If it's true that, "You are who you surround yourself with," then CJ Hilton is in a good place.
The Baltimore singer, who already has a Grammy nomination under his belt for his work on Raphael Saadiq's 2008 hit "Never Give You Up," continues to garner the attention of heavy-hitters and industry insiders with his classic R&B style and signature voice.
Though he's now at a good place with Universal Music Publishing Group, CJ got a rude awakening into the music business, parting ways with J Records as well as RCA, before his career ever had a chance to take off, but the young crooner maintains that perseverance always pays off.
"It was a learning experience," CJ told BET.com in an exclusive interview. "As an artist when you sign with a label you want your music to come out right away, but it's not always like that. But through my experiences with J Records and RCA I've learned so much about the music industry, and now I'm closing out my last deal and putting out my records and I'm really, really ready to do what I need to do."
Wasting no time, CJ has already dropped Sextape, the mixtape. Though it's a free download, CJ assures fans that unlike some mixtapes that only contain bootlegs and B-sides, this release is album quality.
"When I went in on Sextape, I approached it like I was making an album," noted CJ. "I just wanted to create the best material possible. I didn't go in thinking I was just making music to throw on there, I went in with the mindset of making an album, making the best music I can to get fans ready for everything else I got coming."
CJ will add to his 2014 onslaught with an EP and a full-length album both of which will be named Threesome. The multi-talented musician will be handling most of the tracks himself, but saved room for some legends as well.
"I'm doing a lot of the production myself but I'm also working really closely with Bangladesh and Salaam Remi ... I just re-connected with Raphael Saadiq and we got some good stuff in the works right now."
Saadiq, in addition to his recent work with BET Music Matters rising star, Adrian Marcel, has been a mentor to CJ ever since they first worked together in 2008, CJ explained. "Raphael's taught me a lot. He's been a huge mentor to me. I actually learned how to play the bass through Raphael. We had that song together back in '08 ['Never Give You Up], that was Grammy nominated, which I wrote and produced, and now I'm back in L.A. working, so we're working on some things for his album and my album. Salaam Remi is also like a big brother to me. He taught me a lot about production."
R&B has gone through an identity crisis of sorts recently, with the increasing influence of hip hop and electronic music but CJ is looking to bring it back to it's roots.
"I feel like R&B right now is honestly it's in a weird place," CJ observed. "But we're taking it back to the real music, putting blood and sweat behind the instruments and just getting back to a sound that's truly timeless."
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