The-Dream Breaks Down Every Track on His New EP 'Crown'

The Love King explains how his latest project was created.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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The-Dream knows what you think of him. He knows you think he hasn't been creating the same R&B that turned the industry on its side in 2007. He knows you think he can only make a certain type of song for himself. He knows you think he's been eclipsed by a new breed of singers and songwriters who, as he says, "took one element out of 'Fancy' and made a whole career out of it." He gets it. Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, the producer who helmed The-Dream's first two albums and helped create the earworms for Beyonce and Rihanna that went onto become worldwide hits, also gets it.

That's why the two reunited for Crown Jewel, an album that will be released in July after being sold piecemeal as two separate EPs. The first EP, Crown, was released today and finds The-Dream in a familiar space. That's not to say the two are reaching back into the well. Well, not quite. The six songs, though a comforting listen for longtime fans, finds Terius Nash a bit more grown only insomuch as he's actually grown up and accomplished things he once talked about hopefully achieving. A few weeks before the release of Crown, The-Dream came by our offices to give a little insight into the making of the first half of what he calls one of his most honest albums to date.

All songs written and produced by Terius "The-Dream" Nash and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart.

1. "Prime"

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The-Dream: The production came last. It was literally about the word "prime" and what it meant to be in your prime as a man, as I start to now understand that. When you can see it, you know that you’re actually entering into that point versus somebody else telling you. You should be able to feel when you’re at that place and when you’re entering it.

The word came first and then it was what I wanted to talk about. My idea was there were many relationships that I have been in that when girls look at you, they look at you right then. That’s a misfortune for certain people. Everybody doesn’t turn out this way. I’m fortunate to be one of the ones that got out. I know all the girls in the hood, girls I dated through high school and my early twenties, who more so settled on what I was then, not what I would become. The backdrop to the song was centered around these relationships that I’ve had.

Your prime is your youth. Our prime as a man is getting older. The word came first and then the backdrop of the relationships came second, then the melodies and of course the emotions drive my melodies and how the song is, what key it’s in. Everything is driven by the emotion of what I want to talk about, if that makes sense. Then production just went around what that is. It’s sadder. It’s like, I make a planet then the rings and the layers as it gets further and further out, the production is on the end of that.

2. "That's My Sh*t" f/ T.I.

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The-Dream: There is growth in [“That’s My Shit”]. If you listen to “Shawty,” “I love Your Girl,” there’s definitely growth in it. It’s the subject matter and the simplicity of it that remind you of the [older songs]. If you play it side-by-side with the older stuff, you can tell what’s older. It’s just that we’ve all now grown and evolved to certain things. When I put out “Black” last year, everyone was like, “What’s this?” What do you mean? This is the same shit Marvin Gaye would’ve did.

I wanted to do a record like that. It was about time for me to do one. It wasn’t like, "Let me put this song first and make it the single." I dropped “Fruition” in Atlanta before this even came out and it was already getting played twenty-five times a week on the radio, so I took [this song] to the radio station myself, which pissed the label off. It wasn’t calculated in that type of way. It was just that people have their boxes and their things and this is why some brands do good. You don’t go to McDonalds and they change up the fucking sandwich, you’d be mad as shit and I would too. It is what is.

You would think if The-Dream has done something good he should be able to release “1+1” because he did this shit great. No. They really want me to keep doing the same shit over again. Not even the people, the people love the right side of my brain and all the other shit that I do. All the transitions. It was getting past the radio component of, “Hmmm that don’t really sound like you.” “Fancy” should have been on the radio. Period. Then all those alternative R&B guys took one element out of “Fancy” and made a whole career out of it. Crazy. See how they do me?

3. "All I Need"

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The-Dream: “All I Need” is my favorite record [on Crown] mainly because of the emotion tied to it. It’s real to me. It speaks to me. I guess if I was a fan, that is how I would listen to it. How fans listen to some of my records, or a girl says, “I love ‘Purple Kisses’ because of x, y, z.” I love “All I Need” because it just speaks to me. It’s hard to put that into words other than what the song is saying itself. Also, from a production standpoint, it compiles a lot of things; at certain points there’s no drums in it at all. That certain point on the hook, before the tempo picks up, it kinda reminds me how of I felt for those final eight seconds of “Fancy,” when I brought the drums in and everybody’s like, “Wait, man, why you didn’t keep that going?” I wanted you to hear what I was saying through in the song before you start jumping around and you miss the rest of it. I was really taken aback by “Fancy” at that point, so this is how this record is. I think I’m able to be heard in my natural feeling, in my natural emotion about needing someone.

4. "Fruition"

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The-Dream: This was a song started by Trick. He played the piano first. We were in Miami and we were going to eat at NoBu. He started playing that on the way out. I said, “Don’t forget that, when I come back I’m going to write it.” As soon as I got back we wrote it in about twenty minutes. It’s just you lost in a girl’s conversation. The girl that you’re with. It’s a regular day, the sun is shining, it’s spring, you’re in a bistro. She’s just talking about her normal shit, but your time of being lost in that moment lasts this whole song. You just think about all of the shit surrounding it. Your ideas just surround the other person. You don’t even know. You’re in this relationship with this person who does not give you that hard time that you have been in in your life.

5. "Throw It Back"

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The-Dream: [It was made] a while ago. Early on in the album. I don’t even know exactly when, but it was like the fourth song I did for the whole entire thing. I put out that Royalty EP and we just pushed out six or seven that were from the album and we had to replace them. This was a part of that. Every DJ wants this song right now. This is definitely progressive ratchetness right here.

Complex: It sounds like getting a lap dance in a cathedral.

The-Dream: It’s luxury… That’s exactly what it is, what you just said! A lap dance in a cathedral.

6. "Cedes Benz"

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The-Dream: Mercedes-Benz in the new black man’s Cadillac. It’s like the inspiration. That’s why the clip on the first part [of the song] is of the girl that everybody knows from the Internet saying, “Oh, he got money, get it all for him!” When you got a Benz that means you’ve arrived. It used to mean the same thing it meant to my grandfather, my uncles, and all those who had Cadillacs. Benz is that thing now that you’re trying to get to. We all come from the hood and we have things we aspire to be and in the ‘80s that’s what the young boys started to have. That’s back when I used to take the Benz logo off and put it on the chain. That’s when the Cadillac was going out, and the Benz was coming in. I think for all of those kids, including myself, the Benz became that “Alright, cool. This is what I gotta get to. When I get on, I’m going to get that Benz.”

The slow part is about your relationship. I just wanted to write a feeling. That’s all it was. If you know how the Benz is and you in it, or in that Maybach. It’s just soft, the leather is soft, girl is soft, and you just riding and the music is playing. You can just imagine the roof opening and your girl’s hair is done and the wind is hitting her hair and it’s just blowing back. You rolling through New York City at night and nobody is on the street. I wanted to write that, whatever that feeling was.

We couldn’t clear the sample. It was very easy for me to my talent box to go do a brand new record. I love when I get pushed to those particular points. When you trying to include people, especially Anita, who I have adoration for and what she does, what they never understand is that the older generation the new kids could know you and they can say that they don’t care but they do. They could know you a certain way but it has to be through certain people. I feel like I am one of those people who could say, “Hey man, Sam Cooke is this to me.” Somebody will listen and say “Oh, wow, his stuff is great.” They think they’re doing themselves a service by saying, “You can’t use it or you can’t use this.” Eventually you’re going to be forgotten. I’m never going to grow old and be that guy and say, “Nope, you’re not using it.” I’m going to ask you what you’re using it for, I will listen to it, but I am never going to be that person who is like, “All of my stuff, you can’t use it.” Some of these people you run into they just have that thing like, “No, I’m good” until we forget about you forever.

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