One of the greatest gambles an up-and-coming artist can make is challenging and rebranding the public’s idea of what’s hot, but like her character on Fox’s new hit show Empire, V Bozeman is bringing the mainstream to her.
As the latest to be taken under the legendary wing of super producer Timbaland, the soulful songstress is looking to take the R&B world by storm with her distinct look and unmistakable voice.
In an exclusive interview with BET.com, V talks about art imitating life on Empire, embracing her Blackness with songs like “Race Jones” and redefining what it means to be a diva.
BET.com: On Empire you play a rising star singer, which is exactly where you are in your own life. How similar is your life to hers?
V Bozeman: My character Veronica and I are so similar. I relate to her in every single way. She’s just an artist that wants to win and she is not going to let anything get in her way, whether it’s Lucious, whether it’s Cookie, whether it’s her mom, anybody or anything that steps in her way, there’s going to be issues if it hinders her from reaching her goals. She’s very passionate. She’s a sweet girl but she gets feisty when she senses somebody trying to impede on her career, so I really relate to her. She’s just passionate and loves to sing. She’s a little diva though.
And in real life do you consider yourself a diva?
[Laughs] No! I’m not a diva but, I mean I wouldn’t mind being a diva in the good sense of the word. Not the stereotypical way. I love Whitney Houston and Patti [LaBelle] and Chaka Khan and of course Aretha [Franklin]. They’re divas. They’ve earned that right. I think I’m a diva in the making.
In the video for “Race Jones” you really embrace your Blackness in a way that not many artists have. Have you caught any pressure to be more conformist?
To be honest. I’ve gotten the comments like, "You’re so ‘different’ and ‘eccentric’ and it’s going to be a real challenge for you to break into the industry." I have a fighting spirit. I came to terms with who I am and I feel comfortable in my skin. I know who I am as a woman and I know what God has given me, so anybody that has a small mind to think that I can’t get somewhere because of how I look, I can block out. They don’t even matter to me because I have something so powerful that God has given me. All he does is bless me and I step to the plate and let his gift shine. I just keep that in mind and don’t listen to the naysayers and people’s comments 'cause it’s all irrelevant. I always knew that I had a destiny to sing and share my gift with the world. That’s what I’m going to continue to do regardless of whether or not people think that I fit into the mold of a superstar or mainstream artist.
As a newcomer working with a legend like Timbaland, do you ever disagree with what he might say and if so, do you speak up or just heed his advice?
Timbaland allows me to be myself. I’ll tell you a quick story. Me and [songwriter] Jim Beam were working on this song and Timbaland was there every single day during the recording process. He was there just loving the music and the whole creative process that we were having and one day we had this song, and I loved this song. It was just a bona fide hit. I’m talking about a hit. I was like “That’s it.” He came in, he vibed with it, then he non-enthusiastically was like, “I mean, it’s cool” and I was like “What are you talking about? This song is everything.”
I was really challenging him, which he embraced but I asked him, “Why,” and he said, “Anybody can have a hit song, but is it special?” And when he said that, my inner lightbulb came on. He said, “You’re the type of artist that you can’t just do a hit song, it has to be special also.” So we went back in and created another song and it blew that song out of the water. I was like, “Wow, I see why he is Timbaland. I understand why he’s so successful and that was one of the many disagreements that we’ve had but he allows me to be myself and he wants to have a real, creative exchange because when you do that you can get the best out of an artist.
I think the difference was me, because when I was with Babyface I was like a baby. I thought that I was ready for the industry and ready to be put on that big platform. That was a growing stage for me. He shared a lot of things that I needed to learn as an artist and I appreciated that. He also taught me a lot about songwriting and how to execute ballads and really a lot of little things that I needed to embrace going forward. As far as CeeLo, I learned about music and about not being afraid to be free, not taking myself so seriously, really releasing myself to the music and letting it take over, and allowing the creative process to be fun. I’m a very intense person. I’m a Capricorn, so CeeLo helped me just not take myself so seriously and have fun with the experience. Timbaland, I think I just was ready. I had been through so much and I finally learned myself as a woman and an artist. I knew what I wanted. I was ready to step up to the plate, to really step into my greatness and be ready because I knew once we got together it would be electric. I knew it.
One of the other new artists that’s also under Timbaland and also on Empire is Tink. What is that relationship like now that your career paths are almost parallel?
Me and Tink, we spend a lot of time in the studio together. We have two or three songs together. She is absolutely amazing. She’s like a little sister to me and I admire her wisdom. She’s a young lady but she’s wise beyond her years. She’s going to go far. I love the fact that Timbaland put me and her on and signed us at the same time. Even though we’re not fully in the same category 'cause she’s more hip hop, we have so many similarities. We kind of mirror each other but in a different way. I just think it’s a good look for Mosley to be honest. Two completely different artists that are great at what they do.
You have two albums coming out, Opera Noir and My Music Is My Boyfriend. How will the two be different from each other?
Both albums are produced by Timbaland, everything. Opera Noir is like I would say sonically it’s that old school and the new school being mixed together. So many producers I feel try to do that but they don’t get it right to where it could really hit hard, but with Opera Noir, I’m telling you it is just genius the way Timbaland created the sound. It is so strong. It’s going to be like the Black Moses coming back to music. Music Is My Boyfriend is something that was birthed out of Opera Noir but it’s also going to have things that you’ve never really heard being a part of the music. It’s gonna bring back feeling again. Music to me, when I turn on the radio, I just hear computers. I hear synthesizers. I don’t hear the soul. I don’t hear the heart of music like I used to. With both of these albums, it’s the return to real music.
Although she's yet to announce release dates for the upcoming LPs, V Bozeman's song "What Is Love," which was featured in the pilot episode of Empire, is available on iTunes now.
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(Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images)