John Legend, Keyshia Cole, K. Michelle and Lalah Hathaway all have something in common — they’ve had songs penned by Guordan Banks. The Philadelphia native has got a lot of buzz lately with his chart-topping single “Keep You in Mind,” which reached number one on urban adult contemporary radio.
“I’m honored and thankful that I was able to reach that milestone,” Guordan tells Rated R&B, “It’s definitely an uplifting experience for me. I feel good that I am able to share my gift and that it’s being well-received.”
“Keep You in Mind” has been so well-received that R&B all-stars Chris Brown and Bryson Tiller have hopped on an official remix. The song comes ahead of Guordan’s debut album, Unpopular, which is scheduled to arrive soon.
In the meantime, Banks is set to join Fantasia on her The Definition Of Tour, which begins on November 19 at the Macon City Auditorium in Macon City, Ga.
Check out our interview with emerging singer below.
Being that you were born and raised in Philly. Did the city have any influence on your music?
Of course. Philly has given me so much of my soul. The culture and music in Philly definitely rubs off on me for sure.
“Keep You in Mind” was actually released back in 2014 on your mixtape, A Song For Everyone. What made you continue to push the song for as long as you did?
For me, it’s always listening to the people and listening to how they feel about the music. A lot of times we tend to have faith that we have all the answers when the answers are right in front of our face. It’s a song that a lot of people gravitated to.
Chris Brown and Bryson Tiller jumped on the remix of “Keep You In Mind.” How did this collaboration come together?
It was actually super organic how it all came about. I was in the studio with Chris about a year ago and played him “Keep You In Mind” and he loved it. I told him that it was going to be my single. Fast forward present day him and Bryson jumped on the record and now we’re here! It’s all been an amazing journey.
You teamed up with rapper Dej Loaf for your song “#WYWDT (Where You Wanna Do This?)” How did you two link up?
We did like five songs together before we got to that one. That song is just one of those songs where it feels good. It’s a dance record. Me and Dej have been friends for a little minute. I first met her on Instagram — this is before she had the big hit “Try Me.” I was like, “wow she’s dope.” I started listening to her music. We just became friends and now we got this hit together that’s about to be popping in the streets. I’m excited about that as well.
What’s the story behind your debut album Unpopular?
It’s pretty much how, for me, I stuck to who I was. I never tried to conform or fit in or be anyone else. I just stayed true to myself and my sound. A lot of the same people who love my music now kind of didn’t understand it then. But it’s OK because that’s how things happen. I just want to send a signal that stay true to yourself, believe in who you are, make the mirror your best friend…that’s how you really get to identify with true love within yourself. One day people will see it and you will inspire someone else to be themselves. I think that’s a short story of why I named it Unpopular.
Is there any song on the album that you think will shock fans?
I think the [album] will be a breathtaking experience. I would love to give the people something special. Hopefully, they’re not shocked and expect greatness.
Is there a release date for Unpopular?
No date yet but trust it will be well worth the wait!
You’re joining Fantasia on tour. How have you been preparing for that? What can people expect from you?
I been on the road all year on promo so now I’m taking the time to prep my voice while finishing up the album. This tour is going to be amazing and I want to make sure fans get everything they’re coming for and more! So we’re pulling out all the stops and bringing it back to real R&B!
Justin Love’s passion for singing dates back to the age four. “I got started because my mom is a vocalist,” he reveals to Rated R&B. “She’s nobody big but she just sang around the house. My whole family always knew to never pick up on their birthday because she would leave a voicemail singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ Growing up, watching her do that, made me want to do the same thing.”
Love’s “Happy Birthday” performances would eventually evolve into him becoming a singer, songwriter and producer. The New Jersey native’s work has been praised by Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Jermaine Dupri and others. He recently co-wrote H.E.R.’s hit single “Focus,” which has over 25 million streams on Spotify.
The 22-year-old now plans to ‘focus’ more on his own music this year with his new EP, When Love Returns. In our interview with Love, he dishes on working with H.E.R. his new single “Models” and forthcoming project.
You co-wrote “Focus” with H.E.R. How did that come about and what was your experience working with her?
She had came to one of my shows earlier in my career and her management actually stopped me when I was walking in the city one day and told me that she was upstairs in the studio. He was like, “Yo. Come check her out. I think you guys will vibe well together.” I’m a spontaneous person so I took my spontaneous ass right upstairs. We caught a vibe real quick. We set up another studio session and we wrote like two or three songs that day. It was just dope. The vibe with her is just very quick and very powerful. We knew that anything we wrote down and put out was going to be something.
You just dropped two songs — “The Weekend” and “Models.” What inspired those records?
“The Weekend” — I hit a point in my life where I was just dealing with women that would take care of me. That song is inspired by that stage of my life where I had a suga mama or two just taking care of whatever I needed.
“Models” — We were on set shooting a video for “Stripper Girl” in LA. Me and my boy Nate were looking at these models. We were like, “Damn. They look good as hell.” He was like, “Pretty soon we’re only going to be fucking with model bitches and you need to make a song about that.”
Tell us about your project When Love Returns. What stories are you trying to tell?
My fan base has been waiting for me to drop material for a long time. When Love Returns is literally the return of love. I haven’t dropped material in a good two or three years because of a situation I was in. I was legally tied to working with other people I didn’t want to work with. I couldn’t blatantly say that to my fans, though. I could only hint that towards them at least at that time. Now, I can say whatever I want. I was just legally bound to people. When Love Returns is just the return of me showing the world that I’ve been working and I’m here to stay. I’m going to give a bunch of different vibes. They’re going to get a little iSingHipHop, which is my hip hop-singing shit.
Who is iSingHipHop vs Justin Love?
iSingHipHop is my bread and butter. I’m not a rapper but you know there’s rap singers these days. I can sing bars. iSingHipHop is me singing bars and Justin Love is my mature R&B side.
Are there any collaborations on the project?
No collaborations on the project. If there’s anybody I give credit to I really genuinely appreciate all of the producers that were a part of this project .
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.
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.
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.
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.