It’s a Beyonce and Rihanna world. Nobody knows this better than Amerie Rogers.
The trademarked long-legged singer has been label mates with one paparazzi-stalked pop diva on Columbia for the better part of the decade, and now she’s sharing roster space with another on Def Jam. Still, she’s always held her own in her own little Hip-Hop tinged corner in the fickle music circus that is R&B.
Unfortunately, after a very promising spark in the first half of her career the long-legged D.C.-reared military brat has mostly seen musical downs since her Rich Harrison-produced break-out single “1 Thing” peaked on the music charts four years ago.
She’s ready for a fresh start and so, Amerie is readying her third official U.S. release with In Love and War, due out in November on Def Jam Records. She tells us what happened.
The Smugger: You left Columbia and you have your new album coming up on Def Jam. To start off, just give me some background on your upcoming album In Love and War.
Amerie: The album, it’s pretty much about the ups and downs of love and growing pains.
Sonically , it’s Hip-Hop, Soul and Rock. A fusion of all three.
Why did you leave Columbia? You were supposed to come out with your third album Because I Love It but it only dropped overseas and not stateside. What happened?
Yeah, it didn’t come out stateside. It came out overseas and it was supposed to be released about five months after it released overseas but there were so many executive changes [at Columbia] that I just kind of was a little hesitant on releasing it. I didn’t feel like it would get the support that it needed. So you know, actually, they were pretty committed to supporting it but they wanted to release a single and then take a break because of the next quarter. I mean, it wasn’t so much not support but it was certain things that had to be done. You know, like every quarter has it’s budgets and things like that. I could see how that wasn’t going to work for the project. That’s what really made me decide to move on even though I had been thinking about moving to a new label for a couple years before hand. I made sure I thought about it for a long time before I made that move. At the time, speaking with LA Reid I was kind of figuring out if that’s what I wanted to do.
Why did they want to wait five months to put out a record in the U.S. especially when you had so much momentum going into that album stemming from the success of your second album Touch and the “1 Thing” single? That doesn’t make sense to me.
Because when they let the [European] market hear it the record company wanted to go with a single that we were not trying to go with here. They decided to go with it and we just let them do it. So we were like, “Um, okay”. Then it kind of picked up and we tried to time it so that we would going with our first single here in the U.S. so they would be on it as well and it would be their second single. But the timing was just all mixed up. We were thinking it would kind of be a slow build but it started to go fast. So we had to hurry. You ideally want it to be a simultaneous release. But the timing of it was a big difference. The timing wasn’t really right.
You lost a lot of momentum because of all of that. How are you planning to get your momentum back? You had to compete with Beyonce on Columbia and promotional resources and now you go to Def Jam where you have Rihanna and a bunch other R&B and Hip-Hop superstars on that label.
Well, the promotion budget at Def Jam are usually already allocated. It’s nothing like being at Sony where all the money goes to one artist. It’s definitely spread out. It just depends because you look at Sony and you can see, for urban artists, its not many urban artists at all. They’ve changed a lot. But even at the time it was Beyonce, but then you have someone like Def Jam, or well, Island/Def Jam because Mariah Carey is actually on Island so, its a couple females, not a lot, but you also have a very big rap roster. You got Kanye, Jeezy, Rick Ross, and Fab, they all exist on that one label. So, it can be done. It just depends on the company . Actually, Sony they haven’t really broken a lot of new urban acts since like 2001.Their urban department has been kind of shifty. Def Jam, they kind of specialize in working with urban music.
Did LA Reid play a big part on why you signed to Def Jam or did it have more to do with their marketing specialty you just spoke about?
LA Reid is pretty much the reason why signed to Def Jam. We talked about doing something in the future but I was already signed to Columbia. When the opportunity presented itself and I was absolutely sure that I wanted to leave then there were more serious conversations about it. But he is the reason how I came there and our conversations is how we made it happen. Def Jam has a great promotional staff and very great marketing staff. They are really really great at what they do and that is very very important. This is my first time working within that machine. But so far, I really like the way that they do it.
Do you think “Why R U” was received as well as you thought it would be? I know Funk Master Flex loved it, a lot of journalists loved it when they heard it.
I think it’s really good. Sometimes people release their music by going for adds in the beginning and they premiere it on a radio station. I never do that. How I was broken as an artist in the beginning was through the DJs. I always come with something for the DJs because they really support me .They are the ones who actually started me off. So, what I like to do is get it to the DJs first, and then let it go on mix shows then, let it go to the clubs and get it to anyone to who is spinning and let them live with it for a while.
Who did you work with on the album? What was your approach going into the record you were making over the last two years?
Creating the record, I just really wanted to talk about things that happened to me in the past, past situations. The album is largely autobiographical. I really wanted to talk about that kind of period, the growing pains period. I wanted to approach it from a very realistic standpoint. There are a couple of stories that a couple of close girlfriends have gone through in their relationships. Everyone goes through the same kind of thing. That’s why I called it In Love and War. That battle aspect of being in a relationship. I worked with Teddy Riley, The Buchanans, who produced “Why R U”, Warren Campbell, Jim Jonsin, Cool & Dre. I also collaborated with Fabolous and Trey Songz.
I know I didn’t see Rich Harrison’s name on the producer credits. He produced your first two albums and gave you “1 Thing”, your biggest hit to date, yet he’s missing from your last two projects. What is your relationship with him now and why haven’t you worked with him over this album?
This album he was more focused on his acts- a girl group named Richgirl and a young male singer Young Steff. I am actually signed to a company that that he and I co-founded. I’m actually signed to Def Jam through them. So he’s my business partner. But the next project I think it would be cool for us to get together.
I wanted to touch more on your bi-racial background. How did growing up in both Korean and Black cultural backgrounds help shape you?
Korean was my first language. I spoke that before I spoke English. I stayed in Korea until I was like three or four. My mother stopped speaking Korean so I took courses later on to learn to read and write in Korean. As far as growing up, you go through your fair share of teasing. I can say I was teased because I was biracial but you can be teased for having brown hair or because your hair is curly but it’s a part of growing up, I think. Kids can find a reason to tease you for anything. I never felt like I wasn’t Korean or I wasn’t Black. I always felt like I was both.
When coming out Eminem admitted that being White, at first, kind of worked against him but now his race works for him. Do you think that being mixed works for you or against you when trying to sell records? Does your label purposefully try to capitalize on your “exoticness”?
They never really push that. It’s not like I’m ever in front of the American or Korean flag like that.
Funny enough, many people don’t even know [about my racial background]. It’s not something that is pushed all the time.
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