Chauncey Black could be the personification of never forgetting where you came from. Although he has achieved Grammy-winning status as an R&B singer, Black remains rooted in his gospel beginnings. So much so, that his official upcoming solo debut Church Boy is a nod to his upbringing in the church as the product of minister parents.
Black recently signed to Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode record label, and is also upping the ante with a fledging clothing line, Churchwear, and an eagerness to deliver what he believes fans are craving. In an exclusive with AllHipHop.com Alternatives, Chauncey reminisces a bit about his days singing gospel with Jodeci’s K-Ci and JoJo, discusses his new Flip Mode affiliation, and drops the bomb on the real reason Blackstreet broke up.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You recently signed with Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode record label. How did that come about?
Chauncey Black: The way I got signed to Bus’ was I was doing a song called "Everyday Is Your Birthday" with Teddy Riley, and Bus’ heard the record up in New York and he wanted the record for his album. So Teddy called me and was telling me that Bus’ was coming down, but Bus’ didn't relay that he wanted the record, but Teddy kind of knew that he wanted the record.
So Bus’ came down. We had a good vibe when we first met. I still wanted to do my solo career, so I kinda took advantage of a situation that came to me. Bus’ came, I got his cell number. I called him up the next day when he came to Teddy’s studio. He was supposed to come back tomorrow, but I called him before he got there. I said "I want to sit down and talk to you about something." So I called - I met him over by his bus, walked in there and he said, "What’s goin’ on man?" I said, "I want you to sign me to Flipmode." He couldn’t believe it. He said "What? You want to sign to Flipmode?!” [Imitating Busta Rhymes] “Are you serious son? Are you serious?" You know how Bus’ get hype about everything. [laughs] [resumes Busta imitation] "Yo, it would be my honor, you know what I’m sayin. It would be my honor. We would get it poppin’ immediately."
And that’s just how it happened. I got with him, he flew me to L.A. I was doing some more records out there. Three, four months down the line I had a deal with Universal/Motown, so it was an experience.
AHHA: You describe this album, at least the vibe of it, as aggressive R&B. What exactly is aggressive R&B?
Chauncey: I think aggressive R&B is pushing the limit, getting a little more edgier with your lingo with your writing and really keeping it more real. I got this record called "The Three Of Us." It’s talking about a man that’s in love with two women, and he just wants them all to get along. [laughs] But it’s going on out here. Let’s get along. It’s just the three of us. [laughs]
Then I got this record called "A Woman’s Intuition Is Always Right." You have to give them real songs that they can relate to, even if it’s in a negative way. Believe me, those are the songs that win. Like "Every Day Is Your Birthday." Come on. What woman ain’t gonna want everyday to be her birthday and a man telling her that everyday is your birthday? A woman’s intuition is always right. I gotta work you like my nine to five, you know what I mean. I don’t think they’re out there.
AHHA: On the new album, we see you reuniting with Teddy.
Chauncey: Yeah, yeah. It’s just, you know...the Blackstreet situation was just such a sour situation. And I think I’ma put it out on AllHipHop first of the real deal, you know, like why Blackstreet broke up and stuff like that.
The real deal is Teddy left Virginia because he was sleeping with my girlfriend. So me and him got into a little conflict. And I really… I don’t even know what would happen if I see him, you know what I’m sayin’. So I think he just better tread lightly. I even got a song to touch on that, but I’ma give it to AllHipHop first.
AHHA: You got him producing a couple of tracks on this album as well as Dr. Dre, two people you’ve had success with in the past. In light of that revelation, how important was it to have these two individuals involved for the album?
Chauncey: Oh no. I’m not letting that...I’m giving just due where just is due. Teddy is still one of the greatest producers I’ve ever worked with. It is what it is. His talent speaks for itself. He has the catalogue as well as Dr. Dre. It’s just things on a personal level that I’m not too fond of, you know what I mean.
AHHA: So professionally, it was all good?
Chauncey: It was all good. He never took any money from me or anything like that, but that’s just on some personal stuff.
AHHA: Two great producers. Obviously, two different styles. Can you break down the difference between the two in the studio?
Chauncey: Well, I don’t think they’re two different styles. If you can recall "No Diggity," Dr. Dre was on that record. So I think it’s just the respect of both of them that they have for each other, and I respect them both - and to be able to have a Dre record or a Teddy record is definitely an honor for me. I respect both of them well. They both remind me of each other. They’re both precise and when it comes to their production, they want to make sure it’s the right thing that’s on it.
AHHA: I understand you sang in a few gospel groups before you got into R&B. Did one of those groups feature K-Ci and JoJo of Jodeci?
Chauncey: Yeah, yeah. The Hailey Singers. Yeah.
AHHA: How was it doing gospel with them and seeing them develop into R&B singers?
Chauncey: It was amazing to all of us because when Jodeci, came out...let’s not even say Jodeci. Let’s go back to the group called Today. Remember the group Today?
AHHA: Big Bub and all them?
Chauncey: Yeah. We were in the circle of gospel. It was K-Ci and JoJo, the Hailey Singers. I was in a group called the Gospel Highlight Juniors. Big Bub was in a group from Teaneck [New Jersey] called the... I don’t even remember, but we would all used to go to church on Sundays It was just like battlin’ but we was in church. [laughs] For real, that’s how it was. K-Ci and JoJo used to come and wreck Paterson, New Jersey.
We used to go to South Carolina and wreck South Carolina. It was like we all knew each other, so when we saw each other in that light, when we saw Today we were like, "Hold up. If Bub can do that, shoot we can do that!" Then K-Ci and Jo, the Hailey singers, became Jodeci - and then me from the Gospel Highlights, we were Blackstreet.
AHHA: There was a rumor that you were one of the original members of Jodeci. Is there any truth to that rumor?
Chauncey: No. What that was was a print, a bad print. They thought it was me and they thought it was David Hollister, because David Hollister used to hang out with them a lot when they were with Jodeci. I think he used to sing background. So he was kind of in that clique and he had a sound like them. So they kind of got it mixed up. But even David wasn’t part of Jodeci.
AHHA: Is there a chance of you doing a full on gospel album?
Chauncey: There is. It’s probably going to be my next album, a gospel album. And there could be some possibilities of a gospel album from some former members of Blackstreet I might want to put together. I want to give people something that they haven’t seen. They seen Blackstreet in the R&B field, but you know with Blackstreet, we were gospel. We were a religion group, really. So we deserve to give that back.
AHHA: Now this may be something a lot of people don’t know. You had put out an album before this. C. Black And The Pirate, a 2005 release. Did you do anything differently this go around?
Chauncey: No. I would think that I’ve always tried to stay on the aggressive music, putting the Hip-Hop with it, making it more understandable and giving the people the best of both worlds of the Hip-Hop and R&B. Those records were really test records to see where the market was and how could I be different. And I really got a buzz with it, but then I signed with Bus’ and I got a whole new team now. More aggressive. My team is aggressive, and hopefully I can sell some records out here.
AHHA: What can people expect from you on this album? Will there be any hint of Blackstreet in any of the content?
Chauncey: Oh yeah. I think "Every Day Is Your Birthday" is a prime example of a Blackstreet record. It’s a hard ballad. It’s an aggressive ballad. You’re just gonna hear real writing, real topics - clever topics and just everyday life.
AHHA: You mention that your music will be a departure from the vulgar and booty-shaking lyrics. Was there a time in R&B where these themes may have shifted or was it not as prominent as it is now?
Chauncey: Yes. I believe when Hip-Hop came on the scene, it changed a lot of things for R&B. It put a damper on R&B. It made it look like R&B was old. It made it look like Hip-Hop was the new genre of music, but Hip-Hop came from R&B, sampling over R&B records and they rapping on top of them. So for it to be called old, we have to work harder now. We have to get with them, which ain’t a problem, because music is music. But it’s a little harder for R&B people out here now. That’s why you don’t see as many, but you can count 10 rap records on the radio before you can three or four R&B records on the radio that’s hittin’. Not saying Hip-Hop is bad or anything, but that’s just where it is now.
AHHA: You’ve had a lot of success as a songwriter - "No Diggity," "Before I Let You Go," "Don’t Leave Me." Will there be any songs on the album that you wrote?
Chauncey: I was co-writer on all the songs. You’re gonna feel that Blackstreet vibe, but I think it’s gonna be a little more aggressive, a little more edgier, a little more controversial with features from Rah Digga, Bus’ of course, Spliff Starr, Labba, Papoose, Young Buck, Game. Just a whole squad
AHHA: Which do you enjoy more, singing and performing or songwriting?
Chauncey: I love singing and performing. I love it. It’s nothing like that, pleasing your audience. It’s just a feeling like "Wow. They love the way I sing." It’s just a passion, just to get out there and to see people love what you do.
AHHA: You’re about to celebrate your birthday this month. Do you have any big plans?
Chauncey: Well, I’ll be 30 so I might have to give a 30 day bash, you know what I’m sayin'. I might have to just go ahead and do it. I don’t know. And I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m a grown man.
AHHA: Many people have fond memories of Blackstreet. Is there a chance the group may reunite at some point and release new music?
Chauncey: There’s a possibility. Once me and Teddy sit down and talk about some personal stuff, I think we probably can work something out. Time will tell.
AHHA: In your career, have you ever recorded with an artist whose lyrics you necessarily didn't approve of?
Chauncey: No I haven’t. I haven’t had that encounter.
AHHA: There’s been a trend in the last few years of old school acts coming out again and not achieving the level of success they had back in the day. A prime example is New Edition. Is the attention span of the current R&B audience a concern for you?
Chauncey: No. I think it’s really all about what you give them. You got to give them what they want. You can’t go, try to sing young music and you 30 plus in an old group. You got to fit in where you belong, I believe. Just like Blackstreet on our last album, that’s a prime example. Our first single was "Wizzy Wow." Remember that record? That wasn’t a Blackstreet record. People wanted to hear Blackstreet. Blackstreet is known for their ballads, like "Before I Let You Go" and the "Don’t Leave." If we would’ve came out in that, it would’ve worked. But that first impression is what it is, especially being that Hip-Hop has got a lot involved in it now and stuff. It’s a competition. It’s Hip-Hop against R&B and R&B against Hip-Hop.
AHHA: You’ve been in the music business for 15 years. You’ve had some highs and some lows. If you could pick a song that best describes your musical journey, from then until now what would it be and why?
Chauncey: There’s a song that Blackstreet did on the second album, Another Level. It would be "Money Can’t Buy Me Love" and that was a song that me and Teddy, we just arranged it over. It was a Beatles classic. Money is just the root of evil and I feel that’s what a lot of things are about, this music business and all of what a person can get off of you and your talent. That record right there has just kept me so humble. It’s just expressing the feeling of life. I’ll buy you everything, but money can’t buy you love. Money can’t buy you happiness. It can’t buy you what you want. It can get you a couple of things, but it can’t get you a happy life. If you’re sick, it can’t heal you. And another song on that album, “The Lord is Real.” Those [songs] are real.