In an age when everything from fashion to furniture reeks of prefabrication, it is rare to find a genuine realness even in soul music. As the one genre of music that should send shivers through ones body while still managing to touch your heart, much of today’s R&B feels as though more thought has gone into the choreography than the songs. And then, there is Shareefa.
The first soul woman signed to Disturbing the Peace/Def Jam, this Newark, New Jersey native introduces her special realness on the debut disc Point of No Return. Recruiting studio vets Chucky Thompson, Salaam Remi (How Good Love Feels), Rodney Jerkins and newcomers the Justice League (Butterfly), the mature voiced twenty-three year old Shareefa has created something special.
We talk to Shareefa about life and her new album Point of No Return.
HIP: First I have to ask, how was working with Teddy Riley?
SHAREFFA: I worked off and on with him for three years and I learned a lot from him.
Three years was a long time. Did you ever get frustrated because you probably thought at the end of three years you’d have an album out?
Of course. I was definitely aggravated because I though the songs and things I was doing wasn’t being seen seriously. He didn’t seem to have much time for me. But it was in the mist of him trying to do things with Blackstreet guy. I was angry but I wouldn’t change anything because it taught me how to work in a studio and it got me to where I am today.
How old were you when you hooked up with Ludacris.
Two years ago. I did a demo and had twelve songs and a friend of mine handed it to Jeff Dixon (Executive Producer) of Distrubing tha Peace at TRL and it was on from there.
Did you ever start to feel insecure during that time with Teddy when it wasn’t going anywhere?
No. (Laughs) Not at all. I just figured it wasn’t time. I was so excited that I was meeting people of that status. When you get frustrated you say to yourself “look where I’m at.”
Plus you were sixteen and seventeen so you are still wide-eyed.
How did your friends react?
They were ecstatic and now they say “I saw you on TV” and stuff.
But when you hung-out with your friends Teddy Riley was one thing but Ludacris is a whole other thing.
[Laughs] Right. With Teddy they were like “who is that” for kids that is young. I mean our mothers and stuff love him but…
When you hooked up with Luda…
…With Luda—that travels all over the world. With Teddy he is that guy you know from that boy group. With Chris its like “she signed with Ludacris” and everyone was like “Whaaaaaat!”
How was the transition to Disturbing Tha Peace?
It takes like a minute to mold yourself into this whole industry type life and the music thing. It has to be the right song, right look, right time. It takes time. What time is it? [Laughs]
When you are working with Rodney Jerkins was it exciting or intimidating.
Exciting because when I’m in the studio I’m gonna do what I do baby. [Laughs]
When did you know you could sing?
Ever since I was out of the womb. [Laughs] The doctors told me it sounded like I was singing when I was crying. Serious, when I was six or seven. I was in front of the camera trying to sing like Patti LaBelle.
What did your family think?
They didn’t know I could sing until right before I got signed. My brother knew growing up because he always told me to shut up. But my mother was shocked about me being able to sing the way I could. She was like “I never knew.”
+ Charlie Craine