Interview: La’Porsha Renae is Already All Ready

It’s been almost a year since La’Porsha Renae was named runner-up on the 15th and final season of American Idol. Although she didn’t come in first place, Renae won over a lot of fans with her incredible voice and inspirational story.

Throughout the show, viewers got a chance to learn more about Renae’s personal life, which includes surviving a domestic violence relationship.

“I learned how much of an inspiration an artist can be to people,” Renae tells Rated R&B. “I was very open about it for the sake of inspiring others and encouraging others who are in a situation like mine to get out.”

Renae’s undeniable talent landed her a recording contract with 19 Recordings/Motown Records and she is now gearing up to release her debut album, Already All Ready, on March 31. The album will feature her singles “Good Woman” and “Somebody Does,” which was written by Ne-Yo.

“The title Already All Ready was chosen because many of what I just named is not considered to be ideal or socially popular when describing a rising star,” Renae said in a statement. “I embraced everything that I thought would hold me back from pursuing my dreams, and used my insecurities to give me the courage to inspire and advocate for others who possessed many of the same insecurities I had. I also wanted to honor single mothers and defy the stereotypical dress code of a thick, brown-skinned, single mother and domestic violence survivor. I’m proud of my curves, my daughter, as well as the harsh past that helped shape me into the strong woman I am today.”

In an interview with Rated R&B, Renae shares more details about her debut album, how she overcame insecurity, her experience as a single mother in entertainment and more.

Check out the interview below.

RATED R&B: While you were on American Idol, we learned about some of your trials and tribulations leading up to the show, which included surviving a domestic violence relationship. How much of that is reflected on your album?

Not much at all because I didn’t want to give that much time to it and that much energy to it. During Idol, I was very open about it for the sake of inspiring others who are in a situation like mine to get out. Now, it’s a different chapter. I really wanted to show the other sides to me like the goofy, bubbly side of me that people didn’t really get to see on Idol — because it was kind of focused on my past relationship.

RATED R&B: Describe your experience recording your first album.

It was fun. It was a little difficult at times because you have creative minds clashing and trying to figure out which way to do everything. All of us wanted the same thing at the end of the day and we are really proud of how it turned out.

 

RATED R&B: Who are some songwriters and producers you worked with?

Some songwriters I worked with were Toby Gad, Ne-Yo, Diane Warren and Harmony Samuels. I had some really, really good writers.The producers I worked with for most of the album were Harmony Samuels and MAJOR.

RATED R&B:What do you want people to take away from the album?

I want them to take away a glimpse of who I am — not just that, but I want them to go on the journey with me. I want them to feel what I felt in each song. At the end of the day, if I can’t portray that emotion to them and make them feel something, then I don’t feel like I’ve done my job as an artist. I definitely want people to be inspired and aspire to be the greatest version of themselves. I hope they get all of that or some of that from the album (laughs).

RATED R&B: You said your album cover represents your past insecurities. How did you overcome those insecurities?

On Idol, a lot of my insecurity came from the fact that I was abused. As a victim, you kind of feel like you wear that on your forehead. You feel like that’s what defines you and that’s what people see when they look at you. Plus, being a thick woman, a single mother, someone who wears natural hair and having brown skin…which is evidently frowned upon here in this country by some — all of that, I had insecurities about. I felt like those were against me when it came to this industry and being accepted and all of that.

RATED R&B: What advice would you give to someone dealing with those types of insecurities?

I guess to overcome insecurity, you have to kind of fake it until you make it. What I mean by faking it until you make it is starting off I didn’t have that confidence. I faked that confidence until it became real. I just had to become nonchalant about it and hope that people would see past all of those things — they eventually did.

RATED R&B: When you shared the album cover on social media, there were some people who felt like you were exploiting your daughter by having her on the cover. How do you deal with the negativity and opinions that come with social media?

I’ve always been the kind of person who has accepted other people’s opinions. When people have certain options about me like they did the cover, I will have a conversation about it because I want to be known as that real down-to-earth person. A lot of people thought I exploited my daughter by putting her on my album cover. I just kindly explained to them, it was more of an honor. I wanted to honor my daughter because she was the reason I got out of that abusive relationship.

While I was in that relationship, I always found a way to blame myself. I always found a way to say, “I deserve what’s happening to me.” But when my daughter came…I feel like God gave her to me to give me something to fight for because I wasn’t fighting for myself. I didn’t want to accept her being hurt because she didn’t deserve it. I knew for a fact there was nothing I could say when it came to her being subjected to that kind of abuse and that kind of environment, so I had to get out. That’s what the cover was about. It was about honoring the fact that we did this journey together. She was the reason I went to Idol. She’s the reason why I blew up and had the opportunity to have this career that I’m starting.

RATED R&B: How do you balance motherhood with your career?

I just make sure that when I’m not working, I give my undivided attention to my daughter. A lot of the times she will travel with me, so I’m really not away from her all that often. It helps that I have a good support system. I have my sister, my mom and my dad. We all just make sure she’s in a very loving, comfortable environment. My mom is my travel babysitter so she’s always with someone she knows.

Get La’Porsha Renae’s debut album Already All Ready here.

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

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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.

Ne-Yo Struggles With Being a ‘Good Man’ in New Video

Fresh off the release of his new album Good Man, Ne-Yo debuts a visual for the title track. The black and white clip shows Ne-Yo having a hard time writing an apology letter to his leading lady after doing her wrong.

“This video is about the wrongs we do and the potential danger that comes with,” Ne-Yo said. “It’s about remorse for our wrongs and the mental (or physical) letter we write to the person we’ve wronged but also to ourselves to remind us of what it is we need to be for that person. In the case of myself, a Good Man. It’s a struggle. It’s a process. But love is worth it.”

See Ne-Yo fight to prove he’s a “Good Man” below.

Listen to Ne-Yo’s New Album ‘Good Man’

The wait is over! Ne-Yo has released his seventh studio album, Good Man. 

Over a course of 20 tracks, the singer-songwriter takes listeners on a journey through the highs and lows of love. The album includes guest appearances  from PartyNextDoor, Eric Bellinger, Candice Boyd, Sam Hook, Bebe Rexha, Stefflon Don and Romeo Santos.

Elaborating on Good Man, Ne-Yo said, “This album focuses on the journey of what it is to be a good man: a good man to your spouse, a good brother to your brother, a good person to the world. I am not proclaiming to be perfect. A good man makes mistakes, learns from those mistakes, therefore to not then repeat those mistakes. Being a good man is a journey.”

Last month, Ne-Yo landed his first-ever No. 1 single on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart with “Good Man.” The DJ-Camper produced track topped the chart for three weeks.

Stream Good Man below.

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