Rob "Rob. A!" Allen is a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated, singer/songwriter signed to Sony / ATV. He is best known for co-writing "Forever" by Chris Brown [Jive Records], "Disturbia" by Rihanna [Island Def Jam Recordings], "On & On" by Kelly Rowland [Universal Republic / Motown Records] and "I Need This" by Jessie J [Lava / Universal Republic Records].
In this exclusive interview with Monica Mania, the "Wifey Material" singer talks about his movement 'The RoBellion,' what we can expect from his upcoming project, collaborating with Chris Brown and Rihanna, his Spanish background, and so much more. Enjoy!
Hamada: How did you get into singing and songwriting?
Rob. A! - I started writing when I was 15 working with local South Jersey Producers Roy Hamilton, the Jerkins Family and doing rap hooks for local rappers. The singing aspect was always there since I was younger but I didn't take it seriously until my freshman year in high school when I joined the school boy group "O'boys". Of the 6 members, 4 of us decided to pursue a record deal as a boy band called "Harmony". When that didn't work out, I went solo to get my own record deal and ended up getting my first song placement with a female group signed to Arista Records, "Tha Rayne".
Hamada: Tell us about your first single, "Wifey Material"?
Rob. A! - "Wifey Material" initially was just a promo leak I put out in Jan 2011 for my fans who follow my movement "The RoBellion". Prior, a lot of my songs demos I wrote for other artists have leaked unauthorized to YouTube and many file sharing blogs/sites. Because of it, I gained a lot of fans as a singer not just a writer. So, I wanted to give them music that showed who I am as a recording artist, Rob. A! In April 2011 my lawyer Chris Cabott suggested I play "Wifey Material" and other songs of The RoBellion to a radio station in Philly (100.3 The Beat). He felt they would play my music because I'm from the area. Once my team and I took a meeting, the station programmer immediately chose "Wifey Material" to play on the mix show that night and it got a big response. People wanted to know - who's the guy singing the "Wifey Material" song? Once the song was in rotation, I immediately shot a video for it in Philly which should be premiering on my official website sometime this month.
Hamada: What can we expect from your upcoming debut album?
Rob. A! - Right now I'm not really focused on "the album" but I'm always working on something new. My efforts right now are to establish myself as Rob. A! and make the connection with Rob Allen the writer. I'm actually very well known around the world but people haven't seen me perform or seen visual content. Up until now, they've just heard the leaked music. So it's important for me to "re-introduce" Rob Allen as Rob. A! to the world.
What I can say about my sound is its Urban/Pop. Even though I'm a crooner I don't consider myself an R&B singer. My subject matter is not your typical R&B "Bump N Grind" music. Wifey Material is about close to R&B as I wanna go (with the exception of songs with sexual subject matter). There are no true "sex" songs in the Pop world. My choice of lyrics and content puts me in a lane that would almost classify me a rapper but overall packing is mainstream Top 40. My heavy influence from the Hip-Hop world, extensive vocal ability, and love for Dance music creates a very special hybrid that I feel is in a league of its own. So ultimately, you should only expect something refreshing to the ear.
Hamada: Whom did you collaborate with on the project?
Rob. A! - Some producers are Big King "Ice Box", Chris Rojas (P!nk, Jaicko,Vanessa Hudgens), and Supa Dups (Eminem, Estelle) to name a few. However, for the most part I'm collaborating with my producer protégé, Don City. He and I co-produced "Wifey Material" and most of the songs leaked from The RoBellion. Don City and I have a crazy chemistry that a lot of my favorite artists had with their #1 producer. I feel like Don City and I will be like Swizz Beats and DMX, Missy and Timbaland, or Snoop and Dr. Dre. When you hear their music, you could immediately identify the dynamics of those combinations. I want that same thing. I don't want my beats to sound like everybody else. Even if the music is similar to what's on the radio, I still want it to be different. Another producer on the project is Vikaden (Lloyd Banks, 50cent). He did the track to the anthem of The RoBellion titled "Rebel". It was the first song to leak on 8-9-2010 to jump off my movement. People immediately fell in love with that song cause it sounds like nothing you've ever heard.
Hamada: List some of your favorite songs recorded so far (with brief liner notes about each one of them).
Rob. A! - "Rebel" is at the top of the list because it tells people exactly who I am in one word. "Kill Cupid" is a fun song. I can't help but dance when I hear it. It reminds me of a video game. "Circuit Breaker" it's a song that I see a video for every time I play it. "One More Night" it's a love song but not to sappy. The melodies of the verses are infectious. I enjoyed co-writing that song."Kung Fu" it's a work in progress because I'm looking to get Nick Minaj and Busta Rhymes on it. It WILL be a club banger. "Eye Ballin" I feel like I channeled all my favorite rappers on this song.
Hamada: When you co-wrote "Forever" by Chris Brown, did you expect it to be such a huge success?
Rob. A! - Seriously, I'm not sure how I knew but I knew. Soon as I came in the studio and there was just the chorus recorded, I felt a real positive energy. Then when Chris asked me to try and write the first verse and loved the first thing I wrote, I knew there was chemistry and it could only lead to great things. Once Chris, Andre Merritt and I finished the record we couldn't stop playing it and everyone who came in to listen couldn't help but dance. What I can say is - I didn't expect that the life of the song would be just as eternal as the title. Every time I turn around is being used for something like the YouTube "Jk Wedding" video, the skit on "The Office", "Dance Movie" and Chris performs it often. I definitely feel like "Forever" lives up to its name.
Hamada: How was it like working with Rihanna on "Disturbia"?
Rob. A! - Honestly, I didn't get to work "with" Rihanna on "Disturbia" because the song initially wasn't recorded for her. Chris, Andre, and I wrote "Disturbia" the next day after recording "Forever." We had identified ourselves as a writing/production team The "Graffiti Artiztz" and continued to write songs after the spark from "Forever." Another member of the team most don't know was Britton "Briddy" Shaw, who is now a member of the Interscope Recording group "iSquare". In that week, we collectively created many songs and just so happens Rihanna was dropping by the studio, heard "Disturbia," and immediately fell in love with it. If I remember correctly it was definitely Valentine's Day, LOL!
Hamada: Were you upset when "On and On" by Kelly Rowland leaked online?
Rob. A! - At first I wasn't because I thought maybe the label was promoting it as the next single until I realized it was leaked. Then the anger set in, LOL. Having a lot of your music leaked is very discouraging but can also be a double edged sword. Yea people are hearing the work, but from a monetary standpoint, it hurts you. Especially when you have a publishing agreement that is based on the number of songs you get "commercially released" on artists. Mixtapes, leaks, and, Promo don't count. Even when it's only on iTunes, it doesn't count towards you commitment unless it sells a certain amount or has heavy radio rotation nationally. Overall, I still look forward to doing more work with Kelly and I'm very happy for her success with her current single, "Motivation." She is a hard worker and one of the "purest" people I've ever worked with.
Hamada: Which version do you prefer – Chris Brown's or Jessie J's "I Need This"?
Rob. A! Ha haaa! Of course someone would ask me this question, so here's my answer. Considering the song initially was co-written by me and Jessie for her album, I heard her version first. As you already know, her voice is an international treasure and she sounded incredible. However, when I found out Chris was going to record it I was shocked because the range was so high in pitch. I was concerned, but when I heard Chris's version, I was very impressed and proud of him and his delivery of the song. I loved the fact that he perfectly made it his own and it showcased his vocals in the right way. Chris is a phenomenal vocalist and at times I feel his mainstream songs don't display that and I can relate to him in this area, because in the same way most people don't know the extent of my voice is immense. Not because I wrote it but, I really wish "I Need This" was a single for Chris so that the people who doubt him and haven't heard the song would see him in better light.
Hamada: Kevin "K-Mac" McCall and Andre Merritt, who also penned hits for Chris Brown, are currently working on their own projects as well. Do you feel any sense any competition brewing between the 3 of you?
Rob. A! - Hell yea! It's War!! Psych... I'm playin', haha. In essence the music business is competitive and everyone wants to come out as a winner in some regard. But on a personal level, absolutely not! If anything I look forward to doing some form of compilation album with all of them, including Chris. All of us are on a similar creative frequency, but as individuals, we are very different and I feel people will embrace our music for how we each brand ourselves as entertainers.
Hamada: Besides your own project, which other artists are you currently collaborating with?
Rob. A! - Right now I have recently been brought into working with Willow. To me this is incredible and a huge accomplishment to work with the daughter of someone I admired growing up as a kid. Most don't know this, but my first aspiration was to be a feature film actor or a sitcom TV star. As of right now, that's my only writing priority. To be honest I'm not eager to write for anybody unless they genuinely wanna create with me for their project. Other than that, its all about The RoBellion.
Hamada: Describe yourself in 5 words.
Rob. A! - Rebellious, Creative, Clever, Attractive, Blessed.
Hamada: Tell us something that most readers will be surprised to learn about you.
Rob. A! - Most don't know on my mother's side I have Spanish heritage, so I speak Spanish pretty fluently. I grew up eating soul food wit a Latin twist, which means I ate well!! Along with that, I was influenced by Latin music when I visited my relatives. Some Latin artists I listen to are Ruben Blades, Aventura, Shakira, Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderon, Enrique Iglesias, and Pitbull. Another thing most don't know is I study all forms of Martial Arts and took Tae kwon Do. Because my family was having hard time with money, I couldn't afford to test for my belt, rankings so I continued to read and study. Quiet as kept, I'm pretty good at it.
Hamada: What are the qualities that you look for in a partner?
Rob. A! - Confidence, compassion, beauty inside and out, an open mind for knowledge, and true love and understanding of God.
Oh! And she gotta love to eat and cook!
Hamada: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Rob. A! - Everywhere!
Hamada: Any message you'd like to give to all your fans?
Rob. A! - The RoBellion is Coming!!! Be a rebel WITH a cause! And remember you can change the things you want changed.
[Visit] Rob. A! @ Official Website
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