R&B has experienced a Renaissance lately, but what do you think is still missing?
More young artists. More talented artists. Back in the day, you had Anita Baker. You had so many of the greats. Luther Vandross! So many great performers vocally that were incredible, as well as incredible producers like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley. R&B had a lot of elements to it. Now, it's just, "Let me sing all over this record, and hopefully I can get signed and sell many records." The passion and the love for storytelling, the passion for understanding that we don't do hip-hop--we love hip-hop, but we're not hip-hop. We can talk about rapping, but we can't really show and live that particular life that they're trying to live.
I wrote great, beautiful songs--"I Wanna Know" and "All The Things (Your Man Don't Do)"--but I'm ballin'. I'm riding around in crazy whips. It's that life, but I don't want to talk about that on records, and I feel that R&B is taking that route. Talking about what their lifestyle as opposed to the real deal. Marvin Gaye, not only did he talk about love, he talked about the world. What's happening? What's going on? We’re missing quite a few things.
Do artists like Miguel or Frank Ocean fit into the traditional mold of the genre?
I gotta commend Miguel and Frank because of what they’ve done. They’ve touched and embraced that old sound. And they’re trying to introduce that into their generation. So I give them a lot of credit. I love what Frank is doing. I love what Miguel is doing. I love what Bruno Mars is doing for his generation, his own market. There are a few artists that get it. They understand it's about the music. It's about trying to do something that's in your own lane. Not trying to be a Chris Brown and an Usher at the same time, but be in your own lane. Chris and Usher are doing dance music now. They can do anything. But I don't think [people] want to hear me sing a dance record, even though I could. I don't think they want to hear John Legend sing a dance record or Anthony Hamilton unless it's the right one; if it's soulful enough.
What do you want to bring back to R&B?
Class. R&B was very classy, very stylish, elegant, respectful. Artists that I've met that are legends, when they speak, you listen. I want artists to really take into consideration longevity. Try to stay around a long time. You may be selling great now, but five years from now, nobody could care less about you. So set yourself up that from five years from now, it doesn't matter what you do, they’re still gonna love you.
Your Chico DeBarge duet “No Guarantee” is a favorite among R&B heads. Have you spoken to him?
No, I haven't spoken to Chico. It's been a while. I have a show coming up with the DeBarges. I'm not sure if he'll be there. I love that brother; he's a good guy. That family has been through a lot. I just hope and pray that he's doing okay.
Would you do another collaboration with him?
Oh yeah! Absolutely. That's my dude. I think my fans loved that look. That was a good look: dark skinned, light skinned. That was the best of both worlds.