We might be at a crossroads with R&B in the new millennium, but there are still a few singers who understand the value of combining art with true entertainment. In a nutshell, smooth R&B doesnt have to be boring. From the start of his career, Carl Thomas has given his fans the gift of welcoming excitement – both through his music and his persona. After a hiatus from the business and a parting of ways with Bad Boy Entertainment, Carl is back with a renewed outlook on life. Carl teamed with Universal to distribute his new album, and has faith that his longtime fans will get exactly what they have come to expect from him. We took some quality time with Mr. Thomas to speak on where hes been, the progression of the digital age and music industry, his thoughts on snitching and where he stands with Diddy. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: The question everyone is asking is, Where have you been?, but you were on Wendy Williams discussing the fact that your brother had passed away [in 2004]. Carl Thomas: I guess it was one of those experiences in life that everybody has that kind of defines their direction. Its something that every day after that incident you spend readjusting, its like being in a terrible car accident and losing the use of your limbs, brain and organ functions then having the grueling task of learning how to use all of those things again. Thats pretty much what it was for me, and I didnt go and make an album of a bunch of sad records, because I felt like I should be doing what it was that my brother would expect of his little brother. Hed expect his little brother to really be doing what I love to do, and thats talk about relationships and this whole man-woman thing. I definitely will musically express certain things about that, but its definitely in my own way and its something thats gonna have to come out over time. AHHA: Its already been put out there that you left Bad Boy, and youre in a different situation now Carl Thomas: My situation dealing with my brother was just part of the refocusing; I guess I was kind of living life with the fog over my eyes, and that just kind of cleared things up for me. I was really pacified by money or whatever, and I never really had any personal problems with Puff and I still dont. Thats one thing Im cool to say, he wasnt particularly happy that I wanted to leave, he definitely fought me on it – but he never fought me to a disrespectful level or anything like that, because I think he respected the fact that I wanted to do it in a respectful manner. If me and you dont have any problems on a personal level then why would I get on the radio and in all these magazines and act like we had a problem? Everybody had their own relationship with that man and Im definitely not responsible for how you and Puff relate and how your business relationship is. I think thats corny nonsense, thats not really where it is. Puff did a whole lot for me and my career; he probably did the most out of anyone for my career. He allowed me to change tax brackets, he allowed me to drive what I wanna drive, travel to where I wanna travel to, eat what I wanna eat, wear what I wanna wear and do what I wanna do. That foundation was laid down at Bad Boy and I would never disrespect that, I would never disrespect Puff, because I was just taught a long time ago you dont burn the bridge that brought you across. Also its your responsibility to recognize when youre on a bridge. A lot of people dont even know when theyre on one, and thats why its so easy for them to lash out at the things that helped them. Thats a real wack way to approach business; Puff had no interest at all in going out there and badmouthing me and saying any negative things about me. I havent heard one thing, we see each other its hugs, kisses and love. Hows the kids? Lets go drinking. He thinks Im a great artist, I think hes a great executive. Just because youre not seeing eye-to-eye with each other at the time, theres no reason to trash everything that yall have been through and the experience. I think thats really weak-minded. AHHA: How do you feel about your new situation? Carl Thomas: Jheryl Busby actually has 100 on the situation on Universal, and my imprint being Thom Tunes and Mike Citys imprint being Unsung. He saw fit out of his relationship with Mike City and his appreciation for my artistry to give us a chance and a shot through his situation. Its technically Universal. AHHA: Lets talk about record sales and the market. Right now the biggest point of contention with a lot of artists is that theres no promotion from the labels. But really whats happened is the digital age has taken over, your I-tunes sales etc. Carl Thomas: Thats just a bunch of old heads that really dont wanna conform to the new medium of doing business and laws of the digital age. Its just another form of getting your music out there and heard. Some people come to it before others and artists suffer because of it but I felt like I could take more responsibility and accountability for my career. A lot of artists do a whole lot of bitching and complaining and a whole lot of, Im not getting this, this artist got this I should get that. But when you really put the spotlight on them what are they doing to assist themselves? A lot of these artists are depending on their business partners to handle all of their business for them. Thats really immature, the label is your business partner. Its the same thing as if you had a great recipe for spare ribs, you were the rib queen and you said, You know what? I make some bomb ribs but I need to take my ribs global. You go and get a small business loan to open up your business to take your product global. Thats what a record deal is – you and the bank are partners. A lot of artists dont take their record deals like that, they think that an advance is a reason to go out and buy a car – but thats really stupid. The idea and philosophy behind an advance realistically is This might not work, so you better take this. [laughs] Dont get me wrong – Ive done it before, Ive taken advances and balled all over the world, tricked off [laughs]. Even before I sold records, Bad Boy was my fourth record deal Ive ever had. Ive definitely messed up money but it was definitely fun doing it. AHHA: Right now theres a lot of fire going on in the Hip-Hop community with the Don Imus situation and the No Snitching situation going on, how do these things affect you as a person?
Carl Thomas: I think theres a good and bad to everything. Were all lobbying for our idea of whats right, everybody. The idea of stop snitching, I think its really ironic for the police to take that stand against the community when I really think the whole idea of “stop snitching” came from the police because realistically thats what that whole blue shield is about. You can have two different kinds of officers, one can be a decent man and one can be terrible but behind the blue shield the decent man will never expose the indecent man because they share the camaraderie of the police department. I think that the whole idea is really hypocritical. I understand it – I definitely think the African-American community has taken it a little bit too far. I love Camron, hes a very good friend of mine. I love him like a brother, honestly, but I dont agree with what he said on 60 Minutes about not reporting serial killers. I think the stop snitching rule should apply to the streets and things of the streets, and I dont think that should apply to things that arent involved with the streets. You got a serial killer living next door, you need to tell some kind of higher authority. [laughs] That really doesnt make sense, because not assisting in getting rid of somebody like this in the community is really self-defeating, because the next victim could be somebody you love. I know that we all like to think were built like that, but to be perfectly honest with you, were not really built to handle serial killers in the urban community. Thats not really our bag, thats not how we get down. [laughs] I think its important to know that when youre seeing that all youre really dealing with is somebody elses idea of whats right, and people have to swallow the fact that the Constitution is a double-edged sword. Every time you stretch the boundaries of what you think [or say you know] it meant you kind of chip away at the fabric of the document. You have to look at where were going to end up in 20 years from that type of dialogue. How far is it gonna go? Who says, Okay far enough? Nobody says its far enough because theres nobody policing the police of the police. AHHA: You read the typical R&B interview nowadays, people are saying, Oh, R&B went through a stale phase from the early 90s where you had that golden age [to now]
Carl Thomas: A lot of the R&B artists, people kind of see us like a race [and say] They all look alike! I think theres two different kinds of R&B artists. Theres the kind you wanna marry, and theres the kind you wanna give some to. Im definitely the kind you wanna give something to, you can diddle to the side – that’s what my aunt used to call it. [laughs] Im interested in seeing whos going to be the next great live performer, I dont think that weve seen that yet. Whos the greatest guy with a band? We havent seen that yet and Im really interested in seeing who that persons gonna be. Its really one thing just to go see Prince at Madison Square Garden, its a whole different experience to see Prince at the House of Blues. Live performers can transcend large, small, medium sized [venues] whatever it may be. AHHA: With this album you have a lot of different experiences to draw from, Im assuming some of the songwriting is gonna be a little more [personal] Carl Thomas: I really just honestly made it a point to get back to what people are used to, its been a little too much distance between me and my audience for me to reappear on a somber note or like the thinking mans statue butt naked on a rock. [laughs] Thats really unnecessary, and I know that the fans connect with those personal things that you do put out just as well as they can connect with the fun stuff. AHHA: Do you have any guest appearances? Carl Thomas: I got a chance to work with Lalah Hathaway on this album, shes a really good friend of mine. DJ Quik, I got a chance to work with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis [who are] a couple of idols of mine. I got the chance to work with my homegirl Brandy, my man Dave Hollister. Its the very first time I did songs that I might have to have the guests come on stage and duet with me. Faith and I are talking about how were going to push getting back into the studio together, you should definitely look for something from us soon. AHHA: What do you want people to know about who you are as an artist now?
Carl Thomas: Im a little older now, Im 34. I see things different, Im in a more comfortable place. I realize that when I do music Im the kind of musician thats always over thinking things and I really cant afford to do that, because some people kind of take the music complex. When they see you as a complex musician they start thinking youre acting older than you are which is really interesting. There are groups like Destinys Child that were out years before me. [laughs] I guess its just how people perceive the music, sometimes I have to take it a little more of a fun route instead of telling you about your relationship all the time.