirely on making and promoting music?
I think that should be the most important thing for any artists at this point. You have to know how to make money and how to bring it in. I’m trying to expand that and I do understand the kind of music that I choose to make hinders me at times as far as not being able to maximize on everything that this game has to offer. I’m probably not able to get everything out of it that I probably would be able to if I was making a different kind of music, but I’m happy with the kind of music that I choose to make.
Do you have any sales goals for Definition of Real?
Not really. I feel I’m more established this time around than I obviously was the first time around. Album sales are a funny thing. I feel as though regardless of what it is that I do sell, I feel as though the music is going to play a huge part in that and with this particular project, I’m more than pleased with how it came out and I definitely feel great about the product I’m delivering on June 10.