Rico Love wants your respect. Scratch that. The 30-year-old songwriter and producer who has orchestrated hits for such headlining acts as Usher (“There Goes My Baby,” “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)” ), Nelly (“Just A Dream”) and Beyoncé (“Sweet Dreams”) wants to earn your respect. More specifically, the R&B affiliated Love is aiming to be taken seriously as a legit hip-hop talent on his new EP Discrete Luxury. And while he has racked up studio time with the diverse rhyme-heavy likes of A$AP Rocky, Action Bronson, and French Montana, the Tuesday release may indeed take some novice Love fans off guard.
Love’s conceptual set comes off like an uncut musical diary with straight-no-chaser tales of strippers, party girl conquests, and painful heartbreak fueling this nightlife soundtrack. This is indeed an explicit material statement, but Love maintains that he is just being true to his art. VIBE sat down with the artist to talk about his first solo effort, why dangerous women make for great songs, and whether he has the lyrical skill to put the rap landscape on notice.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
VIBE: Discrete Luxury is a very intriguing title. What was your inspiration behind it?
Rico Love: There is a meaning behind it. In this case, Discrete Luxury means separate or away from, but it doesn’t mean better than. This is the upper echelon of luxury that I’m describing. However, the content of the EP represents much more. When you [accumulate] a certain amount of wealth and success you don’t need to talk about how rich you are or how many records you’ve sold. You live in it. Discrete Luxury is that setting. I’m just giving my point of view from a certain level. My EP actually represents different relationships I’ve had with different women as a result of seeing a certain type of luxury.
What pushed you to finally release a solo project?
I just feel like I’ve lived enough. Before making this kind of project didn’t make sense. I hadn’t lived enough. Now the stories that I am able to tell and that I’ve lived makes for better music. It’s more interesting because it’s real and true to me.
Is that the reason why you never released your 2007 album 5th Element?
It goes back to 2004 when I signed to J Records through Usher. When I was doing my album back then I was a kid talking about fancy cars and fly product, but I wasn’t living that at the time. Now that I’m living it in real life I’m not even talking about those things. I’m talking about what comes as the result of those things, what happens; the mistakes we make, the women we deal with, and the people we meet. That’s what I’m describing on Discrete Luxury.
Were you happy with 5th Element and how has that more hip-hop driven album influenced your return to rap?
What people don’t realize is I’m really a hip-hop kid. When I started writing for R&B artists people around me were shocked. I considered myself to be a strong MC, so to me 5th Element was a strong hip hop album. I had so much fun making it. That was a part of my process of figuring out who I really was. I would hang with Kanye [West] and play him my music. And he would tell me, “You are a rapper’s rapper.” That meant a lot to me coming from him even back then. But what happens is you start to grow. I taught myself how to sing; I started to become more melodic and writing new songs and developing a style.
So how did you pull off that transformation from MC to R&B songwriter working with the superstar likes of Usher, Beyonce, and Mary J. Blige?