Those who enter Jason Derulo’s castle-shaped home in Tarzana, Calif. are greeted by a knight in shining armor, literally. The life-size piece, which stands next to a red carpet-inspired staircase, decorates a large living area which features white floors, a white couch, and a white rug.
Another decoration also immediately stands out: a framed photograph of Jason and Taylor Swift from the pop queen’s “1989 World Tour.” “You are one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met in this business,” Swift’s handwritten note reads, as it hangs on the frame. “But also one of the most talented.”
On a sunny Friday afternoon in February, Derulo appears relaxed in his home. He’s got a new hairstyle — a mohawk with twists — and he’s sitting in a dining area, overlooking his pool and spacious backyard. He’s also fresh off the release of “Naked,” the first single from his upcoming still-untitled mixtape, which could drop “in the next couple of weeks.”
“Naked” is actually a song that his label felt would be a risky release, a track that references the “Talk Dirty” singer’s ex, Jordin Sparks (“The only time I need a spark is when I light up a spliff,” he sings on the Smash-produced cut).
“My label thought me releasing the song would be catastrophic to my career,” he tells Rap-Up. “But I didn’t really give a fuck. It’s not about my career. It’s not about any sales. It’s not about that. It was literally about that creative space. At some point, you have to just be focused on the things that you want to do. At this point in my life, I’ll never do anything that somebody else wants me to do. At this stage in my career, it’s all about me and spreading my creative wings and having fun.”
Part of that “fun” included getting “faded” during “Naked’s” recording session. “I was in the studio and I was probably pretty high, pretty drunk,” he explains. “I was definitely faded. When you’re drunk, it kind of lets out the truth, as usual. That truth serum is a serious thing. I was just letting it all out, man. It wasn’t about singing a note or showing super vocals or anything like that. It was about the story and what I was feeling and thinking at that particular point…It was literally me just being faded and saying things that I usually don’t say.”
The mixtape, which could include more unhinged moments like this, is about “sharing the things that haven’t been shared yet,” he says. And Derulo has been working with some of the game’s biggest names. “I don’t know which songs are actually going to make the [mixtape], but I worked with Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign, Wale, French Montana,” he reveals. “But I don’t want to put too many songs on there.”
One song that is likely to appear on the project is “Satellites.” “[It’s] about a girl who’s not usually the type to smoke and drink, but when she’s with me, she wants to get high,” he explains, adding that the track also pulls inspiration from a TMZ video that surfaced last year.
“I don’t know if you’re familiar with the whole Chris Brown thing with that new girl that talked about him hitting her or something?” he says. “That same girl, I had a run-in with her outside of a club. She was trying to get in my Sprinter van and a bunch of her friends I guess got on the bus. She was telling the [TMZ] camera[man] how she knew me and how I was fucked up and I left her behind. So, in the song I was talking about how it’s kind of fucked up that her friends left her just to get in the party.”
Another song from the mixtape sessions that stands out to Derulo is “Skip to My Lou.” The track was inspired by Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston, a former NBA player and streetball legend with a deadly crossover.
“The whole song is based on crossing over,” he says. “‘I had to cross over like Skip to My Lou.’ What that means is me going into the pop shit. So, that whole chorus, I love it. It just represents so much. In that song, I talk about how she went from first class to economy and how things could’ve worked out differently if this or this happened. I [also] talk about how I didn’t want to say too much because I had a bitch with me in the booth at the time.”
While the mixtape seems edgier than some of his past pop-leaning material, and while the subject matter might be specific to Jason, Derulo believes it will also be relatable.
“I think that it will relate to other people too because we all go through very similar things,” he explains. “But I don’t think that this mixtape is necessarily supposed to take me to a different level. That’s not the intention, especially with the nature of pop music, which is worldly, right? But what happens when you mix the two? What happens when you have the pop platform, but I introduce them to this? What happens? I don’t know the answer to it. But I’m interested to see what the fuck happens.”
–Words and photos by Andres Tardio