Novel: Rowdy Feedback

By now, most people are aware of the YouTube video circulating of Dallas Austin discussing some interesting aspects in the career of Joss Stone. When AllHipHop.com Alternatives interviewed Stone, a very slight part of our discussion included her ill feelings toward Dave Gates and his involvement in her project. Dallas Austin’s name was mentioned, which according to songwriter/producer (on Dallas Austin’s team) Novel, fueled the retort of Mr. Austin on video.

However, Novel is also managed by Dave Gates, and was responsible for crafting a considerable number of songs with Joss Stone that he states he wasn’t properly compensated for. In this interview, Novel discusses his side of the story. An interestingly ironic fact is that about a decade ago, Lauryn Hill was accused of a similar situation with New-Ark Entertainment’s Vada Nobles among others and has made a brief comeback by donating a verse on this debated record.

AllHipHop.com: How would you describe what happened?

Novel: We tried to work with [Joss] the best way we could because of the splits and all that. A lot of those songs before I got there were already pre-recorded. Like the song with Lauryn Hill on it [“Music”] was originally for Stacie Orrico – that’s another Pop artist I was working on, but we didn’t get it in on time. So a lot of the ideas for the songs were done before we got there. We got together, we worked, we vibed. You know, she’s cool. She’s a cool person when we’re vibin’, but when it got down to the business [laughs], she got a little tight with it. We tried to work it out with the splits and all that.

What she did was she wanted to go back and re-do everything live with Raphael [Saadiq], which I suggested to her in the first place…to work with Raphael. But one day she called me and she’s like, “Yeah I’m in the studio right now.” I was like, “Great! You’re working with Raph. What songs you doin’?” She’s like, “I’m doing your songs.” I was like, “Oh wow!” That was where we had our disagreement. I was like, “I didn’t know you were just gonna take my tracks and reproduce them and all that.” I would work with her on some of it, but I wanted to keep the integrity of the music and you say you want to do something different and you get me to do something with your vibe and add a Hip-Hop element to it, we’re gonna keep that but when you go back over and do it live it’s still gonna be the same Joss thing.

Anyway, we tried to work it out, work out the splits and I got tired. When I heard the records, and I’ve got mad respect for Raphael, it just didn’t sound like the same stuff we had from before. So I was like, “Yo, I wasn’t there for the session. This came from out of nowhere. Pull the records. Forget the records.” It’s more important to have the integrity of the music, to keep that, than anything else. So of course she was upset about that. My manager [Dave Gates] was like, “Just calm down, we’ll work it out. You did some good writing, so let’s try to make the records work.” So I don’t know what this whole thing about her having a fall-out with manager or my manager yelling at her on the phone like that. That stuff don’t exist. I don’t even know where she gets this from. I was actually there when she called on the phone. He didn’t yell at her, he didn’t do none of that stuff. Dave, you know, he’s a pretty cool dude. He can get upset, but he didn’t get upset with her. He was like, “Look, call me back.” What happened was she called on a weekend when he was with his family. She’s calling me, she’s calling my phone like, “I need to work out the splits.” I was like, “Yo, we just sent you the splits.” She’s like, “Well I need to work them out again. Let me talk to your manager.” She’s like beefing at me on the phone so I just so happened to be by Dave’s. Dave is like my brother. I chill at his house every now and then, so I’m over there and he hears her talking to me on the phone. He’s like, “Yo, give me the phone.” He’s like, “Listen, it’s the weekend. I’m with my family.” He manages me, he manages Dallas [Austin]; he runs a label. Like, the dude is real busy so you can’t always reach him when you need to. He’s like, “On the weekends I’m chillin’ with my family, but send me what you think you need on the splits and we’ll try to work it out.” It was Dave that wanted to keep the songs going. It was me that was like, “Yo, she’s buggin’!”

We worked it out and she still wasn’t happy. We tried to work it out, and that 1%, I don’t even know what she’s talking about. We tried to work it out [as best as] we could with her. If she’s not controlling it, then it makes it difficult. She starts pulling songs, but there were songs she couldn’t pull. One has Common on it [“Tell Me What We Gonna Do Now”]; one has Lauryn Hill on it [“Music”]. They’re good songs, and she’s a talented person. Like I said, at the end of the day it’s about the integrity of the record. Would I do another record with her? Probably never in my life. But I wish her the best, I hope the record sells.

AllHipHop.com: Which songs were pulled from the record?

Novel: The songs were “I Wish I Never Met You,” “Real Love” – I think she was supposed to do “Real Love” with Aretha Franklin – I don’t know what happened with that one, and there’s another song. I have the songs.

AllHipHop.com: So Stacie Orrico was supposed to have “Music” but this was before Lauryn Hill got involved?

Novel: Yeah. [Joss] was right about one thing: people did think it was gonna be hard to get Lauryn Hill, but everybody thought it was a great idea. I’m not trying to be like woofin’ on the phone and be all mad at Joss like…she’s young. She’s only like what 19? She’s just young and for her to do that and talk about Dave, he’s like my brother. It’s not Dave who doesn’t want the records on there. It’s me. Dave’s got nothing to do with it. It’s me. We gotta keep the integrity of the music. Let’s keep the music how it was or let’s work together and work it all out. Raphael, I ain’t mad at Raphael, he’s doing what he’s gotta do to make a good record. That’s Raph. She’s just young.

AllHipHop.com: You wrote a lot of the music?

Novel: She did a little bit of writing, but I wrote, produced, arranged, vocal arranged, did backgrounds. This is what happened. Basically, I came there when the project was pretty much wrapped up. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t have no direction. So they sent me out there. She was like, “Alright, I’ll try Novel out,” because she kept hearing about us. I came out there and we just really vibed together because she was talented. We ended up doing like eight records. I did a few, I came back home. Went to Atlanta, I did some more. Did some tracks, and then I brought them back, went back out [to Barbados] to work with her again on songs. We did one song where we had a James Brown sample that never got taken. It was called “Get Down.”

AllHipHop.com: Were you still properly paid for the songs that did make it to the record?

Novel: I was never paid for the songs. I just get my publishing. That was the other issue of the situation. And I didn’t care about that. I was like, “Yo, let’s make the record.” Like when I work with an artist, I don’t care about money. Like at first we go out there, we’re like, “Let’s do it for free. Let’s do as many songs as we can and see what makes the record.” When I initially talked to her, she was like, “All these songs are making the record.” As a matter of fact, she has the master versions of the songs that were going on the record.

I don’t know what happened. She got mad at Dave or at me and then she starts pulling songs. So she wanted to pull them all; I could tell. But she couldn’t. She told y’all she pulled them all, but you can’t pull one with Lauryn Hill – that’d be the dumbest thing ever. You can’t do that. That’s not smart on anybody. You can’t pull one with Common. She’s smart, but she’s young so she talks a lot. I just wanted to clear the air, like Dallas was a little mad because he had nothing to do with it. She’s like, “Dave Gates manages Dallas Austin.” He had nothing to do with it, so he was like, “Yo, what is up with her?”

AllHipHop.com: What did you think of the video Dallas put out?

Novel: It was funny. He was just upset, but at the same time Dallas is a real calm person. He can be upset and just be totally like laid back. I think he just had to get some stuff off his chest because like Dave…we’re all brothers. We’re like a family, so if you talk about one of us, it’s like, “Yo what’s wrong with you?” We all get kind of defensive. Dave is like my brother. He practically saved my life. At one point I had nothing, and Dave helped me out. I’ve known him for six years. Once she said Dave, everyone was kind of like “Yoooo.”

AllHipHop.com: With the masters floating around, was it you and anyone else handling the production and writing?

Novel: Yes, please mention Tony Reyes. He’s my writing partner. It’s me and Tony Reyes that wrote pretty much the majority of what we did. Now, she has this record with Raphael and they changed some of the songs. Tony Reyes, he’s a talented musician. He’s a guitar player and a songwriter. He plays on all my stuff. The thing about it is, as a producer [and songwriter] you gotta take a bullet every now and then. That’s what Dallas and Dave say, because I always complain about splits. I got not production credits, I didn’t get paid, so let me at least get what’s rightfully mine as a writer in the splits with her. She didn’t want to do that, she wanted to take the majority of the songs or split the songs in half, like you didn’t really write nothing! I was like, “ Just give me something here!”

As a producer, you gotta take the bullet sometimes. It’s a part of the game. Some people had to ghost produce, some people had to do this. I understand that, but there’s only so much you can take from one person. She starts talking in interviews and starts s**ttin’ on everybody. It’s wrong. Water under the bridge, I guess.

AllHipHop.com: In your opinion, on Dallas’s video, I understand he was pretty mad like he was brought in as an innocent bystander. But the things he was saying, about what she does for beats, can you confirm or deny that?

Novel: No comment. She’s a sweet girl; she’s a sweet girl.

AllHipHop.com: Oh goodness.

Novel: What [Dallas] said was right in that the thing that happens is when you work with an artist you start to build some type of chemistry. So things happen. Yes, we did have chemistry, we did have a vibe going on, but I don’t wanna further elaborate on it. But we did build a chemistry in the studio. We were in Barbados, whatever, we’re chillin’, we’re writing good songs. When I write with an artist, I’m really into getting into their head. We’re getting to know each other, we’re talking; we’re writing. I was going back and forth to Atlanta then coming back. So yeah we became good friends and built a good chemistry, so that’s gonna happen.

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