Yesterday the Atlanta-born singer Lloyd released his fourth album King Of Hearts, a collection that explores love and lust, giddiness and heartbreak, and other opposing sides of the romantic coin—the first track you hear on the album is the expletive-filled summer jam “Dedication To My Ex,” a bitter send-off to a cheating lover that has assists from André 3000 and Lloyd’s frequent collaborator Lil Wayne. The rest of King veers back and forth between the poles of romance as well; the buoyant love song “Cupid” and the the sinuous club jam “Bang!!!” may seem like odd bedfellows in theory, but the album, executive produced by Polow Da Don, coheres nicely, with Lloyd’s octave-leaping voice tying the whole thing together.
I spoke with Lloyd at the Interscope offices yesterday; King Of Hearts played in the background while we chatted about “Dedication To My Ex,” touring, and the concept of duality, among other things.
So, “Dedication to My Ex” has been sort of blowing up all over the place.
Yeah, it has. It really has. It’s dangerous. It’s daring. It’s unexpected.
Is it based on true-life events?
I think it’s just based on the fact that I’m a walking contrast at times. Even when you listen to the album, it kind of gives you two sides. It gives you guns and roses. Heart and sensual, you know. Streets and sheets. With that particular song—I knew it was special. I knew it would cause a lot of talk, a lot of controversy. I didn’t know where to put it on the album because it was so different from everything else. But there was no way that I was going to release the record without it. So I said, “Let’s just start it off. Let’s just hit them in the mouth from the beginning.” Not literally, but I’m just saying. Let’s slap them. Across the face. Not literally, but—
Not literally, but musically!
Yeah, there you go.
But then it’s followed up by “Cupid,” which is this totally joyous song.
That takes them back to what they expect. What they were prepared for. It’s like, “Oh my God, what did I get myself into?” I think parents who purchase the album for their kids—God forbid if they happen to purchase the “parental advisory” [version]—will feel probably a little apprehensive after that first song, within the first minute of that song, once they hear “pussy” about ten times. So I think with “Cupid” and then “Love Me Girl” and then “Naked,” it brings them back into the expected Lloyd.
How have your female fans reacted?
There’s two types of women, I think. There’s the aggressive, new school, not-scared-to-talk-about-sex, which is a little bit more openly discussed in today’s society, and then there’s the conservative woman of the past who is shy and coy and feels like certain words shouldn’t be used. I come from a little bit of both. Obviously, my mom is a woman of the new school. She loves dirty jokes. When we grew up, around my mom, she would give us about a minute on a special occasion to say whatever we wanted. “Starting now,” we could just start saying whatever words came to mind. “Bitch,” “shit,” “fuck,” “damn,” “oh my God,” “pussy,” and then most of the time they didn’t even make sense because we just wanted to say them so bad. But she knew that we was doing them probably away from her. So she wanted us to feel a certain kind of openness in our household so that we wouldn’t go out and do things and get in trouble for them. Because we had a freedom at home. Not to do it whenever we wanted, of course, because after that minute was over, she would say, “Now, don’t let me hear you say none of those words again,” and she would tell my friends, “Don’t tell your moms that I let you do this.” But long story short, my mom is a woman of the new school. She likes my music, she likes Lil Wayne’s music. I’ve got a friend named Tity Boi, she adores him. You know, his name’s “Tity.” But then there is the woman of the past, who is my grandmother, who is probably the most endearing woman that I’ve ever met. The sweetest woman, the most caring, lovable. I think you get a little bit of both on the album.
The album defnitely has this sort of split personality about it, but that’s how romance is. Are you going to record a clean version of “Dedicated to My Ex” for the radio?
It’s called “Miss that Lovin’.”
“Miss that Lovin'”?
Yeah, but I don’t like it. I like the dirty version.
I was thinking of other words you could swap in. I was thinking of “cookie.”
You know, we went through this for a long time. “Cookie.” Someone said “juicy.” Someone said “punani.” Someone said “Lucy”—that was my idea, “that Lucy.” But then, I think there’s a double-standard to that word because it can either mean a girl’s name or it can mean a “loosey.”
I was wondering who Salo, who appears on “Bang!!!,” is. Where did you find her? I was looking for information on her and I couldn’t find anything, and I love her verse.
I think we kind of found each other at a very, very important time in music for the female MC. I watched the BET Awards the other day, and I’m sorry to say, but the categories sucked. Of course, we already knew who was going to win. So I think that, in the era of, really, the comeback, the revival of the female MC being respected and different—I really like her style. She’s so different from everyone else. Her delivery is amazing. She’s just, I think, exactly what the doctor ordered.
Is she going to put out more stuff on her own, then? Does she have stuff coming out? Are you going to help shepherd her at all?
Well, she’s one of the many subjects in my kingdom, so hopefully she’ll request my services. I’ll see what I can do. The king’s a pretty busy man. This isn’t the only record that we have. We’ve recorded more music.
Obviously today you put out an album, but do you think you’ll piecemeal other recordings out in the coming months?
Well, from the album, yes, but I think it’s really, really important that you make music for people to live to, for them to grow to, for them to experience to. And sometimes it does take time. I took my time making it, so I want to take my time in people receiving it and understanding it too.
Do you think it’s hard for people to take time now?
Of course. It’s the year of the year. You have a year to get all of your ideas out and it’s going to be what it’s going to be in a year. And then after that, what have you got? You know, “What happened to him?” Luckily, in the world of R&B—really, luckily, in the world of great music, you can just make one great album and let people live with it and disappear. That’s what I plan on doing.
Why? Where do you want to go?
I’m sure someone’s daughter is in need of my kingliness. I’m sorry, I’m pretty dirty sometimes. [Laughs] I don’t really mean it. I’m not sorry.
[Laughs] I listen to your records, I know. What are your biggest influences?
Contrast. Anyone who can blend contrast amazingly. When you hear “Cupid” it sounds like you went to the club at first. Then it becomes really beautiful… and almost Michael Jackson-esque with the melodies. But the beat is really hard. It’s contrast. I do R&B music, but I love hip-hop, so I try to find a contrast between the sensualness of R&B—which sometimes I love and sometimes I hate—and the hardcore edge, the street, the I-don’t-give-a-fuck of hip-hop, which is what I really love.
Why do you sometimes hate R&B?
I’m not a big fan of genre. I just hate to be classified as one thing, as “urban” or as just “R&B” or “soul.” Because I think “soul” is always mistaken for Jill Scott. Who is beautiful—she’s my favorite female vocalist. But that’s not me. I’m young. I’m rebellious. I’m something new, something different.
Do you think that people want to put people in boxes too much now?
Of course. Because that’s the way they can compartmentalize their lives—by limiting yours. That gives them a feeling of control. A sensibility of where they stand. “Oh, OK, he’s ‘this,’ so I’m ‘that,’ so I’m safe.” But no one’s safe.
I think genre also puts expectations in the minds of fans, and when you defy those expectations, people get angry, or they get upset.
In my best Chris Brown voice, “If I wanna make a motherfucking country song, I’m gonna make the motherfucker. And I’m gonna make people love it.”
And defying genre allows you to stretch yourself as an artist and it also allows you to stretch to audience’s expectations.
But it has to be timing. If the timing’s right then go for it. The thing that I love about “Lay it Down,” per se, is that it is different today. Because everyone is on the uptempo bandwagon, but I’m going to bring it back to Jodeci, to early R. Kelly. That kind of feeling. Which, surprisingly, is a unique sound for today, on the radio especially. When I listened to radio or when I looked at the charts, I think every song in front of me might have been 150 bpm.
Lloyd featuring Patti LaBelle, “Lay It Down”
How many remixes of that did you wind up doing?
Three. And, surprisingly, the Patti LaBelle one was probably the most well-received. The B.O.B. one was the last one I released but the actual video got the most reviews on YouTube, I believe. Maybe next to Patti’s. I think Patti’s is over a million views, but B.O.B.’s is over half a million views. And that was just a viral video that I just recorded. He’s not even in the video. It’s just backstage footage of me on tour.
Do you think there’s more of a demand for that sort of backstage stuff now, because of Twitter?
Well, it’s the year of Twitter, it’s the year of reality TV. And I think that what’s important as an artist is that it’s done with a certain sense of taste, with a certain sense of creativity. No one wants to just see me on the crapper just reading a paper, or do they? I don’t really want people to see that, because I don’t think it’s that interesting. I think it’s just about finding a balance. As artists we are naturally reserved, mysterious. But it’s 90 percent of what you want, and just throw in 10 percent of what people expect. Just to give them a little something.
How do you warm up for singing?
Well, I used to smoke a joint before every show, but I’ve kicked that habit in the past year and a half.
I don’t know. I just got tired of that. Been-there-done-that kind of shit. Depending on the venue and the severity of the performance, I may take a shot. Usually we pray. Do a couple push-ups, sit-ups, some stretches in the back just to loosen up a little bit, and just go at it. Most people they do a lot of [mimics scales]. I don’t know, I’ve never really done that. Amazingly. And all of my friends who are true vocalists, they’re back there, they’re doing all these opera warm-ups, and I just go out and do my thing and they’re just like, “Fuck you. I hate you. What the fuck? What do you do?” Someone said the other day, “What do you do to warm up?” And my cousin Ryan just started laughing. He was like, “Nothin’! Just fucking wake up. Lucky bitch.” But he said that under his breath.
Are you and Lil Wayne going to do songs together on stage this summer?
I wouldn’t look past that. We’ve done “Bedrock” numerous times together, most recently here in New York at Summer Jam. We’ve got so many records together, we could probably just do our own set. Most of my own records will be performed on my set, of course. And I may go out with him, or may not. We’re going to wing it.
Do you write a lot on the road?
I do. But I really don’t write, I just sing into my phone. It’s easier. It saves the trees. Plus, when I’m writing, sometimes I get lost and I stray away from my ideas. So if I just record them as I come, then I can just have that. I’m going to sneak onto Keri’s studio bus too.
How is that set up?
There’s a booth, and then there’s an engineer, a mixing board. It’s built into the bus.
[“World Cry,” a collaboration with R. Kelly and Keri Hilson that’s in the vein of “Man In The Mirror” and “I Believe I Can Fly,” comes on the stereo.]
This is my favorite song.
Because of the message?
I like the way that it finishes out the record, on this really different note from the rest of the album.
Toward the end it gets a little bit more into a soulful groove, a little bit more laid-back, I’d say. The whole thing is soulful, but it gets a little bit more relaxed. But in the beginning, it’s like waking up in the morning. Some people are really just like, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” That’s the idea.
Big, small, short, tall—girls, girls I love them all. Black, white, yellow, red—they’re all amazing when they’re naked.
[Laughs] Well, good luck today. I hope your album sells a lot.
Well, what do they say—they say, “Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t.”
Lloyd plays the PNC Bank Arts Center on July 26 with Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Keri Hilson, and Far East Movement.