Interview: Mathew Knowles Talks ‘Lemonade,’ New Girl Group and Motivational Book

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Mathew Knowles and Beyoncé (Getty Images)

Beyoncé’s new visual album Lemonade has sparked conversations around the world. Beyoncé, who is known for being private about her personal life, showed her fans a different side on her new project. Lemonade is “a conceptual project based on every woman’s journey of self knowledge and healing.” It explores Bey’s 11 stages of grief — intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope and redemption.

As the world watched Lemonade on HBO, many people were speculating who exactly was the inspiration behind the project. Mathew Knowles, Beyonce’s father, spoke with Rated R&B on his interpretation of Lemonade.

“From a father’s perspective, I’m extremely proud of Beyoncé because she’s challenged herself to think totally outside the box,” Knowles told Rated R&B. “I can just see she’s completely vulnerable and connecting with her fans all over the world and giving hope. She kind of takes us through this journey of sadness, anger and ends it with going through the steps of acceptance and forgiveness. I think it’s a beautiful piece of art. I’m so proud.”

Knowles also talked about his vision for the future of music, his new girl group, Solange’s next album and his new book.

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RATED R&B: Do you believe visual albums will replace the traditional music video?

MATHEW KNOWLES: That’s a great question. I teach at Texas Southern University and we were just talking about this very thing. About a year ago, I gave a prediction. I kind of always have been one to three years ahead of the industry. I believe that we in time will no longer hear music, we will see music. And by that, for example, this body of work that Beyoncé has given us — we would want to see music.

RATED R&B: Tell us about your new girl group Blushhh Music you’re working with. How did you discover them?

MATHEW KNOWLES: On Wednesdays, at one of my venues, they used to give a showcase for new artists. I would stop by after teaching classes at Texas Southern. These three girls were performing. They had performed the week before and got some bad advice. The advice was to come back the following week and be more like Destiny’s Child. Well, that’s the biggest mistake an artist could make is to try to be like Destiny’s Child or try to be like Beyoncé or try to be like Prince. You should be like yourself. You should create a uniqueness of you. When I saw the girls perform, the energy was there. It was OK. I could work with the energy. I could work with the lead vocalist and one of the rappers. The third girl was trying to sing but she just couldn’t. Part of the song, she rapped a little bit. So, I had this vision — what if there was a rap group with two rappers and one vocalist? That’s never been done before. That’s exciting for me to do something that’s never been done before. So, we had to make a replacement with one of the members quickly because we didn’t feel like she was the right fit. We found a right fit. The girls have been in artist development. The album is 85 percent complete. We shot a video for the first single. You’ll hear about these ladies within the next 30 days.

Blushhh Music
Blushhh Music

RATED R&B: The music industry has seen a decline in sales in recent years. Does that worry you as you prepare to introduce Blushhh Music?

MATHEW KNOWLES: No, because we experience more than ever before. Experiencing music and the decline in buying music is two different things. The industry hasn’t yet learned how to monetize the experience. I think in time, we will figure that out. But I still think it’s some fundamental things that the audience and the fans want; and the connection comes from the event. So, with Blushhh Music they’ve been here at my boot camp for almost two years and will do the same thing as Beyoncé. We will have a video for every song. We’ll have a video movie because I strongly believe that [Beyoncé] has benchmarked the future again in the direction we will go with music. That visual thing is critical.

RATED R&B: With that said, is there any pressure to live up to the success of Destiny’s Child?

MATHEW KNOWLES: Not at all. Fortunately, we’ve had a tremendous amount of success here at Music World Entertainment. There’s no pressure. The way we evaluate [success] today is different than how we evaluated it in 1997 when Destiny’s Child came out.

RATED R&B: You recently released a book called The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals. Why should people pick it up?

MATHEW KNOWLES: I think they should pick it up if there’s a need to understand yourself and to know the things you need as an individual to better yourself. It’s self help and motivational. A lot of people walk around and they’re unhappy with what they’re doing today. This is the book for those people — unhappy with what they’re doing day to day and not very clear on the direction they’re going in their lives from a professional standpoint. This is the book for it. It talks about the ten traits of highly successful people.

RATED R&B: Is there anything else coming up that you’d like to talk about?

MATHEW KNOWLES: I know Solange has a new project that’s coming out. Solange chose to go a different direction than Beyoncé and I thought that was extremely smart. She has fans that adore her and so I’m excited about it. I also look forward to the day that Beyoncé and Solange can partner on a project. I hope I see that day.

Get your copy of Mathew Knowles’ DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals here.

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

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Beyoncé and JAY-Z Release Joint Album ‘Everything Is Love’

Beyoncé and JAY-Z surprise fans with the release of their highly anticipated joint album, Everything is Love. The nine-track offering includes guest appearances from Pharrell Williams (“Nice”) and Migos (“Apeshit”).

The powerful couple is currently on the European leg of their On The Run II Tour. The North American leg will kick off on July 25 in Cleaveland, with stops in Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Stream Everything Is Love on Tidal.

Watch their visual for “Apeshit” below.

Exclusive: Ro James Talks Sophomore Album

When it comes to R&B artists pushing the envelope, Ro James is at the top of the list. From his three-part EP Coke, Jack & Cadillacs to his debut album Eldorado, James shows his commitment to the traditional R&B sound while adding his own unique touch. His debut single “Permission” was one of the biggest R&B songs in 2016, reaching number one on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart. Meanwhile, Eldorado has racked up over 263 million streams on Spotify alone.

James’ popularity has afforded him major opportunities that aren’t always obtained by new artists.  From joining legendary acts like Maxwell and Mary J. Blige on tour to headlining his own XIX Tour, James has been consistently booked and busy since his Eldorado era

“I grew up listening to the legends — respecting their work, emulating their voices and just learning their writing techniques,” James tells Rated R&B. “You don’t realize while you’re in it but then you sit back you’re like, ‘I just did a show with Mary J. Blige. I just did a show with Maxwell.’ It’s an honor and it also lets me know I’m on the right path.”

With a successful album under his belt, James is gearing up for his sophomore album that is expected to drop this summer. Before he drops the project, he plans to release the second installment of his two-part EP, Smoke & Mirrors.

Rated R&B caught up with James at his tour stop in Washington, D.C. In our interview, James dishes on his Smoke & Mirrors EP, his sophomore album, collaborating with Salaam Remi and his love for cars.

Check out the interview below.

Tell us about your Notorious B.I.G.-assisted song “Lost My Mind” from your Smoke EP.

That song was produced by Salaam Remi. I’ve known Salaam for a while and this is our first time actually getting into work. That song came right out of us getting in the studio — it was the first day, within the first hour. He was asking me what I was going through in my life. I had just got come off a breakup. It was either I really go hard with my music or try to appease my girl who was complaining that I didn’t have the time or wasn’t giving her enough attention — women need that too and my career needs that too. So it’s like in a sense, you have to decide and it kind of makes you a little crazy because you don’t want to lose either if it’s real.

If it’s your dream that you’ve worked hard to get to a certain place, nobody should be able to stop that. Anybody that’s joining energies with you should be able to say, “Let’s get this together.” So, “Lost My Mind” is about the idea of losing your mind and choosing which way to go. The Biggie sample, man it’s kinda crazy. I’m signed to ByStorm/RCA Records. Mark Pitts is my OG. It’s an honor to be under them too because I’m from New York. So, growing up, 90s hip-hop was NEW YORK and Mark Pitts was a part of that. When I was with Salaam, I was literally just mumbling and rapping the feeling because I knew the feeling I wanted to have in the hook and he was like, “Yo I have an idea” and he put the Biggie verse on there.

What can you tell us about your Mirrors EP and how does that compare to Smoke?

I had just come up out of a relationship, came off tour, did my own tour…and really tried to find the time to have a peaceful moment so I could gather all of the things I’ve been through and being able to talk about it. It’s hard. I was just in a place where it was kind of hazy. I was just creating music with people — Ryan Toby, Verse Simmonds —  just a lot of different people. When you see fire, you see smoke and when you see smoke you know there’s a fire. It’s like I got all this music that I’ve been holding and just growing with. I wanted to put something out eventually. I’m not the type of person who just puts music out. I want people to appreciate it and I feel like we’re in a time where we’re just oversaturating music. With Smoke, I’m in a haze but at the same time, I’m out that shit. I’ve been creating some fire shit. I decided to call it Smoke & Mirrors because in life everything is fucking smoke and mirrors. The Mirrors part is about reflection for me. In a time of, through the smoke, through the fire, through the breakups, through being on the road — all of that shit — it’s something that you’re moving so fast and you don’t have time to really breathe and appreciate it, take a moment to see how far you’ve come.

You seem to incorporate cars into your music, somehow. You have an EP called Cadillac, your debut album is titled Eldorado and your Smoke EP has a truck in the artwork. Is this all on purpose or by coincidence? 

Man, first of all, I love cars [laughs]. Me and my dad have that thing in common. I kind of tie that into all of my work. Everything I do is inspired by family and certain things — and myself. My father loves cars and my mother is really into fashion, so I got both.

Photo credit: Cheril Sanchez

How did you approach your second album? What was the process like compared to your first album?

I won’t say harder but it was different because Coke, Jack and Cadillacs was all me. I had nobody in my ear, concept-wise, saying “you should do this” or “you should put this here.” Eldorado was my first time going to the label saying “I don’t want to do this, this is who I am” and accepting their advice too, so we can create something timeless. My next album is the same process — growing with people who now are a part of your trajectory, your growth and who you are…I had a concept from the jump but the thing is finding the sound that matches the concept. It was definitely harder but I enjoyed the process and everybody …

Do you have a title set for your sophomore project?

I’ve been going back and forth between two titles but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Ro Mantic MP3.

Are there any features on the album?

I got some people I’m working with but I wanted it to come out with no features because I really wanted people to vibe to me, my sound and my feeling. I’m a rebel.

Follow Ro James on Instagram at @RoJamesXIX. Stream his Smoke EP below.

Exclusive: BJ The Chicago Kid Details ‘The Opening Ceremony’ and Teases New Album

It’s hard to believe BJ The Chicago Kid released his major label debut album, In My Mind, just two years ago. Looking back, the Motown Records artist had an impressive debut era. He went on a headlining world tour, earned three Grammy nominations — including “Best R&B Performance,” “Best Traditional R&B Performance,” and “Best R&B Album” — and racked up over 75 million streams on Spotify alone.

In January, he released a vulnerable track called “I’m Sorry” as a treat to his fans. “It’s a song that’s pathetically R&B,” BJ explains to Rated R&B. “I feel like it’s R&B at its most essential feeling,” he continues. “R&B is made to say the things that you can’t or don’t have the balls to say. It’s like you can’t figure out the words to say but somehow this writer and this artist makes this song say exactly how you feel. That’s a part of my job as an R&B singer.”

BJ most certainly doesn’t have an issue with tapping into his feelings. Earlier this month, he dropped three new songs collectively titled as The Opening Ceremony. The lyrically-rich project consists of “Going Once, Going Twice,” “Nothing into Something” and “Rather Be With You.” The songs are just a taste of what fans can expect on his next album that is slated to release later this year.

While fans get acclimated with his three new tracks, the R&B champion teamed with his colleague Ro James for their co-headlining The R&B Tour. Rated R&B caught up with BJ at his tour stop in Washington, D.C. In our interview, he dishes on The Opening Ceremony, his upcoming album, his fight for R&B and more.

If you could add one more artist to The R&B Tour, who would it be?

It would definitely be Luke James. That’s our brother. He’s going to pop up at one of these shows, I’m not going to say which one, but he’s going to pop out and have some fun with us.

What inspired the songs on The Opening Ceremony?

On “Going Once, Going Twice,” I was really eliminating some things in my life that I didn’t really need. I wasn’t necessarily auctioning things off but I thought it was a cool way of having a song in that type of phrasing…describing how auctioneers get rid of things.

“Nothing Into Something” is a song that says you were here with me at the start and right now having what we have is a beautiful thing. It’s about seeing the growth and evolution of our love.

“Rather Be With You” simply describes the feeling with her is like no other. It’s the one place you’d rather be versus anywhere.

Are these three songs tied to your upcoming album in any way?

Absolutely. This is not an EP. To let the secret out the bag, a lot of people put EPs out to see what songs stick with the people. These three songs are on my album.

What can you tell us about the album?

The album is incredible. I’ve grown. I’ve evolved. Life has evolved for me. I’ve grown and seen the world with my label Motown Records. It’s been an incredible asset to add to the music. I just can’t wait to put it out the right way.

Is there a title?

I can’t say yet.

Who are some producers you worked with?

Cool and Dre, Danja, Jarius Mozee, Tubb Young and Karriem Riggins.

Photo credit: Jack Beaudoin

The title of Opening Ceremony and its artwork seem to be inspired by the Olympics. Does the album play on that theme?

Everything I do is huge and worldwide. My first tour was a world tour. So, everything I do begins with the world — not just my community, not just my neighborhood, not just to the people I’ve met but it’s to the world.

You recently said you’re “fighting for R&B, not trying to change it, just push it.” What elements of R&B are you trying to preserve for the masses?

I’m trying to preserve very essence. Our forefathers and our foremothers have laid down such an awesome pedigree of what we should follow. I think it’s up to us to take the responsibility to evolve it, be ourselves and really take it to another level — be creative. Keep the people involved…slow song, fast song, it doesn’t matter. It’s how life has evolved away from me and has given us other opportunities and lanes to help it grow and express ourselves so we should use that.

Speaking of evolving, how would you say you’ve evolved since In My Mind?

Life evolving, my family evolving, my music evolving, my producers evolving…working with producers I’ve never worked with before that I’ve always idolized.

Stream The Opening Ceremony below.

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