Updated: Nov 11
TC: Is there a particular target audience, group, or market for whom your music is oriented or produced?
Rickstar: Not really. My music is for everyone. Having close friends who were Albino growing up in the UK helped me out a lot to appreciate and welcome our differences and backgrounds. I don’t like seeing color, gender, or whatever getting in the way of creating each of our own realities. I just want everybody to enjoy my music. Madonna and Janet [Jackson] have been able to do that. Now we have people like Lil Nas X, who’s great at doing that, able to relate to the values of gen Y and Z especially--family, connection, loyalty, accessibility, longevity, diversity--things important to my music. The art of making music shouldn’t be, ‘Oh, I’m just sticking to this one person, group, category or whatever'! What’s the point of it all if you’re only going to cater to one person or group... street or whatever? It's good, but there’s a universal appeal. Back in London [UK] when I was younger, I was in a group called "S.O.S" ("Sons of Soul") that changed their name to "Rough Copy" once I left. That experience helped me think a lot about how to cater to as many people as possible. I think that that makes me an eclectic visual, music artist.
TC: What is "Young Nation"? What's its role in elevating you as an artist?
Rickstar: Young Nation is like my own record label I've created, a gift really to gen Y and Z coming up. Its message, ‘A cry for help’ for some of the things that I went through. This is a new nation, and we don’t want to lead people down the wrong path. It’s a way of seeing music as a force for good in the world–a way of helping and teaching our young people through the beauty of music and some of the things I’ve learned and have been doing. It includes a great and stellar group of artists and engineers such as RIAA 10x platinum, 4x Grammy nominated, producer Yonni; hitmaker Brian 'Mr B.' Barber who produced my latest Pop/R&B singles, “Making Love” and "Young Nation". Singer, songwriter and 13x platinum producer Prince Chapelle co-wrote “Making Love” in the studio, another important part to the Young Nation collective--engineer, vocal producer who pretty much gets what I do, and we connect. We work on loads of different music, songs, and really try to make it work. Everything involved in creating great music and visual art is a part of the label, from songwriting and producing, to merchandising, filmmaking ("Making Love"/"Young Nation" music videos; filmmaker Adam Gibson; photographer Ronald Knerem; choreographer Alan "A.R." Richard) … It’s a movement! That’s how I see what I’m doing with the label. It’s like a new-age “Rhythm Nation.”
Rickstar (Cont'd): Also a title to a song on Aaliyah’s debut album “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” produced by R. Kelly, "Young Nation" has a Janet Jackson “Rhythm Nation” feel; it's important for me that people create their own reality, giving them what I’ve learnt, without people putting different things and labels on them. Unlike before when I was trying to get signed to a record label three to four years back, my music now is carefully crafted for its overall message, ‘We have control over our future, our destiny, and the way that we create our realities'. I hope to promote and counter the message of being caught up in some kind of "hype" or doing what everyone else seems to be doing. Young Nation stands for not getting caught up in “the hype.”
I want my team and people who’re making music to enjoy their work, to enjoy the songs they write, their rehearsal time, etcetera. To enjoy the shows that they do. Enjoy their moment and the time they get to create. We don’t always need to be so caught up in the Likes, Reposts, Shares of social media. Young Nation is about our focus on whatever it is we want to bring to reality.
TC: How did the single "Making Love" come about?
Rickstar: It was sent to me as different songs. Music producer Brian 'Mr B.' Barber, who I started working with when I was living in London, was doing some music videos and some tracks… It was very Motown. We reconnected last year, and we just started doing different songs. "Young Nation" was one of the first songs he produced for this new project. There were other beats we listened to, but I didn’t feel like they really captured the sound that I was going for; I decided to just try to write something to it. That song came about with artist and vocal engineer Prince Chapelle … we just jotted down whatever we could. It took like two days to really decide what we wanted to do with that particular song. I sang whatever came to my mind, and we started building like that. I think the verses were written first. I wanted it to be a DeAngelo “How Does It Feel” kind of song. Very sexy! We then wrote to it. Prince already had the studio, so I just went in the booth and started singing the line, and we just started building that way–the verses, the chorus … and we started adding all the harmonies. I’m really big on having full-on harmonies in my songs. I just need that to make me feel good.
We came out with these intricate harmonies, kind of like the way I’d listen to a Tweet song or whatever ‘cause I like the way her harmonies are–like birds coming together to sing. Once it was complete, my mom was like, “So you’re gonna do R&B again?" She really liked it. I just decided that that would be such a simple video to have that D'Angelo "How Does It Feel" chill-sexy-vibe, and to just go with it, even though it wasn’t cheap to do! It still cost but I just kept going with it. It’s like a warm-up to "Young Nation", really. I wanted to have that sexy, "grown-man" persona to the project I’m putting out. Also, my main thing is to have messages in my song. So, “Young Nation” makes for a great follow-up to “Making Love”, basically. I did put out “Young Nation” already, but I wasn’t able to go full throttle with it, the way I would’ve liked. I wanted to have my merchandise done… everything in one. It was a lot to do the choreography, too. I just wanted to get it right. Once I knew that I was able to do “Making Love”, I felt like we could then do the music video to "Young Nation". Once we finished it, I was like, ‘Let’s not waste any more time!’ That’s how that came about.
TC: How and when did you get your start in music? Take us back to times when you thought, 'I got this!' 'I can do this!'
Rickstar: A lot of the things I’m doing right now have literally been handed down to me from my mother. I started singing as a kid. My mother would put me into different singing classes around London, where I discovered my love for performing. I then attended Sylvia Young Theatre School, perfecting my craft before getting into conservatoire-style training at Urdang performing arts. I had to go to classes daily in dance and vocal training until I received a musical theater degree. During the same time, I was also in S.O.S., which I mentioned. In a way, I see myself living out what I’ve been taught by my mother. Everybody should matter in this world, and music is an expression that really taps into a universal language of core values and shared experiences. While I don't make it a point to make political statements or commentary in my music, I think just being my best, authentic self--being who I am naturally--could be seen as political for some people.
In general, some of my musical inspiration comes from listening to Dru Hill as a kid. My mom would play that too … I’ve learned a lot vocally from the group sound, especially from Sisqo. I was also influenced by DeVante Swing's collective sound of Da Bassment Cru, drawing inspiration from the likes of R&B/Hip-Hop's finest... DeVanté Swing, Missy Elliot and Sista, Timbaland, Magoo, Ginuwine, Tweet, Aaliyah... That’s why I really gravitate towards Aaliyah because she had Static Major, who was also a great artist in the collective, a member of the R&B trio Playa. I love his background vocals and songwriting from a female and male perspective. I’ve always wanted to be in the industry or whatever since I can remember. I’m literally just going where God leads me; I’ve gone by what other people have told me or what they’ve said, and they’ve wanted to control and be over my life and career. Now I’m just doing the music that I love to do and what I believe my supporters appreciate. I’ve invested a lot of time, money, and resources as a visual-music, recording artist. The only thing I can do right now is just have fun and keep creating until the time comes where “the majority” gravitates to what my message and sound is, to what I’m bringing to the table. Yeah, I'm not just making music to just make it anymore.
A few years ago, when I was trying to get signed, I was just putting out anything--talking about money, cash ... all of that stuff! Since the last three years actually, I'm very careful about the message I'm trying to put out, which is again, 'We have control over our future, our destiny. The way we create our realities'. I don’t really take my cues from a lot of people in the industry. Obviously, I look at some of the things and trends to see what people are doing, but I always try to bring my own flavor to whatever. I’m in the studio with some really great Grammy-nominated producers, who’ve really been leading me in the right direction and helping me to develop my sound. Seeing myself as a visual artist, too, my music will always be the basis of who I am. I see music as the dominate and collaborative piece to my modeling and acting, for any given number of performances in multi-media platforms.
TC: How do you collaborate modeling and fashion into your being a visual-music artist? Do you find it difficult to balance, in this case, the three art forms?
Rickstar: I would love to collaborate with Versace and Donatella. Her pieces are so "out there," and they really shine when you're wearing them. I have a few pieces myself, and I use them for like when I'm on the runway, a choker, hairpin accessory... little subtle things like that. That would be a dream to have the brand be a collaborative part of my wardrobe for performances. I really love the fact that Versace gives a platform for artists. Other high-end, luxury brands that would make a good fit for me--my appearances and performances--would be Givenchy and Saint Laurent! However, I've also worked with or pulled from some pretty amazing designers and showrooms already, like Karl Kani, Sho Konishi, as well as Marc Little John's "This Man's Brand". I have a wonderful relationship and current partnership with Dolls Kill.
TC: What about the music industry most concerns you? What about it do you think you'll need help working through, keeping in check, managing, tending to...?
Rickstar: The aspect of the music industry that concerns me most in these times we are living is the music business and how it's changed from R&B and Pop music that feels good to people killing each other, and some of the ways artists have been cheated. You have to know and study the ins-and-outs of the business. I hope to bring my unique style and message across to the masses.
TC: What's something that a fan has said or done that keeps you motivated and inspired to give them hope in some way?
Rickstar: When they send me messages of encouragement or, in so many words, tell me to keep going and don't stop. That really motivates me. The changes I've gone through find their way into my music; I hope that inspires and uplifts them. "Young Nation" is one of those songs. I’ve never been a person to use the term “fans” to describe the people who support my music. Growing up in London, we had a lot of fans and stuff like that, but when it was really important to me to search inside myself as an artist, I just kept meeting people. So, a lot of the people who might be considered fans, we can have a conversation and they can support my music and whatever. I’m not trying to be worshiped, but I do want people to stream, download, listen to my music, and enjoy some of the things I enjoy and express in my music, so that we can make the world a better place. I want my “fans” to feel the way I do when I hear a certain beat, that lyric, that little word I might say. I have supporters. I call them supporters. They support my music; they repost and share it.
TC: Of the current 91 categories of the Recording industry (i.e., the Grammy Awards), or another peer and fan based nominated award guild or show, in which category would you want to be nominated, and presumably win?
Rickstar: A 'Best New Artist' Grammy that recognizes my and Young Nation's hard work would be great... perfect for now, but I'd love for us to win a video music award for our visuals. That'd be a great addition to the mix. I like music videos a lot, so being honored with that kind of award from the likes of American Music Awards or Music Television Video would be great, where you could be voted upon by your peers and fans. I see myself as a visual artist who has the music to go along with it. That would be really nice, you know! A video music award!
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