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Atlanta native The-Dream is a staple in the R&B game not even with his own personal tracks, but his impeccable pen game. From co-writing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage (Remix)” with Beyonce, the singer-songwriter’s work is out of this world.
The Grammy award-winning artist takes you on a trip down memory lane with songs like “Bed,” “I Luv Your Girl,” “Shawty Is A 10,” “Rockin’ That Thing,” and let’s not forget his features on Fabolous’ “Throw It In The Bag,” Snoop Dogg’s “Gangsta Luv,” LL Cool J’s “Baby,” and even Gym Class Heroes “Cookie Jar.”
Fast forward to 2020, real name Terius Nash has yet to miss a beat. While balancing being a father, a student, an entrepreneur, and more, The-Dream still manages to create incredible projects fans can vibe to through his artistry. He even recently released his newest project titled SXTP4.
REVOLT caught up with The-Dream to discuss his love for fashion, working on the “Savage (Remix)” with Beyonce, his epic Verzuz battle against Sean Garrett, SXTP4, and more. Read below.
How you holding up during quarantine?
I’m doing pretty good, just quarantining and things. Chillin’. Quarantine’s actually been pretty great. When this is over, maybe there will be places we can go to quarantine to just get away.
You’re enrolled in school Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). What are you studying?
Luxury fashion. This is my second quarter now. It’s been a plan in the works. I didn’t plan for quarantine to happen. I started the first of the year, did a quarter. My second quarter was starting in spring, that’s when everyone was sent home of course. Usually, I’m at the campus, but I’m doing it on Zoom now every day.
What initially made you want to enroll?
When you’re an artist, and you create your pallet and your taste for whatever it is — whether it’s music or garments, any aesthetic that comes to mind — you can do anything in the realm that’s close to that. Fashion, going to Savannah College of Art and Design was something that was going to happen. I was going through different schools trying to see which was the best one for me, it just so happened that SCAD’s here in Atlanta. It’s five minutes away.
Were people in class like, “Oh s**t, The-Dream is in here”?
They actually held their composure. They were saying it, but I wasn’t around when they were saying it. Or I’ll be late to class and I hear somebody singing “Radio Killa,” then I walk in and they’re like [makes straight face]. It’s happened, definitely.
What are you looking to learn and achieve?
Naturally, the idea would be to pass on the idea of fashion to the world. I don’t look at it more so as a plan. There are plans that come with it, but the idea’s being here for the journey. I know if I do what I’m supposed to do, the success will catch up with itself. So, I’m not really worried. The end result would be success.
How would you describe your fashion?
Luxe, hood. It’s an affinity for the idea of grand, high art things with the idea that they’re still accessible through dreams. Most dreams come from places that are broken — from the culture of the have nots. My aesthetic and my fashion sense for myself is the idea of two worlds combined into one.
Bring us back to when you co-wrote “Umbrella” with Rihanna back in 2007. What was The-Dream like then?
I’m still the same person, probably a little more patient with a lot of things. I feel less like I have this chip on my shoulder to prove something, so the natural parts take hold. That was 13 years ago. I’ve been doing music now for two decades, going into my third decade now. Doing the song “Umbrella,” period, was not only about the plight of me and Rihanna, it’s the plight of myself and gaining from all of those years of hard work. The maturation process of what my music sounds like.
Fast forward to 2020, how was your experience doing the Verzuz battle with Sean Garrett? It’s so dope you were one of the first ones because people recognized you for your art and talents.
It’s definitely a victory for a lot of people and the unsung heroes who are writing, producing as a craft. It’s a super craft that’s needed. It’s hard to explain without totally sounding like it’s because of a certain thing why things happen. Regardless of who it is, nothing happens until a song happens. Everybody respects that’s the way it is. Unfortunately, that respect is usually never passed on to the people who are purchasing or the consumers of music. Whatever they see, whatever’s presented to them, they don’t care really about the love that went into it or the journey of it.
Are you talking about songwriter credit?
No, credit for whatever that thing is. Take a Rolls Royce for instance. You’re going to have a certain appreciation for it because the instrument is the amount of money you have to pay for it. You’re going to be pushed into having to appreciate it based on the hard work you created to even buy a Rolls Royce in the first place, so you’ll probably know a hell of a lot more about that than about the Honda Civic you used to have (chuckles). Which you should appreciate them the same, but we don’t. Our instrument is based on the idea of how much time we spent doing it, how much money did it cost, what did we go through in order to get it? Music comes so rapidly, people lose their care. Somehow music in that form lost its luster to the consumer of understanding that “oh this is a craft. Somebody’s mind put this together. This isn’t easy to do.”
Thoughts on the new generation’s music?
There’s a time and place for whatever music there is because sometimes, substance doesn’t override feeling, and vice versa. You can be in the club feeling some type a way and maybe too much substance messes up the vibe. You don’t want to be in there all serious and you’re trying to talk to somebody or spark a relationship (chuckles). At the same token, there are songs that do need you to sit down and take a good listen to, or to play in the house and understand it.
All music forms are needed. The idea of competition is very American of people. To immediately try to pit one thing against the other... I’ve almost fallen into that a few times when I’d get asked that question way in the past. Now — thanks to quarantine almost — to look at music as all forms, it’s like people. All people have different substance levels. If you look at somebody like they’re worthless because they don’t know the same things that you know, then that makes you the a**hole.
Speaking about your work, talk about how you wrote, produced, recorded all 13 songs on SXTP4 and have so much creative control over your music.
I’m free. I’ve been free since I started. I’ve always been free to do whatever I want to do, say whatever I want to say, have my own opinion about what it is that I’m delivering to the world. Even with SXTP4, that’s how I felt. Sometimes I’ma feel how you’d love for me to feel, say “there goes those Dream harmonies, blah blah blah.” Sometimes I won’t. Each time though, it’s authentic and it’s how I feel.
What are your thoughts on this new trap R&B wave?
Trap to me is T.I. He started that. Everybody coined the phrase “trap” as a rhythmic thing. If that’s rhythmic in this type of way, then that’s what trap is. When you’re in the culture though, trap is literally what you’re talking about. It wasn’t a sound before people turned it into “oh it’s a trap sound” or “it’s a trap beat.”
Do you make love to your wife with other music besides your own?
I actually don’t make love to my own music. That’s really weird. I just don’t. If I did, I’d have to play the music by itself, that way I don’t have to hear myself because what happens is I become a skeptic, then I think, “Hold up, is that a harmony? Maybe I should produce this thing. That should be remastered.”
Besides yourself, who has the best falsetto?
Prince. Maxwell has a great falsetto. Who else has a super great falsetto? A lot of people have them, but they don’t really showcase them. Prince and Maxwell, they showcase it. It’s different when you’re showcasing it versus “I got it, but I don’t really want to use it.”
Throughout your music career, have you taken a break?
Never. It’s never happened because when you’re a songwriter as well, people may think, “Oh I haven’t heard from him since so and so.” To my point, people fell out of love with the idea of credits. People in a way shun what it means to be a songwriter, which is weird. I used to listen to Frank Sinatra to channel a lot, and I still do. Frank will come out and immediately talk about the person who wrote the song that he’s getting ready to sing. Now it’s this hip hop type of “did you write your own lyric?” thing going on. What in the world is going on? Everything’s not the same. You’re going to turn everybody into battle rappers for some reason. It’s so crazy.
What was your hand in the iconic “Savage (Remix)” by Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce?
That’s crazy. As you see me hear yawning, that’s what I was doing. I was tired, I was on assignment one at the time for this quarter. Of course, Bey’s my sister and we both love Megan to death. It was a point of trying to get it done, however we needed to get it done. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, the great thing you have right then is collaboration. The greatest gift you could have, especially to be able to express that over the airwaves.
So how did you guys collaborate?
Bey knew what she wanted to say, most of the things she’d already put down. It came to the idea of “tell me what you hear. Cool, great. Next. Tell me what you hear, great.” Then it gets done. It’s not like it’s a whole album, it’s a song.
Given that you have your own OnlyFans, did that line come from you?
No, it didn’t, and don’t ask me where it came from (laughs).
How did the collab with Jhene Aiko on “Wee Hours” come about?
Wow, so I had that record floating there for a while. This song was originally written from a woman’s perspective anyways in the first place, I took it and put it on SXTP4. I knew I needed a feature, but I needed a feature as ratchet as I was. I needed somebody believable. Either I was going to do it or nobody else was because there are only a couple people that could’ve done that record that particular way. I’m glad she did it, that way I didn’t have to look for anybody else (laughs).
How easy was it for her to do it?
It wasn’t hard. We sent the record over, she loved the record. She cut it, waited a couple days, got her mix back and we put it in play.
When exactly are the Wee Hours?
It’s more so from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. We call them owl hours, when all the owls are up.
How was working with Alicia Keys on “Good Job”?
Great, she’s an amazing person. The pandemic right now is taking its toll on everyone, it just so happens that song is being combined with the idea of letting people know that we see them. The great thing about [that] record is we didn’t do it for this. We did that record a while ago because we wanted to pay homage to the people. That song hasn’t been changed lyrically at all. It’s the same song it was. It’s how we felt at the time. That’s predominantly about how Alicia felt about what she wanted to say. That’s what we came out with, unfortunately this is the perfect time for a song like that. We loved that song from the beginning since we did it.
Anything else that you want to let the people know?
One of my ambitions before I leave this particular place is to make sure to try to unionize the songwriters. SXTP4 is out right now. “Wee Hours” is on the radio, you can call them if you like.