INTERVIEW: Producer Harmony Samuels Talks ‘Best Man Holiday’ Soundtrack + New Music From Fantasia, Michelle Williams, Jordin Sparks

Harmony blue jacket front profile

British musical powerhouse Harmony Samuels goes beyond simply working as an artist’s’ producer, by relating to them to create brilliant musical masterpieces. After rising from the scene in his home of London, he’s come to America to create hits on another level. From Fantasia to Ariana Grande, Harmony Samuels has built a powerful resume , all while producing hit after hit. Rated RnB had the chance to sit down with the busy Englishman to dig into his career.

Five years ago, you were on the verge of quitting the music industry to become a music teacher. What kept you in the game?

Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins (laughs). I was on my way out. I was like “I’m done. I’m fed up with the politics.” The music industry is not all about talent. It’s a business itself. It’s more about numbers, figures and who knows who. I was kind of fed up of years and years of trying. I was going to try to teach these kids how to keep going. In my final run, I came to America to finish up an independent mixtape. I ended up in Los Angeles from New York, which ended up with me signing with Rodney Jerkins.

How did you meet Rodney Jerkins?

He actually heard my music playing next door in a studio and came looking for me (laughs).

Rodney Jerkins once said (referring to you), “I believe that he will single-handedly bring R&B back to the forefront.” What does that mean to you to have someone like Rodney Jerkins say that about you?

I tell him often, “big bro there’s no need to put all that pressure on me” (laughs). I mean, it was an honor for him to believe that I had the capability of doing that. Whether I will do that, I don’t know. I’m just going to keep believing in the God that I serve and keep making great music. As long as music comes from the center of my heart, I’m never really going to have any problems. That’s what got me so far. I’m really passionate about music. It’s like my wife (laughs)…I think we’re slightly bringing R&B back (laughs) bit by bit. We’ve got “Without Me” by Fantasia, Ariana Grande “The Way,” Kelly Rowland “Gone” with Wiz Khalifa.

Being one of the hottest producers out right now, you are working on a lot of different projects at the same time. How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

My main way is church. I go to church twice a week. I’m on a worship team so I play with the worship band. That helps me keep a pure way of relating to music. I just work hard. I pay attention to a lot great people. A producer I’ve been paying attention to is Mike WiLL Made It. I think he’s doing very well for an up and coming producer. I’m attracted to people who do very well and know how to excel their careers. I like to read on people’s history — Quincy Jones, I’ve got like 18 books on him (laughs)…I’m really a down to earth guy. That’s how I get my inspiration.

You executive produced Fantasia’s “Side Effects of You.” Do you think an album with 1-2 producers is better than having an album with a different producer on each track?

I believe that if you want a cohesive album, yes one or two producers makes sense. There’s examples from Justin Timberlake’s three solo albums, Usher’s albums….going back to Michael Jackson’s album, Quincy Jones was the producer for him. I do believe it’s relative to have one producer but I do believe if there’s a mindset of people on the same page. If you put nine producers and make them have the same passion and have the same page, you can have that. You can get nine different producers to make a great album.  One person who has done it is Jay-Z — “The Black Album.” There was probably like five or six producers — Kanye [West], Timbaland, Pharrell, NO I.D. — there was lot of producers. But because everybody was cohesive and together, he came out with a great album. I just believe that in this day and age everybody is trying to get on top and everybody is trying to be famous. In my field, [producers] want to be as big as the artist. It’s not a passion for music anymore it’s “I want to be seen, as well as heard.” We’ve got to find the balance.

Harmony_Samuels003What can fans expect from Fantasia’s “Side Effects of You (Remix)”?

It’s a throwback hip-hop record. It’s Mobb Deep meets Mary J. Blige, basically. There’s going to be a beautiful collaboration happening which I can’t disclose until we completely do it. It’s going to be an incredible record. I don’t think people have ever seen her in this light. The remix is amazing.

What are the ingredients to making an album great?

A great artist. When you have a great artist you can kind of go anywhere.

You’re working on Michelle Williams’ upcoming album, can you tell us a little bit about her direction on this project?

The same direction I took with Fantasia’s latest album, which was just creating great music. I didn’t generalize it to pop or R&B or dance. I just wanted to create great music. Yes, the lyric is about Jesus and the God we serve. It’s inspirational. It’s about the relationship. I think we are starting to break ground with it.

You once said, “I was brought into the industry to impact the artist and bring the greatness out of them.” How do you go about doing that? How did you bring out the greatness in Fantasia, Michelle Williams or any other artist you’ve recently worked with?

Time. It takes time. You have to be patient and watch. You have to know who they are. If you want to find out who they are quickly, you have to be silent and watch. You can’t be too loud. You can’t overly express yourself…you have to learn why. You have to understand why. I didn’t know Fantasia’s story when I met her. I didn’t know Ariana [Grande] could sing as well as she did until she came to my studio (laughs). I just knew that she was a Nickelodeon star. They eventually start opening up and then you’re like, “Wow! You guys are actually really special.” I think producers win more if they spend more time [studying]. Same with Chris [Brown]. When I went in the studio with Chris Brown and we did “Say It With Me” and “All My Love” that was the first session that we ever done and we wrote two hit records. People was like “how did you do that?” I’m like, “Dude, you’ve got to study the person…study who he is. You can get enough information on them.” That’s how I did it anyway and let God do the rest.

As the executive producer for  “The Best Man Holiday” Soundtrack, what can we expect?

There’s going to be some collaborations. Definitely. Collaborations and just your favorites — Mario, Fantasia, Marsha Ambrosius, Anthony Hamilton…I can’t really disclose much but the story has a meaning and that’s why these songs go with it so much. I’m very excited about it and I’m sure it’s going to do well.

Tells us about your company B.O.E. Global. I heard it has different meanings. 

My record label is called Best Of Everything. My production company is called Blackout Entertainment. We have a publishing house in which we just signed two producers — Moe Keyz and Big Mike. Real young kids like 22-years-old. Amazing producers…worked with me on the Ariana [Grande] album. They’re moving to LA next year. B.O.E. has its different branches.

When you aren’t in the studio, what do you enjoy doing?

To be honest with you, I like to go see buildings…that’s why I live in Hollywood. It’s amazing. I’ll go up the hills and just look at homes and architecture or the beach because the water hitting the sand is amazing (laughs). I really like peace because I’m always around noise — my speaker is on, my keyboard is on…there’s music playing somewhere. I sound like an old man, don’t I? (laughs).

Any other words?
I really want everybody to know that Jordin Sparks’ album is going to be amazing. I know people are sleeping on her. She’s got a big album. She’s got a great duet coming with her other half that we did. Keep an eye out for that. That’s going to be an awesome record.

Connect with Harmony Samuels:
Twitter – @HarmonySamuels
Instagram – @HarmonySamuels
www.boeglobal.com

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5 UK R&B Artists to Watch in 2018

Here at Rated R&B, our mission is to deliver interesting and engaging content on the R&B genre of music. R&B talent comes in many different shapes and sizes and sometimes comes from different countries as well. You’ve heard of Jessie J, Marsha Ambrosius, and Daley, but in this piece, we’re going to put you on the game to the most exciting up-and-coming R&B artists in the United Kingdom. With voices that liken to Ariana Grande and Eric Bellinger, there’s surely an artist on this shortlist that’ll pique your interest. Check out our list of the 5 R&B UK Artists to Watch in 2018 below:

Mabel McVey UK R&B Artist 2018

Mabel McVey

Polydor Records-signee Mabel came in with a bang in 2017 when her hit single “Finder’s Keepers” reached the Top 10 on the UK Singles chart. The song, which features rapper Kojo Funds, also peaked at No. 2 on the UK R&B Singles Chart. Her breezy vocals, pop radio appeal, and charming style are on trend, and she already has found Top 40 success in her latest collaboration with UK artist Not3s entitled “My Lover (Remix).” If you like what you hear in the video below, check out Mabel’s 2017 EP Bedroom, which is available on all digital platforms.

Angel UK R&B Artist 2018

Angel

Angel’s career blasted off with a string of hits in 2012, including UK Singles Top 10 earner and UK R&B Songs chart-topper “Wonderful.” Now signed to Motown Records, the London-born singer dropped consistently catchy tunes in 2017, including the SWV-interpolated and Eugene Wilde-sampled “Take You Home.” If he can continue this upward trajectory and his formula of mainstream sounds with a 90s R&B twist, Angel could very well land a solid radio hit by year’s end.

Jorja Smith UK R&B Artist 2018

Jorja Smith

Jorja Smith was one of the buzziest artists of 2017 thanks to her features on Canadian rapper Drake’s multi-platinum album More Life. In addition to her criminally underrated summer collaboration with Kali Uchis called “Tyrant,” Smith also made some noise this past year with her 90s underground-esque banger “On My Mind.” Her knack for showing vulnerability whilst keeping her alluring mystique has set her up for riding off into the sunset of success in 2018!

Jacob Banks UK R&B Artist 2018

Jacob Banks

Banks broke big in 2014 for his assist of Chase and Status’ “Alive,” which peaked at No. 21 on the UK Singles Chart. Banks’ gruff and smoky vocals have been used in promotions across the globe, including popular sports game “FIFA 15” and popular TV shows like STARZ’s Power and USA’s Suits. After the release of his 2017 EP The Boy Who Cried Freedom, Banks is more confident than ever and ready to make a splash in 2018.

Ella Mai UK R&B Artist 2018

Ella Mai

Ella Mai might be the most recognizable name on this list, and that’s because this woman has been working! After a stint on the 11th series of X Factor UK in 2014, the singer signed with DJ Mustard’s 10 Summers label. She’s released not one, not two, but three EPs in a year’s time, and was recently one of the featured acts on Kehlani’s 2017 “SweetSexySavage World Tour,” which ended its run in November. Now working on her debut album and kicking off 2018 with a fresh single, Ella Mai is just one hit away from her big break, and if her current sound and relatable lyrics have anything to do with it, then she is well on her way.

Who’s your favorite artist on this shortlist? Let us know in the comment section below!

From 2008: R&B Albums That Turn 10 This Year

Another ten years has caught up with us in the realm of R&B music.

Let’s jog your memory for a minute. For starters, 2008 saw Mariah Carey touch the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the 18th time with “Touch My Body.” Usher showed his strength by “Moving Mountains,” while Beyoncé led ladies to the club, singing, “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.”

We heard the debut projects from Day26, Jennifer Hudson, Tiffany Evans and Jazmine Sullivan. Also, 2008 ended listeners music drought from veterans Deborah Cox, Ashanti, Keith Sweat and Brandy.

Rated R&B has compiled a list of 31 R&B/soul albums that celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2018.

Randomness: On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won presidency, becoming the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States.

Raheem DeVaughn — Love Behind the Melody
Release Date: January 15
Record Label: Jive Records
Singles: “Woman,” “Customer” and “Text Messages”

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Interview: Tamar Braxton Talks Happiness, Lesson Learned This Year and Holiday Favorites

Tamar Braxton is an open book, especially in her music. From songs like “Raise the Bar” and “White Candle” to “Broken Record” and “King,” the Grammy-nominated singer knows how to pen the ups and downs of love.

In late September, the Maryland native released her fourth and last album, Bluebird of Happiness. The 11-track set unfolded the private love stories with her estranged husband and former manager, Vincent Herbert.

As a special guest on The Great Xscape Tour, Braxton soothes her wounded love scars by addressing her true feelings on stage. With profound performances of “Blind” and “My Man,” her fans get to witness her being vulnerable, yet buoyant during her healing process.

Rated R&B caught up with Braxton backstage after her 45-minute set at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC to talk about her last album, happiness, her holiday favorites and more.

Check out the interview below.

RATED R&B: You’re currently on The Great Xscape Tour. What’s been your favorite or most memorable moment so far?

TAMAR: I think the most memorable moment was when Kandi and Tiny were in my dressing room in North Carolina while the Alabama game was going on. Of course everyone in the city was gone to that game but we managed to still sell out. We were like, “Oh my God, can you believe that we are here? We really made it. We really did it.” Tiny and I always said we wanted to do this since we were younger. We just didn’t know it would be like this.

RATED R&B: “Blind” is moving up on the urban AC radio chart. Can we expect a visual for the song in the near future?

TAMAR: Well, that’s a long story but I’m going to say yes. There were a lot of obstacles when we put out Bluebird of Happiness that we didn’t expect to happen, but they did and we had to put it out anyway. There was a movie attached to this album but it got detoured. We’re trying to fix it now. We’re playing the waiting game.

RATED R&B: Is there another single choice in mind if the video for “Blind” doesn’t come out?

TAMAR: I don’t know. I always wanted either the Yo Gotti record “Hol’ Up” or “The Makings of You” to be singles. We’ll see.

RATED R&B: Speaking of “The Makings of You,” that record along with “Pick Me Up,” are just some of the many songs on Bluebird of Happiness with incredible samples or interpolations of timeless R&B records. Which record took the longest to get cleared?

TAMAR: I honestly did not have any pushback at all. In the past it does take a long time. I think producers went into this record prepared themselves for it [laughs]. It’s so funny the Gladys Knight record came up though. I’ve been knowing her for a very long time. Her son wanted to take me to the prom back in the day [laughs]. I explained to her what the song meant to me and how Claudine is one of my favorite movies. She was like “Of course, darling.” Curtis Mayfield’s estate was so generous too.

RATED R&B: What makes Tamar Braxton happy?

TAMAR: What makes me happy is being around good people, laughing and smiling — not having any drama because I don’t have time for it. During our show prayer today, I was saying, “God thank you so much for such a great group people” because we have absolutely no drama. Also, being a good mother to my son Logan. I believe co-parenting with Vince and getting along with him to make sure Logan has a stable family environment is important in making me happy.

RATED R&B: On each album, your sound matures and your writing abilities continue to become more superb. How has your evolution as an artist helped you evolve personally and professionally?

TAMAR: I’ve always been a stickler on professionalism [laughs]. But personally, I think I am more honest about my feelings and how I truly feel. I have no problem telling you how I truly feel. It’s something about telling the truth that is liberating. I know now that there’s a way to deliver it [laughs]. The only time you find the truth to be offensive is when you’re not ready for it. You have to be ready for it. You have to be ready for evolving. Honesty is what helps us evolve. That’s what works for me.

RATED R&B: You are very active on social media. With you having such a huge following, how do you deal with any negativity that comes your way?

TAMAR: I take it as an opinion. I don’t know you, so I’m not going to feed into you. The only time that you have real negativity is when you feed into it. Most of the time these people don’t know what they’re talking about. But like I said on stage tonight, “People are always going to have something to say. You just might as well live your best life to the way you want to live it because everyone is going to have a comment.” So however you feel, God bless you but this is what works for me [laughs].

RATED R&B: With 2017 coming to an end, what’s one lesson you’ve learned this year?

TAMAR: For me, not to put yourself down. Don’t beat up on yourself. I remember when I use to beat up on myself constantly. Instead of looking at the things that I did achieve, I looked at the things I didn’t. It took away from the overall pure happiness that I wanted to achieve. I couldn’t get there if I constantly beat myself up. It’s almost like I was my own hater [laughs]. I already have people on social media saying negative things about me, why do I need to add to it? So you have to be your biggest cheerleader and believe in yourself. You have to get to a point where you don’t care and just do you.

RATED R&B: So the holidays are here. I know that you’re a foodie. What’s your favorite holiday dish?

TAMAR: Chitlins [laughs]. My mom pulls the membrane out so the house isn’t stinking. I haven’t had it this year because I haven’t had a Thanksgiving dinner yet.

RATED R&B: Favorite holiday song?

TAMAR: I would have to say “The Christmas Song.” It doesn’t get any better than Nat King Cole, my sister [Toni Braxton’s], Mariah [Carey’s] and Whitney [Houston’s] versions.

RATED R&B: Favorite holiday movie?

TAMAR: Right now it’s Caillou’s Holiday Movie. I’ve seen it a 150,000 times thanks to Logan [laughs].

RATED R&B: Favorite childhood Christmas gift?

TAMAR: The Nintendo Power Pad. It was when Nintendo first came out and they had these little blocks that you could run on and jump over. It was the bomb [laughs]. Everybody is missing out now [laughs].

Make Tamar Braxton’s final album, Bluebird of Happiness, a holiday stocking stuffer this season. The new album is available everywhere.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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