Eric Benet: Soul Survivor

Eric Benet: Soul Survivor

The sultry singer discusses finding true love, going the independent route and why new R&B isn't R&B at all

by Natelegé Whaley, July 09, 2012

Eric Benet: Soul Survivor

Eric Benet

trepidation or any fear and just excitement and anticipation everyday with this new baby. And also the fact I have this new partner, my wife, to do this with this time. Life is wonderful right now. Not only being a father again but also being a husband. Just being able to feel after all these years my passion, my music, and having it all. Truly blessed everyday.

EBONY: Speaking of having it all, you also have your own label now? Why did you choose to go through your own label to release this record? What was the cause of this?

EB: Being an artist on a major record label was very much a blessing. I was a young guy from Milwaukee being a recording artist and Warner Brothers made all that possible. But like any relationship you just grow out of it. It was a relationship where I didn't have any control. I had like the illusion of creative control but at the end of the day, if they didn't like our project they didn't have to release it. I never knew if I would get a second single or a second video. Sometimes I didn't. Now it's all on me. I get to call those shots and make it happen and as long as I can write the check and make it happen, it's gonna happen. Needless to say my pockets are not as deep as Warner Brothers, but I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to take my career in my own hands for the first time.

EBONY: As an artist whose sang R&B for two-decades, what’s your view on the sentiment that R&B may be going through some sort of identity crisis because of the genre-bending happening with many of today’s artists?

EB: Well I think it's extremely interesting because if you look at other genres - country music for example - country music in the 1970s was acoustic guitars; stories about life; and "I'm going through this" and twangy vocals. 30 years later, country music has gone through many revolutions but for the most part it's still country music. It still has all those elements. And same with rock music. You could listen to rock music back in the 70s, it was what it was. Maybe they called it grunge in the 90s and gone through other incantations of rock over the decades. But if you listen to it now, it's still rock. But with R&B it is truly not what it was. It's more like electronic, techno, kind of pop music. And it's a bit upsetting especially in an industry that still thinks its fair Grammy season to put Rihanna in the same category as Ledisi for R&B when it's clearly not the same style of music.

I'm not knocking what new R&B is. It's fun. It feels good in the club when I want to dance and I want to hear that. But I don't think it should be called R&B anymore. It should be it's own category. R&B, rhythm and blues, is an extremely unique American art form born through the African-American experience out of jazz and gospel and soul music. Live instruments, there's real music, and there's passion in the instrumentation. That's what R&B is. So I hope they get it straight soon. It reminds me of when hip-hop started, when they would do award shows. They would just kind of lump Hip-Hop right into an R&B category and it took a few years before Hip-Hop was like "No, I am not R&B. I am Hip-Hop." So I hope that happens again and that there is a differentiation between the two.

EBONY:  Could you talk about other artists have made a profound impact on you?

EB: Yeah there's quite a few that I could, but I'd like to speak about R&B. I'd like to talk about somebody like Chaka Khan and I think of the early days with Rufus. And it was the kind of music that when I was a kid, I said I want to make that kind of music. I want to make R&B music where arrangement-wise and instrumentally I'm pushing the envelope. I'm not just oversimplifying the structures of my songs or the arrangements of my songs. I want the melodies and the voicing to have some depth to them. And I also want my lyrics to mean something to people and now, 30 years later, Chaka Khan is singing stronger and better than ever and that's always the artist I aspired to be.

EBONY: Any favorite song by her?

EB: “In Love We Grow” and I believe it was off the Rags To Rufus album.

EBONY: How has it been touring with Ledisi? Saw the show at the Beacon Theatre last night and you still have a strong connection with fans. How does that feel, especially coming this far in your career?

EB: Somebody told me years and years ago when I first started out - my sister and I originally signed

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