Interview: Adrian Marcel Talks Debut Album ‘GMFU’ + Wants R&B Artists to Step Outside Box

Trust the process.

Oakland, Calif. native Adrian Marcel — whose mentor is R&B legend Raphael Saadiq — made a splash in 2013 with his mixtape, 7 Days of Weak. In 2014, he released his debut single “2AM” featuring rapper Sage the Gemini on Republic Records. The club-friendly track was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in October 2015. At the time, Marcel was promoting his debut album, GMFU (Got Me Fucked Up) with intention to release it at the top of 2016. However, things didn’t go as planned.

Following his departure from Republic, Marcel finally released his oft-delayed debut album in April. The album is loaded with 16 tracks including “Mobbin,” which features Too $hort, Lil Boosie and M-City Jr.

In an interview with Rated R&B, Marcel discusses the evolution of his debut album, the need for R&B artists to step outside of the box and more.

Check out Adrian Marcel’s interview below.

RATED R&B: You recently tweeted, “Don’t call yourself a singer or real R&B if all your songs are in the exact same key and tone. I lose respect almost instantly!” Do you feel like R&B artists generally put themselves in a box?

Adrian Marcel: I think R&B artists put themselves in a box. I think we tend to kind of feel like we have to be something else or we have to be the trend. For me, I’m kind of jumping out of that. I feel like there was a moment when I kind of got drifted that way but with this new project, GMFU, it’s me saying “Got myself F-d up” because the only way I can get distracted is by me. I have to allow that to happen and I think that’s what’s going on. So, I’m just focused in on the real fundamentals of R&B and soul music.

RATED R&B: Your debut album GMFU is out now. What was the process like for you creating that project?

Fun. Extremely fun. It was effortless — not to say it wasn’t hard work. It was a lot of hard work that went into it. It was just the people I wanted to work with, the people that wanted to work with me. It was a stress-free environment. It didn’t take a lot of effort and we when we get like that, that’s when we give the most effort.

RATED R&B: Although you describe the process as effortless, were there any challenging moments or obstacles you faced while creating the album?

Absolutely. Of course, when you’re dealing with other entities and other creatives, there’s always that time when we’re not on the same page or we aren’t kind of agreeing on this or the timing of this. It was things like that — again, doing this independently, there is no big budget. There is no major label or major machine that is doing that part of the work. There were a lot of conversations with producers and even other writers that we teamed up with. This is people’s lives. This is how they make a living. This is what they do. It was like, “Hey. I’m jumping out on a wing here. It’s something different. It’s not going to be like anything that’s out right now. This is what I see. This is the vision of how I think it will go and if you believe in that, let’s rock.” The people that are on this project are those people were like, “Yeah we believe.” So we had ups and downs on trying to figure things out but it all worked out how it was supposed to .

RATED R&B: You announced the title of your debut album a few years ago when you were signed to Republic Records. However, it ultimately got released this year. Did you feel any pressure about releasing the album years after it was announced?

To be honest, before we stepped into the label doors we knew that we wanted our first real project to be Got Me Fucked Up (laughs). It was just something that we knew we wanted to do. We kind of always played an underdog role in my opinion — from the beginning. The way we went about things was very underground. I guess the direction and point of it always changed. I think now GMFU has a real purpose that made sense. It was almost to me like — and I’m not at all comparing it to Confessions — but what that album at the time stood for for Usher and the timing of what was going on in Usher’s life and what he came from before….and for me, that’s what it was. It was like, nah this is so perfect because now it’s not a broad statement. Now, this is very personal.

RATED R&B: How did the creative concept change over time?

Honestly, I think the concept kind of change a little bit. I think for the better. I think that at the time, listening to so many other voices and so many entities that we’re the important part of this creative process. I think we were headed in another direction but now it just came full circle in what we were talking about. We made it more about self rather than the statement that it was.The statement is a little aggressive and for me it’s more self-aware.

RATED R&B: Out of the 16 songs on the album, which is the most personal to you?

“Eastside Story” because it was only two people who had anything to do with it — me and Jan Hancock. We produced it. We wrote it. Arranged it. Recorded it. It was the first record that we recorded in the process of doing this album. We had records already that were kind of sitting on but this was the first one we did for the direction of Got Me F-d Up. It was like, OK, “I want to be as real as possible. I want to be as raw as possible.” There’s a reason for every line and there’s a point to every line. I just put my truth in there that right now coming off of this label at this, we are happy — this is a good step — but it’s a scary step. You’re talking about being independent. To me it was the most personal song and that’s why it went last because I wanted it to be the last thought.

RATED R&B: How do you keep up with the world’s short attention span?

I’m always recording. I’m always working on new stuff. You’re absolutely right. Today, music just goes in and out. I feel like it has something to do with the music as well. Music should sustain itself. If it’s real, if it’s honest, if it’s relatable, if it’s universal, if it’s easy to understand — whatever the points of it that it has to be — music will sustain itself. People are still listening to Marvin Gaye. People are still listening to Stevie Wonder. People are still listening to Maxwell. People are still listening to their older hits. They’re timeless records. The focus for us was to make timeless records that we can continue to listen to — that I can continue to listen to. Just as I get bored with something else, I get bored with my own stuff even faster.

Stream GMFU on Spotify below.

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Adrian Marcel Announces ‘GMFU Tour’ Dates

Adrian Marcel will hit the road this winter to support his debut album, GMFU (Got Me Fucked Up).

Starting on February 20, the Oakland, Calif. native will bring his smooth vocals to Atlanta at VINYL. He will travel to other cities on the east and west coast including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Sacramento. The tour will conclude on March 8 at New Parish in San Francisco.

Last May, Rated R&B chatted with Marcel about his oft-delayed debut album and his most personal song from the project. “Eastside Story” because it was only two people who had anything to do with it — me and Jan Hancock. We produced it. We wrote it. Arranged it. Recorded it. It was the first record that we recorded in the process of doing this album.”

See his tour dates below.

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.

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.

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