RATED NEXT: Malone

Malone Press 1

Malone is no stranger to the music industry. The Chicago native got his start at the tender age of 14 when he recorded his first demo, which caught the attention of music execs. He ended up signing to an independent record label where he worked with his cousin VuDu Spellz, a producer, to develop his sound. From that moment on, Malone has had many ups and down in his career. He’s had an opportunity to sign with a major record label, appeared on season five of “American Idol,” and has worked with Syleena Johnson. In fact, he sings background vocals for the “R&B Diva.”

Even with great opportunities put before him, Malone is ready to take his career to the next level. After releasing his debut EP “Outside The Box,” a compilation of his unfiltered, unreleased music of many genres fused together to display his versatile style as a singer/songwriter, Malone is focusing on his debut album.

The 30-year-old singer recently dropped the title track to his forthcoming project, “Now.” The soulful tune has received many positive reviews from fans and critics.

We recently caught up with Malone to learn more about him as an artist. In our interview, Malone talked about his musical beginning, how he got discovered by Syleena Johnson, his experience being on “American Idol,” and his new music, among other topics.

Check out our interview below.

How did you get started with music?

I got started with music professionally around the age of 14 when I cut my first demo. My uncle provided funds for the project as far as studio time and things like that. From there I got signed to an independent record label and started to work with my cousin — he’s a producer named VuDu Spells — from there we went to New York and did a showcase where Ryan Grant was one of the judges. He liked what he heard and what he saw…he had a situation set up for me at Epic (Sony at the time) but the record label I was with thought it would be more worthwhile to keep me versus letting me going about my business…

How did you get discovered by Syleena Johnson?

I was doing a showcase at a venue in Chicago. The promoter at the time was working hand in hand with Syleena on her “Chapter 4” album. She came to the event and heard me sing. She liked what she saw and heard and asked for my number. She actually kept in contact and two months later she gave me a call and asked me to come demo a record called “Little Things,” which is on her “Chapter 5” album. It was originally written for Anthony David. So I came in, did my thing and she was thoroughly impressed. She called me the next day and asked me “Malone, what are you doing with your life? What are you trying to do?” I just told her after “American Idol,” I needed a platform. I needed someone to help me reach the next level. She said that she would do all that she could. From there, she has been in my corner ever since. It only made sense for me to do background vocals for her because we’re always around one another and she’s my mentor so it made sense. It’s been a dope experience. I’ve learned a lot.

Speaking of “American Idol,” tell us about your experience being on the show.

I gave it a try. I wasn’t expecting anything from it. I made it all the way to Hollywood down to the last round before they started picking the Top 40. It was crazy. Randy Jackson was the one who voted me off (laughs). Paula [Abdul] and Simon [Cowell] tried to fight to keep me on. He felt that I didn’t bring it like I did in Chicago.

What did you learn from being on the show?

I learned to never do nothing like that again. It was strenuous and mentally draining. It was so much to learn songs in a short time. It’s just mentally jarring to be in a competition and you’re being set up to do these songs. You have 45 minutes to learn it. The producers are telling you if you mess up on the words, that’s an automatic disqualification. Of course in the industry, you run into things like that all the time….

That’s understandable. Now you were recently in France with Syleena Johnson for a festival. I also heard that you had the opportunity to sing to Erykah Badu. Tell us about all of that.

It was amazing. I was in Cognac, France doing the Cognac Blues Passions Festival. Overseas, they are so passionate about our music — R&B, blues, jazz– I learned so much from Syleena’s uncle Jimmy Johnson. that was super dope.

As far as Erykah Badu, that’s an experience that I will soon not forget. She has a song called “Orange Moon” and it means a lot to me because I dedicate it to my deceased grandmother every time I sing it. I get so emotional when I sing it. It’s very special to me. I was waiting backstage to meet her. I was getting kind of restless so I thought about what I could do to get her attention. I posted on Facebook “Man, I’m about to bust out singing Orange Moon” and see if she will come out her dressing room. I was kind of joking but kind of serious because I wanted to know what the feedback would be. My assistant responded and said “what’s stopping you?” As soon as I saw her post that, I just started singing the first couple of words out loud. I had my phone on record just so I could remember this forever. Sure enough [Erykah] came out of her dressing room. I sang the first verse up to the chorus and got super emotional. I forgot words, I was pitchy but it wasn’t even about that it was just a full circle moment for me to be able to sing a song that’s so touching to me to an artist that made the record. She began to tear up. I balled. It was an amazing experience. I told her it was an experience that I would never forget and she said it was for her too — she would never forget it too…

That’s an incredible experience. I assume that Erykah Badu is one of your musical influences. So who are some of your other influences?

Carl Thomas, Dave Hollister, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross, Kim Burrell, Brandy…and of course Syleena Johnson.

Let’s get into your music. You recently released a song called “Now.” What’s the song about?

It means so much to me. The single is about a man who is tired of playing around with his love interest. He wants her right now. I think it’s a timeless piece of work. To me it’s the best record in my catalogue vocally and as a writer.

Tell us about your debut album “Now.”

I’m so excited about this project. ”Now” has a lot of meaning to me. I’m 30 years old and since I’ve been doing this professionally I’ve seen a lot of this industry. I’ve always been so close and almost there. I feel like I’m almost famous. I just feel like the time is ‘now’ with releasing my first EP and continuing to tour with Syleena Johnson and building my brand as an artist, I just feel like right now is my time — vocally, production, my look….I’ve come full circle and believe in myself..I feel like I’m a great artist and deserves to be heard.

As an emerging R&B singer, share your thoughts on the direction of today’s R&B music.

It’s all sex driven. It’s not about love and substance anymore. It’s about turning up and things of that nature. I think the stuff artists are talking about are played out. I don’t want to say “real music” because who’s to say what real music is…We need to get back to the stuff we can listen to at our family reunion…like music our grandmothers and children can listen to…I want to talk about things that matter and will continue to matter…

What matters to you?

I’ve always been about progress and uplifting people…whatever I can do to inspire, I’m down for it.

Support Malone and buy his new single “Now” on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @MaloneMusik; Instagram @LeaveMeMalone; and Facebook.com/MaloneMusik.

7 Comments

  1. I have seen Malone blossom&grow into a phenomenal artist… His vocals can be channeled from any one extreme to another.. pop, soulful r&b, and so on!! Truly talented individual.
    It’s mos def time for the world to hear him… Like NOW!!!
    Ms. Shontee’

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Exclusive: Syleena Johnson Gets Deep on Lack of Soul in Music + Talks New Album ‘Rebirth Of Soul’

One of R&B’s most authentic storytellers Syleena Johnson is not shy about recounting her trials and triumphs through her music. For more than two decades, the Chicago native has curated records that have brought joy and sweet pain to our hearts.

Deep and honest cuts like “Faithful to You,” “Apartment for Rent,” “Labor Pains,” and “Label Me” have championed women’s life stories while enlightening men on the day-to-day struggles of womanhood.

Johnson’s first and less documented release, This Time Together by Father and Daughter, premiered in the summer of 1995. The joint album – with her legendary father Syl Johnson – ignited her soulful stardom with songs “Keep on Loving Me” and “Piece of the Rock.”

Seven solo albums and one joint album later, the 41-year-old singer-songwriter pays tribute to her music genius of a father with her fall release,  Rebirth of Soul.

Along with the gearing up for the release of her new album, Johnson continues to secure her bag with television and health/wellness ventures.

During our 30-minute conversation, Johnson dished tribute album to her father, her new TV One talk show Sister Circle, her wellness brand SheLean and her favorite R&B artists now and more.

Check out the interview below.

Already, Sister Circle is capturing audiences across the nations — specifically women of color. How important is it for this new generation of black women to hear other black women like yourself and the other hosts empower and uplift each other?

If I can be frank, this show is important right now in a time where our current leadership is inadequate, unmotivating and sexist, which is causing our nation to adopt those undertones. In an entertainment field, where women — especially black women — are being exploited on television in such a negative way, Sister Circle is a breath of fresh air. We’re not perfect. We’re not walking around with halos. We’re still black women who have the same black women issues.

Our goal is to converse on these issues and show perspective from the African-American point of view in a bulk where the entire show is made up of African Americans. And Sister Circle is something that we don’t have right now in this climate where there are so many issues that pertain to us and our culture. It’s not black women directly. Black men, our sons. Black men, our husbands. Black men, our brothers.

What was it like having Wendy Williams, the contemporary Oprah of daytime, grace Sister Circle‘s inaugural show?

It was one of the biggest example of black women supporting each other. She’s the queen of daytime talk right now. By her being our very first guest, she pretty much blessed the show. She pretty much said, ‘I’m proud of you girls and you’re doing your thing.’ What more can you ask for? Other than Oprah Winfrey herself (laughs).

How does Sister Circle stand apart from other panel talk shows?

First of all, Sister Circle is live every day, five days a week. It’s the first all black panel talk show with no other nationalities. There is a male that represents the LGBTQ community which I have not really seen on any other talk show. Also, our hosts come from all walks of life which is really fun. Plus, we knew each other before starting the show which makes the chemistry really strong.

Recently, you started a health and wellness initiative, SheLean. Tell us about it. Also, did personal health motivate this new business venture? Or was this idea presented to you after the success of fitness DVD Mommy’s Got Soul?

No, it wasn’t personal health. Although SheLean was something that my best friend and I had already put together, what really put the fire under me is when I learned that every 4 out of 5 African American women, according to the CDC, are suffering from heart disease, type II diabetes and mild cancers. African-American women are also developing lupus and other different autoimmune diseases, which I believe is directly related to diet, poor rest and lack of vitamin and mineral content.

Also, the lack of education to be able to remedy this void plays a part. So with SheLean, the initiative is to educate the matriarch of the household, which is a woman, and in educating the woman you can help decrease childhood obesity, as well as obesity and obesity related disorders in minorities cultures, with African-American women and individuals being primary.

How do you resist food temptations and stay on a consistent workout regimen with your hectic work schedule?

During the five-day week, I eat clean. I need my energy and I need my stamina. Eating bad during the week will cause me to be sluggish and groggy. I allow myself a bad meal on maybe Friday and Saturday and then I go back to eating clean on Sunday. Like today, I had a glass of wine and a fried chicken burger. It was a good cheat meal for me (laughs).

I don’t go crazy though … like you won’t catch me eating a full pizza. I’m not really a sweets girl. I don’t get rid of temptations. I minimize them and I put them in my diet where it works. I think what happens is when people diet and they starve themselves it causes them to binge. That’s how they end up eating a whole pizza and ice cream (laughs).

Rebirth of Soul, out now, is an ode to your father, Syl Johnson. What was the overall recording process like?

It’s really easy working with my dad in the studio. So the recording process was awesome. It was all live instrumentation. On the Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You,” there was a live harpist and string quartet in the studio. So live instrumentation was the most intriguing thing.

With a title like Rebirth of Soul, do you think soul has died in music? If so, why?

Yeah … and the reason I say yes is because soul is not a genre. When you’re singing soul music, you’re singing from your soul. And that means you’re singing from your story, your history, from the things that you’ve gone through. I think that the music today is talking about things that are way too surface. They’re not getting deep enough into the infrastructure of their spirit and soul. They’re not baring their soul in records anymore. A lot of artists are just taking a song that was written and they just sing it.

As far as the music you’ve heard this year, who’s music do you feel still embodies soul?

Mali Music. He’s my favorite right now. I listen to a lot of old music like Anita Baker, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan. Every morning when we come on set for Sister Circle we first listen to gospel. Then we merge to vintage R&B, which has been in my spirit lately. To be quite honest, I don’t even listen to the radio. I’m not really a fan of anything that’s out at all. I do like The Weeknd … sometimes. It’s the music that I like. It’s eerie. He reminds me of a male Sade in a way. He’s just not as poignant as her.

What’s your favorite cut on the new project? Also, out of all the covers, which did you want to nail perfectly?

My favorite cut on Rebirth Of Soul is Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine.” I was so happy to do this record because it’s my favorite Otis Redding record. And the song I wanted to nail was “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. I knew that people would compare me to Aretha Franklin, like they already have. I knew attempting a record of that caliber I had to shut it down. So what I set out to do was to do it exactly like her. I mean timing wise, run wise, range wise — as well as singing it in her key. To me that was the best way to pay homage, to show respect and to celebrate Aretha Franklin. She is truly the Queen of Soul.

Rebirth of Soul is available digitally for purchase and streaming now. Packed with 10 amazing covers, including Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, this incredible body of work is definitely a collectors item.

Make sure to follow Syleena Johnson on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, follow Sister Circle TV on all social media platforms.

Meet R&B’s New ‘Pretty Girl’ Rhyon Brown

With roles in That’s So RavenLincoln Heights and Get Rich or Die Tryin, Rhyon Brown has made her mark in the film and television industry. Now the millennial entertainer is expanding her entertainment resume in the field of music.

Under the guidance of Grammy-nominated producer Harmony Samuels, the West Coast native is making waves with her debut album, Pretty Girl. Released last month on BOE Music Group/EMPIRE, the project features her catchy tune “California,” as well as her emotional track titled “Gone.” 

In support of her debut album, Rhyon released a short film with the same title. The premiere event attracted plenty of Hollywood influencers including Kofi Siriboe, Megan Good, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Paige Hurd, Tasha Smith, Keith Powers, Niecy Nash, Skye Townsend, Nicki Micheaux and Insecure’s Y’lan Noel, to name a few.

Rated R&B recently chatted with Rhyon about her debut album, working with Harmony Samuels, her short film and more.

Check out our interview below.

What is the inspiration behind your debut album Pretty Girl?

My inspiration initially was simply to be honest. I’ve been in the entertainment industry for a long time but this was my first introduction into the music industry and I knew the only way this would ever work was for me to be honest. People see through an artist not being who they are, fans are smart. Now, my inspiration has changed, and its to encourage people to recognize how great God has made them.

The album surprisingly doesn’t contain any features. Is this by coincidence or something you did purposely?

We didn’t have any features per say as far as my track list is concerned. I wanted to grow my fan base organically, with people finding me, liking my music and enjoying my message. I didn’t want people to like me only because I had another artist on my record that they were fans of. But I can say I have two songs graced with the presence of Andre Troutman, incredible artist and the best person I have ever had the pleasure of seeing work a talk box. No one does it better than him.

Along with your album, you have a short film. Tell us your experience creating that.

It was a rollercoaster. We pulled off a large feat with a group of very talented and dedicated people, but also a very small group. There were a lot of people wearing many different hats. Making this film and seeing how it is affecting people its literally a dream come true, but it took a lot of long days with very little sleep.

What is your definition of a Pretty Girl?

Someone that recognizes that her beauty isn’t found in anything this world can provide, and she shares that inspiring other people to feel and act the same way.

What’s your message to a girl who may not feel like she’s pretty?

The world does a really good job of telling women what they are supposed to look like and how they are supposed to feel, its not on the world to determine that for you. Being pretty is a choice, because everyone defines beauty differently. But when you choose to be pretty others will chose to look at you the same, because your belief makes it undeniable.

You’re signed to Harmony Samuels’ label BOE Music Group. How did you connect with him and is there anything you’ve learned about yourself while being under his wing?

I met him through someone that really believed in me that got Harmony Harmony to take a meeting, and rest was history from there. I’ve learned so much from him, the guy is a genius and one of the hardest working people I know. But its the fact that he’s a risk taker, and when God tells him something he’s willing to put everything on the line to make that happen and he reaps the benefits of that trust. So its made me be more of a risk taker, and more of a believer in my own purpose.

Although you may be new to music, you’re certainly not new to entertainment. Your acting resume continues to grow. Is there anything you’re currently filming that you can share with us?

My episode of Irv Gotti’s new BET show Tales actually just aired on October 24th.

Follow Rhyon on Instagram at @RhyonBrown. Stream Pretty Girl below.

Syleena Johnson Readies New Album ‘Rebirth of Soul’

Syleena Johnson is ready to reintroduce classic R&B songs using her voice. The singer has teamed up with her father and legendary musician/singer Syl Johnson for a new album called Rebirth of Soul. 

Scheduled for a November 10th release, Rebirth of Soul features Syleena’s rendition of R&B songs from the ’50s and ’60s. The songs were recorded in real time with live musicians just like the good ole days.

“The inspiration behind Rebirth of Soul is my father,” Syleena said in a press release. “I wanted to honor him and classic soul music in a time when auto tune and electronic beats reign supreme. While I am not against this kind of creative musicianship, there is so much more to the real thing. True Soul music tells stories…stories that can heal a nation.”

The first single from the album is “Make Me Yours,” which was originally recorded by Bettye Swann. The album will also include a mix of landmark and underrated R&B gems from back in the day.

“For each song I channeled the emotions of the record,” Syleena said. “I put myself in the mind of each storyteller and in doing this I was able to merge myself into the story of each record. This is how I was able to put my own personal stamp on each record.”

Over four years ago, in 2013, Syleena told Rated R&B about her plans to release a collaborative album with her father.

“The good thing about Rebirth of Soul is that it’s a timeless record,” she said. “It’s a remake album, so it can come out at any time.”

In other news, catch Syleena as a co-host on TV One’s new talk show Sister Circle weekdays at 9 a.m. local time.

Listen to “Make Me Yours” below.