Meelah RnB Spotlight 2012

YouKnowIGotSoul Interview With Meelah (from 702)

Meelah Syleena Johnson Couples Therapy Album Listening NYC 2014-2

Boy that Twitter is a powerful weapon. Imagine a recording artist stepping out of the limelight for over seven years only to begin recording again and have instant access to their fan base like they never left. Yep it’s possible these days, and Meelah is living proof based on the constant love she’s getting from her supporters who are proving they haven’t forgotten about her. Ok to be fair this isn’t just any artist, it also helps that she’s super talented, has an amazing voice, and created a handful of classic songs while part of 702. Now back in the studio and prepping her debut solo album, she’s more excited than ever to show those supporters she didn’t forget about THEM! In this great interview, she discussed the circumstances that lead to the demise of 702, the magic she’s creating in the studio with her boyfriend Musiq Soulchild, trying different things sounds while still creating music that will please 702 fans, what took her so long to get on Twitter, and the truth behind the rumored 702 track with Aaliyah “Candy Girls.”

YKIGS: Since you’re no longer part of the group 702 and you’ve embarked on a solo career, tell me about what you’re currently working on.

Meelah: Well, I’ve just been being mommy for the last two years; I’ve just totally shifted my focus into parenthood. I took a break for awhile and now I’m finally ready to get back out there, I’m just having withdrawals, I’m like feining and itching *Laughs* to release some new music and do what I love again. So currently I’ve been in the studio, finally, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with some awesome people and people are waiting patiently and they’re showing me so much love and interest and support which only ignites my fire and makes me hungrier. I’m so humbled and honored that people even want to hear from me, it’s been such a long time. I’ve just been working on some new solo material and hopefully I could share some with you all soon, give you all some little teasers, get some feedback, that would be cool.

YKIGS: You were speaking about being a mommy, how do you feel that being a mother has affected your career and how has that altered your plans? Take me through that.

Meelah: It definitely affects your career…well I guess everybody’s different, it depends on the individual as well. For me, it doesn’t stop your life, it definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue your dreams anymore, but it does kind of alter things. Because I know for me, I’m no longer my number one priority, it’s about my son now and it just kinda alters things. I have to think about him first before I go to the studio or just jump on a plane or do things spontaneously as I used to, I have to say “Ok wait a minute, let me make sure my son is straight, let me make sure he’s good and he’s not going to be lacking anything from my end, my love, my attention, my affection.” It just makes you have to think twice before you just say “Oh ok well I’m going to do this and do that!” Nope. *Laughs* Like hold up, let me check on my son first. But thankfully I’m not doing it alone, I have a great support system, my mother actually just relocated from Las Vegas for me because she knows that I want to get back into this music thing so she’s like my number one fan so she’s like totally dropped everything she’s doing in her life in Vegas and came out her to help me with him. And also I am with his father, so thankfully I’m not a single mom, so that’s always great as well, so I’m very blessed.

YKIGS: Talk to me a little bit about 702 and at what point you decided to leave the group and go on a solo career.

Meelah: Well 702’s last record was in 2003 which I still can’t believe, oh my goodness, the time flies! Our last release, which unfortunately kinda fizzled and burned before it even had a chance to see the light of day, it was our album I like to call our ‘let’s try again’ album. We had some pretty decent success, but unfortunately after the second one, like after the rise of “Where My Girls At,” things started taking a turn for the worst unfortunately on the business side of things, and within the group and we just started to have some problems. I think that took a toll on us in so many ways, emotionally, personally, visually. So we had been going through some things for awhile and I decided that I was at a point where it just wasn’t healthy for me to be a part of the situation anymore. Instead of staying in an unhealthy environment, I decided to just walk away and especially after the last album had such disappointing sales that put the cherry on top of the cake. It was like ok, this is not working, we tried a third time and it’s just unfortunate everybody’s fighting, and not to play the blame game and say “oh well it didn’t work because of this, that and the other,” it just didn’t. So I got to the point where I decided I still have to live, I still have to make a living and I kinda just took a mental break for awhile, I just stepped away for a minute. Then I decided a couple of years ago, I’m like “Ok, this is what I love to do, this is my passion, clearly this is what God gave me this gift for.” So I didn’t want to just all together stop singing and stop doing music because 702 had kinda dissipated and reached our demise as a group. So I said ok, I’m going to carry on. A lot of people have this misconception that I left the group because I was the lead singer and I had this ego of like “Well I sing everything anyway, so I’m going to go solo, I don’t need the girls!” And that’s definitely the very last thing that it was, like I said we just had too many problems and everywhere we looked, like left, right, it was just problem after problem and it got kinda ugly and I was like this is not even worth it. So the ladies went on and lived their lives and I continue to pursue music, so I’ve been so grateful like I said earlier that I’m even able to try at this thing again, I just feel really blessed.

YKIGS: Let me just say though that the third album you guys did, “Star,” definitely should have done a lot better than it did. And the single “I Still Love You” I just think a lot of people didn’t get it, but that single was amazing.

Meelah: A lot of people didn’t get it that is so true, thank you so much I really appreciate you saying that. It was a tossup between that and “Star” which was both written and produced by The Neptunes, but the label was just kinda torn between which one should have been the first single because I think they already decided that “Star” was going to be the first single but “I Still Love You” was getting a lot of positive feedback. So at the last minute, they were like “Oh maybe we should make it ‘I Still Love You’” and everybody was confused, we were like “Oh I don’t know!” I love “I Still Love You” that was one of my favorite records on that album, but I think being we had been gone for so long I think we had had like a three year hiatus and we were just so concerned like “Ok, are people going to understand ‘I Still Love You,’ is it too slow, what do we do?” At the end of the day the label has the last say *Laughs* and they went ahead with “Star” but they didn’t really push it and it just flopped and they didn’t want to spend any more money after that so they didn’t care that “I Still Love You” was doing such great things on its own, they were like “Budget closed, next!” *Laughs* It’s so sad, it was just over as quickly as it began. Hey, everything happens for a reason I guess. *Laughs*

YKIGS: How would you describe the sound of the music you’re doing solo in comparison to the sound fans are used to hearing from 702?

Meelah: You know I can’t even really put it into any type of descriptive verbalization for you honestly. It’s not a huge departure from what I was doing with 702, however it’s growing, it’s something that is definitely an evolution because I wanted to establish my own sound. However I did want to consider 702’s core audience and what made people fall in love with us. So I’m trying to stay true to that but at the same time I’m being very experimental and thinking outside of the box and not doing the things that people are pretty much expecting or thinking I’m going to do because I was with 702. I think a lot of sounds that a lot of producers that I’ve sat with like to throw me is stuff that’s I guess is typical of 702 and I’m kinda like “No, I’m not that girl, I don’t listen to just r&b.” I love listening to all genres of music, I am very open when it comes to doing different and new things and innovative things, but I’m still kinda experimenting. I haven’t really pinpointed my sound to a tee yet, but it will definitely be no matter what the music sounds like, full of soul, full of beautiful harmonies, and hopefully you get to feel the passion, the conviction and the love that I put into it. *Laughs*

YKIGS: On your Twitter I’ve been reading about how you’ve been in the studio with personal favorite of mine, and that’s Musiq Soulchild. Tell me what that experience has been like, the sound he’s helping you create, and how you guys work together.

Meelah: Oh my goodness, such a blessing and honor to do this, like a living legend sitting next to me, he is so talented. It’s been really cool, that’s another guy that would you wouldn’t even imagine, I mean you know he’s musical, but I think a lot of people have this perception of him being just a certain type of musical because he was stuck in genre when he first came out and labeled as Neo Soul so a lot of people think we’re going in that direction. He’s so versatile and he’s been producing tracks for me and I just know people are going to be shell shocked like “Who did that? Musiq Soulchild did not do that track!” *Laughs* So we’ve been just experimenting and just doing all types of different music together because he’s the father of my son as well, so it’s just been interesting because we’re together, we have a baby together. *Laughs* We live together, we decided to work together now, it’s so interesting because I don’t see him as Musiq Soulchild now, not anymore, I’m still a fan but now it’s like that’s my boo and my baby daddy! *Laughs* But when we’re in the studio and I see him, there’s Musiq Soulchild, he’s totally different in the studio, he gets in there and just wow, he puts on all hats and dude is so super quick and talented, the things that he comes up with are insane. So we’ve just been writing songs together and creating what we think will be just refreshing to hear. It’s been a really great experience, I’m learning from him, I’m really learning a lot from him, he introduced me to so many new things and different artists and different types of music and different ways to approach music. It’s totally opened my eyes to a lot of different things in terms of just speaking the music language.

YKIGS: I hate to ask but can you give me the inside scoop on when his album is coming out? *Laughs*

Meelah: *Laughs* I don’t mind you asking it’s cool! People are waiting and itching to hear that music, so I don’t mind you asking. He’s actually finishing up, he’s been working on it for awhile now and you all will not be disappointed. I can’t give you a date because he doesn’t have a date yet, but hopefully soon. I know when we’re out and about and people come up to him, he will say hopefully the top of the new year. Hopefully he’ll have something soon within the next couple of months, they should be wrapping things up, they should be ready to release. *Laughs*

YKIGS: Cool, thank you! Talk to me a little bit more about Twitter. You last released the album with 702 back in 2003 and now you’re coming back. What type of love have you been getting from fans on Twitter, because it’s a totally different way to interact with your fan base. Tell me about that.

Meelah: It is totally different. Honestly I just joined Twitter this year back in May so I’m kind of late. For whatever reason I was kinda anti-social network, I wasn’t on Facebook, I wasn’t on Twitter, I just wasn’t into it, I was like thanks but no thanks. *Laughs* I had to soon slap myself and figure out this is the way to connect with your supporters, this is the way to reconnect with the people that truly love 702. I learned that, as soon as I got on Twitter, I’m talking about in a matter of minutes, I got so much, it was like an outpour of love and positivity. It’s so funny now because I used to be like I’m not getting on Twitter, and not I’m addicted! *Laughs* I’m addicted to it now and my manager Cory tells me all the time because it’s like “Look, you need to be on Twitter even more, you gotta just really make yourself available and speak to your fans.” It’s not that I don’t love them back, I promise you, I’m a mommy now and I make that the excuse for everything but I just get a little preoccupied at times! *Laughs* It’s like you know what, this is what people Tweet about, they Tweet about every little thing that’s happening in their lives. *Laughs* So I’m like alright, I gotta step my Twitter game up, I gotta get my account verified, I’m going to Tweet everything! *Laughs* So I mean I’ve had a good experience, now I find myself on Twitter more than Facebook. I’m guilty of being biased and partial, I’m partial to Twitter now, I love Twitter! I wouldn’t even have been able to hook up with you and do this interview if I hadn’t been on Twitter! *Laughs* Honestly, I’ve done a few interviews via Twitter, I’ve had three or four others all set up via Twitter, so shout out to Twitter! *Laughs*

YKIGS: *Laughs* Besides Musiq, is there anyone else you’re currently working with in the studio or people you’d like to work with for this album you’re working on?

Meelah: Oh my goodness, I’d like to work with so many people, but I’ve gotta be real, I’m just so excited. I live a lifestyle of the cliché but I’m so serious, I’m just so happy and feel so blessed to be doing this again. I’m willing to work with anybody that wants to work with me. Seriously, it doesn’t’ even have to be an A-list, big name producer, I just want to work with whoever is just as excited about working with me as I am with them. So I’m just in the business of making good music, it aint even about a popularity contest and all of the name dropping “Oh I got this person and this person and this person on my album!” I just want to get in and create magic. However *Laughs* of course a girl can dream, I’d love to work with Will. I. Am., I think he’s incredible at what he does. I actually got the chance to reconnect with Missy, I mean she’s like a sister now, we have such a chemistry. I’ve been knowing her since…when did she come into my life, like ‘96, ‘95? So off the bat we just have chemistry so we’ve been working together, not on a consistent basis, but here and there, she’ll reach out and I’ll go out and work and start vibing. We haven’t completed anything yet *Laughs* but we are off to a great start so I’m excited about that. I’m in Atlanta now, based in Atlanta now, I was in L.A. for the last two years and I just moved to Atlanta about a year and a half ago. This is like the little capital for producers and songwriters and it’s just like everybody is out here. I have yet to make my rounds because a lot of people still don’t know I’m out here. So I need to holla at The Dream *Laughs* and Tricky, all them dudes. I would love to work with that camp. So far I’ve just been working with up and coming producers and I’ve been working with producers that aren’t necessarily up and coming but they’ve been around for awhile and they’re just so low key that you wouldn’t know them like that, but you know their music. So I’ve been just trying to make my rounds like I’ve said. Right now I have a wide selection of producers that I’ve been dealing with and I’m not finished yet, I’m going to try everybody I can, I don’t care if I have 60 songs! *Laughs* I’m just trying to work with everybody, so if you’re listening and you’re interested, I’m open to submissions. People have been asking me about that on Twitter, they’ve been wanting to submit things and I’m definitely not one to just turn anybody down just because, I don’t mind listening at all and if I feel like it’s something that I want to do, by all means I’m going to try and make it happen.

YKIGS: How can they reach you to submit something?

Meelah: They can e-mail lyrics, production, whatever to meelah.w@gmail.com.

YKIGS: So I wanted to talk to you about after your second album with 702, you took a little bit of a hiatus and I know you were working with Faith Evans. Tell me about what that experience was like.

Meelah: You know it’s such a small music world, I actually worked with her with 702 as well. She wrote a song for 702 maybe for the second album, we ended up not using it but we would always sing it acapella, we just loved it even though it didn’t make the album. We met her through Missy back in the day so I kinda already knew her. Then once I was on my little hiatus, we kinda reconnected and at the time she had a management company which was managed by her and her company. She’s just vocally a beast and all around an amazing artist to me so I felt so lucky to even be under somebody with that type of celebrity. I just always looked up to her, even in high school I looked up to her music, she was just dope. So I got the privilege of writing with her on a lot of her stuff, co-writing with her so that was something that I’ll never forget and I was with her for a couple of years and eventually like everything else it ran its course. But I was so grateful to have been able to be under that umbrella, see her in action and writing and how she gets down in the studio, so that was just so dope.

YKIGS: As a huge fan of Aaliyah, I’ve just got to ask you about a rumored song “Candy Girls” that you were supposed to work on with her or it was completed and never got released. I’m not sure about the background but I was hoping you could fill me in on that.

Meelah: Umm, I don’t know, I never heard of that one!

YKIGS: Yea, because it’s on your profile here.

Meelah: With Aaliyah? You know what, people put things on Youtube, you know that and they run with it, it’s all type of stuff that I discover on Youtube about me and I’m like “What? Where did they get this?” Of course I’d established a cool little friendship with her though Missy of course, we’d be around each other here and there and in the studio and she gave 702 a cameo appearance in her “If Your Girl Only Knew” video. So I definitely was around her but as far as working with her, I’ve never worked with her musically. But the closest connection I can say I did have to her musically was when I did a song with Missy, it was myself, Missy and Ginuwine and it ended up being the song Missy released when Aaliyah passed away, it was dedicated to her.

YKIGS: “Take Away.”

Meelah: Yea “Take Away.”

YKIGS: Ok, I guess that rumor was false then unfortunately. *Laughs*

Meelah: Yea! Oh my gosh I would have loved to have worked with her in some kind of way, oh my gosh, she was just such a sweet spirit.

YKIGS: Now I want to ask you about “Steelo.” When you first were coming out with the track, did you expect it to become the hit that it became to the point where to this day people still consider it a classic?

Meelah: Can I just say, that is STILL my jam, ok! *Laughs* I love “Steelo,” it’s just something about that record to me. And maybe I’m saying this because I was a part of making it happen, but I really feel like how many years later, it came out in ’96, this is 2010, almost 2011, over ten years later, to me I still feel like it goes hard, I just do. I’ve been to places in New York at clubs or overseas even out at a party and randomly they’ll just play it, and it still sounds good to me! *Laughs* You know how you can hear something from back in the day and you still enjoy it but you can tell it’s a little dated, that’s an old school joint. To me “Steelo,” there’s just something about it that’s has this current appeal. Did I think it was going that big? No, I wasn’t even thinking about the level of success, I just knew I was 17, I had a record deal, I had just graduated high school and I was like this is the life! I’ve got a song on the radio, and I was on my way to college and instead I took a detour and I’ve got an album out! It was so much going on that I wasn’t even thinking about the success of the song, I wasn’t thinking about if this was really happening or what is happening right now. *Laughs* So oh my God, I was just happy that we got to work with Missy on that one and that’s kinda like where that sound started, that sound came from with 702. She was on that record at the time and that was back when she was getting ready to blast off with her career. What I will say is I didn’t know that her career was going to end up how it did. Not because she wasn’t talented, she was just so talented as a song writer and a producer, but just because oh my goodness, we established such a close relationship and we were friends back then, and she was like your homey. *Laughs* And all of the sudden she’s this huge hip hop female legend, oh my goodness it’s crazy, people just blow up right before your eyes and it’s like wowww. I’m just happy we were able to get her for a minute before she blew up like that. *Laughs*

YKIGS: Let me just ask you, through your association with Missy, because I’m a huge supporter of the group Playa and also Static who passed away, did you ever have a chance to work with Static or know him?

Meelah: I did not get a chance to work with Static. When I tell you that was one of the most talented writers I have ever crossed paths with, he was so talented. I think I may have been around Playa a couple of times here and there just because we were around Missy and Tim over the years and I would see them sporadically in the studio or something. But I ran into him when I was still living in L.A. probably about three or four years ago. I was out and I ran into him and I stopped him and said “I’m about to start working on some new music again, I really, really want to work with you man.” He showed me nothing but love of course and he was like “Absolutely” and we exchanged numbers. Unfortunately it never got a chance to happen, but I think he’s so dope. I was so happy for him when “Lollipop” came out, I was so excited for him. That was the dude, gone too soon, so talented.

YKIGS: Thanks for sharing that. That’s all the questions I had, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Meelah: Nope, other than the fact that I’m finally back in the studio and hopefully I’ll have something to share with everyone soon. If you’re not following me on Twitter already, please do so I so appreciate the support and that’s @ItsMeelah. I’m also on Facebook at Facebook.com/Meelah. Also I just did a little photo shoot with Derek Blanks a couple of months back, you can check out some of the pictures on my Facebook. I’m actually going to probably shoot with him again, some more stuff, I’m all into experimenting and trying new things, I want to go and try a different look. I think I need a different look, I think I’ve been looking the same since 702. *Laughs* Which is not a bad thing, I’m grateful that I can still pull it off but I’m just really interested in wanting to just try some new things. I just want to say thank you to everybody for all of the love and support, like I said it’s been an outpour of positive vibes and I’m just so grateful. Thank you so much to all of you guys who are following me on Twitter, and even if you’re not it’s all good just thank you for hearing what I’ve got to say. And thank you so much DJ Slam for wanting to do this interview with me.

YKIGS: No problem, thank you so much Meelah for this great interview, I really appreciate it and best of luck, I’m really looking forward to hearing the new music.

Meelah: I am too, I’m so excited like foreal, foreal this is the most excited I’ve been, I really think so. I’ve recorded over the years, while I was on my hiatus I’d always go in the studio but now it’s just I don’t know, I’m just really super excited, maybe the inspiration is different, the motivation is different. I can’t wait to hear what everybody thinks.