Perhaps you forgot that Akon played a big role in introducing Lady Gaga to the masses. In addition to the “Konvict Music” artist appearing on her breakout single “Just Dance,” he also convinced Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine to sign the singer. The joint label-deal with Kon Live yielded that GRAMMY-nominated song as well as her debut album, The Fame. The rest, as they say, can be looked up on Wikipedia.
Fast forward through two albums and an unprecedented amount of success, and we find that Lady Gaga is preparing to release her third album, ARTPOP. The timeline for the project though was derailed when Gaga sustained a hip injury that forced her to cancel her “Born This Way Ball.”
“Only she can give you news on that,” Akon told me when I asked him about any type of album update. “I’m from a distributor side; I’m on the label side.”
The “Sexy Chick” singer explained more, revealing a bit about Gaga’s current deal.
“I was involved in the first and second album,” he said. “After that, like she’s more in control of her own content now so we just allow her to do her own thing. And then when the album is turned in, then that’s when I play the role as far as distribution.”
Speaking of distributing albums, Akon plans on doing just that with his own music soon. It seems his situation has stabilized following his record label, Universal Motown, folding in to the now Republic Records.
“Unfortunately, it does affect artists like myself when there is changes happening within the label,” he said, while also agreeing with my assessment that he could have gone independent if need be. He argued that despite his own name recognition and business acumen, he’d rather work inside a bigger machine. “If the system is broken, you can’t really move until they get it fixed.”
Akon says Stadium will be out by year’s end.
Morning show radio host, Las Vegas resident club DJ, network executive, TV personality, artist with a forthcoming album release… Nick Cannon is a man of many, many titles. But, things aren’t any less busy at home for the mogul, as he and wife Mariah Carey are expecting twins at any moment. Clearly time management is a priority for Cannon, but that isn’t the only trait that helps him get accomplish everything.
“Man, I just don’t sleep,” Cannon admitted in a phone interview which aired Thursday night on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” The conversation was taped Wednesday morning, as Cannon traveled presumably from his gig at New York’s 92.3 NOW-FM to TeenNick, where he serves as chairman of the channel. “Literally, this is my nap time right now, in the car going to my next job.”
But Cannon isn’t complaining about the long hours and copious amount of responsibility – if anything, it’s the exact opposite. The personality says he feels “blessed.”
“I’m too young to get burnt out,” Cannon believes. “I’m not out doing myself. I’m not tired or anything like that. I just love what I do. I always say, ‘My vocation is my vacation.’”
But the hours he puts in are far from vacation-like. Cannon revealed that his day usually begins well before the sun rises.
“On the average, I walk in to the house around 9 (p.m.),” said Cannon on the length of his usual work day. “From there it’s just quality time with the wife or the studio ‘til I’m back up at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
By “studio” you could only assume it’s of the recording variety (as opposed to the radio type), as Cannon readies not one, but two albums. Mr. Showbiz, a comedy LP, will drop May 14. The follow-up, Mr. Showbiz Sings the Hits, follows later in the year. The rapper says both are finished.
“It’s going to have ‘Famous’ on it and a bunch of other stuff,” Cannon noted of the music portion, mentioning the lead single that features Akon in the process. “I worked with Flo Rida, Snoop Dogg, Roscoe Dash, everybody… Cee Lo (Green)… it’s crazy.”
The first track is a tongue-in-cheek take on everybody wanting to achieve fame in this day and age. But Cannon isn’t knocking the notion.
“I love (fame),” Cannon quickly replied after I asked him if the notion of “celebrity” and fame is overrated. “You got to just know how to handle it. Everything’s in moderation. Some people get sucked up in to it, but I mean the perks that it comes with are beautiful.”
It seems these days, the only thing not in moderation for Cannon is the amount of work that he is willing, and more importantly able, to take on.
It’s a story that has become as common as an athlete sex scandal: star artist records potential hit record, only for the song to “leak” on to the Internet. The storyline is genre-less (see: Usher “Love in this Club” and Taylor Swift “Mine”). But Akon insists that his next album, Stadium, will not become another viral blog post, and the superstar revealed why on “The Ralphie Radio Show.”
“Well first of all, stay away from G-Mail accounts,” he warned, referring to the free e-mail service provided by Google. “Anything that you put on G-Mail is going to get to the rest of the world, I know that for a fact. I’ve tested it. G-Mail itself is just the easiest e-mail to hack.”
Akon advises artists and producers to create their own server, with log-on credentials that only they know. The “Sexy Bitch” singer also believes that leaks can be prevented by limiting the amount of downloads off that server – even downloads that you, the creator, initiate.
You may be wondering: “Wait, didn’t we already hear songs from this LP, like ‘Life of a Superstar’, ‘Party Animal’, and ‘Nosy Neighbor’ leak on to the net?” All of the aforementioned tracks were allegedly produced by David Guetta. According to Akon, the operative word in that statement is “allegedly.”
“All of those were actually done by me,” he revealed. “It’s funny, because that ‘Life of a Superstar’, I originally did that for Nicole (Scherzinger) for the Pussycat Dolls. That’s her record.”
Download the interview
The American-born/African-raised artist told me he, Guetta and Freedom collaborator Giorgio Tuinfort have been in the studio creating “a whole new sound… to the whole Stadium sound.” The dance music trend is continuing to grow here in the States – and Akon might credit that to MTV’s “Jersey Shore”… but there’s one problem.
“I know I’m probably going to sound dumb saying this, but I haven’t seen ‘Jersey Shore’ yet,” he admitted. “Dude, I don’t know nothing about it. Don’t tell nobody though.”
Akon and I got back to talking about new albums, with the singer saying that fans of Lady GaGa’s previous work will love her latest on Born This Way. It was Akon that helped GaGa sign her record deal.
“It’s one of those albums where you can hear the growth in it,” he noted. “She’s getting bigger and bigger and her music is growing along with her.”
As for those wondering when GaGa will release this album: don’t start counting down the days yet. Akon said it isn’t finished yet.
“She’s always recording. That’s one thing about us, we never stop recording until it’s actually time to send it in.”
While the expectations may be high for both Kon’s and GaGa’s releases, Mr. Konvict Muzik may have set the bar even higher for his upcoming performance on the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”
“Yeah man, that’s the hardest job of my career man,” he joked about the gig, which airs next month on CBS. “Honestly, you might see me perform harder than I’ve ever performed in my life!”
Kat DeLuna insists, Inside Out, her sophomore LP, will be released this year.
“No, no, no, not hopefully, it is!” she quickly replied, correcting my statement that she’d “hopefully” release the album later this year. “We haven’t picked the precise date yet, but looking toward around the summer.”
Some may have been wondering if DeLuna would ever release her second album: the project has gone through multiple years of work, multiple singles… even multiple record labels. The “Whine Up” singer left Epic Records in 2008 for Universal Motown. Since landing at the label, she’s collaborated with label mates Lil Wayne (“Unstoppable”) and Akon (“Push Push”).
DeLuna says the latter track is the official debut single for Inside Out. Produced by David Guetta, Kat created her own “Push Push” dance, which she already taught to Akon. The artist plans on uploading a tutorial to YouTube.
“I love to dance,” she gushed. “It’s funny, when I wake up and I’m getting ready in the morning, like I’m just dancing (while) looking at myself in the mirror.”
Dances have been a common theme in Kat’s singles. The “Whine Up” rose in popularity as the corresponding song shot up the charts. Of course, who could forget Perez Hilton dancing like a fool to “Dance Bailalo” last summer?
Download the inteview
Kat & Ralphie back in Summer ’07
Hilton, real name Mario Lavandeira, shares Latino heritage with Deluna – he’s Cuban, she’s Dominican. The celebrity blogger jumped on the bandwagon of critics in September 2008 after DeLuna received a chorus of boos following her rendition of the “The Star Spangled Banner” on “Monday Night Football.” But, he loved “Dance Bailalo”, and apparently is a fan of her new work.
“He actually heard it a couple of days ago, and he said ‘Smash,’” DeLuna reported of Hilton’s reaction to the song. “He’s been a really good, amazing friend… you know, we can be friends today and I’ll still love him if tomorrow he goes on the other side.”
Hey, in entertainment, you never know – things change quickly and can turn inside out in no time. But don’t bother telling that to Kat – no pun intended – you’d be preaching to the choir.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love every day,” DeLuna said. “With this second album, I’m so excited for my fans… people are going to discover me, again.”
After calling in last week, Matisyahu stopped by “The Ralphie Radio Show” to perform a drumless version of the track, “One Day”. The remix, featuring Akon, will be showcased by NBC during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which kick off February 12. Matis chatted about his back and forth with Akon for the record, as well as his religion… you may learn something you never knew by listening to this interview!
The remix is available as a bonus track when Light is purchased on iTunes.
Matisyahu grew up playing hockey and cheering on the New York Rangers in White Plains, NY. Little did Matthew Miller know that he would eventually call the theme to a Winter Olympics a song of his own. “One Day” is a track off of his 2009 LP, Light. Now, a remix with rapper Akon will be featured by NBC throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics – which kick off February 12.
“There’s been an offer out from the Canadian (hockey) team,” joked Matisyahu, who called “The Ralphie Radio Show to chat about the track. “I’m trying to decide if I can do it to America.”
Kidding aside, the Hasidic Jewish emcee will be rooting for the U.S. – and will also appear in Vancouver to perform a few shows. Although he doesn’t record or perform with autotune – Matisyahu admits experimenting with it and other vocal effects in the studio. Despite this, he didn’t hesitate to collaborate with Akon.
Download the mp3
“My taste is kind of like, really varied,” he said. “As long as someone is using something tastefully and it’s being done in a way, I can get in to it, even if it’s not something I would necessarily choose to do myself.”
Certainly Matisyahu is no stranger to the mainsteam – his 2006 song, “King Without A Crown” cracked the Top 30 on the Billboard charts. While other artists may attempt to hide themselves from the masses, as to not alienate themselves from the underground – Matisyahu views the balance of the two realms as a challenge.
“For me, it’s about, definitely staying true to the music and not compromise, but at the same time, to be able to kinda make music and create something that people can really relate to,” he said. “Yunno, there’s an art to that, and I don’t really see it as compromise to do something more accessible as much as I see it as, yunno, ‘How do you make one of those songs that’s timeless?’”
An artist who feels it’s more of a challenge than a cop out to create something for both the mainstream and the underground – who knew?
In the days of Web 2.0 – you know you’ve made it when someone attempts to imitate you on Twitter. Bajan singer Shontelle fell a brief victim to an identity thief – or should I say, twief – on Wednesday evening. Coincidently enough, Ms. Layne stopped by The Ralphie Radio Show on the following day.
“This was not the first time,” revealed Shontelle. “We literally had to call the Twitter people and freak out, ‘cause we’ve like, submitted for verification so long ago. I guess it takes a minute, ‘cause there’s so many people they have to verify.”
The impersonator used the Twitter username “ShontelleLayne_”, simply moving the underscore from the real Shontelle’s handle of “Shontelle_Layne.” When Layne looked at the fake account’s timeline, she was shocked to find that this person began “tweeting” at Solange Knowles (singer, Beyoncé’s sister) and Rorrey Fenty (Rihanna’s brother) amongst other people.
As of late Sunday evening, Twitter had yet to verify Shontelle’s account. By “verifying” an account, Twitter places a notification in the upper right corner of the page, so that visitors know the account belongs to the person who they claim to be.
Of course, Layne didn’t need the Twitter incident as a sign that she’s making it in the entertainment industry. Surely opening up for Beyoncé overseas could help that argument. Layne opened for Jay-Z’s husband for about a month on the “I Am…” tour overseas. Shontelle entered the trek with the expectation that she wouldn’t even meet Beyoncé face-to-face, however the headliner proved the opener wrong on that thought.
“I just get this message, ‘Shontelle, go to Beyoncé’s room’” she recalled, noting that immediately she believed that something was wrong. “When I got in there (Beyoncé) was like, ‘No, I just wanted to like, hang out for a bit, because you know, you’ve been on this tour with me, and I haven’t really gotten the chance to tell you thank you for being on the tour, I haven’t really gotten the chance to tell you how talented I think you are.’”
Shontelle’s feelings immediately switched from scared to shocked – one of the biggest pop stars in the world went out of her way to pay Layne high compliments on her singing, stage performance… even videos. From the sound of Layne’s recollection, “stunned” may be an understatement.
Part 1: Twitter, Beyonce, Thanksgiving Day
Part 2: “Licky”, Rihanna, New CD
“I’m like, ‘You’re Beyoncé, why are you telling me this?’” said Shontelle. “Like, is this real? They couldn’t even get me in the room at first… because I was shaking,” she admitted, although Layne insists she wasn’t star struck as much as she was nervous about the meeting’s purpose.
Shontelle also admitted on The Ralphie Radio Show that she’s nervous about an upcoming event – the “T-Shirt” singer will take part in the halftime show in Detroit at the Lions/Packers game on Thanksgiving Sunday. Layne, along with other Universal Motown artists, will perform classic Motown hits in Motown. Shontelle would not divulge which song she is covering.
“If you watched Sister Act 2… you can take a hint from that,” she teased.
In addition to the performance, which will air to a national and international audience on FOX, Shontelle is preparing a new LP. The album is slated for a 2010 release, and Layne will only confirm collaborations with Mr. Hudson and Akon. The first single is a dance infused record called “Licky” – which Layne insists is inspired by desserts.
“Licky” isn’t the only new track from a Bajan artist – as Shontelle’s friend, the aforementioned Rihanna, is back with “Russian Roulette” and “Hard.” A week and a half ago, Rihanna appeared on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer to tell her side of the story. Layne told me that the interview was tough to watch.
“Honestly, it was like watching your little sister do a piano recital for the first time,” she said. “I was nervous. I was a wreck.”
The singer thought her former Cadet partner handled the situation on camera well.
“I thought she did great, actually,” remarked Shontelle. “And she said a lot more than I even thought she was gonna say. I’m really proud of her… I just want, them both really, to grow from this.”
The Grammy-nominated Colby O’ checked in to the RRS to give us an update on his next music project…
He’s the teacher and the student – the leader and the follower. It is this trait that helped Miami born emcee Pitbull reach the top of his game, with back to back top 10 singles, his first LP distributed by a major label, a world tour, and many more cameos on the horizon.
On this particular night, Pitbull, real name Armando Perez, plays the role of teacher. Pitbull provides for his crew, which features your typical litany of managers and stage hands, along with a band and DJ. Pit’s company, Mr. 305 Inc., fronts the money for expenses incurred. The crew chows down on a mix of fried chicken and salad, with a conservative selection of beer, liquor, and soda. In the back of the tour bus, also covered by Pit’s company, where a second flat screen and video game system are stored, I plop down on the leather couch. There, I’m joined by the Miami emcee and another one of his students, David Rush.
“It’s like going to college for free,” described Rush of his jaunt on “The Rebelution Tour” – which bears the name of Pit’s recent release on Mr. 305/RCA. Rush, who is also known as “Young Boss”, wrote and appeared on the club banger, “Go Girl”. Every night of the tour, Rush joins Pit on stage for the track. However unlike most opening acts, the Jersey native sticks around for the entire set.
“I get to learn and experience what not to do, what to do, what works on stage, what doesn’t work on stage, and… you get to study, you get to watch and learn,” said Rush.
Pitbull feels Rush is someone who “knows how to make hit records,” as opposed to just someone who may “stumble over” a hit. But in addition to the creative side, Rush is learning the business aspect of the industry as well – as Pit balances both the demands of his own company and of the record label’s.
Part 1: “Rebelution Tour”, “Ellen”, Mr. 305 Inc.
Part 2: Collaborations w/ Akon, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira; New Music
“I’m out here on my own dime. The label ain’t give me no money for this right here,” revealed Pit. “But to me, I am my biggest investment. Not that the label is treating me bad or anything like that, not at all, they just lettin’ me do what I do.”
What Pit has done is continued and extended the grass roots movement he started in 1997. From the outset, there doesn’t seem to be a magic formula to his success. Pitbull works 24/7 – rarely one to turn down any type of request – whether it’s for an interview, a record cameo, or an autograph. The “on-the-grind” mentality combined with the reliability of the person himself, mixed with a lucky break here and there – has landed Pitbull both street cred and mainstream notoriety, a tough status that only few artists obtain in this day and age.
But after speaking with the emcee, you realize there is one other ingredient to his successful recipe – the hunger and desire to continue to learn. This became evident when I asked Pitbull about his recent collaboration with Jennifer Lopez, who is now releasing music under her alter-ego, “Lola.”
“’Lola’ is what Marc Anthony calls her,” said Pit. “To work with Jennifer Lopez was an honor. Especially someone that’s opened the doors for the Latin’s the way she’s done it in the movie industry, in the music industry. More than anything, I watch them and I learn, yunno? And I’m studying, also.”
The Jennifer Lopez collaboration is just one of many on the way for Mr. 305 himself – also on the docket – tracks with Shakira, Kristinia Debarge, and Janet Jackson. Plus, similar to the Livvi Franc track – you never know what Pit will just hop on.
“Right now I’ve been on tour, since I’m the one funding the bus, I don’t get the studio bus,” he joked. “There’s a lot of riddims out right now, that don’t nobody really know about. I’m about to f*ck ‘em up!”