Angie Stone: Doing What She’s Gotta Do!
For nearly 35 years, songstress Angie Stone has been entertaining audiences with her soulfully rich and raspy voice. Her signature sound truly came to prominence when she was a lead singer of the trio Vertical Hold, with the Euro-soul styled “Seems You’re Much too Busy.” She would release a trilogy of albums through the Arista/J Records labels, including her 1999 Gold-selling debut Black Diamond that featured the breakout single, “No More Rain in This Cloud.” Her 2001, follow-up Mahogany Soul, consisted of the singles, “Brotha,” and “Wish I Didn’t Miss You.”
Since her major label tenure, Angie released a pair of albums for Stax Records, the 2007 Art of Love & War, and 2009’s Unexpected. In between solo projects, she has made quite a name as an acclaimed songwriter; with works being recorded by Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Raphael Saadiq, Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo, and lots more.
Not to rest on her laurels, Angie is back with a hot new single titled, “Do What You Gotta Do,” from her upcoming album, Rich Girl, due September 25 on Saguaro Road Records. “Do What You Gotta Do” is the type of seductive mix of groove, guitars and an irresistible sing-along chorus that has made her a staple at Black radio for so long.
Amalgamation recently got a chance to chat with the neo-soul diva on maturity, motherhood, and of course, music.
What was behind the choice of the first single, “Do What You Gotta Do”?
It was a safe choice. Even though I had an album before this [Unexpected], a lot of fans didn’t know about it, because we didn’t have the team in place to promote it. With “Do What You Gotta Do,” I wanted to re-establish and re-connect with my fan base. The song is so reminiscent of what people have come to expect from Angie Stone. When I started recording this album, I had a Mahogany Soul state of mind. In order to get people and hit them right where it really counts, I needed to bring them to a familiar place. I think “Do What You Gotta Do” speaks to the Angie Stone everybody wants to hear.
When we were told the title of the album was Rich Girl, it led us to think of materialism or themes often discussed in Hip-Hop. What was the motivation behind the title?
Y’anna Crawley (winner of BET talent competition Sunday Best) wrote the song “Rich Girl” for me. I’m the type of person who can’t get an album to where it needs to be without a title in place. I knew immediately without a shadow of a doubt that Rich Girl would be the title of my album. I’m not a materialistic woman, but I’m rich in spirit. I’m rich in Christ, and I’m rich in love. Every album I’ve done has come from a metaphoric approach. This made people think what you thought—could it be Hip-Hop? It’s a spiritual album, and I’m coming from a spiritual place. I wanted people to know you can be rich without fortune or fame. You can be rich in life, rich in love, rich in giving, rich in compromise. Rich is so much more than money.
If you could pick two songs that define where you currently are artistically, what would they be?
That’s a hard one, but I really and truly love a song I have called “I Can’t Take It.” It has global appeal, but it embodies the soul of the 60s, like the Supremes. There’s another song called “Guilty,” where I channel Etta James, and the spirit of greatness.
You have a song featured that is undeniably about break-ups called, “Proud of Me.” How personal is that song for you?
It’s a very personal song for me. I worked with Joi Campbell, who is Warryn Campbell’s sister on the song. Whenever I come from a place, I have to speak to both men and women. I want people to know you can rise above anything, and this song speaks everyone’s language. At the end of the day, we’ve all had our heart broken at least once. I’ve been through it like everyone else, but I know things are going to be alright. “Proud of Me” is another anthem that says you can rise above anything if you put your mind and your energies in the right place.
You’re with a new record company—linking up with the Saguaro Road label which is through the Time Life Corp. How did that come about?
My manager Kevin Black reached out to attorney Darrell Thompson to let him know I was leaving Stax Records and that I needed some place comfortable. Darrell came back with Time Life. It sounded interesting, because I would be a priority on a label like that. I’m very excited about this label; they’ve been giving me 110% percent of their time, because I’m not in competition with any other artists. I have to say everyone has been very cooperative.
Who are some of the collaborators on Rich Girl?
I worked with Y’anna Crawley, Tweet, and my daughter [Diamond] is on the album. I worked with James Owens who did three songs: “Push & Pull,” “Proud of Me,” and “Alright.” There is Mike City, who’s worked with so many artists like Brandy and Sunshine Anderson. Mike and I did “Back-Up Plan,” another anthem and one of my favorites. I also worked with a young guy by the name of Deman Nickens [sic]. He did the song “First Time.” I reunited with [Aaron] “Freedom Lyles,” who I haven’t worked with since the Black Diamond album. He actually penned a great song with me on the album, titled “Guilty.”
What will you be doing to support the album?
A number of things…I’m waiting for the ink to dry on a television deal I’m doing. It’s not a reality show, but a scripted show that I’m very excited about with some great co-stars slated. I’ll be touring and doing some more film work. I have a few irons in the fire and I’m looking forward to doing more community-based things here in Atlanta…like the senior citizen project I’m excited about. One of the things I miss doing is performing at the Essence Music Festival. I haven’t played it in the last three or four years. It’s starting to feel a little empty because that event reaches my core audience. To not be a part of that, it gives me a sad feeling. I’ve been such a supporter of Essence and a volunteer, and worked very closely with them and New Orleans after the Hurricane. But I’m going down to support it though.
You’re a grandmother now!
I am a grandmother and I have another grandchild on the way in July. My grandkids call me Shoo Poo, and Glam-Ma. I don’t look like a grandma. When I tell people I have a 28 year-old daughter…they are not believing that! At the end of the day, I am such a grandmother it is ridiculous! My grandchildren know all of my music. I don’t look at my grandchildren and think that I am old, or that I have to write old music. I stay where I am and walk on a solid plank. With that it’s one day at a time.
What new music or artists are you listening to?
I very seldom listen to the radio but my favorite artist right now is Melanie Fiona. I absolutely love her! I love her style, and she doesn’t sound like anyone else. When I look at her and turn back the clock, it’s not much difference in what I do. I also love Adele. I think she’s good, but I think Melanie Fiona is better. That’s just my opinion. Before Melanie, Keyshia Cole was one of my favorites. I don’t just look at right now. I look at tomorrow. I think these artists can only get better. When you’re coming from a great place to start with, there’s no place to go but up.
Why do you think you’ve been able to maintain such longevity in this business?
I started in the business in 1979. It’s just being in God’s favor. I learned early not to rest on your last record. You’re only as hot as your last hit record. I kind of made it a point to not get pigeon-holed into one thing. People will say that I have re-invented myself again. I just think it’s the music. I always use the quote, “Old enough to know the difference, yet young enough to make a difference.” I think because God has blessed me with good skin, people can’t really tell my age. I don’t drink sodas. I don’t use soaps that dry out my skin. I’ve also been blessed by the gods that the laws of gravity have not put me in a very bad place. That’s the beauty of taking care of your-self!
What’s the best advice you would give to someone wanting to get into the business today?
Define your strengths and weaknesses because you can’t guess yourself into success. One of the things that made me a winner for so long was because I knew my strengths and I knew the area to build on. If you are a singer, give it a 110%, if you are a rapper know that you are among the best. Test yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions nor be afraid of rejection. I’ll give you an example. I know I’m not the greatest singer but I’ve achieved monumental success for a person who sings like I do. But I’m very nervous and sometime intimidated when I’m around a great singer, when I think I’m an alright singer. But it’s not just about the sound of my voice, it’s the message in my music that I move people with. That’s defining your worth. I’m very limited with my range. I’m down on myself because I can’t control that. But at the end of the day, I concentrate on the message. If the delivery is in agreement with the message and my fans think it’s great, then I’m happy!
By David A. Mitchell