Carl Thomas supplied the vocals for, Diddy’s, “Bad Boy label for years. The legend talks about his new single, “One with Heaven,” understanding the new generation of music and the keys to longevity.
By Percy Crawford (@MrLouis1ana)
(AllHipHop Features) Carl Thomas’ career took off in 1997 when he caught the eye of Bad Boy CEO, Sean “Puffy” Combs. Combs, signed the, Illinois native to his, “Bad Boy” label where Thomas truly shined and lit the R&B charts on fire. More known for producing rappers like, The Notorious Big, Craig Mack and G-Dep, Thomas had no problem finding his spot on the roster and flourishing. In 1999 his single, “I Wish” remained at the #1 spot on the R&B charts for 6-consecutive weeks. The following year he would release his highly anticipated debut album, “Emotional.” The “Emotional” album also produced hit song, “Summer Rain,” which was also on the “Shaft” soundtrack. “Emotional” went platinum and it would be, 4-years before we got, Thomas’ sophomore album, “Let’s Talk About It.” The album didn’t receive the same hype as his debut, but Thomas was dealing with the death of his brother and because of that, the album wasn’t promoted properly. Thomas would collaborate with, Faith Evans for another hit titled, “Can’t Believe.” With over 20-years in the game, Thomas has collaborated with the likes of, The Notorious Big, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and Amerie. His 2006 collaboration with musical legends, Gerald Levert, Yolanda Adams and Chaka Khan on, “Everyday (Family Reunion)” from Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion earned him a Grammy nomination for “Best R&B Performance by a duo or group.” Thomas, recently released a single, “One with Heaven.”
I caught up with Carl Thomas, who explains why he has a difficult time being called a legend, why he doesn’t belong in the “Unsung” category as well as where he feels, Pac and B.I.G. would be in their careers if they were alive.
AllHipHop: I feel like your music has always been consistent and your new single, “One with Heaven,” continues the consistency streak. At first, I thought you had delivered a gospel note, but upon listening to it, obviously it’s not. What was the idea behind the song?
Carl Thomas: “One with Heaven” was written by a well-renowned poet out of, Israel. She travels the world with her poetry, and she has written many children’s books and what have you. She wanted to do a project with American artists, and I felt really honored when she contacted me and wanted to do a project. I listened to her poetry and we actually went and produced the track for, “One with Heaven,” and the lyrics is actually her poetry that was actually constructed by my good friend, Jack Knight. The whole project coming together was really a blessing. It’s in line with what I’m about and what I like to make people feel like. My music… I’d like to think is in line with decompression and helping the human experience just kind of relax and have a good time.
AllHipHop: You have done a lot of work with, Jack Knight. Anytime his name is on something it’s a hit, what has that relationship been like with him?
Carl Thomas: It’s definitely a brotherhood. We actually have a company called, “New Earth Energy,” where we will be releasing artists. It’s really good when you can work with people that you trust and do music with people whose opinion you respect. And who has sold the records and made the money to back it up.
AllHipHop: You really study the art of music and specifically R&B from all ages. While being in tune with the artists and sounds before you, you also seem to understand the artists of today and their movement as well.
Carl Thomas: I have had the opportunity of meeting a lot of these young artists and they are very intelligent and definitely not to be taken for granted. Like every generation, they process information very differently. So, in the same fashion that I wanted my mother to understand rap, in the same fashion that I wanted my mom to really just give it a chance… in that same fashion, I can understand these kids. I definitely get it. I appreciate what they are doing. I think what, Ella Mai is doing is incredible. I think what a lot of these artists are doing… there are some very incredible and profound writers out there as well with these artists. I am a fan as I am a student of their expression. It’s just an era. What they are doing is no different than what, “The Doors” were doing. Maybe it was a little bit drug-induced of course (laughing), but you have to understand. I think a lot of people down this generation is because they don’t really want to understand them. It’s very easy to get caught up in when you peaked. It’s very easy to do that. It’s difficult to lend understanding. It’s very difficult to lend understanding to someone else; even in parenting. Parents love acting like they don’t remember what it was like to be 19. They love passing judgement on the decision of a stupid teenager when they were doing the same stupid shit.
AllHipHop: You told me before we went live that you are just growing accustomed to being called a legend. With your body of work and your catalog, why is that?
Carl Thomas: You gotta understand, I don’t deal… the reason why that’s hard for me to accept is because people may be thinking in the terms of time. One thing that I’ve always understood is that time is a man-made measurement. So, I don’t really look at time when it comes to my career or body of work. I don’t look at time because it’s such a metaphysical experience and such a metaphysical thing that I absolutely just don’t look at it that way. To me, I can remember what it was like shooting the “I Wish” video (laughing). That’s really fresh in my head, so it’s really hard for me to apply time to my career and my body of work. I understand that one of the things that you apply to the term, “legend” is time. Those who have stood the test of times, those who have been graceful with time and those who time have treated gracefully.
AllHipHop: TV One has a show called, “Unsung,” which I’m sure you are familiar with. In your opinion, is, Carl Thomas, “Unsung?”
Carl Thomas: Nah, I don’t fall under that category. To be honest with you, I’ve been approached by “Unsung” before. I don’t believe that I’m unsung. I think “Unsung” is for the artist who feel that they have peaked. I love “Unsung” thought because without it, we wouldn’t have the autobiography of a lot of artists. We wouldn’t have the background or the backstory to a lot of artists. They showcase many of the legends that we grew up revering without, “Unsung.”
AllHipHop: You have done some collaborations with both, Biggie and Tupac. A couple of great fallen soldiers. Where do you think they would be musically or just in life if they were still living?
Carl Thomas: I definitely think, Pac would have had a movie studio by now. One thing that I always wonder about is, B.I.G. and how would B.I.G.’s career would have progressed. There is a lot of people out there that have careers because, B.I.G. died to be perfectly honest. I always think about how, B.I.G. living would have changed the timeline. I always think about that because him dying definitely changed the course of the timeline for a lot of artists.
AllHipHop: My favorite, Carl Thomas song is, “Summer Rain,” but “Can’t Believe” featuring, Faith Evans is definitely a close second. You guys meshed very well on that song and we never got another collaboration from you two. Is that something that could potentially happen?
Carl Thomas: In all honestly, we just never made the opportunity happen again. It’s not like we don’t talk about it because we talk about it all the time. We still talk about it to this day. The likeliness of that happening… me personally, I would expect to see a, Faith and Stevie J album before I would expect to see a, Faith and Carl Thomas collaboration. Stevie is a wonderful singer. I definitely understand that it’s something that we have to do.
AllHipHop: I recently found out that you are a huge boxing fan. What got you into the sport of boxing?
Carl Thomas: I guess you can say I’m interested in the math of it. It’s really methodical. The way I look at it is… I look at it in the same way as I look at chess. It’s kind of like the art of anticipation. If I move here what is going to be the counter. I just really enjoy the science of it. I’ve studied the four styles that boxing has gone through since it’s very conception that makes up the rules that we know of today. There are some really great people that paid great prices to put on great fights. There are stories that people don’t know that don’t really understand. I was absolutely somebody who was fascinated by the life of, Cus D’Amato. Not his Mike Tyson era, but his Ali era.
AllHipHop: Could you equate a fight to making a record because it seems like you have to go in your dark place or your happy place depending on your comfort zone to create an album kind of like fighter’s treat the gym preparing for a fight.Carl Thomas: I would say it’s more like that going into a show. Going into a show is more of a fight between artists and audience. You gotta know when to jab, you jab-jab-jab with your left hand and then you decide when to hit them with your straight right. I look at the shows more like that.
AllHipHop: Any young artist out there that want to know the keys to longevity in this game, what would you tell them?
Carl Thomas: Well, you have to understand that you’re an artist with or without backing. You also gotta understand that you have to be your first fan before you try to convince anybody else in anything, you have to believe it first. It’s very hard… you know that’s what happens when a lot of cats just want to get into the business for the spoils of it, but not the work. They want to get in it for the spoils of it, time will tell the story on these cats. Most cats that I started out with in the business is selling insurance right now. Or selling real estate; doing something else. Through the grace of God, I’ve always prayed to be here. I take being in between the mountains the same way I take being on the mountain top.
AllHipHop: Hey man, it’s been an honor and a pleasure speaking to you. I look forward to speaking with you in the future. Is there anything else you want to add?
Carl Thomas: I just want to appreciate you. I love AllHipHop.com. Just look out for, Carl Thomas 2019.