By Rashad Grove
(AllHipHop Features) With the resurgence of 90’s R&B, artists who wrote, produced, and performed the songs we all know, and love are getting the recognition that they rightfully deserve. The influence of 90’s R&B, particularly the merging of Hip-Hop and R&B, has become the most popular and recognizable sound in music today. Without question, R&B legend Case is one of the artists who help lay the ground work for Hip-Hop/R&B singer-songwriters of today.
Case scored hits such as the Platinum-selling smash “Touch Me Tease Me,” “Happily Ever After,” “Faded Pictures,” “Missing You,” “Livin It Up,” with Ja Rule, and many more. His albums Personal Conversation and Open Letter were critically acclaimed and commercially successful projects that defined Contemporary R&B. As one of the few R&B artists on the legendary Hip-Hop label Def Jam, Case pioneered the Hip-Hop/Soul sound that seems to be everywhere today.
I had the chance to talk with the Grammy-nominated singer about his remarkable career, his latest project Therapy, the I Love The 90’s Tour that he’s featured on, and the current state of R&B.
Tell me about when you knew that you wanted to be a singer?
Ever since I was kid, I knew I wanted to be a singer. There was always music in the crib. My grandmother made sure I knew all about the music of Ray Charles, James Brown, and all the other soul greats. My dad was singer as well so that inspired me to want to sing at an early age.
As a native New Yorker, what influence did Hip-Hop and New Jack Swing have on you?
Yeah, back then Hip-Hop and New Jack was gaining momentum. Watching both New Jack Swing and Hip-Hop take off, right in front of my eyes was incredible. That was when I first was trying to get my foot in the door and pursue my singing career. Before that, the artists that I idolized like Stevie Wonder and Kashif were older. But Hip-Hop and the New Jack Swing movement lit a fire under me because everyone was so young.
When I moved to Mt. Vernon at the age of 16 and I went to high school with Puff, Al. B Sure, and I met Heavy D outside my high school. Meeting Hev made me think, “They’re young and doing it, so I can make it happen too.” All of a sudden, seeing all of them making it and being young, like Bobby Brown for example, made it that much more real for me.
Mt. Vernon is known as a hub for musical talent. Is your connection to Mt. Vernon and the relationships you had with Heavy D and Al. B Sure the reason you get into the game?
It was the Mt. Vernon connection, but it wasn’t them. I linked up with Jojo Brim and some other people from around the way who were doing music. That’s when I began to learn about songwriting and producing. Jojo and his brother Jimmy got a deal to do some songs with Uptown Records and that’s how I got the chance to write for Christopher Williams and I did some background work on some of Usher’s songs.
You were at the forefront of the merging of Hip-hop/R&B especially when “Touch me, Tease Me” hit with Foxy Brown and Mary J. Blige. That was a smash and it became the template of what popular music is today. In full disclosure, when I saw you in the video with you with Timberlands, that red fitted hat, and the red Jerry Rice jersey, I got the same outfit the very next week.
(Laughs) Yeah, I guess so, but Hip-Hop/R&B was already happening. I just tried to add on to it. Speaking of Jerry Rice, I remember one time I was doing a show in Oakland and he requested to meet me outside and showed me mad love.
Indeed. That’s when labels utilized film soundtracks to introduce new artists who were coming up on the scene. How did you land your deal and how did you get “Touch Me, Tease Me” on the Nutty Professor soundtrack?
As far as the deal, I also went to high school with Misa Hylton (the fashion magistrate and mother of Diddy's first child). She was doing her work in English class, but I wasn’t. She started managing at the time and got Faith Evans to write a demo for me called “Don’t Be Afraid.” Russell Simmons heard it and signed me to a deal. I was the second Def Soul artist he signed behind Montel Jordan. Also, I was the last artist Russell personally signed before he sold the company.
How was the writing process and recording session of “Touch Me, Tease Me”?
What’s crazy is that it took awhile to get the Schooly D sample to work. It came out the way you hear it today by accident. Mary started writing the song. We came back the next day with her, K Smooth, Jojo and we finished writing it. We wanted to get a rapper on there, but we knew it had to be a sister make the song even better. We thought about Left Eye, Lauryn Hill, and Lil Kim. Then we thought of Foxy who had just gotten signed to Def Jam and she was hot off the “I Shot Ya (Remix)” with LL. She came through two days later and the rest is history. The label really liked it and included it on Nutty Professor soundtrack.
Speaking of soundtracks, you also had a song on the Rush Hour soundtrack, “Faded Pictures” which is arguably one of the best R&B collaborations ever by a duo. How did you and Joe meet to make that happen?**
I think we first met on a couple of shows we did together. His manger at the time, Kedar Massenburg, was up at Def Jam meeting Lyor Cohen. He played Joe’s new stuff and “Fade Pictures” came on. Kedar was working on choosing singers because they wanted it to be a duet. Lyor was like, “What about Case?” Kedar said, “He wouldn’t do it with Case because Case can’t really sing.” Lyor played him “Happily Ever After” and Kedar said “I take that back.” I met him and Joe and went cut the record two days later. We had a blast.
Then you dropped the classic Personal Conversation LP when you really come into your own. But what the world still wants to know how did you get Beyoncé to be in the video?
When we were about to shoot the video, I just didn’t want a video model to be in it because the same girls were in the same videos. Then “No, No, No,” came on the TV in the office and I said, “Let’s get her.” She wanted to hear the song and after she heard it, she loved it. She flew up for three days with Solange and the video came out dope. I had the most fun ever making that album. Making Personal Conversation was such a fun time. Also, Open Letter. Working with producers like Tim and Bob, writing and creating that music, was the best.
It definitely came through in the music for sure. You biggest solo hit to date was on there. “Missing You.”
Yes indeed. Joe wrote that one and Tim and Bob produced it. I loved from the moment I heard it. The label loved it so much that they put it on The Nutty Professor II soundtrack and the lead single to my Open Letter album. It’s still one of my favorite songs.
I know you been hearing all talk about who are the “Kings’ of R&B. I’m interested to get your take the current state of R&B.
Man, I don’t even get into all that. But I will say this: For a while it was in the toilet, but I think it’s coming back around now. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between a R&B song and a Rap song. And the R&B songs often have the same production as the Rap songs so everything sounds the same. Now, all rap songs are on the R&B charts so there’s no distinction. They’re not trying to sing, or they really can’t sing. There’s a lack of soul in the music. You gotta have soul in the music. There seems to be a lack of love in R&B. Everything is overt which is cool but there has to be a balance.
Out of the new R&B voices on the scene today, who are you checking for?
Ty $ign is my favorite. He’s beast man. He definitely has the soul that we have been talking about. I would love to work with that dude.
That’s exactly what I enjoy about your latest album Therapy**. You, Teddy Riley and Tank got a banger on there. The live instrumentation and the love themes is have been missing in R&B. I think the entire project is great, but I really love “Strawberries.”**
That’s one of my favorites too. I think people out there still want to hear slow, sensual songs about love. I was hanging out at Teddy Riley’s crib and he brought up a conversation we had two years ago. He said I got some music for you. I after I heard it, I cut three records with Teddy Riley that was the spring broad to the Therapy album.
I know you were doing dates with Bell, Biv, Devoe, and Bobby Brown. Are you hitting the again road this year?
Most definitely! Being on tour with BBD and Bobby Brown was crazy. They still dance like they’re 20 years old! I’m excited to be on the “I Love 90’s tour that’s coming to city near. I’m on there with Dru Hill, Ginuwine, Donell Jones, 702, Adina Howard, and Miche’le. It gonna be crazy.