I was in the studio with Yung Berg. We were working on a couple of records, just shooting out beats and he was like, "Go young Mike [Michael Jackson] on ‘em!" Dropping it right now, I didn’t think that’d it’d throw people too far off of what they thought I’m capable of doing. I know I just dropped a project with Chance [the Rapper]. I dropped a couple of verses on "I Think of You." Berg ended up hitting me one day like, "I’m in here with Chris [Brown]. Do you mind if he gets on it?" So I was thinking if there’s anyone who should be on it, it should be him. For R&B, it’d be dope. We completed it but then we played it for Big Sean then he blessed it with a verse.
You’ve worked with Sean before, but have you ever collaborated with Chris?
Every time I work with Chris, the track is for someone else -- like DJ Khaled. Chris had never been on a record of mine and I had never been on one of his. What’s crazy is the night before we actually dropped the single, I went in the studio with Chris, which is when Big Sean had his release party in L.A. We connected up there then he asked me to go to the studio and we did some more work. It’s dope for us to be on the same page and for people to accept both of us on the same record.
Is a video for it on the way?
We’re putting the video together for it now. My fans deserve it. I told Chris, “Just give me two moves. That’s all I need! And I’m going to kill them.” I’m from Chicago so you know we come from juking and footwork. My mom can dance to “I Think of You.” My niece is four. When I played her "Don’t Tell ‘Em," she danced the same way then as she danced to “I Think of You” now. It’s crazy to see. That’s why I thought it was good to put this one out first. Like I said, I'm looking forward to seeing how people feel about the rest of the album.
I know this is the first single, which means the album’s coming soon but with your last album, there were a lot of pump fakes and delays. How do you feel about where you are now?
I feel very strong about the music that I’ve been recording in the last couple of months. In the last month, I think I’ve recorded a completely different album. This one is me closing out my Late Nights trilogy. It’s called Later That Night. There won’t be any pump fakes. [Laughs] I didn’t think I was pump-faking before but the singles just lasted so long from “Don’t Tell ‘Em" -- that lasted a whole year -- to “Planez” with J. Cole. That ended up getting me my biggest tour so far, performing in front on 20,000 people every night.
That hopefully prepped me for now, which is my solo tour, the Late Nights tour. This single shows people a little bit of growth. It gets me out of the trap vibe that I feel everybody is on right now. Every singer is trying to rap. Every rapper is trying to sing. This differentiates me from everybody that I thought was biting my sound. So I dropped this. It’s crazy because I listen to records for years. I wrote this song two years ago. So to hear it right now… I was tired of it until we dropped it. Now I love it again.
So what happens later that night?
It’s after the club. It can be everything after 4 a.m. Even if it’s 8 a.m. and you’re just leaving somebody’s house. I say in the song, I think about you when the sun sets. The album is going to be sexy. You’re definitely going to have a whole lot of bounce on there. It’s going to be for the after, after party.
You and Chance dropped a great surprise album for the holidays, Merry Christmas, Lil Mama. How’d that come together?
Chance is my dog. That’s my brother. We work in the same studio in Chicago. He’s always been supportive. When I first dropped the Late Nights mixtape, he was there at my release party and I didn’t even know who he was. Since then we’ve built a friendship. If he ever needs anything, I’m here. We did that project in a week and a half. I bumped into him at CRC Studios and he asked what I was working on. I told him, "Man, I’m just doing something for my fans for Christmas." He was like, "F--k it. Let’s hit them." I’ve never been in the Christmas spirit ever. My whole family was dancing to Merry Christmas, Lil Mama. My grandpops was dancing to it.
How have you grown as an artist since your last album?
Over the last few years, I just found myself. When I first came out, I was just listening to who I thought was dope. I was just doing me. When I dropped Late Nights: The Mixtape, I wasn’t listening to anybody. I was in Chicago making what I wanted to listen to in R&B. I wouldn’t put out anything that I didn’t want to ride to. Writing records for other artists that I’ve seen become No. 1 records, I know I’m not on the wrong page. For my album, I just wanted to switch it up a little bit. I know what I’ve started. People tell me all the time who sounds like me. I’m still going to do me regardless but I’m evolving.
Like Fabolous, he’s always adjusted over the years, no matter what’s going on. He bodies verses. If I was to compare myself to someone with longevity, it’d be like a Fab. He’s always been around. I’m switching it up on this album. They thought I couldn’t do this, so I’m going to show you what I can do.
Does Later That Night have a release date yet?
I’m just a firm believer in time. I couldn’t have told you that after three years, I’d drop Late Nights and it’d still be okay but I definitely don’t want to keep my fans waiting. I feel like gold don’t get old. Everything that I’ve touched recently -- whether it’s mine or someone else’s -- at least went gold. If I have that mentality with this album, we can’t lose whether I drop it next month, July or December. I just don’t want to keep my fans waiting. I don’t want any pump fakes. The next time we talk, it should be out.
Do you plan on touring for this album?
I can’t wait to go on tour this year. There’s nothing like putting out new music and being able to perform your old sh-t and knowing that people have been riding to your new sh-t. I don't want to do “Birthday Sex” forever. Even though I will, probably. I know when I put this out, it’s going to change my show and I’ll go crazier. With the two tours that I’ve done, one with J. Cole and the other with PartyNextDoor, it showed me a lot about touring. I’ve hardly toured. I want to show people a lot more of that.
Why haven’t you done a solo tour yet? Most acts with the amount of hits you have would’ve been around the word twice. Did you have any kind of stage fright?
I don’t know. That was an unintentional thing. Touring with “Planez” and J. Cole really helped me skip a step, performing to 20,000 people and not having any nerves. I didn’t get any stage fright. I just performed in front of 42,000 people in Porto Alegre and I didn’t feel any nervousness. I have to say that’s because of J. Cole, it prepped me for that. I’m really looking forward to people coming out and really feeling Late Nights live. If it was up to me, every show would start at midnight and I’d give people the best of me.