LeBron James wasn't the only self-proclaimed "King" mulling over a big decision last year.
After releasing his first three albums through music mogul/former reality star Irv Gotti's record label the Inc. (formerly known as Murda Inc.), R&B singer Lloyd (aka Lloyd Polite Jr.) asked to be released from the label due to creative differences in July 2009. The Atlanta-born singer then spent the rest of the year and the early part of 2010 looking for a new home. Thanks to the success of the 2009 track "Bed Rock" -- a song by Lil Wayne's Young Money collective that featured a catchy hook by Lloyd and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- early speculation had Lloyd headed to Young Money's crowded roster.
Video: "Bed Rock," Young Money
In March 2010, shortly after Lil Wayne went to jail in New York for weapons possession, Lloyd chose to go in a different direction and signed to super-producer and longtime friend Polow Da Don's label Zone 4, with distribution through Interscope. On July 6, Lloyd will release his fourth album, "King of Hearts," through Zone 4.
"I was out in L.A. taking meetings with different labels and [Polow] called and asked me to come by his house," says Lloyd, 25, whose last album, "Lessons in Love," debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 when it was released nearly three years ago. "He played me some music and I was... inspired. I was reminded of why I wanted to make music in the first place. I decided to hold on to that feeling and sign with Polow."
During the last 18 months, Polow has devoted nearly all of his energy to Lloyd's new project. In addition to executive-producing the album, Polow has had a hand in producing or co-producing every song on it, going so far as to hold string and horn sessions with different musicians and to call in background singers to help round out the sound and bring Lloyd's voice to life like never before.
"I promised him my full dedication," says Polow, who has crafted chart-topping hits for everyone from Fergie and Ciara to Usher and 50 Cent. "So I stopped doing a lot of work with a lot of other artists. I usually have seven songs on the radio at the same time, but I shut down shop to focus on his album."
Video: "Lay It Down," Lloyd
The result is a cohesive album that has already started to make noise. The lead single, "Lay It Down," was released last August and peaked at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The second single, "Cupid," was released in February and climbed as high as No. 14. And with an impressive lineup of big-name features-including Trey Songz and Young Jeezy, who appear on the third single, "Be the One"; André 3000 and Lil Wayne, who show up together on "Dedication to My Ex (Miss That)"; and R. Kelly and Keri Hilson, who jump on "World Cry"-the album has the potential to be a chart fixture for the rest of the year.
"We really took our time getting the first two singles out there to show people what Lloyd and Polow could do together," Interscope executive VP of marketing and media relations Dennis Dennehy says. "We've used them to set up the album in its entirety."
Both Lloyd and Polow are adamant about "King of Hearts" being more than just a pop-friendly R&B album that yields a couple of summer anthems and is then forgotten about after the project's final single. It was built, they say, to stand the test of time.
"We've created something in the likes of what Justin Timberlake and Timbaland were able to create [on "FutureSex/LoveSounds"] and Usher and Jermaine Dupri were able to create [on "Confessions"]," says Lloyd, who is accompanying Lil Wayne on the second leg of the I Am Music 2 tour this summer to help promote the project. "You don't get something like this every day."