Fantasia will make her return to the “American Idol” stage tonight, nine years after winning the title. She will perform her new single “Lose to Win,” but she’s not sweating it.
“This is the very first time that I’m not really, really nervous,” says the 28-year-old singer, whose fourth album Side Effects of You is due April 23. “Going back always reminds me of where it all started, which is a good thing. It’s a humbling thing for me.”
But instead of singing in front of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, she will face new judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey.
So what does Fantasia think of Nicki as a judge? “Whatever floats their boat. I always believe in change. Everything can’t stay the same,” she tells Rap-Up TV. “The fact that they changed it up, brought somebody else in, a little younger that can relate to the younger crowd and a whole ‘nother different type of music, hey do it.”
As for Mariah, “I would have to say that that was a perfect choice as well. Mariah is a legend. She is music.”
Fantasia has been watching the latest season. “I think that they have some very, very good talent on this year. I will always say that my season was the best season,” she says of Season 3, which produced stars including Jennifer Hudson.
While she wouldn’t name her favorite on Season 12, she is partial to one particular contestant from South Carolina.
Look for more from our interview with Fantasia in the coming days.
On May 14, Eve will return with her first album in over a decade, Lip Lock. The hip-hop trailblazer sat down with Rap-Up TV to discuss her long-awaited comeback record, which features appearances from Snoop Lion, Missy Elliott, Dawn Richard, Chrisette Michele, Juicy J, Pusha T, and more.
Label politics kept her in limbo for years, but she has no regrets. “I’m happy it took this long because I actually feel as excited as I did the first time I came out,” she said.
The follow-up to 2002’s Eve-Olution shows her many sides. “This is my album. It’s completely Eve. It’s completely all of me,” she said. “I think you hear all my influences musically on this record. You’re definitely getting insight into who I am as a woman, an artist, as a person right now.”
She also weighed in on the controversy surrounding Rick Ross’ pro-rape lyrics, which ended with the termination of his Reebok deal. “I think they did what was in their right as a corporation,” explained Eve. “People still have to remember it is a business and there are shareholders that are bigger than just Reebok that are probably looking at this situation and being like, ‘You know what, this is not something that we want to represent.’”
While she realizes it’s only words, she did take offense. “As a woman, I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ It just makes you think in a different way. I feel like it’s wordplay, but at the same time, it does make you think twice, like what do you mean? Are you that dude? It’s not OK.”
Eve is currently promoting her Gabe Saporta-assisted single “Make It Out This Town,” but has already lined up the next single, “EVE” featuring Miss Kitty. A stripped-down video was recently shot in London where she lives. “That’s one of my favorite tracks,” she said.
In addition to co-penning Chris Brown’s first single “Fine China,” singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger has been in the studio with Usher. The two have cultivated a brotherhood over time and are currently working on the R&B superstar’s new album alongside Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, and Brian Alexander Morgan.
Bellinger likened the sound to Usher’s Confessions era. “More R&B, more urban,” he said of the follow-up to 2012’s Looking 4 Myself. “[Usher] said, ‘This is the one where I have to show I’m still Usher.’”
They recently collaborated on the Diplo-produced “Go Missin’” and previously worked on records including “Lemme See,” “I Care for U,” and “What Happened to U” off Looking 4 Myself.
In addition to Usher, the hitmaker has been writing for Keri Hilson. “We worked on a song with RoccStar and Timbaland that’s absolutely something that you haven’t heard. It’s just completely different,” said Bellinger, whose mixtape Born II Sing, Vol. 3 drops April 15. “Timbaland has come back and recreated his sound.”
Chris Brown will present “Fine China” to the world on Monday. On the eve of its release, singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger spoke to Rap-Up TV about co-writing the R&B record, which serves as the first single off Chris’ sixth album X.
“When you hear that, it’s gonna be something that Chris hasn’t done yet,” said the hitmaker, who’s previously written for Chris as well as Usher and Justin Bieber. “He really, really went back to the days of Sam Cooke, but we were still able to keep it 2013 at the same time.”
X is a throwback to the past. “Justin Timberlake really opened the lane for real music and we’re just gonna go running through it,” added Bellinger, whose mixtape Born II Sing, Vol. 3 drops April 15. “For so long, people have been deprived of that kind of sound.”
The album was heavily inspired by Michael Jackson, whose influence can be heard on the Danja-produced “Add Me In,” which he also penned. “I studied Michael so much and never do I get to really embody that. On this project, they were like, ‘Just do Michael.’”
Being around Chris in the studio made him realize his remarkable talent. “He was born to do this. He’s our new Michael Jackson. They can say whatever they want about him, but no one can knock his talent.”
Bridget Kelly hasn’t released her debut album yet, but she can already add Grammy winner to her résumé. The Roc Nation singer-songwriter took home her first Grammy last month for co-writing “Einstein” off Kelly Clarkson’s album Stronger.
“It was so humbling to hear that I had won on a song that I didn’t anticipate would go anywhere,” said Bridget, who originally penned the song for her album. “Now that that dream has come into fruition, I feel pressured to figure out what the next dream is.”
Bridget’s dream includes the release of her debut, which features contributions from Shea Taylor, Jerry Wonda, Ne-Yo, The-Dream, and Kendrick Lamar, who appears on the single “Street Dreamin.’”
She’s received plenty of support from her Roc Nation boss Jay-Z, who told her to take her time. “Jay has really been monumental in that he’s really helped coach me along the way, just to continue to be patient with myself and with my process,” she said.
Plus, watch Bridget perform her single “Special Delivery” and a cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” for Rap-Up Sessions.
JoJo professes her love for a guy like Andre 3000 on her single “Andre.” The video received an overwhelmingly positive response from her fans and even a text from the man himself.
Their mutual friend Flying Lotus sent the OutKast rapper the video after it premiered. We caught up with JoJo at the “Love Is Heroic” benefit in Hollywood, where she was still reveling in the moment.
“I got a text from friggin’ André 3000. I couldn’t believe it,” she told Rap-Up TV. “Flying Lotus sent him the video and he was like, ‘This was one of the coolest compliments I’ve ever got.’ I can’t believe it! I definitely bugged out, almost peed in my pants.”
The text from the elusive star caught her completely off guard. “I didn’t expect him to hear it or see it,” said JoJo. “He is the exact type of man that I’m singing about in the song, someone who does his own thing and is unapologetically who they are.”
Watch her reaction and find out what she said to him in response.
It’s official. Gilbere Forté has joined Future, Ciara, and Jennifer Lopez at Epic Records. Fresh off his much-buzzed-about performances at SXSW, the Philly MC made the announcement to Rap-Up TV.
“It was a very unbelievable feeling to receive a call from L.A. Reid,” said Gilbere, who flew to New York to meet with the Epic staff. “We connected on a very creative level, so in my heart I knew that Epic was the place to be.”
The 25-year-old has built up his buzz with his single “PRAY,” which samples Fiona Apple. “I looked at this record as kind of reintroducing myself,” said Gilbere, who released his debut 87 Dreams in 2010. “This particular record lifted me up, so I want to lift up the rest of the world now.”
With a new label deal under his belt, he is currently working on his PRAY project. “The music on there is going to be very incredible,” he promised.
You can’t knock the hustle. Grand Hustle’s own B.o.B has been hard at work on a series of projects including his third album, a rock EP, and the Hustle Gang compilation. Rap-Up TV caught up with Bobby Ray during a rare moment outside the studio to give us an update on his musical endeavors.
His rock EP is in the works and will reflect his diverse influences. “When I drop it, everyone’s gonna have an eargasm,” said B.o.B, who’s in no rush to release it. “It’s really how I fell in love with rock music, from indie to alternative to classic rock to even some forms of country music.”
Another project he’s excited about is the Hustle Gang compilation, which is producing explosive results. “We dropping torpedos, missiles, atomic bombs,” he said. “There’s no pressure and there’s no expectation for what it should be. It’s just a bunch of dope artists coming together and doing what we naturally do.”
But his first order of business is his third album, which is nearing completion. “This project is a lot more effortless than anything because I’ve really shown the full spectrum of what I can do musically, so now I’m just having fun with it. I’m 24 years old, so I’m partying.”