Known for his velvety flow and sensual lyrics, Avant sings of love and lust similar to great vocalists past, while simultaneously freakin’ it with straight-up street flavor. No celebrity romances or breakups, no high-profile arrests, no sex-rated videotapes. Aside from the occasional date with a porn star, he’s just a genuine, down-to-earth guy who just happens to have a knack for telling bedtime stories that every girl loves to hear.
Though he carries the sex symbol status well for the ladies, Avant still manages to be well-liked by the fellas, translating easily as a smooth mouthpiece in the male’s quest to get their romance on. Since the first time he hit the airwaves in 2000, Avant has exuded not only a talented delivery, but actual consistency. From “Separated” and “Making Good Love” to “Read Your Mind” and “Don’t Take Your Love Away,” this singer/songwriter has proven that he has the skills to vocalize a steamy love scene to music, and with a little passion and a lot of patience, be recognized in the process.
We took the opportunity to find out a little more about Avant. With a new album, the birth of his first child, and LeBron going to Cleveland, this basketball enthusiast had a bit to talk about. Nothing scandalous though we’ll leave that to those songs.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: First, congratulations on your new baby.
Avant: Thank you so much, sweetheart.
AHHA: Is this your first?
Avant: Yes, it’s my first son. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful situation.
AHHA: How has being a parent affected you?
Avant: Oh it’s totally different. Being a parent – you start to cherish more things such as your future; the things he has to go through. If I can make this easier for him then that’s what I’m trying to do. You feel me?
AHHA: Sure. You come from a very big family yourself, right?
Avant: Yeah, I do. Six siblings three boys, three girls and my mom.
AHHA: When did it become clear that singing would be your destiny?
Avant: I would have to say when I was in high school and I was trying to decide on what I wanted to do. I was writing songs and I’m like, Yo, I’m going to the studio and I think I can really do this. Plus my uncle had me going for years. I had idolized him so much – since I was five years old. He never made it. He passed away a couple years ago, but he used to do The Temptations, he used to do Marvin Gaye, and I really idolized him. When I got older I started writing and I’m like, Whoa! I want to challenge myself in making this happen.
AHHA: Who would you say were your musical inspirations coming up?
Avant: Well, my mom had me listening to a whole bunch of people. I was young but she had me listening to Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Barry White. I was listening to some metaphors that these guys were bringing to the table and how they serenaded the microphone and the room and made it all sweet bringing chivalry back. That’s what really turned me on to the entertainment game. And also I gotta give a lot of love to Hip-Hop as well, because I used to walk to school from my house and I was listening to the South: Scarface, UGK, 8Ball and MJG. I would memorize all their lyrics. That’s when I really started writing my songs, because if I could remember their lyrics, I could put something down and remember mine, too.
AHHA: That’s different coming from someone who’s known primarily as a balladeer.
Avant: Yeah, I got the rhythm and rhyme aspect from it.
AHHA: Now, your new album is entitled Director. What is the story behind that title?
Avant: Well, basically I wanted the young kids to understand this time, even though the album doesn’t have a whole bunch of positive, positive things on it, but I just wanted them to understand that they should take control of their lives in a positive situation. We’re raising ourselves every day, and it’s kind of hard out here for them. Even though the album has love songs on it, I just knew that they would attach to that aspect of it.
AHHA: So I guess being a parent really has changed you.
Avant: Yeah, it really has.
AHHA: You have some real thorough production on this album – Rodney Jerkins, Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox. What can we expect from this project that’s maybe different from your previous projects?
Avant: The difference from the last project is what you just named: The Rodney Jerkins, the Jermaine Dupri, the Bryan Michael Cox, [the new single] “4 Minutes” produced by The Underdogs and myself. Before I just worked with one producer; the last three albums I worked with my man Steve Huff. He’s on this album as well, so it’s star-studded. It was time for me to take it to that next level, but it made for a beautiful marriage. These guys have respect for me because I had three albums out, so it wasn’t like I was just coming to them with one album or fresh out the box.
AHHA: You’ve had a number of collabos but the Pussycat Dolls? That’s a totally different look for you. How did that come about?
Avant: What I try to do is eliminate that box that they try to put you in. I let people know that I write and I sing all types of music – I love all different genres of music. People say, Whoa, that Pussycat Dolls song man, you fit right in there. But I also did something with the Ying Yang twins. I want people to understand that Avant is not in a box. I can do whatever it is that needs to be done at the gate.
AHHA: How do you feel about the constant comparison to R. Kelly? Do you find yourself constantly trying to differentiate your talent, or is it something you just shake off?
Avant: Just be persistent. Be consistent and persistent whatever it is that you do. Because before – first album, second album: Yo, you remind me of dude. But now it’s like, Ay, B – where you been? We need that lane that you was ridin’ in. Right now I need that lane. Like I said before, I never talked down about these guys. Music has always been recycled – people always compare you to people. So hey, it’s just a phase in life.
AHHA: Who are you listening to these days?
Avant: Right now I have to say I have to give it up to the company a lot the Geffen staff. Mary J. Blige. Keyshia Cole, even Slim Thug. These are the cats I’m listening to right now. Just showing love to the company, but I’m glad that now they’re putting the focus on the right character within myself. I’m glad that these guys are showing me some love.
AHHA: Any more acting in your future?
Avant: You know what? There’s a small chance that I might jump back in there. The thing is I have to fulfill my whole thing with this music thing. This is my first love. I want to make sure people get all they can out of me this music game then I’ll journey off into the acting.
AHHA: I hear you’re an avid basketball fan. Is that true?
Avant: Yes, I’m a basketball fan.
AHHA: Any thoughts on LeBron and the Cavaliers?
Avant: Oh I think LeBron is a wonderful talent. I think we have to get some chemistry. I think the whole team aspect of things he’s a team player for sure. But he needs a couple more pieces. We need a strong bench that can give these guys some rest so that they can come in and perform at their best ability, instead of somebody has to hit 50 points a night, or 40-something points a night just to stay in a game. You win games early in the season with the team that you have. You play against a Detroit team and you just barely beat them – and they didn’t even play their full starting five. So it’s kind of crazy right now, but I think we’ll get it together.
AHHA: Do you get a chance to go to the games at all?
Avant: I just left the games, and I must thank the city of Cleveland and the Cavs. They honored all the Black entrepreneurs in the city. They had me there, Rudy Ray Moore a couple of guys. It was a beautiful situation, and they showed they had much respect for us.
AHHA: If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing with your life?
Avant: I have property in Cleveland. I was working in a peanut factory before I got in the game. My whole fight was to get outta there. I put all my power into that and I’m also a Taurus. A lot of people say Taurus’ are stubborn, and I can say that I’m not far off of that. [laughs] I would try to run a nail through a brick wall if I can. But you know those are qualities that might be negative, some say they’re a positive, but I don’t want to lose those qualities because that’s how I fight so hard. I couldn’t just say what I would be doing, because this is what I wanted to do and this is my love to the top.