2017 was a pretty good year for R&B, wouldn’t you say? – the last few years, actually. Besides notables like Beyonce, Rihanna – whom both you can’t really count under R&B anymore as they can be considered more Pop in today’s musical atmosphere; folks like Chris Brown who keeps them coming, then Jeremih – whom hasn’t dropped anything in awhile, Trey Songz, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez; oh, and does Drake count? R&B is progressively taking back stake in the industry, reminiscent of those sweeter days when it ruled the stage.
And with there being a new rapper coming out practically every single day, as far as the newcomers go, we would say that things are looking up for R&B too these days.
Growing and becoming, we have been getting to know new East Atlanta artist Shaun B a little bit; and the music plus the conversation keeps us intrigued. After spending 9 years in the army, Shaun B took to his impressive vocal abilities about 2-3 years ago, and decided it was time to take it seriously – all mesmerizing and melodic, a sensual remembrance of R&B at its finest. With projects produced by booming producers like SlowKings, Metro Boomin and others, this Jamaican-born, but ATL raised singer/songwriter is one to keep an eye on.
After just releasing his latest single “Besame” last month, and past projects like Cocaine in the Morning, its follow-up Cocaine in the Evening which was dropped in February, and his new EP Songs About Women literally just dropping moments ago; we got the exclusive deets behind it and a few other things from the singer himself, Shaun B.
“I’m just a singer/rap artist out of East Atlanta trying to create new waves, new vibes, and speak about my experiences and what I’ve dealt with or seen coming up. That’s really what it is.”
1. When did you discover your talent for music?
I would say that I’ve always been a really, really huge fan for music. And I’ve always dabbled with it in a very non-serious, play, just for myself and the people around me kind of way. I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I would say maybe about 2-3 years ago.
When I started taking really, really serious; and said, ‘you know, I really want to make a profession out of this; this is what I want to do while I’m here.’
2. Being born in Jamaica and then moving to ATL, and I’m sure your Jamaican culture is still very much prevalent and being very much a part of who you are, although being here for so many years, would say that it’s influenced your music or your style? Or anything around that as far as who you are as an artist, and if so, how?
100%! I think, the biggest thing about it is, I don’t know how else to explain it, but being from Jamaica, I don’t care what anyone says, but everything is a vibe; everything is a rhythm. So, if I can’t bop my head repetitively or catch a rhythm, or see myself dancing, it doesn’t make sense for me to make it. Regardless of whatever the context is, I don’t care if it’s the baddest song in the world, or party central.
If I can’t catch that vibe or rhythm, I don’t even bother trying to make that record.
And I think that really comes just from the influence of growing up listening to the Bob Marley, the dancehall era, the Sean Paul, the Spragga Benz, you know, Bounty Killa, all of that. Everything always was a reason, everything always was a vibe.
I remember being in Jamaica and I use to get the dancehall cassettes, and it would be the same rhythm, the same beat for maybe 8-10-12-16 songs – that’s how they use to do the dancehall CDs back in those days. It probably was no more than maybe 8-10 beats on there, but 30 songs. I always thought that was pretty cool because you are keeping the people entertained. The beat is that cold that 8 people can hop on this and people are still entertained by it. I always just try to keep that purity and authenticity in my music.
3. Reggae and Dancehall having such an influence over music, overall, not just with Jamaicans but with everyone; do you feel like, you being someone from Jamaica, or Jamaican, do you feel like that kind of puts a pressure somewhat to make sure that you show up?
I don’t think that it necessarily puts pressure on me because at the end of the day, whether I’m doing music or not, I’m still going to be Jamaican. Those are the things that are uncontrollable in my life, so I never felt pressured to make sure that I added some ‘patois’ or some Jamaican slang or certain terminology in my records. I’m really big on stuff coming organically, and if it presents itself at the time where it helps the record or it helps the sound of the song, then I’ll use it; if it doesn’t, then I won’t force it.
I’m happy that the culture is really getting a spotlight on it, and that people are embracing it and wanting to use it as well. But I think for myself, and because it means so much more to me, it’s not just a fad, because you know, whether I’m in the music industry or not, I’m always going to be Jamaican. So, I don’t want to do it in a fad way or anything like that, I want it to be organic, and something that when I press play for my parents or something like, it will be something that they will be proud of because that’s who obviously introduced me to it in the first place.
4. So you were in the army for 9 years, what was that like? Going from that to music, what led you to the army and then eventually leading you to music?
Well, I joined the army through family circumstances that happened earlier in my life, when I was like 16-17. It was something that I decided that I’m going to go-ahead and do it. It ended up being a blessing for me, I was able to meet people that I never thought I would meet. I was able to go to places that I never thought I would go. And, I have lifelong friendships and companionships with people, like everywhere.
You know, one good thing about my time in the army is I have friends in Vermont, I have friends in Idaho, London, Italy; places that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily be privy to have known people from, just being where I’m from. So that was a blessing.
The transition towards music was a complete 180. I’m not even going to lie. Things are definitely loose and more about the creative sense, and just going with the flow versus with everything being in a timely fashion and right now, right now, right now; which is what I dealt with pretty much for the past decade of my life. So, it’s hard transitioning.
When somebody tells me “two”, that’s exactly what I think “two”. In the music, creative world, when somebody says “two”, they probably mean like 8 o’clock at night. So that’s probably one of the hardest transitions that I’ve had to deal with, timing and trying to understand that it’s really not a lackadaisical attitude in the industry, but more of a go-with-the-flow. And that’s probably the hardest that really has happened to me since I decided to do this full time.
5. So when you said that you started singing 2-3 years ago, does that mean you discovered your voice 2-3 years ago or you just decided to take it seriously then?
Nah. I didn’t discover, moreso my voice 2-3 years ago, what it really was, was that I just decided to take it serious. I think that there was a point in my life where, like I said before, being raised in predominantly in the East side of Atlanta, one of my biggest things that I was making sure that I wasn’t trying to do was, I wasn’t trying to be a statistic or anything like that. I think, honestly, the non-pursuant to my music was just me being scared, the vulnerability of it.
I think that the army and like college and all those kinds of things, I wouldn’t say are pretty easy but; it’s pretty much black and white. You take these classes, you’re going to graduate; you do these things, you’re going to get promoted. With music, that’s not necessarily the case. There’s no real formula.
And I think that was the only thing around me that, if somebody did mess with my music, it would have possibly like really hurt me; because that’s what I was really passionate about and I think that I just finally really decided that with everything I had been through with the military, you know: war, this, constantly being out of town, going places that I didn’t want to go, I finally decided like, ‘if I’m going to do something, I might as well do something for the rest of my life that I want to do, that I’m passionate about.’
You know, you can fail at stuff that you don’t even want to do, so you might as well take the opportunity to fail at something that you do want to do. And that’s what I decided to do.
6. As far as your formula, what would you say your formula is? Who were some of your influences that really helped to hone your formula?
Music-wise, I would say the influences that I had were definitely like the 90s R&B. I’m a huge fan of like the Jodeci’s, the Donell Jones, R Kelly, Lloyd; even growing up in high school and so forth. And then I would say from an 808 standpoint, growing up in Atlanta around the time when I grew up, which gave me the confidence to really pursue music, honestly was that I grew up around the time of the snap era (high school), so at this moment in time, which was really a great niche for Atlanta at the time was, the people that were making music were like in high school with you. You would go to Algebra class and be sitting next to the person you just heard on the radio. Music was so open back then. So that definitely was an influence to me too, just be able to be free and just try different things.
It was a lot of gatekeepers back then. I will say though, if anything, the 90s era of R&B definitely influenced my style. And from the freedom standpoint, with creativity, just being able to grow up in the snap-era where everything was new and different; and music was a lot more accessible in those days then previously.
7. Getting into some of your projects. You dropped ‘Cocaine In The Morning’ last year (2016), then ‘Cocaine In The Evening’ (early 2017) going from that to now ‘Songs About Women’, what would you say were some of the takeaways from putting together your previous to your current project?
Well, one of the biggest things was, I finally had a team that understood the vision, and we built everything from scratch. Slow Kings, who are the production team that helped with the music, they moved to Atlanta so it enabled us to literally make everything from scratch; and that was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
And, with that being said, it was also a sense of I was able to do a lot of dabbling. Like, I was in New Orleans, I was in New York, I was in LA, I was in Miami; and I was able to just have conversation with a lot of women at the time; whether they were friends, family, dates, whatever. And I think the common denominator of everybody was that, they felt under-appreciated. And I think that with me making ‘Cocaine In The Morning’ and ‘Cocaine In The Evening’, I was moreso explaining certain situations, but not expressing the appreciation of the situation – because that’s a huge difference.
So what I decided to do when we decided to do ‘Songs About Women’, you know, everything from the cover to the context of the music was to necessarily just appreciate the situation, and moreso expressing that. That was the biggest transition, just to make sure that I stuck on topic with how I really wanted to display and present to the world.
8. As far as style wise, what were some of the disparities between the two projects?
I think that ‘Cocaine In The Morning’, I was still trying to find myself. I didn’t necessarily know who I was or what I wanted to do as an artist; I just knew I wanted to be me, right; which is very like opening and cliche. And I don’t think I’m there yet, but I think I’m so much closer.
I try different things, purposefully. I understand why I’m trying them. I understand what it is that I’m doing. I know the type of emotions that I’m trying to draw out of people on particular records now. It’s just like I said, being able to really put those ten thousand hours in, so now you know when you step into a situation to create music, you know exactly where you want to go with it, what you’re trying to do versus just throwing a lot of things on a wall and just hoping something sticks now. It’s definitely more direct.
9. And how did you and Metro Boomin link up?
Shout’s out to Metro!
I actually met Metro through a really really good friend of mine by the name of Cam Kirk, they work pretty hand in hand together. He’s not going to be on this project, we have another project that we are working on called Zones, which is going to be like my homage to East Atlanta, and growing up there. It’s going to be more Hip Hop, more Trap based, and he’s got a couple things on there that we’re working on, and so forth.
We’re trying to get ready for that release. He’s one of the most talented people I ever met, for sure.
10. So talking a bit about your single, the first single off of ‘Songs About Women’, “Besame”, let’s talk about the title real quick.
“Besame” is ‘kiss me’, that’s what it means. I got the title because I was with Lou (1/2 of the Slow Kings) and we were in the studio and he was just playing records that his dad use to play around the house, him being Brazilian. And I heard a record that just caught my attention, and I was like, “What is this?” And he told me, “A Porteguese singer from the 70s,” etc. And I fell in love with it and said, ‘let’s use it.’
And I think the next day, we went outside to the patio and made the beat, and it just took off from there. It was really something else, I’m happy for it. Like I said, it was all organic; something that I wanted to try that was different. It’s kind of like a movie to me, when I heard the record I got a visual, and that’s what kind of stuck with me.
The visual will come in November as well.
11. What else do you have going on? You got this single “Besame”, you have ‘Songs About Women’ dropping, and you mentioned a project with Metro Boomin coming out as well, what else do you see yourself getting into in the next months going into 2018?
Well, to be honest with you, I have been doing a lot of script writing lately. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around a lot of creatives, and I’m trying to create mini-movies. It’s crazy.
Mini-movies that go towards my brand and so forth. Really just trying to put this project, “Songs About Women” as much exposure as it can possibly get. That’s really my main focus right now, to let it reach the people that it needs to reach, and keep continuously just creating music. I think that, hopefully the plan will work.
You know, don’t change the plan. Just work harder towards it.
And that’s really my focus right now. My focus is not to lose focus.
Songs About Women just dropped today, check it out here on the Rapfest!