Q&A: The-Dream on 'Love IV,' writer's block, the Weeknd and 'wack' R&B beef
The R&B singer-songwriter stops by the Baltimore area for two shows this weekend
The-Dream performs at Fillmore Silver Spring and Baltimore… (Handout )
March 15, 2012|By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun
The word "brilliant" is too often abused by hyperbole, unless you're describing Terius Nash, better known as the prolific 34-year-old songwriter and R&B singer The-Dream.
Several of radio's most indelible hits of the past five years — including Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and Rihanna's ("Umbrella") — were penned by Dream and his writing partner Christopher "Tricky" Stewart. Besides crafting hits for others, the Atlanta singer has released four albums (three as The-Dream; the most recent, "1977," was released online last August for free under his real name) as a solo artist. He’s currently headlining the "Kill the Lights" tour, which stops by Fillmore Silver Spring on Saturday and Baltimore Soundstage on Sunday. As he prepped for back-to-back shows at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, The-Dream spoke about his upcoming album, writer’s block, the Weeknd and why R&B beef is "wack."
You held a listening session for "Love IV" the other day. What was the feedback like? Did any responses surprise you? I'm never really surprised. People show up wanting me to go to the next place and based on the looks from everybody, they understand that I'm definitely pushing it. But I’m not going out of bounds or totally left field. I'm not going to take the lovemaking out of my records. I've never understood that type of pressure on artists, where they feel the need to change so much. Every situation breeds a new song anyway, so just write about the situation.
There were reports the album would be released in December. Obviously, that didn't happen. Was it a case of it not being completed in time? You know that's never the case. I have to stop myself from doing records. I'm supremely blessed for doing songs. I wish I could take a vacation and stop, but it's literally my drug. We have a lot things happening at Def Jam. Joie [Manda, formerWarner Bros.Records executive] came over to Def Jam as the president [on Wednesday]. That’s going to be great. Joie was calling me on the phone raving about "1977," before ever coming to Def Jam. He was just writing "1977" in his email, nothing else. He had nothing to gain; he’s just a music purist.
Def Jam needs somebody that cares about the artist and the music, not about themselves. A completely selfless person. There’s so many great and talented artists at Def Jam and somehow we've been unable to connect. I have my theories and [Manda] has his theories. Hopefully we can get it shaped up to what it was.
Any idea when we’ll get "Love IV"? Probably around Memorial Day. I’m going to have a meeting with those guys, and try to see if there’s too much of a mess going on. If it's not right, I'm not doing it. I took the kill on "Love King" for not being right. I’m not doing it again.
Would you do anything differently with "1977"? How it was presented or which songs were on it? A lot of it, quality-wise, could have made a commercial album. I wouldn't do anything differently. That was a complete channel of an emotion. I think that's why I broke through with it. People gravitated toward it, people that have been through that mindset and space. All of these albums are like books. I take the lyrics pretty seriously. I might put some cheeky stuff in it. … It might not sound like I know what I'm doing with lyrics, but I know both sides. You need a single and the album. But that was great about "1977," I didn't need a single. I just put it out. If I could do anything differently, I'd put it out commercially. Not to make money but to make back what I put into it, which was around half a million dollars. I still have videos for "Used to Be" and "Wake Me When it's Over" to come out. The label isn't paying for any of that, and videos aren't cheap.
The feeling I get is that your talents as a songwriter are celebrated and recognized, but your solo albums are underappreciated. Does it feel that way to you? They are underappreciated. [laughs] Your feelings will serve you correct. It is what it is. I don’t think I should be appreciated now anyway, the way I look at it now after talking to older guys in the business. I'm in a place where nobody is going to like the stuff I do until 10, 15 years from now. I can do something today and people will look at it and compare it to radio. If you do that, you’re only comparing it to something I had something to do with four years ago. And that's unfair.
You want me to push it but you don’t want me to push. You want me to give you that beat and those cadences. I haven’t forgotten how to do it. I just don’t do it. I know the formula to make a massive urban record. That’s where [Rihanna's] "Birthday Cake" came from. It's not rocket science.