Why The-Dream Really Left Capitol Records

The-Dream announced he was leaving Capitol Records and now explains why.

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Complex Original

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It’s not every day an artist agrees to meet for an interview first thing in the morning. Especially an artist who is in the midst of writing and recording new music for himself and a few of the world’s biggest musicians—while also finding the footing for his new company. But at 10:30 a.m., on July 14, Terius “The-Dream” Nash steps off of an elevator in the St. Regis New York ready to talk about why his sixth album, Crown Jewel, is not in stores.

First, a little background.

On Jan. 29, 2015 a press release announced a new partnership between The-Dream and Capitol Records. Two years had passed since Terius Nash parted ways with his longtime label, Def Jam. Many wondered what the singer/songwriter/producer would do next. His last two albums, though critically acclaimed (2012’s Terius Nash: 1977 and 2013’s IV Play), failed to gain much traction in the marketplace, with the latter selling less than 60,000 copies. The man who helped breathe new life into R&B back in 2007 seemed primed for a comeback.

To the elation of many, the press release also announced that The-Dream had reconnected with his longtime collaborator, producer and songwriter Christopher “Tricky” Stewart. According to the release, the pair had formed a “progressive music and entertainment platform” called Contra Paris that would work with Capitol to release new music from the duo. First up was a pair of EPs calledCrown and Jewel that together would make up The-Dream’s sixth full-length album Crown Jewel.

Crown is more modern R&B, and Jewel will be more what you might think of as my songwriter side, the songs I might have given to other artists before,” The-Dream said, at the time. Put another way, Crown would feature songs that fans have come to expect from The-Dream, while Jewel would feature songs that he would otherwise give to artists like Beyoncé.

Capitol and Contra Paris planned to drop the EPs four months apart. Despite tepid promotion, Crown hit stores on April 14. If you bought it on iTunes, you were asked if you would like to be alerted when Jewel was available for purchase on July 10. It wasn’t the glitziest of roll-outs, but the singles ("That's My Shit" and "Fruition")​ were strong. It seemed as though things were going according to some sort of modest plan.

However, on July 10, instead of releasing Crown Jewel, The-Dream took to Instagram to explain that the album was being pushed back and that Contra Paris would no longer be doing business with Captiol Records.

“Out of respect for Steve Barnett I will not point any blame at Capitol records, although I am reserved in my feeling about certain things,” he wrote. “A 3 month long negotiation has ended and I am no longer being distributed by Capitol Records.”   

In the Cognac Room of the St. Regis, it’s clear The-Dream has more to say about how the once fruitful partnership turned rotten. When asked what he thought about the response to the Crown EP, he dives straight into the issues surrounding the deal. “There was no cultural nucleus, which is what I needed,” he says. “I needed particular things. You can’t ask me to be the artist and also be in a Capitol building saying who’s doing what.”

The “particular things” The-Dream needed were the things any artist of his stature would expect from a label partner: funds to help promote a project, assistance with potentially lucrative partnerships, help getting booked to perform at award shows. “If I’m using my $100,000 to go here to promote, why am I doing a partnership or giving you that 15 percent? I might as well just do it myself,” says The-Dream, as a waiter brings over a glass of water. “Ultimately, that’s what came of the thing. I think the pressure of me knowing what I needed kind of affected the relationship.”

The relationship started off well enough. When he and Steve Barnett, the chairman and CEO of Capitol, began their talks, The-Dream says he was optimistic. “It was more so a handshake between me and Steve Barnett about what he was going to do to try to make sure that I had what I needed. I believed exactly what he said. He was like, ‘You deserve to be the biggest thing out. Look at your credits. You deserve it.’” But when the album was turned in and discussions regarding promotion began in earnest, The-Dream sensed something was off. “There was a guy named Scott Greer that came in from SONY and we had a conversation about where records go, where they can go and where they can’t go. I made a point that I couldn’t afford not to be everywhere. I can’t afford it.” 

It was a standoff. You’re telling me that I can’t put my record here, but you’ll take my record and put it on Spotify? 

There was also an issue of what type of music Capitol wanted The-Dream to release. As previously stated, the idea of Crown Jewel was to showcase the totality of The-Dream’s talents: his ability to craft tracks for both urban and pop radio. The label was laser focused on the latter. “They were willing and wanting to get to this pop side of things and I wouldn’t let them,” he remembers. “It’s like, ‘No. We’re going to drop this record. We’re going to make sure my culture is happy with what it is that I’m doing. Then we’ll give you a shot at these records.’”

However, after all of that, the moment that made The-Dream say to himself, “Ok, I can’t do this” came when Capitol refused to let him make one of his songs that was not planned to be on Crown Jewel an exclusive on Tidal, the streaming music service owned by his good friend Jay Z.

“If someone that I consider a friend starts a streaming service, then I, as an artist and songwriter with music, am probably going to put a record over there. I do understand the politics of how everything works and that’s cool. But it’s another thing when politics turn into fear. Apple doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. It was coming from the interior of my label, saying, ‘You can’t put a record on Tidal.’ I was like, ‘Excuse Me? What are you talking about?’ Number one, you’re talking to me about what I can and can’t do with a record. Number two, you don’t even understand the significance of telling me as a cultural artist that I can’t be in a certain place where a cultural thing is happening. It was a standoff. You’re telling me that I can’t put my record here, but you’ll take my record and put it on Spotify? You’ll take my record and pimp it out to this person? Then it became a personal thing. At that particular point, it was those ideas and wherever they’re coming from versus me and my nigga Jay. I didn’t get a phone call from Apple saying, ‘If you put your record there, we won’t fuck with you.’ But I was getting that from this building I was in. I couldn’t really understand or comprehend it.”

The standoff resulted in an impasse that ended with The-Dream obtaining the masters of his albums and severing ties with Capitol Records. As of now, Contra Paris is an independent entity, free to release music as it pleases. After such tumultuous dealings, it sounds as if The-Dream and his label would be better off on their own. The-Dream disagrees. He would like the force of a strong partner that could help him reach the most people and maximize his fiscal opportunities. Who that partner will be remains to be seen. But The-Dream doesn’t seem too worried. As the conversation wraps, he considers doing a little shopping before he gets to work. He has some time to kill.

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