This month has been memorable for Rico Love. After celebrating his second win for Songwriter of the Year at SESAC Annual POP awards on May 10, Rico Love's latest effort, Rick Ross' "Touch 'N You," debuted at No. 74 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with 1.7 million audience impressions on May 26.
The songwriter and producer has been crafting chart-topping hits for Usher and a variety of artists for over eight years. He is currently the creative voice behind several tracks on Usher's "Looking 4 Myself" album and Trey Songz' "Heart Attack," which moves from No. 11 to No. 9 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart last week. The Juice had the opportunity to catch up with Rico Love to discuss the story behind "Touch N' You," his friendship with Usher, and future plans for his Division 1 imprint.
Your latest production effort with Rick Ross and Usher, "Touch N' You," jumped from No. 74 to 41 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. How does it feel to have another hit on your hands?
It always feels good. That never gets old. I'm excited. When it stops being exciting, I think I won't do it anymore. I wanted to create for Ross what Biggie used to have. I feel like he never had that "One More Chance" record, that Big Poppa swag. I wanted to do something special for him.
How did you and Rick Ross come together on the song?
Spence, who's A&R for MMG (Maybach Music Group), came to see me and was like, "Yo, we're going to play some stuff." I played him a bunch of stuff I'm doing for Wale's album. I'm kind of cool with them. Me and Ross always had love and French Montana is a really good friend of mine. So Spence was like, "Let me hear some joints." He came through and loved the records he heard. He said, "Yo, I have to hook you up with Ross." The next day, Ross called and said, "Come to the house." I went over there and played him a bunch of records and saved "Touch N' You" for last. I brought Ma$e over there too. Ma$e is like my big brother. He was like, "Yo, make sure you play the "Touch N' You" record; that's special." I played it for him (Ross) and he loved it.
I sent it to Usher the next day and he loved it so we knocked it out quick. It was like two week process. In industry time, that's pretty fast [considering] the caliber of Usher and Ross.
You've written and produced countless of songs for Usher. How has the friendship between you two grown over the years?
He watched me from the very beginning. He gave me my first shot in the music business as an artist and as a writer. I've always had admiration and respect for him. Then throughout these past few years, our friendship grew to another level. He was always like a big brother to me. We vacation together. Our kids hang out together. That type of thing. He's just really one of my best friends. I'm blessed to be able to say that Puff Daddy and Usher are my best friends. I feel like the coolest kid on the block.
What can we expect to hear on Usher's upcoming album "Looking 4 Myself"?
I wrote five songs on the album. I was a part of this whole process from beginning to end. The titled track, "Looking 4 Myself," is a song that I wrote and produced. I feature Empire of the Sun on it. Usher introduced me to their music at Coachella last year. If you're not familiar with Empire of the Sun, you'll automatically find [that] the sound isn't what you're used to hearing from Usher.
What he wanted to do [on "Looking 4 Myself"] was explore himself musically. He stepped outside of what was safe and normal. He wanted to make an album that expressed where he was going sonically and not just where he's been for the past 12 to 15 years. He's growing, developing, moving, shaking, and being something that's new, cultural, and that's affecting people sonically. That's kind of forcing the people to grow and elevate.
"Climax" is such a strong record that people don't even realize that it's not an R&B song. It feels so good to people that he just grows with them.
How would you say Usher has developed as an artist?
Vocally, he gets better every time. But that's because he goes back and trains his vocals every time for an album. I've never seen an R&B artist work as hard as Usher. Just in developing himself and getting his fitness and physical in condition. He does cardio, sings, and makes sure to stretch his vocals.
But on the process from then to now, he felt like all he could do is soul music. Now he's realizing he's a soul artist. So anything that he does is going to have a little soul to it. He's still a soul singer but it just so happens that he might sing a record that might appeal to more of a pop audience. He's not afraid to do it. He's not afraid to express himself and keep that balance.
Is there a specific artist you enjoy working with or song you enjoyed producing?
All of them are like my babies. I love all of the songs that I write. It's like asking a mom who's her favorite kid. All of them are special to me. "There Goes My Baby," Beyoncé's "Sweet Dreams," and Trey Songz' "Heart Attack" are some of my favorite songs I ever wrote.
Kelly Rowland's "Motivation" is one of my favorite melodies I ever wrote. It was so challenging. A lot of people caught it right away and some didn't. it ended up being number one for eight weeks. I was excited to be able to cross those lines sonically that wasn't so obvious but was more in a subtle way.
I have a song on the Usher album called "Dive" and "Lessons for the Love" that I'm really excited for people to hear.
What was your most memorable studio session?
[It was] the first time I worked with Puff. I really looked up to Diddy and when we went in the studio he had me stuck in that studio for 12 hours. Everything I did, he didn't like. He heard all these things about Rico Love, how Rico Love is this illest and is about to be the next dude in the game, but he wasn't impressed with anything I was doing. At the end of the night he told me, "Just go home man. Maybe this time we couldn't get it, but next time." I said, "I'm not leaving the studio until I get you a number one record." He's giving me all of these beats so I decided to go into a stash of beats that Danja had sent me and wrote "Hello, Good Morning" at four in the morning, right before he caught a flight. He played it back 10 times and said, "I like this one." I just remember being so focused and determined on giving him a hit record because he's somebody I've idolized my whole life. I wasn't going to go home because he said to go home. I was going to stay and give him a hit record.
You've also worked with Trey Songz on his latest single "Heart Attack." How was it working with him?
Trey is a friend. Trey is one of the coolest, most humble, and funniest people I know. I'm just happy about the relationship I'm building with him. He was open to a lot of the suggestions I had. At times he can be more hands on in terms of doing the song. But he was more open to what I had to say. It's doing so amazing at radio. I think it's going to be one of those crossover records he hasn't had in his career.
You also have pursued a solo career but have decided against releasing anything in the past. Are you looking to resurrect your career anytime soon?
No. I'm cool with being behind the scenes. Also, it would be so cliché. You have Sean Garrett, Keri Hilson, The-Dream and Ne-Yo, who were all songwriters and became artists. If I did that, I'd feel like they'd be like, "Oh, there goes another one." I'd rather be myself and original.
What's coming up for Division 1 in 2012?
I've got this artist, Rabbit from D.C. that I'm super excited about. Rabbit released her joint yesterday featuring Wale, called "#SoFuckinFine." I've [also] got Teairra Mari and an artist by the name of M.J., a male R&B vocalist that I'm super excited about. We're just heating the streets up.
It's just about development at this point. I don't want to make the same mistake as before where I [just] put out songs. I'm really in the developmental stages, by having everyone build a following and a brand. That's what's it's really about for me at this point, putting in that work and the time.