Rico Love doesn't have to sing. He's written enough hits to pay for his Miami Beach pad and his shiny jewelry and his Rolls-Royce sedan. The SESAC songwriter of the year three years in a row has penned hits like Usher's "There Goes My Baby" and Kelly Rowland's "Motivation," so he's stacked enough paper that he'll be seeing nice royalty checks for the foreseeable future.
So his new EP, Discrete Luxury, which drops tomorrow on Interscope, is not a money move. It's more of a pesonal project, a statement on the strange relationships that form between men and women at the highest levels of the music industry. Songs like "To My Ex" (which we premiered earlier today) and "Everybody's Girl" open a door to a hidden world that most of us only dream about—a world of private jets and beautiful women who are willing to do just about anything to live that lifestyle. Complex got on the phone with Mr. Love to talk about the girls behind the stories behind the songs.
Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
I've been listening to Discrete Luxury and I noticed that there’s a theme to this EP. As a songwriter who has made so many hits for other people, it seems like you made this one more of a personal project.
Yeah man, absolutely. I was telling people, it started happening when I wrote um “Heart Attack” for Trey Songz. When I wrote uh Melanie Fiona’s “4 A.M.” and Mary J. Blige's "Mr. Wrong." Just through all the hurt in the music I could see I was going through something serious in my relationship.
I was writing about it but I didn’t even realize it. I was going through this thing and it just started coming out on paper. So I saw the transition, because never in my career had I written songs that were about me or coming from such a personal place. I started writing these kinds of songs I realized I was really in a really bad time in my life. I was going through this terrible breakup with my son's mom and I was really feeling it and I was like, "Shit man it’s really starting to become personal. And it's showing."
But let’s talk about the good times too because when you’re talking about "Champagne is my Viagra," I mean that’s definitely a rare feeling. That’s an experience that not everybody has.
Believe it or not, that was always true. As long as I got some champagne in my system, we all good.
You attract a lot more women when you're in a position to take care of them. And that can f*ck your head up. It gives you a certain type of power mentally. You start feeling like, 'You know what? I can do what I want to do. Everywhere I go, women want me.'
What happened even in "Champagne," that was like me making fun of myself. It was a situation where I had hung out with this young lady and she ended up you know doing some corny shit— taking pictures of my jewelry.
And that's a no-no?
She posted it on her Facebook and it got all over MediaTakeout and it was like, Oh you know Rico Love hangs with this groupie and this this and that. She got us in all this craziness. So I made the "Champagne" record as a fun way to talk about it. To kind of like make fun of myself. And when I say "Please don’t take no pictures/Especially with my jewelry on/Damn you so so vicious..." I was having fun and showing how those type of things happen.
I wanted to make sure everything was real and true to me. I didn’t want to make any matter of fact songs, like, OK well let’s talk about top and bottoms or let’s talk about this. Nah, I want it to be true to me in some way or another. And to make it interesting. To make sure I set myself apart from all artists—not just song writers who become artists and producers who become artists. And I don’t want to say "become artists" because I always have been an artist. It’s always been where I started and how I got in.
It’s just something that I gave up on for a minute and it was, it takes a bit of courage to be able to step back out there and say, "You know what? That has always been your dream. Stop denying your dream."
No question. But you had a lot of success as a behind-the-scenes person and a lot of nice checks came in. What kind of an affect does all that money have on your personal life?
All women are attracted to power. I don’t think it’s a necessarily a groupie thing. All women love men who can take care of them if need be. And some women are out to get a man who can take care of them but some women they're not looking for somebody to take care of them. Still it’s always good to know, like, "Yo, if something happens, I got a man who is in a position to make sure that I’m gonna be OK."
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Not at all. As a man our job is to take care of a woman. That’s what I was always taught. So a lot of times you attract a lot more women when you're in a position to take care of them. That can fuck your head up, man. It gives you a certain type of power mentally. You start feeling like, "You know what? I can do what I want to do. Everywhere I go, women want me."
It’s so great that I was able to learn and go through all of those things, those trials and errors of being in that quote-unquote position of power and status financially, because now I’m in a position where I’ve grown out of a lot of things. When I speak about songs like "Everybody’s Girl" I’ve actually dated those type of girls. I’ve seen that because when you’re in this position, they come at you.
You might be hanging out with a girl this weekend and then next weekend you see them with another rapper, and then you see them with another songwriter, and then you see them with a basketball player, and they you see it’s like, those are everybody’s girls. Those records are true to me because of my experiences and how I view things. Even “Bitches Be Like,” which won’t make the EP, but it’s just one of my favorite songs, it’s just like another situation where I was able to observe things that were going on.
Well honestly I don’t know how that level of stuff goes. I wouldn’t mind getting to know but... Seriously that song “Everybody’s Girl” is a page out of your experiences? How did that go down when you realized it for the first time. Was it shocking to you?
I said before, I ran around with a lot of, um... Well, what happened, one of my first managers he’s just now getting ready to get out of the penitentiary in November. He was there for 10 years. So he’s from the streets and that’s all I was around. He was a major drug dealer in Atlanta and that’s where I got my start, in Atlanta.
Being around him all the time I saw how it is and how status can change and how you’re treated and just observed all the different women. Cause I was the guy who didn’t have money then and I didn’t get the same attention that I got when I did get money. I observed those things and I learned a lot from those women. Even how to handle situations. You know you got guys who out here ready to kill somebody because their girlfriend cheated, but not realizing like, "Yo man, she’s everybody’s girl. This is not a wifey. This is everybody’s girl."
Now it’s not a knock to women. A lot of times um when people hear the record they're kind of like, "Oh he’s pretty harsh." But it’s real. I have to be harsh. I have to real. I have to be true so we could start the conversation. Because I obviously want a daughter one day, and I want her to look down on this pornish type of girl. I want girls who hear this record to be like, "I don’t know if I want to." If it’s them, I want them to be like, "I don’t know if I want to be this anymore." And if it’s not them I want them to be like, "You know what? I’m glad that it’s not me." So it’s very true, it’s very real. Everybody’s girl is out there. Guys are really going crazy and losing their minds over females that position themselves to be for everyone.
And sometimes the guys have no clue?
A lot of times guys know and don’t want to really admit it.
Oh man. That’s deep.
Seriously. Like, you know how it is when a girl is really for you. If a girl is really for you, you know the feeling. You know that she answers whenever you call. You know she’s gonna go out her way to see you. You know that there’s never gonna be a situation where she’s gonna be too busy for you.
You got guys who out here ready to kill somebody because their girlfriend cheated, but not realizing, like, 'Yo man, she’s everybody’s girl. This is not a wifey.'
So when those situations arise and there is a woman not giving you that attention, not going out of her way to see you, and I’m not talking about a woman who’s busy working and good in her career—let’s make that clear.
I’m talking about a woman who would rather go to All-Star weekend and Super Bowl than hang out with you.
And you see that Instagram and these exotic looking pictures.
Yeah, Yeah. Exactly. And nothing against them, let’s just make it clear. Like I even say at the end of the record, I ain’t knocking their hustle. I can never be mad at they grind. I’m just saying if you would kill somebody over her, I hope they burn you in the jail. I hope you go under the jail if you would go that far, you know what I mean?
So for a young man getting in the game now, let’s say you blow up off of a record and you're experiencing your first taste of fame and fortune. What are the rules for dealing with these industry girls, groupies, or whatever you want to call them. How do you spot them?
You’re not going to have to spot them, they’re gonna spot you. It’s not even... Nah man. You gonna know it. It’s not even something you can really so much explain. You know, you get in this life, you get successful, there’s certain type of women that will give you a certain type of attention. If it is what it is you gonna get it. And then what will happen is you’ll realize that she’s really popular with everyone. You know what I mean?
Now how you view it is this man, it is what it is. Enjoy yourself and if you’re gonna hang out with them enjoy it for what it is. But, um and a lot of the times they want to enjoy it for what it is. But don’t go crazy and don’t kill yourself over this situation over somebody that’s everybody’s girl. If a girl is just, today she ain’t with you in the, in the club and then next week she’s with this guy in the club and she, and this guy buys her plane ticket and fly’s her here and next week you buy a plane ticket and fly her there, next week another guy buys her a plane ticket to Pennsylvania, this is everybody’s girl. You know what I mean. It’s rotation.
When most people who listen to this would not believe in this life and be like that’s fucked up but it’s not, it’s the truth. It’s the raw honest truth and this is something that we view and this is something that is very real in the world so you know, I just I just say look accept it for what it is, pay attention to it, and don’t get so caught up in it. I would hope that a woman would hear this and be like I wouldn’t want to be that type of girl.
Contrary to the stereotype, some guys are out here looking for a real connection, but that may not be what a particular women is looking for. Like you said there’s anguish behind these groupie tales and sometimes feelings do get hurt.
Exactly. These are things I’ve learned and things I’ve seen. These are things that are very true and real to me. On the EP, I have a record called "Strip Club" and I’m shouting out a lot of different dancers. I don’t see anything bad about any of them because I don’t have anything bad to say about any of them. I learned so much from them and when I say "I wish I could turn my hotel into a strip club/I’d invite everybody," it’s not that I want to have girls come dance at my hotel, it’s basically saying, I made it to this level of life and I wish I could invite all of these girls here cause they taught so much along this journey.
In the verses, I break down each girl and I’m stating an attribute about each of them. Like "my girl Dior she don’t dance no more." But she cool as fuck and she stay down. She got up out of that life but she remains true to the world. She was always cool and understanding and never judgmental of that lifestyle. Same as when we make it out of the hood but we still show love and represent and don’t turn our nose up at where we came from.
Or when I talk about Brittany, I seen somebody spent 60 and they still ain’t get that number. She was always about her business. To be able to see her focus it really taught me so much. Made a nigga want to get rich. She made me want to get money because she was one of those go-getters. So when I’m saying I wish I could invite all them to my to my hotel, it's basically cause I just wanted to show them, like, look where I’m at now.
Look at the guy you met at 17 years old going to the Blue Flame. And look where I’m at, at 30. President of my own label, one of the top song writing producers in the world, three times in a row songwriter of the year. I’ve learned from everyone around me and it's very important that I shout out that world because that is the world that I’m very well-loved and well known. A lot of people may look at it like, :Oh you just went up in there and spent a lot of money." These are people that are friends of mine. These are people when they see me they hug me. If I don’t spend a dollar in the strip club, when they see me it's love. Cause they like, "Man, Rico we watched you." OG, she used to dance at Magic City. She watched me come up.
A lot of people don’t know the music business was like my mistress. I was behind the scenes writing all these records for all these people. I don’t need everybody in the world to know who I wrote for. If you thinking that Beyonce wrote 'Sweet Dreams' makes you love that song better, then I want you to think that.
So that's a real connection.
You know what I mean? I was in there when I was 17 years old. So when she seen me it ain’t just like, "Oh there’s some money." It’s like, "That’s Rico. I watched him. I seen him tell me he was gonna be the biggest motherfucker in the world and he did it." I don’t want to make it seem like I made it already but it’s basically for them to say, like, "Damn. homeboy really came up." I wish they could see this.
So everything is my experience in this EP. I want you to look beyond the surface. Even the single, “They Don’t Know,” on the surface it’s about the mistress, and about me being with this mistress but really I wrote it about the relationship of being in the actual music business. A lot of people don’t know the music business was like my mistress. I was behind the scenes writing all these records for all these people. And I loved the relationship, it wasn’t a bitter relationship.
I never was the guy who was like, "Oh I don’t get credit for it and I’m the one making it." Nah, I love this relationship that we have. That’s special between the two of us because it’s truly about the love and purely about the music. I don’t need everybody in the world to know who I wrote for.
If you thinking that Beyonce wrote "Sweet Dreams" makes you love that song better, then I want you to think that. That’s not my job. Now the people who love songwriting and love behind the scenes, for them to know who did it, that’s important to me. But it was never a situation where I was bitter. In this relationship between me and the music business, this was our secret so to speak.
OK so it works on different levels.
Because if you listen to the songs I’ve written, the substance that is there was very true and real in all of my hits. Even records like “These Hoes Be Acting Up.” There’s substance there.
I didn’t know you wrote that one.
Yeah. "These Hoes Be Acting Up," "Ball." All these records, even the record that you might think is ratchet-ass song, I always try to make sure there’s a bit of content there for everyone. And that’s what makes the EP fun to me. That’s what makes the creation of the album fun. Being able to have all these cool conceptual records. I had to respect the people who are really the core of music, like you know I got A$AP Ferg to do a record with me for my album. I got A$AP Rocky that just did a verse on my record for my album.
OK, so then after the EP there’s an album in the works?
Well when this EP drops I think another gear is about to kick in. “To My Ex” that sounds like a smash.
That was one of the first songs I did. That made me want to really do this EP. My manager Danny went crazy when he heard it. He was like, "Yo this is a smash. This is the one." And I was so happy to be able to put Tiara Thomas on it, to have her rhyme on it because a lot of people don’t know how versatile she is and how multifaceted she is as an artist. She went in and she wrote her verse in like five minutes off the top of the head. She don’t write nothing on paper. She just got in there and spit the rhyme and I was like, "Yo this is... I never seen a girl do that before."
As I listen to these records with the private jets and the champagne and everything, my imagination runs wild. What is the wildest groupie experience that you can remember? I mean, like, how crazy does it get?
Aw man let me tell you. When I was like 17, 18 years old, I was in Atlanta. I used to be with Jagged Edge a lot. So they had a company called 581. And I was never signed to 581 but I was always just like down. But Kyle Norman, they call him Quick, he’s one of the members of Jagged Edge. He’s like one of the funniest, most charismatic people I know. You would never know this because he doesn’t sing lead. He’s just like one of the guys in the group. One of the dark-skinned guys that a lot of woman would go crazy over. So one night I met this girl, I met her at a club called Fuel in Atlanta. Make sure you write Fuel. When people read this and they see Fuel they gonna be like, "Oh shit. I remember that."
I met this girl and we just hanging out talking and Kyle comes downstairs, like, 'What are you doing?' And I’m like, 'What you mean? I’m chilling.' He said, 'Man that’s not what you do with her.' And he just started having sex with her right in front of me.
Taking it back.
So I met this girl at Fuel. We went to Fuel the next day I invite her over to the guy’s house where I was staying on weekends. Because I would go from Tallahassee to Atlanta every weekend and I would stay at a room at his house every weekend. So I invited the girl to the house the next day.
I’m 18 years old and this girl to me was amazing. I never seen a woman this beautiful that would take interest in me, ever. You know, big pretty lips, big ass, big tits and the most amazing pretty face. Back when I was younger that wasn’t common. Girls who had big asses and was pretty? That wasn’t normal. They was like few and far between. So I saw this girl, she comes to the house. I’m downstairs in the basement where the studio was in this back room, we just hanging out. I’m not expecting to have sex with her or anything. I’m just hanging out for around 20, 30 minutes…
Was she a dancer when you met her?
No she wasn’t a dancer. It was just a regular club up in Buckhead, this was when Buckhead was popping. So we hanging out downstairs talking and Kyle just comes downstairs and he’s like "What are you doing?" To me. And I’m like, "What you mean? I’m chilling." He said, "Man that’s not what you do with her." And he just started having sex with her right in front of me.
Right then and there?
Yes. Right then and there. And I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do. I was just so... I didn’t understand it.
So she was sitting in a chair he just threw her legs up in the air or what?
Yeah, he did. He just gave her something and she took it. One of his body parts, she took it and uh...
She started to work with it.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. And then he proceeded to have sex with her in front of me. And I was like, "What the fuck is going on?" Like, I’m thinking this is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met in my life and she should be my wife one day.
And he’s like, "Yo, what are you doing man?"
Like, let me show you what you do.
Yeah, yeah. And it fucked me up man. It was like, "Oh shit, this is real." And the funny part is, I’m young as hell. She was so beautiful to me that after it happened, I still was like, "Yo, uh, so can I call you later?" I walked her out like afterwards.
And that was the last time I saw her from that night.
That was, that was crazy. That was one of the craziest things that have ever happened to me.
So he wasn’t like, You have some too right now? You were just watching?
I probably could have. I’m sure I probably could have. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I was like, I don’t know what to do. But I still was so attached, I still was so obsessed by how she looked.
So that’s the beginning of that everybody’s girl.
Yeah man. Yeah.
That’s just amazing man. Yeah, there’s a lot of different people living a lot of different lifestyles on this planet man, you know. And you kind of open the door on this EP.
Yeah. I just open the door for the conversation and you know, it’s all good. I still never judge her. This is just one of those things where you just learn and you see so much and you grow as a person and you take those things with you. You figure out how they make sense because God doesn’t make mistakes and everything you see and go through, you go through it to learn something. To be wiser in that area.