Alfonzo Hunter is ready to give the masses another chance to head to the club, party and drink some Bacardi, but he is no new kid on the block when it comes to the music industry. Under the helm of Eric Sermons Def Squad Records, Hunter released his nearly gold 1996 debut Blacka Da Berry with the single Just The Way (Players Play). After Def Squad and Alfonzo were bounced between several labels, the budding artist broke free and decided to do his own thing.
At 28-years-old, armed with a new label and the new single Dont Stop featuring Fabolous, Alfonzo Hunter is looking to color the world of R&B with unique songs depicting Chicago life. He shares some insight on his new album with AllHipHop.com Alternatives, and breaks down his thoughts on Chi-Town love and drama.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Tell us about your new single and how you ended up at Romeo Entertainment?
Alfonzo: I was hired by Romeo to produce a single for one of their artists, and from that I met with people within the label. The relationship just grew from there. It was around last year, and I was about to be out of my Universal Records deal with Eric Sermon. His album didnt reach the potential Universal expected, and it was rumored that he was about to be dropped. They gave me and a couple others the option to roll with Eric or branch out, and I branched out. I still got love for the Def Squad and Eric Sermon taking the time with me, but it was time for me to do my own thing. When I signed with Romeo, they were 100 percent behind me. They asked me for a wish list of collaborations – Fabolous came up, and they made it happen.
AHHA: Do you feel that R&B artists now have to do club songs to soften fans to their music?
Alfonzo: I dont think as an R&B singer I have to do a club song, I have to have good music. It is important as an artist to do songs that expose who you are. Dont Stop is a natural story for me to tell. Of course, the style is similar to the stuff thats out now. Being current gives me a good look, but there are no certain themes that an artist should have. Alicia Keys has sold millions of albums, and she hasnt had any club songs. I think its simple; you have to have good music.
AHHA: How did you hook up with Eric Sermon?
Alfonzo: I had been sending him stuff, so he flew me out to Atlanta; he was cool. By that time I had developed into a decent writer, I had a quick ear and could grab music right away. In the car from the airport, I started freestyling [singing] over the beats. Hes a rapper, and I grew up in the projects, so he liked that my lyrics were kind of grimy. From there, we clicked.
AHHA: You used to sing background for R. Kelly?
Alfonzo: Yeah, as a youngn [R. Kellys then music director] Keith Henderson told me that R. Kelly had auditions for background singers, and Keith was the one that hired me. Hes always looked out for me like that. That was my first opportunity to sing professionally in the music business.
AHHA: You two kind of sound alike. Do you ever get any comparisons?
Alfonzo: Yeah, because I started out with him we probably sound similar and have similar whats the word, can you help me out?
AHHA: An accent, slang, twang?
Alfonzo: Yeah, an accent. We sound similar, because my grooming as a performing singer was with him. Ive done everything to try to change that. Ive listened to Joe, Faith [Evans], and all other kinds of artists. So I have to be really careful of that.
AHHA: So how do you come out of Chicago and not be typecast as another R. Kelly?
Alfonzo: Well, its just that Im not trying to sound like anybody. Some people say I have this East Coast thing about me, because I spent so much time out there. I dont bite. Im an artist and open to new things introduced to me. Lately, Ive been learning all this Spanish. Ive been hanging out with this Spanish girl, doing some songs with her, and now Im kickin Spanish.
AHHA: So youre like a sponge?
Alfonzo: Maybe its for me to be an actor. Im being primed for my big role everyday, because when it comes to creating things, Im inspired by so many different things. So maybe I am like a sponge.
AHHA: What is it about Chicago that [incites] songs about drama? Is it really that much more drama there?
Alfonzo: Its such a rat race here, because we have been shut out of the industry so long. As soon as somebody gets something popping, that artist is blown away and forgets all about the city. Were not groomed here for the industry. Here, we grind and grind and people say its Chicago bullshit. To say that is terrible. There will always be New York and LA, now its Atlanta, St. Louis, even Texas. Chicago does well, but nobody sets up shop here. People complain that artists dont support each other.
If artists stayed here and support each other, wed have a place in the game. People come here, get talent and roll out. My manager told me that this single is going to be way bigger than my other situation, and he wants me to get out of here. Now Im so comfortable, Im too comfortable. In my neighborhood, there are five Hunter households, and its a comfort zone. But I know Twista had a concert here and some guys rushed the stage with guns because they wanted to do a song with him and he didnt. I heard Kanye West has had the same problem.
AHHA: So are there any Chicago artists that you have tried to work with?
Alfonzo: Basically, we tried to get Twista for the single – and basically we got the run around and got shot down. As soon as we got Fabolous on the record, Twista called. I was sitting there when my people told them we already got Fabolous. I would love the opportunity to make music with Chicago artists and make this a music mecca. But Ive tried, maybe one day Ill be the one to get that off.
AHHA: Tell us about your album.
Alfonzo: The album drops at the end of this year or early next year, but the timing has to be right. We have some really big concepts. I like to tell real stories. I still want to tell good stories, but come from a different perspective lyrically. I sing R&B, but some concepts on the CD are a little controversial for an R&B artist. Theres a song about is that your real kid or not. Of course, the love songs are on there, but theres one about a younger man and older woman.
AHHA: You said an older woman and younger man?
Alfonzo: Yeah, theres a lot of good stuff. I wrote the majority of the songs. Out of 15 songs, I produced 10. So Im going with the flow. Its hard to sell records nowadays and I want to give people their moneys worth.