Atlanta native Kandi Burruss and her city have a lot in common. Both are laidback, stress-free and moving along at their own pace. Its the lifestyle – opposite to the one that New York is renowned for – that has seen Atlantas music scene thrive beyond everyones wildest imagine. It also explains Kandis years of guilt-free absence from the limelight since her 1993 introduction to the masses with girl-group Xscape.
Being in the center of such prime location has allowed Kandi to connect with some of the Souths budding Hip-Hop stars for her next album. Her solo debut Hey Kandi, which birthed the club hit Dont Think Im Not, was released over six years ago, but Kandis new audience probably wont know this. Her certified-platinum songwriter status, which includes the hits No Scrubs for TLC and Bills Bills Bills for Destinys Child, has kept her busy collaborating with everyone from Mariah Carey to Lil Jon.
So when a platinum singer and songwriter who has written some of the best female R&B anthems ever says shes got a hot new album full of singles, do you believe her? After seeing Kandi in E-40s new video U and Dat, we had no alternative but to get the scoop.
Allhiphop.com Alternatives: What have you been doing for the last six years?
Kandi: Ive been writing for other people and I had a daughter. I was being a mom.
AHHA: When Hey Kandi was released, were you looking at having a solo career?
Kandi: Honestly, no. The solo record came about because when Xscape was breaking up – I didnt really know what I wanted to do. At first Tiny and I were talking about to a duo project, but the label wasnt interested. However, they told me I could do a solo project. So thats how I ended up doing the solo album, but it wasnt planned.
AHHA: Was the album successful in your eyes?
Kandi: The single did well at radio, but the overall album was not a major success. It was disappointing. Thats when I decided to totally focus on writing for other artists and basically just chill. I chilled for a year and half, and then I was going to start another solo record, but I got pregnant with my daughter.
AHHA: Why did you choose to come back now?
Kandi: I had thought about doing it before, but I felt like I had let too much time pass. When you let too much time pass, the industry gets fickle. I felt like labels werent seeing me as an artist anymore, they were seeing me as a songwriter. Then Devyne [Stephens] approached me, and I had seen what he had done with Akon. He was like, Yo Kandi you need to come out of retirement. I said ok, but I was content with idea of being totally focused on writing, producing and maybe even developing my own artists or something like that.
In the meantime I had been working with Lil Jon, and he had been putting me on some of his records like E-40. Im on Trillvilles next record too. I guess its timing – everything is starting to come together.
AHHA: Who have you been writing for?
Kandi: Well over the last four years Ive worked with everybody from Whitney, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey.
AHHA: Who has been the most memorable?
Kandi: The person who I had a connection with, or who I really keep in touch with, is Alicia Keys. That was years ago, but we still communicate and it doesnt have to be about the industry. So many of us industry types – I call it the industry friend syndrome – see each other at industry events and act like friends. But then we never see each other again unless were at another industry event. But Alicia and I are actually cool on another level.
AHHA: Tell us about the relationship you have with girls from Xscape now.
Kandi: Tiny and I talk all the time. But the other two [LaTocha and Tamika Scott] – I dont talk to them at all.
AHHA: Do you regret what happened?
Kandi: No. When the group first broke up; we werent seeing eye-to-eye on business at all. One of the members boyfriend was managing the group. She [LaTocha Scott] decided she wanted to go solo, and thats when the rest of us had to figure out what the hell we were going to do.
AHHA: She didnt consider the rest of the group .
Kandi: Thats how I felt. I felt as if we werent considered. Im not knocking her. I just couldnt understand how she felt the need to go solo when we were still successful as a group. Our album went platinum. The next time around I felt like they had waited to long. Besides, if we are coming together then, I want to at least be able to write a couple of songs on the record. If I can write hit records for other girl groups and help other girl groups be successful, then why wouldnt you let me write a couple of songs?
Everything in our group, I felt like, was always a competition. Last year when they did come back together, people thought I left them hanging or something. But weve been separated for a while now. People dont really know what happens behind the scenes. Theyve replaced me twice already. And the last time they did their thing; they had a single on the radio. I was happy that they were doing well. But then they broke up again – and I wasnt even in the group this time, so cant nobody blame me!
AHHA: On the net it says youre married to Kevin Shekspere Briggs
Kandi: Ive heard that rumor too. I have never been married. Shekspere and I used to date around that two years ago. Hes married now, but to someone else.
AHHA: What do you like better – being in the public eye as an artist, or behind the scenes as a songwriter?
Kandi: Im one of those people – Im cool either way. Im cool as the artist and being recognized, but I do like being low key too. I feel like when youve written great songs, you get more respect from your peers. You have executives that want to take meetings with you, and take your calls because they know you can deliver what they need for their other artists.
Executives in this music industry couldnt care less about artists. They know that artists come and go. There are those select few people who can be 70-years-old and still be successful artists. But its not realistic for everybody. A majority of artists are not going to be on stage for the rest of their life. I promise you, if it wasnt for my songwriting, it would be real crazy for me financially. Xscape didnt even make any real money.
AHHA: Why is that?
Kandi: When I was in the group, we didnt write any of our own stuff. They allowed us to collaborate just a little bit on the second album and a little bit on the third album. And when I say a little bit, I mean you may have 3% on a song or 5% on three or four songs on an album. So you really werent making much from publishing.
You never recoup. That advance the label gives you to make the album – they find all kind of ways that you owe them money. So no matter how many records you sold, youre still in debt. Dont expect any royalty checks. And then we didnt tour a lot because we werent getting along at the time. Thats where artists make their money from, and we were doing one tour for each album.
AHHA: Isnt that what happened to TLC?
Kandi: Yeah, and they sold millions more than us. If they can sell millions and go bankrupt, then imagine what we can go through!
AHHA: Lets talk about your new music. Its got that Southern Hip-Hop feel all over it
Kandi: Well, being from Atlanta thats all I hear. Thats all I really like as far as Hip-Hop music. I love the Southern rappers the most. As far as beats, those are the tracks I can bump to. Lyrically, I chose to be more detailed with songs on this album. I guess thats the difference between a rapper and a singer. A rapper gives you detail information about his life whereas R&B songs are a bit more general.
With Xscape, Jermaine Dupri was our producer, so I always loved to have a beat that was hitting. I let 8-Ball & MJG use my studio to record a lot of their new album. So when I was looking for somebody to get on my song, I asked them and they showed me love. And with Lil Scrappy – hes on another one of my songs – I had been working with him on his record so he returned the favor.
AHHA: What would your album have to do to be successful?
Kandi: I think its about being with the right major. Its all about the push behind it. There were a lot of opportunities I didnt take advantage of the first time around. So all the things that I didnt do before, I plan to do this time.