Today’s R&B landscape may be dominated by street-wise crooners with a gritty background, but in the latter half of the ’90s, Case was among the first to carry that flag. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York City, Case caught his big break after being discovered by Russell Simmons, inking a deal with Def Jam Records and releasing his self-titled 1996 debut album. Boasting the Foxy Brown and Mary J. Blige-assisted hit single “Touch Me, Tease Me,” Case established the singer as one of the promising new stars in R&B.
Continuing his success with his sophomore album Personal Conversation, and his 2001 effort Open Letter, Case would take a sabbatical from the industry before returning as an independent artist with his fourth album, The Rose Experience. With two additional solo albums under his belt (Here, My Love, and Heaven’s Door), Case unveils Therapy, his first full-length project in three years. Featuring appearances from Teddy Riley, Tank, Slim of 112, Floacist, Misha Fair, Alexis Renee, and Teraye, Therapy finds Case addressing matters of the heart and delivering what may be the most transparent album of his career.
VIBE hopped on the phone with Case to get the scoop on his latest album, his thoughts on the “king of R&B” debate, and reminisce through memories of his sophomore album Personal Conversation, ahead of its 20th anniversary.
VIBE: How has the reception been to your seventh studio album, Therapy?
Case: It’s been good actually. I didn’t know how it was gonna be because I wanted to do something different on this album. Since it’s been out, it’s been doing good. “Make Love” had a real good reception and now the second single, “You,” is starting to get out there now, so I’m happy with it.
What was the inspiration behind the project’s title?
For me, music is therapy. It’s a way for me to get feelings out, talk about things. It’s a form of therapy for me, so I think everybody needs that.
This has been praised as one of your more personal bodies of work thus far. What situations or moments in your life inspired the content on this album?
Everything on the album is dealing with stuff that I’ve been dealing with, stuff that people that’s close to me [have] been dealing with over the past couple of years. So I just wanted to talk about it.
Are they any moments you can pinpoint to or a breakup that provided any inspiration?
It wasn’t nothing like that. It was just stuff with me and my wife, situations that I had been dealing with. I actually talked about some of that stuff on [TV One] Unsung. It’s not necessarily a breakup, it’s just trying to get through things, work through things.
The album’s lead-single “Make Love” features an appearance from Tank and Teddy Riley. How did that song come to life?
For that song, I went to Teddy’s house and he was talking and he was like, ‘Yo, remember that conversation we had in the club a couple of years ago?’ I had told him about wanting to make the sound that I wanted to go for. I had forgotten we had that conversation, but he remembered and he was like, “I made this song based off our conversation.” And he started playing me the track and I was like, “That’s pretty much exactly it.” We recorded that and then when I was done, I was like, “Tank would be perfect for this.” So I hit him up and we knocked it out.
Another song from the album that stands out is “You,” which is a duet with Slim of 112. What sparked that collaboration?
Me and Slim, we were supposed to do something a couple of times in the past and the song “You” was already done. Tevin Terry actually called me and told me that they put Slim on it. They were like, “Yo, listen to this and tell me what you think.” My man Tevin Terry that produced it, and I were like, “Yeah, that’s dope.” He [Terry] was actually supposed to be putting Slim on another song for me and I guess he mixed up the conversation and he pretty much [sent “You”] instead of the other song, but it ended up working.
Have you had a chance to get out on the road and tour yet?
Constantly. I’m on the road now actually, but when I first came out, I was on the Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky & Mike Tour. We did that for a few months. So yeah, just constantly on the road. Like I said, the single “You” is out, so we’re pushing that right now.
What have those experiences been like?
Well, the only one that I’m performing so far from the new album is “Make Love.” I did “You” a couple of times and the response for that was really good, too, but I was doing “Make Love” on the Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky & Mike Tour and that got a great response like every time.
Other than the singles, what are three songs from Therapy that you’re eager for the fans to hear?
I’d probably say “Heaven,” “This Could Be,” “Strawberry.” I performed “Strawberry” a couple of times too, the response to that was dope. “Treasure” is another one, that’s one of my favorites.
Late last year, there was a big debate about who the modern day king of R&B is. What were your thoughts on that?
There’s ain’t no king of R&B. There ain’t no king of rock, there’s no king of hip-hop. There’s never been a king of any genre of music and never will be. It’s too subjective, everybody has their opinion on who they like the best or what they like so that was my take on that whole debate. I think it’s something for people to talk about.
Who are some of the younger R&B artists that you listen to or check for?
My absolute favorite is Ty Dolla $ign. I mess with Ty, Miguel. I like Jacquees. I actually did a song with Jacquees for his new album so y’all should be hearing that later on this year.
How did the song with Jacquees come about?
It actually was right before all of that “King of R&B” stuff started. He DMed me and said he wanted to work. He asked me if I had any records for him, I had the perfect song for him. I sent it to him and he loved it and we went into the studio; It was like literally two days after that whole king of R&B thing was going crazy all over the internet.
You mentioned Ty Dolla $ign as your favorite artist right now, what about his music or his style sets him apart?
He just got so much soul. He got a lot of soul, so coming from my era, I’m into that.
The 20th anniversary of your sophomore album, Personal Conversation, is coming up in April. Was there any pressure going into that album, given the success of your debut?
Nah, it was none. I didn’t feel any. My biggest thing going into the second album was that people heard “Touch Me, Tease Me.” They thought I couldn’t sing because on “Touch Me, Tease Me,” you don’t really gotta sing, that’s like talking. So the main thing for me was just, “Hold this.” It wasn’t any pressure, it was just trying to go all the way in.
“Happily Ever After,” the album’s lead single, was a big hit at that time. How did that song come together?
When they sent me the song, it wasn’t done yet, but it was a duet. I loved it, but I was like, “They sent me a duet.” I was expecting the whole song. So I went in and rewrote it and changed up what I needed to do and finished writing the bridge. I wrote the bridge, and all that other stuff, then I knocked it out.
Over the years, that song has become a go-to selection at wedding receptions and remains a classic. How does it feel to have a song that’s helped mark such a special occasion in people’s lives?
That’s dope to me because my main goal when I started doing music was to make music that people would want to still listen to in 20-30 years. I didn’t want to make stuff that people like now and then don’t want to hear no more. That was my goal with everything I made. So that makes me feel good.
Another song from Personal Conversation that’s considered one of your signature songs is “Faded Pictures,” your collaboration with Joe. However, the song was originally released on the Rush Hour soundtrack. How did that opportunity come about?
Well, Joe had the song and his manager was up at Def Jam. He was playing some music for Lyor Cohen at Def Jam and he said Joe wanted to do “Faded Pictures” as a duet, so I jumped on that. But the soundtrack, the only reason that that happened was because Def Jam had the soundtrack and they were looking for songs from all of us up there to put on all of these different soundtracks they were doing. And my first single was coming out the same time as the movie so we were like that’s perfect. We put it on there for that reason.
Where do you feel Personal Conversation ranks in your discography as a whole?
Oh, I don’t know, I don’t rank them. That’s like which one’s my favorite kid. I ain’t have one.
With this recent album, what was the statement you were looking to make going into it and what do you hope fans get out of it?
I don’t think it was so much of a statement, it was moreso I just wanted to make…well, I always want to make quote-unquote “real” music. I always want to make that. I hope they get that from it. I don’t think it’s so much of a statement as it is that I just want to continue to try to make music that people can relate to and that people will want to hear down the road as well as now.
What’s next for Case, personally and professionally?
Right now I’m on the road promoting Therapy. The new single “You” can be requested on radio, fans should be hearing that quite a bit coming up in the next month or two. And then I actually started, maybe the last week, I think, ideas for the next album so you can look out for that.