Rico Love wants to be the best songwriter-producer ever to do it. Those may sound like big dreams now, but the 29-year-old isn’t out of his mind considering the impressive resume he’s built up in his brief time in the industry. After penning “Throwback” for Usher’s 2004 Grammy-winning Confessions, Rico has written and produced for everyone from Beyoncé to Chris Brown and established himself as a rising force in the industry. His next potential hit could be the recently released Rick Ross, Usher-assisted, thug & B jam "Touch'N You." Rico's choice to stay behind the scenes instead of pursuing his own solo career may seem curious to some, but as the Florida native made clear in a past interview with BET.com, his sights are set far beyond fame. He’s more interested in developing artists for his Division 1 record label (a venture with Universal Motown) and trying to rack up 200 Billboard number ones. BET.com caught up with Rico today [May 16] to learn more about his aspirations, his relationship with Usher and the interesting role he’s playing on T.I.’s new album, Trouble Man.
BET.com: Do you have a desire to crossover from writing and producing to performing?
Rico Love: Nah, I don’t have any plans on doing the artistry. I feel like um, guys like Sean Garret and Ne-Yo and Keri Hilson and Dream, they’ve already done that. So, I feel like it’d be a bit cliché for me to jump out there just ‘cause I had success as a songwriter and say, “OK, Now I’m gonna do my album.” I wanted to be a little more original than that.
Was that ever your dream?
That was my dream initially, but things change, and things moved around and I found a new love. And sometimes you do something to find out what you’re really meant to do in life. You’re put in certain situations and it kind of opens up those doors and it opens up your eyes to realize what your true calling was.
What do you love about working behind the scenes?
It’s just a lot of fun to be able to see your ideas come into fruition. And to see people translate the things that come out of my mind vocally. And to be able to produce vocals and give people my point of view musically. And to be able to sit in the crowd and see people sing the song that I wrote, it’s an amazing feeling. In all languages, in all different countries and races, it’s just fun to be able to observe that. And Usher can’t stand in the middle of 30,000 people and watch people sing his records. He can’t blend in. I can sit in the middle of a crowd and watch or ride down the street in a car and see people sing my song at the top of their lungs. It’s a great feeling.
Does writing for others give you more creative freedom?
I wouldn’t say that. The difference is I can do more. When you’re an artist, you can only do your own stuff. Even if you only write for other people, you’re really more focused on yourself. So while everybody’s out touring, I’m working on records.
What role did you play on T.I.'s and Usher’s upcoming collaboration on Tip’s album?
I wrote that and produced that. I don’t know if Tip is trying to share anything like that. I did like three or four records on T.I.’s album. Obviously the one with Usher, the one that everybody knows about. But it’s left of what T.I.’s used to doing, what people are used to hearing from him. It’s very strong radio records.… I just try to challenge people to explore, to do things different. If you call me to produce a record for you, I think it’s about getting my take on what you do best and it’s a mixture of both worlds because this is something we’re trying to make revolutionary.
What are you and Usher working on together?
We just finished his album. I did five songs on the album Looking for Myself, and I wrote the title song, “Looking for Myself,” which features Empire of the Sun [Australian electro-dance band]. Me and Usher are close friends, he’s one of my best friends.… Everything he’s a part of, he definitely pulls me in, and everything I do I pull him in.
How is the sound of the new material you guys have different from what we’ve heard from Usher in the past?
“Looking for Myself,” if anyone’s familiar with Empire of the Sun — that was inspired by seeing those guys perform at Coachella. It put me in a particular mindset. Usher loved the song, and he was like, “Yo, I wanna cut this.” And he ended up getting Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun to be featured on the record. So, it’s just so different. You don’t expect to hear this from Usher. It’s like Usher Raymond, meets the Beatles, meets Empire of the Sun.
That festival energy encourages a lot of artists to branch out when they otherwise wouldn’t. Do you go to a lot of music festivals?
I do now, because of that. That’s what happened the first time. I ended up being a part of it and had never seen it before. It makes me (use) my own time now to start to get in different circles and get involved in things like Ultra, Coachella, Glasgow.… So you know, it’s just broadening my horizons and extending my horizons and trying to explore different things.
Since you’re not trying to become a performer, what is your ultimate goal with your writing and with music?
I just want to be the number-one songwriter in the world ever to do it. Number-one producer ever to do it; the number-one executive ever to do it. It may be a difficult task if you look at it on paper, but I feel like if I’m just shooting to be past my peers, I’ma only go as far as they go. But if I’m challenging the legacies of guys like Puffy and Russell Simmons and Clive Davis, guys like that. I’m shooting past the stars, and no matter what happens I’ll end up being.… And that’s what my goal is, just to be the greatest. I’m very competitive, it’s not enough just to have a few number ones. I want to have 200.
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(Photos: Terrence Jennings/PictureGroup; Leon/PictureGroup)