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Slim of 112 on The New Direction of R&B
Thursday, December 11, 2008

Over the past fifteen years you’d be hard pressed to find an R&B group that’s been more successful than 112. Slim was unequivocally the leading voice of the quartet and last month, after more than a decade of creating hits with the group, he released his solo debut, Love’s Crazy. Knowing his long history in the industry and wanting to hear his thoughts on everything from artists such as T-Pain and Kanye West altering their voices using the vocorder and Auto-Tune to the status of his relationship with Bad Boy CEO Sean Puffy Combs, I caught up with Slim to ask him about all that and more.

Adam Bernard: How ya doin, Slim?
Slim: I’m so happy. My album popped out on the 18th. I did some great numbers in the first week and the fact that it’s done independent… it gives me a great sense of pride. I’m the captain of my own ship, so it feels good. I’ve listened to the reviews and the reviews are really good. I’m on cloud nine right now.

Adam Bernard: You sound very high on life. Are you sure it’s just life that you’re high on?
Slim: {laughs} I don’t drink or smoke so it’s gotta be life, man!

Adam Bernard: Fantastic. Now let’s talk a little music. As a veteran of the R&B scene, tell me how you’ve seen it change since you’ve debuted with 112.
Slim: When we came out we were still in high school and the competition was like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Mint Condition; it was a little stiffer back then and the music has definitely changed. Everything is more leaned into the production and you got plug-ins. We were blessed to meet Zapp and Roger, and at that time there were only a few people doing that (using the vocorder). If it wasn’t Zapp and Roger then you knew it was Teddy Riley. Now everybody’s using the vocorder. It’s just a little different, but I’m not mad at it because we still have some great talent out here. Big ups to all the Ne-Yo’s, the Trey Songz’, the Bobby V’s, the Chris Brown’s. At the end of the day it’s still good and you have the cats that came up with us like me, I’m still here, Alicia Keys, you still got Usher.

Adam Bernard: There are definitely still some surviving soldiers out there and I’m glad you mentioned plug-ins and the vocorder, because I was wondering, as a real singer, and someone who doesn’t use those things, how to you feel about a T-Pain or a Kanye attempting to sing and gaining fame singing, but really not knowing how to sing?
Slim: Well, in T-Pain’s defense, I went and got his album just to see exactly how he uses the vocorder, because there’s a difference. 112 was doing shows with Blackstreet and we would listen to Teddy Riley do the vocorder thing and he really knew how to use it. When I got T-Pain’s album I must say that he’s very good at that vocorder. What he’s doing with his voice is the same thing I might do with my voice, it’s the same notes, he has the same patters, he just uses the vocorder and really, when I start seeing it, I think he chooses to do it that way. There’s a difference. He probably has songs in his catalogue that don’t have any vocorder in them. I’m about to see T-Pain in a few hours. I’ma pull him to the side and I’ma tell him I want to work with him and I’ma probably do a T-Pain record with no vocorder in it. That would be kinda fun, huh?

Adam Bernard: It would be something no one would be expecting, that’s for sure.
Slim: At the end of the day it’s the pen and what you say. The reason I give a lot of respect to T-Pain is he’s known for his hooks. The track and the hooks be driving. What does he have, 11 number one records? If it was so easy everybody could do it.

Adam Bernard: Even if everybody can’t do it, isn’t it still getting a little too easy to make a hit?
Slim: This is the day and age of the internet and computers, so if you got the money, or a family member has some money, they can go to the music store, buy a plug-in and boom, you, too, can sound like your favorite artist. That’s where I would try to convince artists out there to really hone in your own craft and don’t really lean on plug-ins and stuff like that. It’s one thing to sound good on an iTunes download, or a ringtone, or even on an album, but the artist really makes their money on the road, so it would be an injustice to your fans out there if you sound one way on the CD and when you get in front of them you really can’t hold your own.

Adam Bernard: Eventually you do have to get on that stage and perform live.
Slim: And it has to sound like that because if not you’re doing the fans an injustice. Now, I feel kinda ashamed when I say this, but this is the first Kanye West album I did not jump out to buy. I’m going to go get it, probably today, to see how the album really feels, and I’m really crossing my fingers cuz I’m a Kanye West fan and I’m really hoping that I get Kanye West, you know what I’m sayin? I think he’s a genius, so he feels like he can probably do whatever he wants to do. I’m just hoping I’m getting Dropout, or Graduation.

Adam Bernard: I know that feeling of crossing your fingers about your favorite artist, just hoping their album does disappoint because you like them that much.
Slim: I get it, too. Fans come up to me and I see that look in their faces and the good thing about Slim, everybody says oh he has the mainstream success, but my other foot is out there in the street, so it’s easy for a consumer or a fan to walk up to me and say “I love your album.” Just walking here to this interview there were fans walking up saying “I love your album. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think you could do it by yourself.” It’s good to hear that. Then I’ve been on the other side where 112 dropped an album and it just wasn’t what people were expecting and they didn’t bite their tongue, they straight up said it, “yo, are ya’ll aiight? Things going good within the camp? What’s good?” because it seemed like it rubbed off on the album and they really weren’t feelin where we were going, or we kinda lost em. It’s good to see that. I also know artists can be fans of other artists.

Adam Bernard: I’ve noticed a lot of the lyrical content of the R&B we’re hearing now isn’t as kind as it used to be. A couple years ago Beyonce was telling her dude to put all his stuff to the left. Not to get all Air Supply on ya, but are we all out of love?
Slim: Naw, you know what, though, it’s real funny because the person that wrote “Irreplaceable” is Ne-Yo and he’s known for writing love songs, too. I think that the music itself is going through patterns. Two years ago I’d have to agree with you, it did seem like everybody was just doggin everybody, but it seemed like it was the fad of writing records that were just snappin off on each other, but if you think about it, man, the songs that are really driving now are very great love songs. They’re good, it’s just a different swag now. 112 came out in the late 90’s and I call that the golden era. People would probably call the music sappy now. I don’t know what “Cupid” would have done if it had came out now, but at that time you could be open and honest about how you felt and you put it out there just like that and it was accepted and that’s how people were.

Adam Bernard: What do you think caused this change?
Slim: As time went on Hip-Hop became extreme and that’s a good thing, but at the same time Hip-Hop started rubbing off on everything, including R&B. It was really rubbing off on how people dress and how people talk. When I talk to a young lady I’m not gonna say “you know what I’m sayin? What’s up yo!” I’m not gonna sag my pants down. And you saw R&B artists doing the same thing as Hip-Hop artists and it kinda confused me a little bit. We (112) were like, well, we gotta wait until things come back our way because we might put out great music, but because the fad is this direction and we’re not going to go that direction because that’s not us, if we put out some material then we’ll be overlooked and we definitely take pride in our brand and how we come out. Eventually I had gotten to a point where I said you know what, instead of waiting and sitting to the side, why don’t I start my own label and force the issue? Instead of complaining about it, do something about it. That’s the reason I came out with this record, Love’s Crazy. I chose to talk about the subjects I talk about and I’m just being me and it’s all love.

Adam Bernard: One place I’m not sure you’d have all love for would be your former label, but now that your Bad Boy days are long gone and far off in the rearview mirror, when you look back at them what would you have changed… or would a better question be is there anything you would have done the same?
Slim: I think I wouldn’t change nothin. First and foremost, really, me and P. Diddy, we’re boys, we’re homies. CEO to CEO we look at each other and I think he’s always respected what I’ve done. If you had an interview with Puff and said talk to me about Slim he’d say yeah, I told Slim a long time ago this was about to happen. With the Bad Boy situation, I think people thought we were having problems with the label, but we weren’t having problems with the label at all. We were selling a lot of records, but we weren’t really signed to Bad Boy directly. We were signed to a production company that tied us with Bad Boy that was horrible and definitely wasn’t looking to benefit us or our families. The bulk of the money was going to the production company and once we get our percentage then you had to break it in four, and then you gotta pay taxes and by the time it got to us we could buy a couple of White Castle burgers.

Adam Bernard: That’s terrible. Speaking of past dealings, is 112 still an entity? I hear some members say it is while others say it isn’t.
Slim: I will tell you right here that 112, the brand, is definitely still together. That’s the reason I choose to say “Slim of 112.” I just spoke to Q yesterday. What I’m doing is adding on to a portfolio. I look at it just like the rest of my investments. You have different investments, but it’s all under one portfolio and this is my music portfolio. I’m doing great with 112. We sold 20+ million records sold and won everything except an NAACP image award and now here comes Slim. I started my own label, did a great partnership with Asylum Records, first record dropped top ten, and it’s just me progressing from Slim the artist to Slim the young CEO. I envision myself two or three years from now like a Jay-Z or a P. Ditty. I’m trying to make M3 the next Interscope, the next Def Jam, the next Arista. That’s my dream, so it’s bigger than just the solo deal.

Adam Bernard: Finally, in a youth oriented industry whose top stars are, for the most part, teenagers or young adults in their early twenties, how does an artist who’s been around the block a few times stay relevant and compete against these young kids who have the energy of seven Red Bulls?
Slim: {laughs} Well I tell you what, man, I think at the end of the day it stems down to the music and the great part of the situation is that guys like Pleasure P and Trey Songz, these guys, they had to look up to somebody to get their music to where it is right now and I’m blessed to be able to say that when I’m around them they express it. It’s good to be around Ne-Yo and hear Ne-Yo say “man, you’re a big reason of why I’m sitting right here and how this song flows this way.” I take great pride in that and as long as I don’t change my swag from where it’s been, all I have to do is stay current, just stay relevant with them. I just be myself and stay in great shape and that’s what it is.

Related Links

Myspace: myspace.com/slimof112


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:44 AM  
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