Carl Thomas: Work It Out

 

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 doesn’t 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 he’s 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. It’s something that every day after that incident you spend readjusting, it’s 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. That’s pretty much what it was for me, and I didn’t 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. He’d expect his little brother to really be doing what I love to do, and that’s talk about relationships and this whole man-woman thing. I definitely will musically express certain things about that, but it’s definitely in my own way and it’s something that’s gonna have to come out over time. AHHA: It’s already been put out there that you left Bad Boy, and you’re 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 don’t. That’s one thing I’m cool to say, he wasn’t 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 don’t 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 I’m definitely not responsible for how you and Puff relate and how your business relationship is. I think that’s corny nonsense, that’s 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 don’t burn the bridge that brought you across. Also it’s your responsibility to recognize when you’re on a bridge. A lot of people don’t even know when they’re on one, and that’s why it’s so easy for them to lash out at the things that helped them. That’s 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 haven’t heard one thing, we see each other it’s hugs, kisses and love. “How’s the kids? Let’s go drinking”. He thinks I’m a great artist, I think he’s a great executive. Just because you’re not seeing eye-to-eye with each other at the time, there’s no reason to trash everything that y’all have been through and the experience. I think that’s 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 City’s 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. It’s technically Universal. AHHA: Let’s talk about record sales and the market. Right now the biggest point of contention with a lot of artists is that there’s no promotion from the labels. But really what’s happened is the digital age has taken over, your I-tunes sales etc. Carl Thomas: That’s just a bunch of old heads that really don’t wanna conform to the new medium of doing business and laws of the digital age. It’s 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, “I’m 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. That’s really immature, the label is your business partner. It’s 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. That’s what a record deal is – you and the bank are partners. A lot of artists don’t take their record deals like that, they think that an advance is a reason to go out and buy a car – but that’s really stupid. The idea and philosophy behind an advance realistically is “This might not work, so you better take this.” [laughs] Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done it before, I’ve taken advances and balled all over the world, tricked off [laughs]. Even before I sold records, Bad Boy was my fourth record deal I’ve ever had. I’ve definitely messed up money but it was definitely fun doing it. AHHA: Right now there’s 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 there’s a good and bad to everything. We’re all lobbying for our idea of what’s right, everybody. The idea of “stop snitching”, I think it’s 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 that’s 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 Cam’ron, he’s a very good friend of mine. I love him like a brother, honestly, but I don’t 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 don’t think that should apply to things that aren’t involved with the streets. You got a serial killer living next door, you need to tell some kind of higher authority. [laughs] That really doesn’t 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 we’re built like that, but to be perfectly honest with you, we’re not really built to handle serial killers in the urban community. That’s not really our bag, that’s not how we get down. [laughs] I think it’s important to know that when you’re seeing that all you’re really dealing with is somebody else’s idea of what’s 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 we’re 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 it’s far enough because there’s 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 there’s two different kinds of R&B artists. There’s the kind you wanna marry, and there’s the kind you wanna give some to. I’m definitely the kind you wanna give something to, you can diddle to the side – that’s what my aunt used to call it. [laughs] I’m interested in seeing who’s going to be the next great live performer, I don’t think that we’ve seen that yet. Who’s the greatest guy with a band? We haven’t seen that yet and I’m really interested in seeing who that person’s gonna be. It’s really one thing just to go see Prince at Madison Square Garden, it’s 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, I’m 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, it’s been a little too much distance between me and my audience for me to reappear on a somber note or like the thinking man’s statue butt naked on a rock. [laughs] That’s 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, she’s 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. It’s 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 we’re 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: I’m a little older now, I’m 34. I see things different, I’m in a more comfortable place. I realize that when I do music I’m the kind of musician that’s always over thinking things and I really can’t afford to do that, because some people kind of take the music complex. When they see you as a complex musician they start thinking you’re acting older than you are which is really interesting. There are groups like Destiny’s Child that were out years before me. [laughs] I guess it’s 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.

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