The music industry has always been somewhat unpredictable but no one would have guessed that artists would gain as much control as they have today. Eric Benet
is taking full advantage of it all.
"I think for a few different reasons it's quite a timely move for me," he tells The BoomBox. "It's great that there are so many different ways to reach out to your fans now, as opposed to when I was first starting out. I think you can get a lot more done for less money when it comes to trying to reach your fanbase and trying to stay connected to people. "
Times truly have changed since the early '90s, when he and his sister were initiated into the music business as a duo. Every decision was made by the label and the siblings were eventually dropped. In 1996, the singer was finally able to release his solo debut, True to Myself
, under Warner Brothers, but now, 16 years later, Benet is prepared to make a go of it on his own through his record label. "It's been a career-long dream of mine to have a record label and to have the kind of control that I have now."
With his sixth studio LP, The One,
set to drop on June 5, Benet is committed to being true to himself, a sentiment he touted more than a decade ago. The story behind the album's title is straightforward. "This is the one," Benet says simply. "This is the one that I've been working towards my entire career. I'm stronger vocally, creatively and I'm at the top of my game now. This is the purest representation of Eric Benet."
The LP features only a few guest spots all of which are significant to the flow of the record, particularly "Redbone Girl" with YMCMB head Lil Wayne, who Benet says was happy to oblige. "It was really one of those things where I reached out to his people like, 'Is this doable?' and I sent the track along with the request," Benet recalls, "The track was pretty much finished. I put my vocals down and everything was how it is."
"I sent it off like, 'I don't know if Wayne'll be into this, maybe he'll give it a listen and we can talk about the logistics,'" Benet continues. "'Am I gonna go there? Is he gonna come here? Is he just gonna lay the vocals down flat?' But their response was, 'Yeah. He heard it, he loved it,' and they sent it back with his vocals on it. I was like, 'OK, that's hot. I like it!'"
After the release of "Redbone Girl," there was a bit of backlash with some citing favoritism of color amongst African-Americans being promoted within the lyrics of the bluesy song.
"'Redbone Girl' was written with me talking about one experience I had with one particular girl who happened to be redboned," he shares. "And there's been some positive reaction and some negative reaction and I think there's been some interpretation that the song is basically saying that I prefer a particular shade of woman over the other, which could not be further from the truth [laughs
]. I love all shades of women. I mean, I wrote a song called 'Chocolate Legs' about an experience I had with a dark-skinned sister a few years ago."
Outside of Lil Wayne, Benet collaborated with Shaggy
and his daughter India Benet appears on a track as well. As tricky as it is to do a father-daughter song without it sounding forced, Benet says that somehow they were able to pull it off with some imaginative thinking and old school flair.
"We had to get really creative lyrically with where we were coming from and I think where we went was perfect," Benet says excitedly. "Just equating our relationship to how we feel about music. Music has been there as a constant in my life and it's always been something that strengthens me and is my life. It's the blood in my veins and it lifts me up when I'm down and I was thinking that's pretty much what my relationship is with my daughter and how her relationship is with me, so it came off pretty well."
Although Benet isn't certain of which track will get video treatment behind the lead single "Harriett Jones," he enthuses that it'll possibly be his "Muzik" track with India.
"I need to put on my record label owner hat and make a frugal and cost-effective decision," he admits. "As much as I would like to take three or four or five songs off the record and put some sort of video to them, every song that I love probably won't get that attention but I'll tell you, that song that I did with my daughter India, I definitely want to do something with that song. It's such a beautiful sentiment for a father and daughter."
Eric Benet's sixth studio LP, The One
, is slated to be released June 5 under Jordan House/EMI.