In the past few years, R&B has shifted from smooth to salacious, with only a few crooners staying true to the genre’s romantic roots. Vivian Green is among the pack and with her latest album, Vivid, she basks in her soulful sound. But she did change things up a little though, trading some of the slow, scorned ballads for more mature, uptempo tracks. It worked for her too, landing her her first top five hit on the Billboard R&B chart with “Get Right Back to My Baby.” While in New York City recording new songs for her next album with producer Kwame, the Philly songstress chopped it up with AllHipHop about her latest project, balancing her career and parenting a special needs child and what rapper she would like to collab with in the studio.
What did you do differently with this album?
My albums tend to be slow. Most of them are 70/30 ballads and this album is the opposite. One major difference is the energy on the album. The fun songs, the more uptempo songs are there and we really haven’t seen too much of that from me, and this album is empowering. While some of my past music may have been labeled as sad or angry, this music isn’t that at all. I do touch on a love lost on some songs but it’s not from the perspective of someone who is broken. It’s a different vibe and I attribute all of that to growing up. With my first album, a lot of it was written before I could even drink. It was a very different time in my life and I was a very different person. I wouldn’t say I was a woman with my first album.
What’s your next single?
“I’m Not Broken.” It’s very empowering. I wanted to make a song that touched on some of what my previous songs have touched on but in a different way.
Your songs are based on real life experiences and real people. Did someone you wrote a song about ever become upset with you?
I definitely have. I got a phone call about defamation of character. Some nonsense (laughs). They had no legal knowledge whatsoever. If they had a clue they would know they couldn’t sue me for what they were trying to. This was in 2005 or 2006 with my second album, Vivian. It was ridiculous because I never said anyone’s name. If you don’t say that then there’s really nothing you can do (laughs).
What song was it?
It was a couple (laughs). It was so funny because in retrospect I would never...some of the songs on that album were very angry and now I would never have that perspective in my life whatsoever. I look back and I laugh (laughs). It’s so funny to me but I’m pass
Your 11-year-old son has special needs and I read that on your hiatus you focused on him and having him home schooled. Did you ever think about leaving music to focus on him completely?
I didn’t. If I had a thought like that it was because of how hard it is to break back in after the hiatus but never because of him. I would think “is it worth trying to get my foot back in the door after being gone so long with all the changes that have taken place in my absence?" There were a couple moments where I was discouraged but I never stay discouraged for too long. I think it actually allows me more time with him. I know that sounds weird but it does. I wouldn’t be able to homeschool him the way that I do if I had a 9 to 5 job. I wouldn’t be able to take off like I do when he needs to go to the hospital or anything like that. I wouldn’t have the same flexibility that I have now. My team and my management make my schedule for me. It’s very unorthodox! (laughs) It allows me to make sure that I’m with him a lot of the time.
What is his diagnosis?
[His condition] is undiagnosed.
Does his condition being undiagnosed make it more difficult to access certain resources you may need outside of homeschooling?
No because I don’t have to prove that he has something that is unknown. It effects his bones. The things that make him different are obvious, like his thumb and index finger share the same bone and when he was born his skull was underdeveloped.
I saw that you also do advocacy work related to special needs children.
The biggest thing that I’m going to do is this PSA for the “I Am Different/I Am Human” campaign. It’s to build awareness of the 57 million people here in this country that have a special need or disability. That’s 19 percent of the population and I feel like the awareness is just not there. I want to start off with a PSA but eventually I want more awareness implemented in early childhood education and in the pre-k and kindergarten community so kids are made more aware. So when they grow up and they encounter people who may not be like them they were already taught and made aware in school because parents just don’t do it, you know? And the PSA will be to encourage parents to begin to do it as well. On a bigger scale I would like for it to be implemented in early education...Jordan many times has been the first person that a small child has seen that is different from them and they have such a raw, public reaction, and it’s not their fault. They just haven’t been taught.
That’s really great. Now, R&B has changed a lot over the years. the men of the genre have become more raunchy with their lyrics and some female vocalists have followed suite. Does it make a traditional singer like you have a hard time?
It absolutely makes it more difficult... because we are not doing whatever the new, trendy singers do.
Yes! The ratchet, and the ratchet sells (laughs). But it sells because it’s being put into the mainstream. But there’s other things that sell as well but not on the same scale. There are people who do great business but you won’t hear them on the mainstream station. But this year alone so many people this year released cool albums. Jazmine Sullivan, Raheem DeVaughn, Tamia, Jill Scott, Teedra Moses, Avant. A lot of good music came out this year but if you’re not aware then you’re not trying to know.
Who do you listen to?
Definitely the people I just named. I listen to classic hip-hop. I probably listen to Stevie Wonder albums more than I listen to anything else. I listen to Keys of Life and Hotter than July at least once a week.
I see you’re not big on features but what rappers would you like to work with in the future?
I really like J. Cole. I like his whole movement and the way he started. It was organic. I love when people’s journey is different from the typical music industry journey. Plus, I think he is a dope lyricist.