"It's as if he could have come from that era," says Jaha Johnson, The-Dream's co-manager. "His R&B roots don't start with the '90s. They run deep, even back to what inspired those '90s R&B artists, like Sam Cooke."
A Dream album wouldn't be a Dream album if it didn't ooze with Auto-Tuned, braggadocio sex cuts and odes to love's hopefuls, in which he triumphantly swoons and seduces simultaneously, as he does on the title track.
"Rhythm and blues is about what life is, it's about being able to talk heartbreak and understanding that people go through it, not about this fantasy in how much you're spending," the-Dream says. "For some, words got complacent, and R&B began to compete with rap."
"IV Play's" lead single, "Slow It Down," debuted and peaked at No. 24 on Billboard's R&B Songs chart, No. 41 on R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs and No. 12 on R&B Digital Songs.
Island Def Jam executive VP of marketing Eric Wong says the label has been releasing "multiple songs and visuals" for fans to preview the album, and its layers of sounds are "reflective of his discography and artists he's worked with." The-Dream will release the video for "IV Play" early May.
"IV Play" includes collaborations with Beyoncé ("Fire"), Jay-Z ("High Art"), Big Sean, Fabolous ("Slow Down"), Mary J. Blige and Kelly Rowland ("Where Have You Been?").
In support of "IV Play," The-Dream will embark on a co-headlining tour with Rowland, whose fourth studio album, "Talk a Good Game," is due in June on Republic Records.
"We bonded over the holidays, in December. We just became great friends. We are really similar in so many ways. Her and Bey' are like sisters to me," The Dream says of Kelly Rowland. "We just bonded over songs. She's on my album and I worked on two for her album, 'Skywalker,' and another I wrote for her, 'Dirty Laundry,' [which] has a lot of her insight and it's pretty intense."
"It was just a regular talk: 'You gonna go? We should go do it together. We should go on tour,'" he says of making plans to tour with Rowland.
Besides working on two songs for "Talk a Good Game" ("Skywalker" and "Dirty Laundry"), The-Dream is collaborating with Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Kanye West on their solo full-lengths and venturing into the world of film scoring.
"I just started scoring this one film, there's no printed title yet," he says. "I'm trying to move over to the movie world. I'm writing for a smaller circle and focusing on the score. And you never know. I might drop an album on iTunes."
After "IV Play," the-Dream plans to handle his solo material differently. "Being in the middle of a Beyoncé album, I can't really go out and do promo," he says. "I can't do it and be responsible for the many albums I have to do with other people. I'd rather it just go straight to Target, iTunes, Amazon versus me personally having to wait for that window in which to put music out and promote because [then] I find myself holding on to records for two years for the time to be right when musically I'm already past that point.
"If I do five, six records that sound great, I want it to come out as fast as it can. I don't care how many copies it sells. It's about musically moving the needle."