Interview: Shaliek Rivers Talks Upcoming EP, Adding Own Twist Remake of MJ’s “Beat It”, Inspiration To Return As An Artist

Shaliek Marcus Garvey Park Summerstage NYC 2014


YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk with Shaliek Rivers as he prepares to release his upcoming EP “Don’t Wanna Be Famous”. The artist who was once signed to Universal Records discusses his journey in the music industry so far from working with the likes of Alicia Keys to not even wanting to be a solo artist anymore. Now that he’s back, he’s planning on bringing that throwback sound back with his 2011 style.

YKIGS: Let’s talk about the new EP you have coming up “Don’t Wanna Be Famous”. Talk to me about the overall sound of that EP?

SR: Basically I wanted to have a new, different sound that was my own. I pretty much went back and started working with producers that were pretty much popping back in the 90’s and I brought my 2011 to it. I wanted a throwback, underground type of sound when it came to production. You kind of think of a Jackson 5, Motown flavor. I love 50’s and 60’s music. Sam Cooke is one of my favorite singers. I put a little bit of that into the project. I have a new age flair to it, but it still is old school, timeless music.


YKIGS: You were mentioning that the EP is going to have a throwback feel but with your own flavor to it. I read one of the songs you kind of remade of “Beat It”. Talk to me about your version and what do you mean by your own twist to it.

SR: I rewrote the verses. I kept the elements of the same hook and we just pretty much reworked the concept of it. I’m talking about beat it like in a sexual, edgier type of way. I just took a chance. I kept the same elements, but I made it my own. Michael Jackson is the man, so I just had fun with the record. I just put a little twist on it and made it a little more edgy and young.

YKIGS: Give me some background on your current single “Spoke Too Soon” and how it came about.

SR: It’s funny because I was in the studio working with The Heatseekers and originally the record wasn’t supposed to be for me. We wrote it for another artist in my mind. Biggie and Junior Mafia did a record to that same sample with “Get Money”. When the beat came on, I was like “Yo we have to write to this!” At that time it wasn’t for me, I was out of the equation. I’m also a songwriter, let me jump to that. So when I heard it, I was like “We got to do this”. Then it kind of just came back into the circle and I was like “Fred Da Godson would be dope on this. He’s a hot rapper and I know he would kill this”. We haven’t worked on projects together, but we’ve been in the same studios and we kind of built a relationship so I reached out to him and he was with it, and the rest is history. He put his 16 on it. I thought he was going to put 16 on the end, but he put another 12 bars in the beginning and laced it and I loved it. I just had to run with it as the first single.

YKIGS: Another song I know you did is the song with Cheri Dennis “Love Don’t Believe”. How did that whole collaboration come about?

SR: I met Cheri when she was on Bad Boy and I was on Universal. We kind of met and clicked. Cheri came in and killed it. This is a record I’ve always loved. I actually recorded it about eight years ago and it’s always been one of my favorites. I felt it was relevant now. It’s timeless and that’s what I’m going for on the EP. It never got old, in fact I think it got even better with time. That’s one of the oldest records on the EP, but it’s one of my favorites.

YKIGS: Take me through your writing process.

SR: Normally I think of a concept or sometimes the melody comes first. I go into booth or in front of the mic, the track comes on and I just hum a melody. I don’t know where it comes from, it just comes out of nowhere. Sometimes there are words in the melody. I think of a concept and I just do it. My writing team The Hitters love concept driven records with good stories. Lyrically it has to be on point. We make sure all areas is covered. We’re not lazy writers. We really brainstorm and we’re telling stories in the studio as we’re writing.

YKIGS: I want to take it back a couple of years. What do you remember most about the creation of your debut album?

SR: Just working with phenomenal producers who paved the way for other people. Superstars like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. It was an amazing to just experience creating and writing with them. Then there’s Alicia Keys. I walked into the studio and she’s playing the piano, producing my song. I’m walking and her back is turned and I’m like “Oh is that her?!” She turned around like “Nice to meet you!” Stuff like that I’ll always remember. Working with Scott Storch and The Underdogs and meeting so many different producers and other songwriters. I collaborated with the best of the business and I’ll never forget that.

YKIGS: Unfortunately the album didn’t get a chance to come out. Why do you feel it didn’t come out?

SR: It just wasn’t time. I’m not going to blame anybody for it, I just don’t think it was time. You have to have a tight team and a good relationship and everyone has to be on one accord. The people in my life weren’t the right people. I didn’t want to do it again until it felt good and until I had a group of people that I trusted and had my back completely.

YKIGS: After your debut album, you turned to songwriting. We know there’s more money in songwriting, so why did you feel like you needed to come back?

SR: The artist in me never died. I thought it did. The whole idea of being an artist was like “I don’t want to do it.” Like you said, there’s a lot of money in songwriter. Financially, I was good and I had a publishing deal. I was going to be cool. People were always in my ear like “What are you doing? You’re not an artist anymore? You’re crazy!” In my back of my mind, I’m like “I’ll always be an artist”, because there are too many people around me encouraging me to be an artist so I just have to be inspired. One day it just came back. I don’t know where it went and I don’t know why it came back, but the inspiration came back. When inspiration hits you in your face, I had to respond. My inspiration came back to the music and to be an artist again.

YKIGS: We see a lot of artists these days using autotune and a lot of their music is club driven, do you think real singing can still survive?

SR: Oh yeah, it’s definitely on its way back. I’m just glad to be part of the return of a different sound. People not being afraid to be an individual and bringing their own vibe, and not doing what the blueprint is for that time. I’ve been doing this for so long and I’ve been exposed to many types of music, and I feel like I can bring my own vibe to the game. It will survive because we will support it. We’re going to make you like it.

YKIGS: Is the EP going to be followed up with an album anytime soon?

SR: The album isn’t in the works yet. We’re moving one step at a time. We’re shooting a video for one of the songs on the EP. The song is called “Can We Go Back?” I worked with a lot of different writers. I was on a mission to give great writers that I knew a chance to shine and to showcase their work. I know a lot of great writers, but the industry is so political and closed down so a lot of new writers don’t get a chance to showcase their work. This particular song was written by an amazing writer called J Smith. His song is on the project. Being an artist, being a songwriter and being someone who aspires to be anything, sometimes you get setbacks and sometimes things knock you down. It’s about staying in the game and I just wanted to give people some hope and that are kind of lost like I was. I was lost. About three years, I didn’t know what was going on and I was in my “Don’t Wanna Be Famous” stage. People contributing to the project are still the situation I was in, so it’s a special project to me.

YKIGS: Any advice you’d give to someone who might be in the situation you were in?

SR: Just think of yourself as a star already, just the world doesn’t know it yet. You have to be confident with your work and you have to not be afraid to be an individual and to create your own vibe and own lane. Stop being scared.

Follow Shaliek Rivers on Twitter @SHALIEKRIVERS