Pandora's Box: Mashonda Interviews Olivia Longott
Coming into the world by way of Jamaican/Cuban parents, you have no choice but to accept the fact that you are a soul survivor. Couple that with an upbringing split between Brooklyn and Queens and what do you get? A woman that is not afraid to voice her opinion and refuses to give up on her dreams.
I met Olivia Longott in 2000 at a J Records event. At the time she was my label mate and I wanted to attend to support her. When she took the mic I was blown away by the voice that came out of this young woman’s small frame. Olivia went on to earning a #15 spot on the Billboard 200 charts with her debut single “ Bizounce.” After her success, I sadly witnessed Olivia deal with a test that most artist face -The “Don’t Give Up Test." Through the years I was able to relate to Olivia and I felt that our musical stories and frustrations were somewhat similar. I always hoped that Liv, as I call her, would pass the test.
Recently I was able to sit with Olivia one-on-one after almost 10 years. Revealed was a very passionate, caring, and focused woman. After our conversation, I am pleased to announce that Ms. Longott hasn’t given up.
When did you decide to be an artist and how old were you when you landed your first record deal?
I knew I wanted to be an artist ever since I was a little girl growing up singing in the church. I also took piano lessons at 8 years old so I was always a bit musically inclined [Laughs]. I got my first deal when I was 17 when I signed to Clive Davis as the first artist on J Records.
How was your experience working with music mogul, Clive Davis?
My experience at J Records was a learning experience. With Clive Davis being one of the great musical minds of our time, I learned a lot. Unfortunately my time there was cut short by the politics of the industry and me not actually taking my career into my own hands. I was very young and left some decisions up to people who may not have had my best interest at heart, but snakes always reveal themselves when the grass is cut.
How was the transition to being the first lady of G-Unit?
From J Records I immediately took a deal with Interscope Records that later led to my G-Unit situation. The transition to the Unit was pretty smooth. 50 [Cent] and Jimmy Io-vine both made me feel comfortable. At that time 50 was music’s golden child so I felt it was a great situation.
Did you find yourself arguing for creative control at G-Unit?
The problem was with me being an R&B solo artist placed into a group of rappers. I lost my identity. I know 50 had my best interest at heart but it became a marketing struggle. It became more and more difficult for me to be Olivia and not ol’ girl from the Unit. That was the problem.
What was the lowest point for you in your career, did you ever feel like giving up?
I would have to say the lowest point of my career was when Funk Master Flex went in on me for a whole summer. I never understood the motivation for such hostility towards me. Being from NY and my family being from NY, we had to listen to Hot.97 and hear that. That’s part of why I went overseas, to get away from all of that negativity. I just had to go away and reflect on what I was doing, who I was, and find faith. After reflection I decided that I wasn’t going to give up and let my God-given talent go to waste because I felt nobody believed in me. I had to make them believe.
How did you find strength to carry on?
When I came back home, I regrouped and decided I needed to continue doing what I loved to and not let the negativity consume me. It’s been a difficult road back, but what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.