INTERVIEW: Avant Talks ‘The VIII’ Album, Not Competing With New Artists and more


Avant is among the few consistent, yet underrated, male R&B artists of our time. The R&B veteran — known for classics like “My First Love,” “Read Your Mind” and “Makin’ Good Love” —  will release his eighth studio album, The VIII, on September 25.

Serving as the follow-up to his 2013 album Face The Music, The VIII is dedicated to Avant’s fans. With songs like “Special,” which has peaked at No. 5 on urban AC radio, Avant’s goal is to create songs that are relatable to his fans.

“I’m just trying to give people what I consider real music is,” Avant tells Rated R&B. “My creative thought process was to try to get back to making the consumer the super star.” 

Rated R&B caught up with Avant where he dished on The VIII, competing with new artists, his protegé Malone (who we featured as our Rated Next Artist), his plans for a tour and more.

RATED R&B: If you had to sum up your album in three words, what would it be? 

AVANT: Real. Music. Incorporated [Laughs].

RATED R&B: What do you hope listeners take away from listening to The VIII? 

AVANT: It’s about you. I think that music nowadays is so self-absorbed. I think that for you to be the consumer, you have to want to buy something that has a personal connection to you. I’m shooting for getting back to hearing lyrics that can help me grow as a person. 

RATED R&B: What song on the album is your most personal? 

AVANT: Ah, man. I would have to say “It Doesn’t Matter.” My manager was going through a divorce at the time I wrote that record. I just tried to actually be him on that record. 

RATED R&B: You did a sequel to “Best Friend,” from your Face The Music album. Can you tell us more about that?

AVANT: [Laughs]  I would listen to it off Face The Music and would say, “Well, there’s no conclusion. What happened?” I tried to put some closure to it. It’s almost like a story. I want people to know it’s not about the single, it’s about the body of work. I’m taking you on a journey. So for those who heard the first “Best Friend,” I gave them a conclusion on the second one.

Avant and Malone

RATED R&B: You collaborated with your new artist Malone on The VIII. What are some of his qualities that stood out to you and what can we expect from him in the near future? 

AVANT: He has a wonderful voice. He’s a good dude. He likes to listen. He likes to learn. He’s easy to work with and extremely talented. His album is going to be bananas! At the end of the day, talent has to override everything when you’re talking about having a great artist. That’s what he sold me on.

RATED R&B: The way people consume music has changed over the years. More people are using streaming services like Spotify to listen to music. Do you think music streaming companies help or hinder the music industry?

AVANT: If you use it the right way, it definitely can [help]. Just like everything else, if you don’t use it the right way then it can be a negative. I think that it has its purpose and that’s where the world is going to now.

RATED R&B: Your debut album (My Thoughts) turned 15 this year. What do you remember most about recording that album? 

AVANT: Me pouring my heart out. Your first album is everything you went through in that span of your life. So, it was very emotional with songs like “Separated” and “My First Love.” It’s like, “Wow! This is everything that I’ve been through in my life.” I didn’t know to write from anything else. After cutting that album and having it out, [my label] was like, “Yo, man that’s great but we need another album from you in six weeks.” Now I understand the process of not just writing about the things I’ve been through but the things I’ve seen, things other people have been through as well. I understand that this is an every second job. I’m cool with that. avant-ratedrnb-3

RATED R&B: What’s one piece of advice that you wish you had during your debut era? 

AVANT: Wow, that’s a great question! I had so much fun back then so it would probably be “Slow down a little bit. Embrace the moment itself.” I really didn’t take a step back to enjoy the moment itself.

RATED R&B: The last time we spoke, you were talking about plans for a duet album with Keke Wyatt. Is that still in the works?

AVANT: It’s still in the works. It’s just finding time to do it. She’s moving around a lot. I’m moving around a lot. We just have to sit up in the room and make this thing happen. Everybody’s been asking about it so it’s something that’s definitely on the port.

RATED R&B: Will there be a tour for this album?

AVANT: Yes, we are. We’re just trying to pick the right young lady because I would like to [tour] with a young lady so you can get the best of both worlds. My focus is to go out and get people involved with what real music is to me, which is great storylines, great musicianship — that’s what I came up listening to. I think that the youth is being cheated because the only thing they have is dance music and strip club music. There’s a space for that but everybody can’t do the same thing.

RATED R&B: So, do you feel like you have to compete with newer acts?

AVANT: It’s not a competition. It’s more of a way to try to find the fans. I’ve sold over a million copies. I just have to find the people who want to hear true stories and what music is really made about. I just try to understand that there’s a lane and there’s people who want real music and try to give it to them. When you hear a record like “Special,” it’s like nothing that’s on the radio right now. I did that to make a point. People were like, “Man you’ve got to turn up.”  Then I release “Special” and they’re like, “Man that record is beautiful.” [Laughs]. It’s about finding the emotion that people don’t know they have anymore. It’s there but you have to find that emotion. You’ve got to pull it out of them.

Pre-order Avant’s The VIII on iTunes now! Follow Avant on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

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

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How Pleasure P Found Strength Through Pain

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Pretty Ricky without mentioning Pleasure P. As the only vocalist, he naturally stood out with his alluring voice that brought a grown and sexy feel to the provocative R&B/hip-hop group’s sound. The Miami-based group made an impressive debut in 2005, scoring two Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 — “Grind on Me” (No. 7) and “Your Body” (No. 12) — from their gold-selling debut album, Bluestars.

The group saw even more success with their sophomore album, Late Night Special, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2007. The LP featured their top 20 hit “On the Hotline” (No. 12), which was certified platinum just five months after its release. The mid-tempo track, which samples The Isley Brothers’ hit “Between the Sheets,” also peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Ringtones chart — yes, back when people actually purchased ringtones for their phones. Whew, what a time!

Despite all the success Pretty Ricky was having at the time, there were issues behind the scenes, which resulted in Pleasure P exiting the group. In a later interview with VladTV, he explained he left the group because Joseph “Blue” Smith, head of Bluestar Entertainment, allegedly stole millions of dollars from the group. “He was controlling,” Pleasure P said in a 2015 interview. “He stole everybody’s money including his own son’s money. And I just wasn’t happy there.”

Pleasure P’s abrupt exit was certainly a gamble at the time but it ended up working out his favor — well, sort of. His debut album The Introduction of Marcus Cooper (2009) debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It earned him three Grammy nominations, including Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance (“Under”) and Best R&B Song (“Under”).

Pleasure P’s winning train began to derail in late 2009 when he was hit with child molestation allegations, which he tells Rated R&B are “one-hundred percent false.” He adds,“The reason why I haven’t released an album since 2009 [is because of a] child molestation rumor put out by some people who I know who was just jealous of me because I was number one. I lost everything.”

In 2012, he attempted to rebrand by using his birth name as his stage name (Marcus Cooper) and put his past behind him. He signed with Swagga Entertainment/eOne Music where he released — what was supposed to be —  a comeback single called “I Love Girls” featuring Tyga, who was in his prime with hits like “Rack City” and “Faded.” The two met while on tour. “We had a cool relationship,” Pleasure P says. “He was in the “Boyfriend #2” video when he wasn’t shit, you know what I’m saying?”

Pleasure P adds, “[Tyga] told me to put out the record, so I told my label to put out the record since he was on board. My record label put out the record and serviced it to radio. They spent some money on radio. It’s time to do the video, Tyga says he can’t do the video.” Pleasure P says Tyga’s excuse for not being able to do the video was because he had just “did a song with Chris [Brown].” However, he believes it was another reason why Tyga backed out. “It was really because of the rumors,” he speculates. “I understand why, but I don’t at the same time because if somebody tells you something about somebody and you don’t talk to them personally and they’re supposed to be your friend, I look at that totally different. He put me in a fucked up situation with my label and the album never came out.”

Over the years, Pleasure P has released one-off singles and a mixtape — but nothing more than that. Now, he is ready to make an even stronger comeback. In March, he released “‘You Changed” as the lead single from his upcoming album that is slated to drop later this year.

In our interview with Pleasure P, the singer opens up about his trials and tribulations, his upcoming album, reuniting with Pretty Ricky and more.

What’s the story behind your new single “You Changed”?

Tank and J. Valentine flew to Miami to see me because I recently did a show with Tank and I was like, “We gotta get back in [the studio]” because Tank is responsible for “Under” and “Gotta Have You” from The Introduction of Marcus Cooper album. He flies in and he listens to every record. I didn’t play him “You Changed” first. I played the songs I thought would be the single. When he heard “You Changed,” he was like, “That’s the one and I’m gonna tell you why.” The reason why he said that is because it’s very emotional and it’s something that I went through personally. I thought about it. I was like, “Anybody can make a typical bedroom song but this song is very personal because this is stuff I actually went through.”

What happened in your personal life that inspired the song?

When I was in a relationship, I was on the giving end and she was on the receiving end. It was just a one-sided relationship. After a while, it was like — I had to get the fuck out this relationship because this person isn’t going to change based on how she was raised.

Do you have a title for your new album?

Yes, it’s called Pain.

Are you still in pain from the past?

I’m restored now. This is just shit I’m getting out. I think I’ll be fully restored when I’m back to where I should be in terms of the R&B world. It was taken away from me on some fuck-shit because people were jealous of me because I was winning at the time and they weren’t winning. I feel like I deserve my spot because I’ve always delivered good music and to this day what am I doing? You’ve heard “You Changed.” I’m giving them fucking good music. I don’t sound like anybody. Ain’t nobody going to mistake me for sounding like anybody. [Some people may say], “Oh he kinda whiny. He this, he that.” That’s my style. That’s what took me to the Grammys. I don’t got to be a churchy singer and do all these runs. I didn’t grow up in the church. I express myself the way I know how.

With everything you’ve experienced in the past, do you find it hard to open up or allow people to get close to you?

No, I don’t because I actually got a sixth sense for the bullshit. Once I see the ways of a person, I can tell if they’re good or bad. I rather have a person around me that I know what they’re trying to do versus a person I don’t know what they’re trying to do. If I know you’re a thief, I know not to leave my money around you. Everybody has their ways, it’s just balancing your life out with knowing how to deal with each individual.

It’s been nine years since your debut album, do you feel any pressure to live up to the success of it?

If you look at nine years ago and what I’ve been through, of course, I don’t feel any pressure because I’m so much better. I’m wiser. I sing better. I hear music better.


Are there any collabs on the album?

The only feature I have on the album as of now is Flo Rida. That’s like my best friend in the whole wide world. The reason why I don’t rely on features too tough is because of the Tyga situation and another artist who did the same thing to me — didn’t shoot the video with the second label. When you look at the Introduction to Marcus Cooper album, the only person featured is Yung Joc. I know he’s a good performer, rapper and a good guy. I’ve been to his house he’s been to my house. He’s not going to stand me up for some video or some Hollywood shit.

A Pretty Ricky reunion album has been teased for a few years but we haven’t heard many details surrounding it. What’s the status of that project?

The Pretty Ricky album is done. We haven’t put it out yet because we’re doing a “Scream Reunion Tour” for everybody who was on the “Scream Tour.” We’re going to do it in July. We’re going to put the final Pretty Ricky album out around the tour.

What was your experience working on that project with the other guys from Pretty Ricky?

We’re all grown now and we put a lot of personal shit to the side. Rico Love is executive producing it. I would do my part and call whoever in to do their part. It’s just kind of been like that. Spectacular is in LA now and he has a social media marketing company that monetizes Facebook and different things like that. With him being busy with his business and I’m busy doing my album and working on other people’s shit and building my new label, it’s kind of hard for all of us to be in the same room together.

Who are some newer artists you’re checking out or surprised you’re listening to?

I be in the studio so much that I don’t really realize what’s going on [Laughs]. I listen to Kodak Black, Migos, Khalid and 6LACK. Tank was putting me on H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar.

Follow Pleasure P on Instagram @PleasureP

Exclusive: Justine Skye Sheds Lights on ‘Ultraviolet’

Justine Skye has spent the last few years developing her sound and is now ready to take over. In January, the Brooklyn native finally released her long-awaited debut album, Ultraviolet. The album follows Skye’s three EPs Everyday Living (2013), Emotionally Unavailable (2015) and 8 Ounces (2016).

The process of creating Ultraviolet wasn’t that smooth. Skye ran into some creative roadblocks, which resulted in her completely scrapping the project and going back to the drawing board. “I wanted to make sure it was perfect,” she explains to Rated R&B. “I wanted to make sure it was true to who I am and that I could tell the story.”

The album includes production by Hit-Boy, Austin Powerz, Frank Dukes, Fred Ball and Jeff Shum; guest features include Jeremih (“Back for More”) and Wizkid (“U Don’t Know”).

Despite all the pressure that comes with an artist releasing his or her first album, Skye tries not to let it get the best of her.

“It’s not about all of the opinions and what everyone else is thinking, saying, telling me what I should do,” she says. “It’s really about how I feel and what I’m happy with. It’s really not about how many records you sell. It’s about how many people you reach and how many people actually feeling what you’re saying.”

Rated R&B caught up with Skye at her Ultraviolet Tour stop in Washington, D.C. In our interview, she talks about her debut album Ultraviolet, her evolution as an artist, her role in the upcoming film Green Dolphin and living stress-free. She even reveals a dish that has her “Back for More” and something “U Don’t Know” about her.

Watch the full interview below.

Exclusive: Trevor Jackson on New Album ‘Rough Drafts Pt. 1’ and Role in Film ‘Superfly’

Trevor Jackson is an open book. The entertainer just released his new album Rough Drafts Pt. 1 via Born Art/EMPIRE. The 15-track project, which Jackson wrote and recorded in his living room, is a raw look at his process of becoming a better person both professionally and personally.

Rough Drafts represents the beauty in imperfection,” Jackson explains to Rated R&B. “I feel like this day in age so many people want to be something they’re not or be something they’re not ready to be yet.”

The 21-year-old realizes all his past mistakes were necessary in his growth. “I feel like every step is essential to becoming who you’re supposed to be in this world,” he shares. “I’ve embraced that and realized all the times I made mistakes or that I’ve made wrong turns or I’ve been confused, those have always been necessary things in order to get to a better version of me.”

On top of his music, Jackson is also making major moves in film and television. The Indianapolis native currently stars in Freeform’s hit sitcom Grown-ish, a spinoff of Black-ish, which was picked up for a second season just four days its premiere. This summer he will star in the remake of Superfly as Youngblood Priest, directed by Director X.

Rated R&B caught up with Jackson at his tour stop in Washington, D.C. In our interview, he dishes on Rough Drafts, his role in the upcoming film Superfly, touring with his colleague Justine Skye and more. Watch the interview above.

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