Ron Isley On Nicki Minaj & Drake, Older Fans, Retirement
What do you think of some of the new comers like Drake and Nicki Minaj?
Yes. They are two rappers who are on top of their game. Drake has a record that’s a sample of ours too… I’m gonna be doing something with Trey Songz too but I don’t want to reveal too much.
Wow, so you really keep your ear to the ground. What’s the secret to your longevity?
My faith in God. God has been with me in my whole career. We prayed for the songs, “It’s Your Thing” and so on. We’ve been well protected and I give thanks to that.
In a way, are you alienating some of your older fans, the ones who were probably twisting to your music at the juke joint?
[Laughs] I would never alienate them because from “Shout” to this day on they all have been with me. That’s one thing that you’ll hear in this album. You’ll hear things that maybe the new fans will get into but you’ll hear things that the older fans who have been with me for years can get into as well.
You’re still very influential. I say that because you’ve made a lot of sexual songs in your career that were still sophisticated. Now, some people would say that R&B is too raunchy and in your face so what advice do you have for some of the younger male singers on having finesse?
My favorite people have are people like Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson—I teamed up with them guys. I was a little young but I was able to stick closely and figure out what they were doing and put together what I wanted to do with them in mind and today it’s not that many people left like that. Marvin Gaye. Me and Marvin Gaye were very good friends. We used to record at the same time. We used to compare our records—“In Between the Sheets” against “Sexual Healing,” and on and on. Teddy Pendergrass is another friend we compared our records with when he was doing records like “Turn Off the Lights” and “Close the Door.” We were doing records like “Don’t Say Goodnight” and we’d call each other on the phone and play the records for each other and talk about ’em. I really miss that. Like I said, Aretha Franklin, is still here [but] I miss talented people like that where we would get off on just doing things that’s cool to each other. How good we could do them. I really, really miss that. I guess through the years they’ll probably come around again but that’s the only thing that’s missing. But at least the music is still around.
So you’re saying that younger guys just need to study the pioneers?
What are some of your favorite things about the way the music industry is now?
I like that the younger people are able to get paid. They’re able to put out heir colognes and their gear, clothing and so forth. That’s amazing. The business part is amazing.
What would you change about your career if you could?
I’m just so blessed and thankful.
So with an eight-album deal, you’re probably not retiring anytime soon, huh?
No. Frank Sinatra [Laughs] or someone like that. I’ll sing as long as I can because I enjoy doing that. I enjoy the fans and what I do. I love the traveling and the hotels and just seeing the world over and over again. The places I’ve been before—to go back to them and the people. I just enjoy the whole nine.