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Catching Up With Avant: From Performing in Iraq to R. Kelly Comparisons

 

Eight years deep in the

industry, R&B crooner Avant learned quickly that he had to craft his own

identity or risk being fazed out to prepubescent pretty boys or afro-sporting pseudo-soulquarians.

Over ten hit singles and four albums, the Cleveland-bred vocalist proved he

wasn’t just another new millennium R. Kelly Xerox, and that talent backed by an

athlete as a label head could actually be quality. As his first album My

Thoughts rose to the top of the

charts powered by hits like “Separated” and the resurrected Rene and Angela

classic cover “My First Love” with songbird KeKe Wyatt, Avant’s inception built

a mounting repertoire difficult to match. Avant has watched his success both

soar and stall, yet this has the singer more determined to make bigger waves.

 

Avant has also added actor to

his title landing roles in 2004’s Barbershop 2: Back in Business and David E. Talbert’s stage play Love in the Nick

of Tyme with Morris Chestnut.

However, picking up scripts hasn’t stopped him from nearly breaching commercial

crossover success with the 2006’s Director and taking part in the USO Tour singing to the men and

women in uniform overseas in Iraq.

 

Now returning with a new

single “When it Hurts,” a forthcoming self-titled album and pending duet album

with KeKe Wyatt, Avant has left the over-crowded Geffen Records roster for the

greener pastures of Capitol Records. Among the label’s historic lineage, Avant

feels the way to make himself at home is to eternally remain true to his fans. Director – Avant

AllHipHop.com

Alternatives: Your last album 2007’s Director did well on the charts. Now it’s 2008, what’s going

on with Avant?

 

Avant: I took a little time off trying to get into the

acting game. At the same token, I was working on a new album and also signing

with a different company. I’m at Capitol Records now. It’s a beautiful look;

I’m happy to be there. The Geffen situation was like we both felt like it was

time for us to part one another, but I can’t really be upset with them because

they gave me ten hits. Now it’s time for me to get some of this good music to

Capitol Records. It’s a new Avant 2008, I had to name the album Avant.

 

AHHA: What are your thoughts on the success of Director? Do you feel like you have progressed as an artist

since your last project?

 

Avant: I thought it was a great record, but got lost in the

shuffle. It got missed that’s why I felt it was that time to part ways [with

Geffen], but I got some great records on the new one though. I got the single “When

It Hurts,” I got another single with Trackmasters called “Perfect Gentleman.” I

worked with Mr. Collipark, Smurf from Atlanta on this album so you know this is

very diverse. It has a lot of everything on it and the baby making music, the

boy-girl friend type joints and it’s all consistent. I wanted to give them a

little bit of everything.

 

I didn’t really go with a

blueprint on this album, because I wanted to go in and make good music and

that’s what I came up with. The funny thing about it is that in 2000 it was all

about learning, the next album the fourth album is the same thing. Now I just

want to show everybody what I have learned being a songwriter and producer. To

me it was baby steps but it was huge as well because I’ve been blessed to work

with a whole bunch of artists and to have the respect of your peers is a

beautiful look. It was all a learning experience.

 

AHHA: With so many people like Ne-Yo, The Dream and Keri

Hilson getting noticed for the production and writing side of the R&B game,

do you feel pressured to step against the traditional R&B singer role to

write more or dabble in more involvement in your projects?

 

Avant: Not necessarily; I’ve been writing all my life

– on every album I wrote every song. It is just something I do period. I

felt with this album I had so much that I learned that I just had to show

everybody. It’s hard for me to put myself out there and try to be noticed. It’s

cool and I appreciate people that notice me for it, but I just do what’s in my

heart. I just do it for the love of what it is. I really don’t try to get it

out there and get any accolades for it. I appreciate them for loving it.

 

AHHA: I also heard you were recently on the USO tour. How

was the experience doing that, going to perform in a country at war?

 

Avant: I was in Iraq for like eight days or so and it was an

amazing experience. The troops are going through some stuff. I just wanted to

go over and show love because I told them that I would come through. Just to

see them and their expressions on songs, like I did Christopher Cross’s

“Sailing,” and just to see their expressions and what is going on in their

lives really made me respect living my life. Them over there fighting for me

everyday, made me respect everything. My whole thing…I ended up staying in one

of Saddam’s guest homes and wow it was just an experience. It was really crazy;

they’re wondering why other artists won’t come over here.

 

I tell them, “I don’t know,

it’s kind of hard for me to explain that one.” I mean they are warring over

there, some people are just not feeling that. I made a commitment to go over

there. I’m so glad I did it and I would do it again. I just wanted to go and

find out what was going on. Once I got over there, then I got to see everything

but I didn’t go in with any thoughts. I just wanted to go over there and give

them a good time because I knew they were going through hardships.

 

Just talking to them, they

had a good head on their shoulders about the whole situation, because I asked a

lot of questions like, “Yo what’s the reason for us being over here, I would

really like to know” and they were saying we were supposed to be peacemakers

through the whole ordeal. So I’m like, “Wow how can you be peacemakers in a war

that has been going on for like four hundred years?” They understand their

mission and are doing their thing. I hope they send them home soon too.

 

AHHA: Over the years you have done quite a bit of

collaborations with rappers. What Rap and R&B collaborations are you most

proud or stands out to you?

 

Avant: The Snoop Dogg one “I Can Read Your Mind” was kind of

dope. Bone Thugs N Harmony was amazing with “Making Good Love.” I did a collabo

with Lil Wayne that was fun too, because Lil Wayne was like, “Yo I ain’t never

seen this many girls,” this was before he really became Lil Weezy, you know? He

was like, “Wow, there are some pretty women, I want to be an R&B star.” You

know it’s a beautiful thing to have history and have people respect your music.

Making Good Love (Remix) – Avant ft. Bone thugs N Harmony

 

Then you look up and see

they’re doing wonderful things too. Then with Bone Thugs N Harmony, I was such

a big fan of them to watch and see how they create is amazing. And then Snoop

Dogg, he was like, “I don’t know why my wife loves you but she does,” and from

that point our relationship blossomed. Working with 50 Cent as well, and Puff

Daddy, and it’s been a great look. These people, I have so much respect for

them.

 

AHHA: One of your biggest hits and fan favorites has to be

“My First Love” with KeKe Wyatt. How did the idea for the remake come about?

 

Avant: I used to lay on my sister’s lap and listen to that

song. I was like, “Wow this song is amazing.” I really didn’t have an idea of how

special the song really was. I just liked the arrangement, the strings, the

whole nine. I was so young though, it made no sense to me. Once I listened to

it again, when I was doing my first album, it was like “Wow this song is

amazing.” I decided to do the record; I was working with my man Steve Huff at

that present time. He was like, “I got a girl, she is dope, she can kill it.”

So I was like “Alright, let me hear.” When I heard her I was like, “I got to

step my game up. She is ill.”

 

AHHA: Have you ever got any feedback from Rene Moore or

Angela Winbush about how you guys tackled it? I know you performed with Angela

on 106 & Park a few years

back. Are there any more remakes in Avant’s future?

 

Avant: Angela Winbush, she loved the record, she is big fan

of mine too. I call her my other mother. She always showed me a lot of love and

I thank Angela for that. I might do another one of their records just because I

like the vibe. They had a wonderful connection, and I’m all about a connection

and a vibe. This album right here, I did “Sailing” by Christopher Cross –

I’ve been hearing that they really respect this record as well. I’m blessed to

be able to take somebody’s record and put my own twist to it, and people

respect it. So that is what I will try to stay consistent in doing, also giving

them great hit records from my mind as well. 

 

AHHA: Almost immediately when you stepped on the scene you

got some R. Kelly comparisons. Do you feel you have etched your own path in

music from the “sexy ladies man” crooning cookie cutter? 

 

Avant: Never. You have about think about it, dude ran the

whole ‘90s. I came in 2000, so for me have my first record come out and people

be like “he reminds me of R. Kelly,” that is one of the biggest compliments I

could’ve ever gotten in my life. From that point on, I knew one thing – I

had to stay consistent and continue to put records out so people can understand

this is my voice, get used to my voice and know who Avant was. That was my

whole focus in putting records out in 2000 and 2003 banging out records, so

people know my voice. So now it’s 2008 and people are like, “When is that new

Avant album coming out?” It really worked and I was blessed to get in the game

and be acknowledged with even sounding like dude. Just to be acknowledged is a

beautiful look so now I stand alone by myself.

 

AHHA: I heard you’re getting more into acting do you have

any scripts in front of you? Will that mean you might be neglecting music after

this next album?

 

Avant: Well actually I am reading a couple of scripts. I did

the role in Barbershop 2. I also

did the DVD version of First Sunday.

Love in the Nick of Tyme –

just me and Morris Chestnut. If it’s a good role, s**t, it can go straight to

DVD, I don’t care. I’m with it. 

What was so fun about the play is that everybody is a new cast member.

The only person that was a real veteran to the game was Ella B. English, from

the Jamie Foxx Show. Everybody

else was brand-new like rookies to the game. It was a beautiful look

 

AHHA: What situation in the industry, do you feel you

learned the most from in the past eight years?

 

Avant: This changing of the record companies, I think I have

learned a lot from that, because it’s a difference. Even going through the

whole rigmarole of getting signed. I didn’t know it would be so rough getting

out of a deal. You have to go through paperwork and you really have to make

sure it’s the right look for everybody. The company has got to make sure they

want to let me go and they want to make sure I got with not owing them

anything, so that was a beautiful thing. Then re-signing again and picking a

company that is the right one for you. It was rough.

 

AHHA: What has been your biggest achievement in the

industry so far?

 

Avant: My biggest achievement is to get in front of my fans

and perform, the way they lose their minds over my performance and my music

really. You’re going from city to city and people are like, “I love you, thank

you so much you got me out of a relationship or you helped me build my

relationship even more.” It’s like you feel like Dr. Phil or something.

 

AHHA: There is no question your music has probably made a

baby or two. How do you feel about being able to affect the most intimate parts

of people’s lives with your music?

 

Avant: It takes you to a level you have never been to

before, but you have to watch that because you might be feeling yourself too

much. What I do is gear everything by fans. If they’re not satisfied, then I’m

not satisfied. I just try to give them everything I got.

 

AHHA: So when you got your own date, do you ever put on

your own tracks?

 

Avant: Actually I can’t listen to my own music; not when I’m

with my girl. Because honestly I listen to [my] music for flaws basically or

what I could‘ve done better. I am so critical of myself; I’m hard on myself all

the time. You know were supposed to be having conversations about each other

and I’m thinking about this dumb ass music. That’s not going to get us nowhere.

 

AHHA: Everybody has great artists growing up whom they

wanted to be like as adults; who was yours?

 

Avant: Really, my uncle who passed away a couple years ago.

He was trying to get in the music game; his whole fight was to get into the

music game. I really wanted to be like him honestly. He never made it in the

music game, and he passed away from cancer. But he told me a long time ago

before he passed away, “Look nephew, you got what it takes to take what they

got.”

 

I was like wow, here this guy

is dying of cancer and he’s like “live life everyday with a smile.” Sometimes

he couldn’t even walk he had Myeloma and what that does is eat at your bones. I

always stick with that statement; it holds really heavy in my heart. “You got

what it takes to take what they got.”

 

Avant ft. KeKe Wyatt – My First Love

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