INTERVIEW: Donell Jones Talks New Album, Being Underrated, Fatherhood and more


Donell Jones released his debut album “My Heart” in 1996. Since then the Chicago native has consistently released quality music that many R&B listeners can enjoy.

It goes without saying that Jones’ most successful and highly appreciated album is “Where I Wanna Be,” which was released in 1999. The album included timeless hits including the title track, “U Know What’s Up,” “Have You Seen Her,” and “Shorty (Got Her Eyes On Me),” among others. It is this particular album that made Jones’ standout as an R&B artist.

With seven albums under his belt, Jones proves that he’s adored in the R&B music community. On July 9, Jones released his new album “Forever” independently via eOne Music.

Jones recently sat down with Rated RnB to discuss his new album. In his interview, he also talked about the key to his longevity, his dream R&B tour, the decline in R&B music sales, relationships, and more.

Check out our exclusive interview below.

You’ve been in the music industry for many years now. What do you believe has been the key to your longevity?

Just really loving the art of making music. It’s something that I loved as a child and still love today. I feel like I haven’t learned everything. I’m always constantly trying to learn things about music that I haven’t tried yet. It’s an ongoing process for me.

Some people believe that you’re an underrated R&B artist. Do you consider this to be true?

Not at all. Some people may say that but that’s their opinion. I really feel like my music has reached the people that needed to hear it.

Let’s talk about your new album “Forever.” In a recent interview, you said that every album you release represents a time in your life. What does “Forever” represent?

It represents where I’m at in my life right now as far as mentally and my relationship and just life in general. It definitely shows my growth as a human being.

The first song leaked off this album was “Step The F*ck Off” back in December 2012. What was your inspiration behind this track?

A lot of men think that guys try to hit on their woman but the majority of the time it’s the opposite way around. I’m just saying instead of getting yourself in a situation where one night of pleasure can end up as a lifetime of misery, just tell the woman to “Step the f*ck off.” Tell her to step off and you find somebody who is single.

You also dedicated a song called “I Miss The King” to Michael Jackson on the album. What inspired you to include this song on this particular album?

Michael Jackson has been an inspiration since I could remember. I really felt like it was weird that nobody has done a record for Michael Jackson. This guy has inspired me to write, to make music and I really feel like I owe it to him to pay homage to him.

“Beautiful” is another record on the album. Tell us about it.

“Beautiful” is the second single off the album. My reason behind writing that song is ‘cause you know most of the time when you meet somebody, it’s based on physical attraction first. But that’s not going to keep you. You have to find that inner beauty. That was pretty much my reason for writing that record.

Out of all the songs on “Forever,” which song would you consider to be the most personal to you?

To be honest with you they all are but I would say the most personal one would be “I’m So Gone.” A lot of people live in their heads and for many years I did too. So I wanted to write a record about being caught in the mind and just releasing all those things, living for today.

You recently tweeted on Twitter, “If you love my ‘Where I Wanna Be,’ then you gotta hear my new album ‘Forever.’” How does “Forever” compare to “Where I Wanna Be”?

I would say “Where I Wanna Be” was my most personal album that I put out and “Forever” is no different than that. Everything about “Where I Wanna Be,” I lived every moment of that and that’s why those songs are so personal. [“Forever”] is just the same. It’s my life, my struggles, growing up…life in general. I really feel like those two albums really do compare as far as me being a songwriter, musician and person.

You’ve written songs for artists like Usher and 702. If you could pen a song for any R&B artist, who would it be.

That would have to be Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans…I would love to write a song for Beyonce. Man there are so many artists out there that I would love to work with and just get in the studio and vibe.

You recently wrote on Twitter that you would love to go on a tour with R&B artist Joe. On that note, if you could put together the ultimate R&B tour with two other artists (not including Joe), who would they be?

I would love for that to be R. Kelly and Musiq Soulchild. That would be an incredible show.

donell-jones 1

It seems like the new trend for R&B artists is to go the independent route. Why do you believe this is the case?

I think it’s just a natural progression. I spent many years with a major label. It was great. I really loved it. I feel like it’s a natural progression for me to be able to make more decisions for my own career instead of have someone else dictate my career. I really feel like a lot of artists are moving in that direction because they want to have a say in their life and in their career.

R&B sales have been in decline. Do you think it’s because of the artists going independent or the quality of the music? What are your thoughts on this?

I think it’s a bit of both. I think it’s the quality of the music that has been coming out. I think a lot of the R&B music that’s out today is really pop but has been passed off as R&B. Not only that, it has a lot to do with radio. Radio isn’t really playing a lot of the R&B that came out in the 90’s. They are kind of moving more toward the pop sound. I think that has a lot to do with the decline in sales. Also, I really feel like a lot of that stuff is coming back. It’s a revolving door. Things are going to turn around and I hope to be part of that.

Speaking of R&B and R&B albums, name an album that you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a track.

Not to be on myself like that but the “Where I Wanna Be” album was really one of those albums that you could play from beginning to end. Not only that, I think also R. Kelly’s album “12 Play” was an album you could listen to from beginning to end. There’s a lot of great albums that you can play from beginning to end.


What do you think is the main ingredient to get people to listen to an album without skipping a track?

I think it has to do with the quality of the songs and what you’re talking about in the record. I think if you make something that people can relate to — as far as maybe relationships and make people feel what you’re saying through songs — I think that’s what makes people listen to albums all the way through. The music and lyrics is what makes a complete album.

As a father of five, how do you balance being an artist with being a parent?

I would say that I wasn’t the greatest of parents in my younger years mainly because I was on the road a lot. I really didn’t get a chance to watch my children grow. But now I feel like I’m an excellent father because I spend a lot more time with my kids. I love music, the music business, and going on the road but it’s not as important to me as family. Family to me is more important than anything. Before, it was the other way around. But now it’s the opposite. I think that’s growth and becoming a man in general.

Do you believe your family has influenced your “Forever” album?

Definitely my family and my relationship with my wife.

Speaking of relationships, do you have any advice for other couples out there? What do you think is the key to a long lasting relationship?

Rule number one is be honest. Don’t lie. It’s harder to lie than it is to tell the truth. If you tell the truth, it needs not to be covered up. Trust is another thing. Trust goes a long way. Without trust, there’s nothing. Also don’t be possessive. Being possessive can kill a relationship.

Are there any other projects that you’re working on?

I’m in the process of trying to put together a hat line. That’s been my signature since the beginning of my career. I’d love to put a hat line out there and have some people rocking my joints.

Make sure you go cop Donell Jones’ new album “Forever” in stores now. The album includes the title track and “Beautiful” as the official singles. It’s certainly an R&B album that you can listen to from start to finish.

Follow Donell Jones on Twitter at @DonellJones96.


Interview by Keithan, editor-in-chief of

Keithan is the founder/editor-in-chief of Rated R&B


  1. i just bought this cd and it is GREAT!! I was hesitant to bet it bcuz i wanted to get the weeknds cd yet im glad i got this bcuz i can listen to it start to finish the lyrics r great the story n emotion behind each song is great the beats n music r great i actually am ordering 3 more copies to give to my mom n girlfriends great great job donnell jones thank u for making great great music

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Interview: Tiara Thomas Talks ‘FWMM’ EP and Working with H.E.R.

Around this time five years ago, Tiara Thomas could be heard on the hook of Wale’s single “Bad.” The melodic track, which peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, would become Thomas’ stepping stone into the mainstream world. Although her past success with “Bad” is part of her foundation, it doesn’t necessarily define who she is as an artist today.

Thomas has spent the last few years building up her fan base with her own music. Last year, she released an acoustic-driven EP titled Don’t Mention My Name and went on an international tour with rising star H.E.R. She followed-up last month with another EP called FWMM (Fucking With My Mind).

Rated R&B caught up with Thomas to chat about her FWMM, working with H.E.R. and her headlining tour.

Check out our interview with Tiara Thomas below.

What were you thinking about when you created FWMM?

I live in my own head a lot. Sometimes I feel like — not in a crazy bitch way — but it’s like the world in my head is the reality and the outside is not reality. So I just talked about a lot of things on this project like relationships, sex, self-discovery and my journey… it’s a collection of these things that are fucking with my mind.

Do you think by being in your own mind, you kind of get in your own way sometimes?

I definitely think so but in my music I’m not necessarily giving you the solution. Sometimes I’m just telling you the story, like, “Yo, this is how I feel and this is what happened.” Everybody gets in their own mind and their own way. Sometimes all you got is your own head, your own boss, you know? Sometimes I love it, even if it’s bad. I don’t know. I can’t explain that. I guess it’s like, for instance, I’ve been in bad relationships before — like, bad ass relationships — and when I got out of them, it hurt really bad but I always know I’m going to be okay. That’s something that I learned about my life. Some people would be like, “I’m going to hang out with my girls,” “I’m going to go party” or “I’m going to go fuck some random person” but I’d rather almost think about it for a little bit. It’s inspiring to me. That sounds bad but it’s true [laughs].

Your FWMM EP and your Don’t Mention My Name EP have a similar cover art. How are these projects connected?

Well, I think these projects go together content wise. It’s all like a statement. On Don’t Mention My Name, I’m talking about people I used to date or fuck around with. Fucking With My Mind is another statement. Maybe the next project cover art may be the front of my face, using the same artist, and another statement. I kind of like that theme. I like that image. I thought it was dope.

You have a few EPs under your belt now. When will you be ready for an album?

I really want to get the best of out an album. I feel the only way to do that, I have to almost build my fan base back up. I don’t want to hurry and drop an album when I don’t feel like it could be at its full potential. I’d rather keep building up my base, keep bringing awareness to the Tiara Thomas brand. I’m going to put out one more EP and hopefully an album after that.

Speaking of building up your fan base, one way you’ve been doing that is through touring. You just wrapped up your tour with H.E.R. What was that experience like?

It was so fun! It was the first time I left the country. Up until a month ago, I never left the country (besides Canada). That shit was tight. I remember the first night, I was in bed in my hotel in Manchester and I was just thinking like, “Damn I’m so far away from home.” I feel blessed to have been able to go out there with her. A lot of the shows were sold out and also I felt like I’ve been getting a lot better as a performer. I like being on the road. I’m trying to be on the road for the rest of the year.

retired my pants after wearing them for 2 weeks, we had a good run

A post shared by Tiara Thomas♕ (@tiara_thomas) on

You apparently had to retire an outfit on tour after two weeks?

Yes, it was longer than two weeks. I bought these pants at Urban Outfitters and, oh my gosh, they’re so fly. I wore them on the last day of tour. They were comfortable. I like to be comfy and I was like, “I’m not taking these pants off. People spend money on clothes, wear them once and don’t wear them no more.” I wore the pants for about three and a half weeks. I literally took them off to wash them a few times.I ended up going home to Indianapolis after tour and I wore the pants the whole time I was at home. My mom and dad were like, “Yo take those pants off.” I wore them to church when I was at home. I wore them to my grandma’s house. I wore them for my New Year’s show with H.E.R. I wore them for a while. Yeah, so they’re retired.

Speaking of H.E.R., you co-wrote “Avenue” on her project. What was that process like working on that song?

H.E.R. is like my little sis. I’ve known her for literally years. I’ve always had a working relationship with her. I have a couple songs with her. When she’s in LA and needs help in the studio, she’s like, “Yo T.” I just went to the studio that day — I remember I was in an extremely bad mood. Mother Nature got me that day. I was just pissed. I didn’t want to go in the studio, not because I didn’t want to work with her, but because I was just cranky as fuck. I went in there and they were playing a beat. I was just like, “Just turned down your avenue. I had to but I’m mad at you. You always say I gotta attitude.” She was like, “That’s tight.” I was like, “Go lay that down.” Sometimes I will get lucky in the studio and some things will come right to me immediately. That’s what happened with “Avenue.” I just started freestyling the song off the top of my head and then write the rest of it obviously. The first initial idea was that melody and those words and we just built based off of that. I think that was one of the last songs to make it to her Vol. 2 EP.

Are you writing for any other artists?

Sometimes I have songs that I be wanting to use but I realize that they don’t necessarily fit my sound so I’ll try to get it off on somebody else but I want to. I’d like to. I would honestly like to write some pop songs because that’s where the money at. I had a song that I was really excited about for Rihanna’s last album. It almost made it onto her album. I was so close but I’d definitely like to get one with Rihanna because I know what type of music she likes.

With your headlining tour getting ready to start. What’s one song you’re most excited about performing?

I think from my new project “Retro 1” because that seems to be a song that a lot of people like and it’s real vibey on stage. I’m excited to do some older stuff too because I know when people discover my EP they’re going to be able to go back and look at other projects too. I got some good tunes on my EP Up in Smoke. There’s a song called “Mary Jane” that’s really fun. “Bad” is always a fun song to do.

Anything from your Dear Sallie Mae EP?

I don’t know. We’ll see. Dear Sallie Mae is probably my least favorite project that I put out because I was with Interscope and I kind of — you know, label things. You can definitely tell the difference between the music I made when I was signed to a label and the music from when I was not signed to a label. Let that speak for itself.

Follow Tiara Thomas on Instagram at @Tiara_Thomas

Jorja Smith Announces Debut Album ‘Lost & Found’

It’s about time. After several major features with hip-hop biggest stars (Drake, Kendrick Lamar), rising singer Jorja Smith has announced her debut album, Lost & Found, will arrive on June 8.

Smith will enjoy the spotlight alone on Lost & Found as there are no features on the project, which includes “Teenage Fantasy” and “Blue Lights.” She performed the latter song along with “On My Mind” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week.

Lost & Found Track List
1. “Lost & Found”
2. “Teenage Fantasy”
3. “Where Did I Go?”
4. “February 3rd”
5. “On Your Own”
6. “The One”
7. “Wandering Romance”
8. “Blue Lights”
9. “Lifeboats (Freestyle)”
10. “Goodbyes”
11. “Tomorrow”
12. “Don’t Watch Me Cry”

Pre-order Smith’s Lost & Found today.


Erykah Badu, Miguel and The Roots to Headline Smokin’ Grooves Festival

The performance lineup for the Smokin’ Grooves Festival has been announced. Erykah Badu, Miguel and The Roots are set to headline the event, which takes plance on June 16 at The Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Other artists on the bill include Jhene Aiko, NxWorries (Anderson Paak + Knxwledge), H.E.R., Majid Jordan, dvsn, Tiara Thomas, Lion Babe, Arin Ray, Ravyn Lenae, Omarion and THEY, to name a few.

While Badu doesn’t have a new project out, fans will be expecting to hear her classic records. Miguel and Jhené Aiko will promote their latest albums. The latter artist released her  sophomore album Trip last September, while Miguel delivered his third album, War & Leisure, in December.

Tickets are on sale now at

See the complete Smokin’ Grooves lineup below.

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