From Carole King to The-Dream, there have always been pop-music songwriters who, after penning hit after hit for artists throughout the years, decide to step into the spotlight and drop some music themselves. Count singer/rapper Rico Love, the newest behind-the-scenes player hoping to become a star, in this esteemed company.
Over the past decade, the New Orleans-born, Miami-based Love (government name: Richard Preston Butler Jr.) has been writing and producing songs for many heavy hitters: Usher, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Fergie, etc. He’s also slipped into a few songs as a guest singer, sharing verses with the likes of Jamie Foxx, T.I., Nelly and others. After a while, Love realized he was composing tunes that were more suited for him than the A-list singers and rappers he was writing for.
“I’d think that the only person that could relay the energy and the passion that the song needed was me,” says, Love, 32, on the phone en route to Memphis. “So, I just started doing it myself. So, I got really got good at it, and then when I started working on a record, it just was one of those things that came naturally.”
Love says he picked up his songwriting skills from his days hanging with R&B foursome Jagged Edge. “More than anything, it was just about them catching a feeling,” he remembers. “They trusted themselves. They didn’t over-think songs and lyrics. They would go in a booth. They wouldn’t write anything down. They would just kind of sing the melody that would come to their heads, and trust themselves – and I watched them do that.”
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Even though Love prefers rapping – after all, he started off his career as a rapper – he says he’s not going to shy away from something he’s became good at doing. “You know, Nina Simone wanted to be a classically trained pianist,” he says. “She didn’t want to sing. But she was such a great singer and such a great vocalist, why would she shy away from that?”
Love was ready for his close-up when he began recording “The 5th Element,” his intended debut album, in 2007. However, he eventually shelved that project. “I was in a different space when I made that,” he says. “I might decide to revisit ‘The 5th Element’ and that whole concept. But, as of right now, I don’t know if I’m there. I’m a different person.”
Even though he’s officially a card-carrying recording artist, Love believes he’s continuing to evolve, and he wants people to know that through his music. His actual debut album, “Turn the Lights On,” which was released earlier this year, has a more mature feel than his 2013 EP “Discrete Luxury,” which includes the memorably ratchet “B****es Be Like.” “Life is about progression, man,” he says. “You grow up every day, and I think I was just showing the way I work. So, yeah, absolutely – it was definitely intentional.”
But even though Love is recording music on his own, as well as performing that music onstage (he’ll be the opening act for Monica, another artist he has written and produced for, Saturday night at the Ritz in Raleigh), he still loves to write tunes for other people. Trey Songz, Yo Gotti and Trina are just a few of the artists he’s been in the lab with lately.
However, while Love has worked with upper-tier R&B and hip-hop stars in the past, there is one surprising artist he really wants to get in the studio. “Rufus Wainwright is an artist I’d really love to work with,” he divulges. “Have you ever heard his album ‘Want One’? Man, it’s ingenious! His writing, his production, his voice – it’s incredible. Anybody who hears it would want to be part of a project like that or work with an artist as genius and as smart as him, as a writer.”
Even if Rico Love doesn’t become as big as the artists he’s created hit songs for, a Rufus/Rico collab needs to happen.
Who: Monica, with Rico Love
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh
Info: 919-424-1400 or ritzraleigh.com