Fifteen months after releasing his fourth solo album, "1977," as a free "Internet album," R&B star The-Dream will put out the project as a for-sale physical product on Dec. 18 through Island Def Jam (IDJ). With his forthcoming "Love IV" pushed back to early 2013 due to his production and songwriting schedule, The-Dream says he wanted to offer fans a stocking stuffer before the end of the year.
"A lot of fans wanted it to be released officially," he says of "1977," which was posted online in August 2011 under his birth name, Terius Nash. "1977" was originally issued as a stopgap between 2010's "Love King" (173,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan) and The-Dream's "Love" LP, but critics and fans connected with the darker tone of the effort, which was partially inspired by the singer/songwriter's 2010 divorce from singer Christina Milian. The free album earned positive reviews from Pitchfork, the New York Times and BBC Music, while the video for single "Ghetto" (featuring Big Sean) has amassed 2.3 million YouTube views since its release last December.
The-Dream says he has been considering giving "1977" an official release for more than a year, and was swayed by fans on social media as well as by comments on his YouTube channel. "People want their music in a certain type of way, and it's up to us to give it to them that way," he says. "Everybody doesn't want to be accustomed to downloading something from a site where it may not be as mastered. The people who love  will love it. There's a lot of people who probably haven't heard it, and they'll hear it for the first time."
The "1977" release will come one month after Canadian R&B artist the Weeknd rereleased his 2011 trio of free digital mixtapes as a single physical entity on Republic. Titled "Trilogy," the project debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 with 86,000 sold, according to SoundScan. Like " Trilogy," the physical release of "1977" will include new songs that didn't appear on the digital version. In The-Dream's case, new tracks "AK47" and "Tender Tendencies" were both posted online in November. According to IDJ executive VP of marketing Eric Wong, previously released songs "Wake Me When It's Over" and "Used to Be" will receive proper videos, and the CD will include special packaging and unreleased artwork.
And while 1977 was originally released under The-Dream's real name, the physical version will be titled "Terius Nash: 1977" and credited to The-Dream. "The retail space knows Mr. Nash as the-Dream, but at the same time, core fans know the-Dream as Terius Nash," Wong says. "So we decided for the album, The-Dream would be the artist and Terius Nash would be in the title."
Last March, The-Dream previewed a handful of songs from "Love IV" at a New York listening session, including the thumping sex jam "Foreplay" and the Gucci Mane collaboration "Paid." The-Dream says he's eyeing a March release for the project, which was pushed back after he was tapped to co-produce three songs on Rihanna's new "Unapologetic" (her first No. 1 on the Billboard 200) and became "involved in every part" of the making of Beyoncé's forthcoming fifth studio album.
The-Dream says that the balance between his producing/songwriting projects and the support of his solo career has been lopsided as of late, and might have given fans the wrong impression of his dedication. "The label and I have to figure out how to combine both of these things, and see this as one musical picture," he says.
In the meantime, however, the-Dream is more than happy to revisit "1977," despite its heavier, heartbroken themes. "At the end of the day, I'm a songwriter," he says, "and no matter where these places are, I can revisit them."