Ronald Isley Plots R. Kelly, Kanye West Collabs for Isley Brothers Album
Stinging from the poor showing of his late 2010 solo album "Mr. I," Ronald Isley is already eyeballing his next musical endeavor, which will likely be the first Isley Brothers album since 2005's "Baby Makin' Music."
"It'll probably be an Isley Brothers album, yeah," which means younger brother and guitarist Ernie Isley will be involved, the older Isley tells Billboard.com. He hopes they'll work with R. Kelly, a fan who contributed the track "Blast Off" to "Baby Makin' Music," and adds that "I plan to do some stuff with Kanye West and a lot with certain producers, like Tricky (Stewart) out there in California, plus the ideas me and the Brothers plan to do."
Isley says that the younger artists "understand what we do. They're really up on top of that. Most of those producers learned a lot from the things we did, our early records. R. Kelly talks about that all the time. But it's a real different thing when they're working with us." No timetable has been set for the project, however.
Isley is hoping that it fares better than "Mr. I," which was undone by a number of factors. T.I., who rapped on the proposed single "Put Your Money on Me," was unable to promote the collaboration due to his jail sentence for drug possession, while Aretha Franklin had surgery shortly after recording a cover of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" with Isley (he appears on the theme from "The Way We Were" on her new "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love"). Lauryn Hill's label would not give clearance for her contribution to "Mr. I" to be released as a single, and label chief L.A. Reid had begun his exit from Island Def Jam.
"Something started happening with everybody who was involved with this (album)," Isley notes. "So this whole album, for some reason, it didn't get a chance. We did not get a chance to do what we thought we were going to do."
And he feels "Mr. I's" eventual first single, "No More," "wasn't the type of song that we wanted to depend on for the album. L.A. was crazy about it, and I wasn't crazy about it; it was the last song that we did, and I only did it because L.A. begged me to do that song, and I wish I hadn't. I don't know how it turned out to be the first single, but it sort of messed up the plan for the whole along, along with the other things that happened."
Nevertheless, Isley says he wouldn't mind seeing "Mr. I" re-released in some fashion so it can get its due. "We're talking about it," he says.
Meanwhile, the Isley Brothers plan to do some touring this spring and summer. "We have plans to go to Africa this year," Isley reports, "and plans to go to a lot of countries we've never been to." He also predicts that he'll "do a lot of dates" with Franklin this year as well. "We plan to do a lot of things together," he says. "We were best friends over the years, always stayed in touch with each other, always talked about show business -- what she was doing, what I was doing, this and that and the other. It's a great thing."
Another landmark is on the horizon, meanwhile; Isley turns 70 on May 21, though he says he's hardly feeling his age. "Right now I feel rejuvenated to want to do everything or just go everywhere and do everything," he says. "So I don't think of may age or anything. As long as you're doing what you love doing, you feel like you're getting younger instead of getting older. My son is four years old, and I'm always around younger people and just writing songs and doing things and just on the go and enjoying my life. That keeps you young, I think."