Meet rising R&B sensation and ‘Bad Boy’s princess of hip-hop soul’… Cheri Dennis. Haven’t heard of her? Then you must be living under a rock somewhere!
While gearing up for the release of her debut album “In and Out of Love”, we got a chance to sit down with Cheri for an interesting chat. Read on as she tells us about her musical influences, artists she’s like to work with, and her views on relationships and men.
FV: Hi! How are you?
CD: What’s going on?
So, tell us the story of how you met Diddy and were signed with Bad Boy.
I’m signed to a production company called Cozi Music; it’s headed by a guy named Jimmy Cozier. He had a friend that worked at Bad Boy at the time that invited Puffy and Kim Porter to a party. I sat down next to Puff and ad libbed over the music that was playing, and that’s how the interest got sparked in me, as far as my deal is concerned. It was like right place, right time. Getting my deal was easy, getting it to the point that you see right now has been my struggle and my journey.
Did you ever get discouraged enough to want to quit or look for another label?
Sure yes, many times. Just yesterday … no, I’m just playing. [Laughs] No, I definitely have been discouraged, and I’ve had my moments where it seemed very bleak. But, my faith in God has definitely gotten me through those moments, and you know look where I’m at now. I’m glad I didn’t give up.
You’ve worked with so many talented people on your debut album; P. Diddy, Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, Young Joc … are there any artist you’d like to team up with in the future?
Kayne West! I think a lot of the stuff that comes out of his brain is like ‘wow’, and I’d love to see what his vision is for Cheri Dennis on a record. I would love to do maybe a duet with this young lady named, Teedra Moses, that’s signed to TVT; or maybe have a song written by her. Because I think she’s a phenomenal song writer and a phenomenal artist. I think she, like myself, is probably one of the most known, unknown people in the music industry. So, it would be cool to maybe work with her or have her pen a record and she what her vision for Cheri Dennis is. Sometimes the way we see ourselves is not the way other people see us, so I’m just curious to see how people that I respect their talent see me.
How many songs did you write and record before choosing the final tracks?
A million … [Laughs] a lot. I can’t even tell you off the top of my head, but there was a lot of records that we had to go through and choose from. The one thing that made the process fairly easy was that a lot of the records were very old and so, couldn’t even be considered for this album. That helped in the scaling down process, but there were a lot of records to choose from, a lot of material.
I’m sure it was hard not being able to use some of them right?
No, no because for me I’ve been living with these records for years. To some fresh ears it might not be dated, but for me it’s like I moved on past those songs already. So, it wasn’t really hard to let some records go. It’s like you love them, but you understand that old music is old music. With me being an artist and always creating, where there’s one record there’s a million more.
Who would you say are some of your musical influences?
My musical influences … I’m a huge Prince fan, anybody and everybody that knows me, knows I love Prince. I love Madonna, and I love the music; but that’s not so much the reason why I love Madonna. I love her because of her work ethic and the fact that she’s been able to remain relevant in an industry that is so very fickle – it’s like here today, gone tomorrow. Stay consistent and you know compete with women that are fifteen to twenty years her junior and do it better than them sometimes, is something as an artist I’d like to have.
More current, I guess Mary J. would be an artist that has been able to stay relevant and do her thing. Because you know there are people that came out in the early 90’s with her that are non-existent, we still love their music. But, they aren’t relevant to the music industry right now. That’s another thing in terms of when I look at people, that I’m influenced by; it definitely has more to do with … than just the talent and the vocals. It has a lot to do with the staying power, because I would like to be one of those artists that has longevity.
You know I love music, I don’t really get caught up in artist; but you know I love Donny Hathaway, I love Aretha, I love Minnie Riperton. I’m a Whitney Houston fan, all day; you can say whatever you want to say about Whitney Houston but that chick can blow. Mariah, you know more current I’m a Keisha Cole fan; I am a Rhianna fan, a Beyonce fan, Teesha Moses. I mean I just love music you know … Michael Jackson, Usher, J. Holiday. I love everybody, I love music.
Well, you have fantastic taste in music, that’s for sure.
Thank you! You know, you’d be surprised to know that the things on my iPod aren’t really urban music. I’m a product of hip hop, so I think it’s accessible to me. When I’m venturing off into new music, it’s not always hip hop.
You mentioned Mary J. [Blige] – you’ve been compared to artist such as her, Faith Evans, and Brandy. How do you feel about those comparisons? Would you say they’re on point?
Umm, do I think they’re on point? Sometimes. I think when people see me perform, they make the comparison to Mary – just because I really sing and I guess there’s a lot of emotion there. I think they’re dead on with certain things, with every artist that you said, but I don’t think I’m like any other artist. I don’t think people have heard enough music from me to really make that assessment. I think they make that off of the music that they’ve heard and the things they’ve seen from me. The more music you get to hear the more you’ll be able to check certain artist off your list in comparing me to them. But, with that being said I think all of those artists are really dope and the fact that I could even be mentioned in the same breath as Brandy or Faith or Mary is a beautiful thing; because those are all artists that have had a lot of success. And that’s good they’re comparing me to them and not like … uhh I don’t know … artist ‘X’ that you don’t remember. I’m glad that they’re drawing comparisons to people that are really creditable established artist and so I think that’s nice.
Well, I like your outlook on it, very positive outlook.
Yeah! That’s all over the years boo, that’s a work in progress. It hasn’t always been. If you had called me like four years ago, you might have got the angry black women. [Laughs]
Your album “In and Out of Love”, is being released around Valentine’s Day. So, in relation to the holiday, what would be the worst possible thing for a guy to avoid doing on a date?
Oh my God, don’t buy trashy lingerie! Except for me. [Laughs] I don’t think most women … I don’t think we see lingerie the same way. Don’t come in with like dental floss, in a Victoria Secret bag. [Laughs] Stay away from the trashy lingerie, you know cause those things are more geared toward what you like and not what she likes. Don’t come in with nothing, with air … no, don’t with an excuse. That’s definitely a bad Valentine’s Day gift, and you know don’t buy her the same thing you bought another lover – ever, ever, ever, ever…. Because you never know when those two women are going to cross paths, and you will look like – oh my God – you will look like such a loser. Unless it happens to be lots of karats and cloudless, you can buy me exactly what you bought her … otherwise do not come in with the same gift.
In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to have in a relationship?
Oh gosh, communication and honesty. But, you know … that ain’t always the easiest thing to do though. Because sometimes when people are not honest, it’s because they are afraid of what the other person will say. But, I feel like when you are honest, all you can do is respect what the person’s rebuttal is and I think it’s easier to move on sometimes. When people are lying to each other and not communicating, withholding emotions and feelings it always puts up a brick wall. So, I guess I would say communication and honesty; but sometimes you can’t always be honest to men. Ya’ll can’t handle the truth, like men can’t handle the truth the way we handle the truth. Men don’t handle truth well. Like the way you can cheat on us and then come back to us, and we can forgive and forget. Ya’ll don’t … I keep saying ya’ll cause there are other men in the room, I don’t mean you. But, men do not forget and trust me; when you argue it’ll be thrown in your face. So, I don’t know.. it’s hard to say, I know that sounds really really bad to say you can’t always be honest with the men, but you really can’t cause they’re like babies.
Sine your album deals with the matters of the heart, what advice do you hope ladies, as well as men take from it?
I hope that they take that, this too shall pass – that’s why it’s called ‘In and Out of Love’. My thing is that … if you’re blessed to be in love, even once in life it’s a beautiful thing. But, my thing is you know, in any situation it will pass. For that heartbreak that you feel, the more days go by, the more time goes by, the less and less that hurt is there. So, I would hate for people to think that when they’re in a bad relationship or when they’re breaking up; that they will never find love again because it’s so not true. You will find love again. It might not be as intense as the first time you found love, because I guess the first time you fall in love is always the most intense. But, it will come again. I think for women we have a tendency to hold on, and not be able to let go. But baby they like buses, they come every 15-20 minutes … I promise you.
Wow, I’m learning so much, just listening to you speak.
I know! I need my own like television show, where I can banish men to a far off place. [Laughs]
Any big tour plans or projects after the album drops?
Well, I go on a radio tour on the third [February], and it’s just spot dates right now. But, my MySpace is the best place for them to find out what city I’ll be in, what dates are next and Atlantic is always filling my calendar up with stuff at the last minute. So, I’m sure there will be a lot of shows … I do Super Bowl, I do Mardi Gras. There will definitely be more shows coming up, but right now it’s just about radio. I’ll probably be coming to a city near by a fan, so just check out my MySpace.
Cheri thank you for your time, it was great meeting you. Good luck with the album!
Thank you so much, I had a wonderful time talking to you. Have a Happy New Year and enjoy your day.
“IN AND OUT OF LOVE”
IN STORES FEBRUARY 26TH