You can’t keep the soulfully stirring voice of Faith Evans down. While the veteran singer-songwriter has not released an album since her 2005 set, The First Lady, she is ready to re-enter the music scene on her own terms. After starting her own label Prolific Music Group, Faith signed a distribution deal with E1 Music (formerly Koch Records). With her new single “Gone Already” making the rounds, the former Bad Boy star, who has been called one of the most vocally gifted talents of her era, is going independent on her sixth work Something About Faith, due out in October.
Indeed, the former widow of the late hip-hop icon The Notorious B.I.G. is not one to stay silent. From experiencing R&B superstardom, coping with the tragic death of Big Papa, battles with Sean “Diddy” Combs to her 2004 arrest and redemptive return, Faith opens up on the stories behind her music.—Keith Murphy
Before my debut album, I was fresh out the church. I was born in Florida, but I grew up in New Jersey, so I had a tough edge. This is why I was able to survive in this big cipher of people that I had to work with at Bad Boy. The very first time I met Puff Daddy in 1992 I was pregnant with my daughter China. Her dad was a producer in Christopher Williams’ camp. Puff was producing a song on Chris’ last album on Uptown and I was in LA at the time, so they called me to the studio just to sing some background. Now mind you, I had no plans on trying to get a record deal. I didn’t think of myself as being a recording artist. I was just a girl who could sing and write songs. If I was going to end up being a lounge singer that would have been cool with me. I just did my part and that was it.
Close to a year later, my daughter was about a year old and her dad and his production crew were trying to get signed as producers to Bad Boy. I drove them to the studio, so I’m sitting in the lounge waiting with my baby while Puff was working on Usher’s first album. There was one background part that needed a female and they were like, ‘Mama, could do it,’ because that’s what they used to call me back then. I went in the control room, heard the part and said, ‘Excuse me Mr. Puffy [laughs]. Do you mind if I change it around?’ So, I went in the booth, rearranged the hook and added some parts and soon as I came out the booth, Puff pulled me to the side and asked me if I would be interested in signing to his new label.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah…I think so [laughs].’ Early on, I was very naïve in terms of the industry. I was nice to everybody. I thought everybody was my friend.
Puffy had me come back to finish working on Usher’s album and then I started work on Mary’s [J. Blige] My Life while my deal with Bad Boy was being worked out. When I write a song today, I have to think so much harder. But back then I used to make up songs off the top of my head. I would go in the booth and create a song from top to bottom, which is what I did with “You Used You Love Me.” After a couple of hours I came up with some ideas and found the basic melody for the chorus. Once I laid the harmony, I called Puff to tell him about my idea for the hook. He came in from the other studio and I just remember being in the booth building up the song. Puff must have called everybody he knew in New York in the industry when I was working on “You Used To Love Me”! I saw everybody from Andre Harrell to Q-Tip to Michael Bivins, who was with my current husband Todd [Russaw] at the time. I was just so nervous because I always recorded with the lights off. Once everybody started coming into the studio to listen to the song with that ‘Wow’ look on their faces, I knew it was special. I remember when “You Used To Love Me” was playing on the radio and Funkmaster Flex was dropping bombs on it like crazy. I was driving down Fulton Street in Brooklyn and I just started crying, ‘Thank you, God!’ That was my first time experiencing success. I knew that I had a gift, but I also knew that everybody doesn’t have to like what you do. For me to even go platinum was just incredible.