One of the more engaging and soulful projects to come out this year is Blue Rose by LaToiya Williams. If you don’t recall her name, then certainly you’re familiar with her voice. She has sung hooks on a litany of records by some of Hip-Hop’s most prominent artists; music heavyweights the likes of Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre, The Game, in addition to dueting with soul-singer Anthony Hamilton. Williams had a brief stint on the charts in 2002, as a featured artist on Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style All-Star Vol. 1 compilation. She was featured on several tracks, including the project’s centerpiece, “Fallen Star.”
On October 19, LaToiya released her long-awaited solo album, simply titled Blue Rose. It’s a wonderfully produced project of eight songs, spotlighting LaToiya’s signature delivery of rasp and rawness, sass, sexiness and plenty of soul. Here are some excerpts from Music Industry Quarterly’s recent Q&A with the Los Angeles-based songstress.
Out the gate, we have to talk about the single, “Vintage Love,” which is somewhat reminiscent of “Fallen Star.” It’s quite catchy and full of vintage soul.
The Avila Bros. (Usher, Janet Jackson) produced the track. They were in the process of looking for me when they were in production. I just happened to be at X-zibit’s studio, and the Avila Bros. were there and told me they had a track for me. They hadn’t written anything to it yet, but wanted me to hear it. I listened to the track and loved it. I asked if they would be interested in producing more songs for my Blue Rose album. They agreed to work with me and sent me more tracks. I went into the studio with one of their good friends [and collaborators] Frankie Fade and what we came with was “Vintage Love.”
How did you arrive at the lyrical concept for “Vintage Love”?
The guys would ask me what’s on my mind today, and that’s where the ideas for lyrical concepts came about. As for “Vintage Love,” I said, “I was getting tired of these men out here. I’ve been on dates, and instead of paying for the date, guys want me to go half in on the date with them. They don’t want to hold your hand or open the door for you. What happened to chivalry?” We created “Vintage Love” off of that conversation.
What other songs did they do for you?
The Avila Bros. did four songs in all for the project: “One Call,” “Vintage Love,” “Should’ve Been The One,” and “Can’t Decide.”
In listening to the project, “One Call” is definitely one my favorite songs. It’s a vintage dance record; with an early-disco feel.
When we recorded “One Call,” the album was pretty much done. I wanted something more up-tempo; with an old 1970s, Lou Rawls type of energy. The Avila Bros. said they sent this track to me a while back, but I didn’t recall it. It had someone else’s voice and lyrics on it at the time. I must have passed it up. They played it in the studio without the lyrics; I was groovin’ to it, and they said ‘we sent this to you already.’ I was like, really? [laughs] Frankie Fade and I added some things to the track, and loved what we came with. “One Call” was about me breaking up with someone. I was like, “I am done with this n*gga, you know. You’re one call too late. I’ve already moved on. Bye, n*gga, bye!” [laughs]
Let’s talk about “Save Your Love for Me.” What prompted you to put your spin on a Nancy Wilson classic?
When I worked with Snoop Dogg. I did a documentary for the All-Star album. I sang “Save Your Love for Me” a cappella during the interview. I knew it was something I always wanted to record, because my grandparents were big fans of Nancy Wilson. Before my grandfather died, he said, if I ever record an album, to please record “Save Your Love for Me.” This was my grandparent’s love song to one another. This was definitely a tribute to them. I had to find the right person to produce the song though, and in a way I felt comfortable performing. When I was singing background with Gladys Knight, she used to work with an accomplished musician who arranged strings, by the name of Jetro Da Silva. He put his own spin on the production, and I went in and sang it that way.
A lot of music fans know you for singing hooks on Hip-Hop records. You easily could’ve done a Hip-Hop/R&B album.
I did have some songs prepared and recorded for my Hip-Hop fans but most of the producers I work with love to sample. We couldn’t get all of the samples cleared. So, I took those songs off to avoid any legal issues down the line. You may hear some of those songs on a future mixtape, they just couldn’t make the album.
So the end game is an authentic R&B project that a lot of R&B heads will truly enjoy.
And that’s what great about this. I need those R&B fans. I come from R&B. I come from Gospel music. I was thrown into the Hip-Hop energy. After singing for Gladys Knight and Yolanda Adams, I went straight to Snoop Dogg. [laughs]
Who else did you collaborate with?
There is a song called “No Time,” and it’s produced by O’Hene Savant. He’s an independent artist like me as well as a rapper and producer. I asked for him to send me a track. I needed something slow. I had Jetro to add strings to the track to mellow it out. We recorded the song in no-time. I also got Jack Knight (from Puffy’s Bad Boy camp) to produce the song “Change.”
That’s eight songs total, about 36 minutes and some change. Most times less is more.
Honestly, I started out trying to release 12-13 songs. I just couldn’t get those samples cleared. Seven songs or less is considered an EP. But 8 made it a full-length album. I’m quite happy with what’s we’ve done. It really works for me, and the vibe is really dope.
Blue Rose so far is getting a lot of word of mouth publicity. Who’s working with you?
Right now I have my good friend Jay Ross who is doing a lot of work for me, P.R. setting up interviews, interacting with indie bloggers, etc. Right now, we’re on a PR and social media campaign. I know I have to show my face a bit more to get people interested in the album, and I’m working on that. I’m very private and very shy, so I’m working on changing that, too.
You’re used to being affiliated with the major label machine. You’re an entrepreneur, and indie now. How does that feel?
It’s a bit scary because this is my first time ever doing this, and I’m learning as I go. I get why people need labels because they front you the money to do what you need to do. Again, I’m learning, and I’m going to make mistakes along the way, but I like it. It gives me room to deliver my music the way I want to. I’m finally able to touch people personally; whether on Instagram and Facebook, I’m able to communicate with people directly. That’s the beauty of this whole indie thing.
Interview Conducted by David Mitchell, Publisher, Music Industry Quarterly