R.L. of Next joined us recently for an exclusive interview on Instagram Live. As with all of our interviews with R.L. over the years this was an epic conversation.
The singer revealed that his group Next is working on a joint album with Naughty by Nature. You may remember that DJ Kay Gee of Naughty was the one who originally discovered Next and signed them to his Divine Mill label.
R.L. then went on to talk about his songwriting including the best song he wrote. He discussed the first two Next albums, what the group has in store next, and what to expect of his solo album. Check out what he had to say below!
R.L.: He’s my production partner. Everything I do now is with him. We’re doing the Naughty by Nature-Next album, I’ve even connected him with Kay Gee to where I think the first single is from me and Cook. He’s a producer, engineer and artist. He’s one of the most talented people I ever met. He let me write a few records for him. I don’t think he realized how dope he was. He let me push him vocally and the record came out great. It’s one of my favorite records that I’ve written aside from “I Can Change Your Life” by Lloyd.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s this Naughty by Nature-Next record? This is our first time hearing about this!
R.L.: I’m giving you exclusives! People always ask stuff like “So what’s up with Next, are you dong any new music?” I didn’t plan on it. We did a whole album, there are about 80 records. But Tweet did his hip hop thing and went in another direction. I focused on records for T-Low as well. Kay Gee hit me up and he’s the Godfather. When that name comes on the screen, everything stops! He had a great idea. We had a record we had done together and I did a few things for Treach as well. He wanted to do the joint project. I didn’t plan on doing anything else with Next besides for touring. But when big brother calls, you gotta move with it!
YouKnowIGotSoul: What is it like to balance your family and being an artist?
R.L.: I stay out of the way. I’m not as concerned about the privacy aspect. I just turned 43 last week and I’m having to retrain myself and everything I was brought up being taught. My momma taught me “They’ll see it when they see it, you know you got it, don’t nobody need to know your business.” Well social media is the place for the flex, you’re supposed to brag. I wasn’t raised that way. Online the way it is now with this generation and social media, everything you’re doing is old news if you don’t let it be known that day. As far as family, I’m mostly posting some funny meme or a picture of my daughter, or a performance I did that a fan posted. I’m scared of being online, to be honest. I’ll look at other people’s comments on another artists’ posts. Like Usher. I worked with Usher and I think he’s a great artist. It used to be that if you were accused of something, they’d have to see it happen. Now somebody can say something like you got a disease. Then everybody under your posts is saying the same thing, they want a response. I’m scared of that. I remember when my daughter was born. Somebody basically put a whole post up with a picture of me and her as a newborn in the hospital. They said it was a trick baby and I needed to take the baby back to the hospital. I’ve been in the game 20 something years. Every time that I feel bad about something that somebody says, I look at my life. I might not be #1 on the charts right now, but I’m making a great living on something I did 20+ years ago. People can say whatever they want about me, but when you start saying something about my little girl or my wife, it’s different.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Earlier you mentioned some of the best songs you wrote for other artists. Are there any others that come to mind? We always loved “Anything” by Jaheim.
R.L.: What’s funny is my record for Jaheim would have been “Remarkable”. I did that one too on the first album. But they ended up making it a duet with Terry Dexter. One of my other favorites though, because I’m really cool with Ginuwine, I did about five or six on his album “A Man’s Thoughts”. I misspoke earlier. The song “Orchestra” on that album is my favorite song I’ve ever written. But, in the mix, they made the music come in during the bridge. They messed up with the arrangement on the album. I have to listen to the demo version all of the time.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s been the hardest song for you to write?
R.L.: I’ll say this. Being with “B-Flat” I’m spoiled because he plays. We will have ideas and melodies. The hardest thing as a writer to write to is a loop. When you’re in with someone known as a hip hop producer with just a loop and sample playing, there is not a melody to follow to find yourself in the track. The advantage I have now is the lessons and class I had to take with Kay Gee because he would have a loop playing. I’m already scared because I’m already in front of the legendary Kay Gee, and he recorded the first album in the hood of East Orange, New Jersey! It made me push myself. Besides that, the one record I look back on that I had the most difficulty with, not because of the writing, because of the situation, it would be “Whatever” by Ideal. I wrote it for Next and it was a loop. It was a sample. I had already written 11 or 12 on the second album, but I came in and said “Listen, this is the record guys!” They said “No, we need to do this record called ‘After Party’”. The song went to Koffee Brown. I told Clive Davis it’s more Neo-Soul, it’s not really a Next vibe. We recorded it anyway. By then I had sold “Whatever” to Ideal. It came out a week before we went for adds, and literally the head of black music at Arista calls me going off. He was asking why I gave the record away! The guys didn’t want it for Next! I had felt it. I’ll be honest though I didn’t want “Too Close” to be a single! The only uptempo R&B that was poppin when I came up had a rapper on it, or it was Montell Jordan! Kay Gee knew radio. He taught me that. It became easy. I was a rapper first and I had a record deal for that! “Too Close” took 20 or 30 minutes, it was easy because of that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What do you remember most about Kay Gee’s Divine Mill label? It was like another version of DeVante Swing’s Da Bassment clique with acts like Next, Jaheim, Koffee Brown, Zhane.
R.L.: I remember sleeping on the floor in the back house. It was me, Tweet and T-Low. We had air mattresses, and Jaheim had a little bedroom next to us. Back then, we wouldn’t eat sometimes, we just wanted to work. When we first came in, Kay Gee had a group called Format. They had a record deal and they were supposed to come out and that was what the focus was. He did this Christmas record. I was just supposed to sing background with the guys. Gordon Chambers wrote the record, and they let me do a few ad libs. When I tell you, I let loose to the point where they restructured the song, gave us a verse, and Next was coming out! We started working on an album! God just shined on us. We were really the last on the totem pole, the new guys.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s your favorite non-single on Next’s debut “Rated Next”?
R.L.: That’s easy. After “Butta Love” it was supposed to be “Stop Drop & Roll”. I actually wrote that for Usher and they were supposed to put that on Usher’s second album but they wrapped it up too fast. Clive told us to record it. We had these little dance moves we’d do. We even performed it early on because we knew it would be a single. They kept promising and promising, then they promised it would be third, then they said they needed more of an adult contemporary song, which ended up being “I Still Love You”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What about “Cozy”?
R.L.: I like the interlude to “Cozy”. The funny thing is, the way I wrote that song was I get to New Jersey, we had never been out there. Everybody is talking about Moet, and that’s how I came up with the line “Ready, set, pour the Moet”. I didn’t know about Moet! We were drinking Ballatore which was $7 at the grocery store! That was one of my favorites, and I was taking different things I was taking from the east coast. “Lord have mercy”, all of that. I was really stealing the culture, I was a real culture vulture back then!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the second next album “Welcome II Nextasy” a bit.
R.L.: The problem with the release of that album was it wasn’t even promoted after the first single. That’s when Clive was ousted and he started J Records. We were the only group on the label with a project that just came out. We had a decision to make. We went to meet with L.A. Reid at Arista, and he didn’t know any of the songs on the album and it was on the top of the charts. Clive literally flew us out to his house in Connecticut. Him and his staff embraced us, so we stayed loyal. The problem was we were told that if we left, both labels would be promoting the album. In reality, Artista blocked J from promoting the album. Then, I found out from radio that people from Arista would call and tell them to play “Pop Ya Collar” from Usher instead of Next. Our own label did us like that. That’s where we lost our momentum. Top of the charts, top of the world, and a label situation happened beyond our control. We stayed loyal and it hurt us.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What else is going on with Next?
R.L.: We had a single last year and went Top 30 at Urban A/C and we funded it ourselves. We were just like putting a toe in the water. We were preparing to do a lot more. But what I’ve learned is that everything is about energy. I love my brothers and we’ll continue to tour, there’s no beef, you can do separate things and still come back together to get the bag. Tweet is more on a different vibe musically. People will say he doesn’t sing lead, but yes he does! He’s such an important part. If two are moving in one direction and one moving in another than they can’t all prosper. So I tried to convince T-Low that he’s the Teddy Bear. Women love his chubby self and he’s got an amazing voice. He taught me a lot about what I know. I told him let’s work on an album. He’s out in Phoenix somewhere riding his motorcycle and his pickup truck living life. He’s just chillin. I’ve been trying to get him to do it. Tweet is doing his motivational speaking and stuff. Me, I live and die in the studio. I can’t stop. Whether we are working on Lil Duval or Tyland. I’m just always creating. It’s no beef with the group, it’s not that we grew apart, it’s just that when you grow up, you have different ideas of what you want to do. Since we have different ideas it’s ok! That doesn’t mean later on we won’t come together. On stage, it’s great. At first, I was going to stop doing shows. It did hurt me doing 70 something records and then finding out others aren’t on the same vibe. It was a moment I had to step back. I did appreciate we didn’t go into something halfheartedly.