10 Questions for Bertell

When most people think of Houston artists, Beyoncé, Scarface, and Chamillionaire are some of the names that come to mind. Now 24-year-old H-Town native Bertell Young hopes to add himself to that list. The R&B singer, who simply goes by Bertell, has achieved success on Southern airwaves with his single “She Bad” featuring fellow Houstonian Bun B.

After overcoming life on the streets and homelessness, Bertell signed a record deal with Capitol Records and is now prepping his March 23 debut Goin’ Hard alongside hitmaker Bryan-Michael Cox. Get to know this rising star, from his humble beginnings to his ambitious pursuits.

1. How did you get started singing?
I have a cousin that’s older than me, and we would always go in the closet when we were younger and get on the phone with some girls. One day I was making fun of him and started singing a Boyz II Men song to one of them and they were like, “You’re really good.” I started dibbling and dabbling in it and realized I really had talent, and I haven’t turned back since.

2. You’ve overcome a lot of adversity including homelessness. How did you go from those struggles to success, and what advice would you give to others in similar situations?
I was living a lifestyle that didn’t go down the right road, and nothing is promised in the street life, so I wanted to get away from it. My mother would’ve taken me in, but I wanted to figure it out as a man for myself. I stayed in hotels and started selling my own mixtapes and channeled my hustle in a different direction. I always tell other people to ask themselves, is this for you? Is it really your vision? If it’s something you love, go for it and don’t change your plan.

3. How would you describe your music?
’90s R&B, how R&B used to make you feel in the ’90s. That’s the direction we want to take my music in, with a raspy-smooth sound, because I have a raspy voice so I can sing strong or smooth.

4. Who are your influences?
Marvin Gaye is my all-time favorite. Anytime I’m going through something in life, I listen to him. Also R. Kelly, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, and I really love The Temptations.

5. What sets you apart from other male R&B singers right now?
Mostly that I write the majority of my music and record my own songs. B. Cox will come in and do a beat, then he’ll let me go in and do my own thing. As far as my image, I’m more urban, but I’m also more of the boy next door.

6. How did you team up with Bryan-Michael Cox?
I had a song on the radio, “Shorty What That Do” with Dem Franchize Boyz. I got the record on the radio myself and he heard about me and my hustle and he said he wanted to meet me. So I flew to Miami and I stayed with him for about a month and a half, and ever since then we clicked non-stop and stayed on a mission.

7. How did you get Bun B on “She Bad”?
Bun is the best; he’s a legend for a reason. I actually had met him through Pimp C when he first got out of jail. I ran into Bun B a few years later at the gym and he was like, “I see you’re still on your hustle. You don’t need me on a record?” And I was like, “I don’t have the money right now,” and he was like, “Don’t even worry about it.” He blessed me with that verse for free.

8. What other artists would you like to collaborate with?
Ludacris, Yung Joc, definitely R. Kelly—whatever artists come around that inspire me to do something with my music.

9. Name three albums you can’t live without.
Marvin Gaye’s Greatest Hits, Tupac’s All Eyez on Me, and R. Kelly’s 12 Play.

10. What’s next for you?
The new single is called “Beat It Up.” It’s a nice midtempo groove, but it’s got some 808s on it. I’m getting ready to go on the road to do a promo tour for it.

–Arianna Davis