Tell us about the album.
The title of it is “R.O.O.T.S.,” which is an acronym for Route Of Overcoming The Struggle. The inspiration for it comes from my success and knowing that it wasn’t an overnight thing – that I was grinding for a long time and was making sacrifices for my love for music. It also takes inspiration from my recent trip to Africa. I was able to see their struggles, which made me want to tap deeper into my emotions. It justified the notion that believing is achieving no matter what burdens you face.
Wyclef Jean, Ne-Yo, Akon, Nelly Furtado, Pleasure P, Ke$ha and Winter Gordon appear on the set, while will.i.am, J Rock and Dr. Luke, among others, produced on it.
How would you describe the direction of this album?
This album is very well-rounded. We have high-energy records on there as well as more stuff in the line of ‘Right Round.’ It’s very versatile – there are slower pace songs, I have high-energy songs, and I cover everything from happy moments to sad moments. There’s definitely something for everybody on this album.
‘Right Round’ samples the Dead or Alive classic song “You Spin Me round,” and is a little more pop than your previous stuff. How did the idea for ‘Right Round’ come about?
I always listened to those kinds of records growing up. But, it was actually my A&R from Atlantic that brought the beat to my attention. So, we went in the studio, Dr. Luke did the sample and made the production, and I recorded it.
What other songs on “R.O.O.T.S.” will be singles?
The next single is ‘Sugar.’ But I have other great songs on there too, like “Available,” co-written by will.i.am. That’s about letting the ladies know I’m single. There’s also the title track, which talks about different things I’ve been through, from growing up in the ghetto and being around people who sell drugs to keeping my eyes on the prize, believing in God and being obedient.
How does it feel to break your own Billboard chart record?
I was just happy about coming off my first album and going into my sophomore album, and to witness the production go into another level. I’m happy to be stepping it up. I didn’t know this record would be this big. I just love making music.
What’s your songwriting secret?
I have none, really. I tend to come up with hooks first, and then pen the verses, which is the easiest part for me, and then add melody. I also like to feel comfortable when I record, that’s about it. I like to have water in the studio and I usually take my jewelry off, and just sit on a couch. I like to feel normal, like I’m back in the hood.