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Rapper Rico Love: Talent always rises to the top

Rico Love is ready to step into the spotlight.

You’ve heard his music before — just not necessarily out of his mouth.

The award-winning singer-songwriter, 32, is the man behind some of the biggest hits of the past few years, including Usher’s There Goes My Baby, Kelly Rowland’s Motivation, Trey Songz’s Heart Attack, Beyoncé’s Sweet Dreams — and the list goes on.

Last year, the Louisiana native moved one step closer to household name-dom with the R&B single They Don’t Know; his debut album Turn the Lights On, dropped on Tuesday. Aren’t we lucky? Rico creates his magic under our noses; the CEO of Division 1 record label is a resident of Weston.

What made you come to South Florida as opposed to a hotbed like L.A. or Atlanta?

I got here in 2007. My management company was here. My girlfriend was here [photographer Robin Thompson]. And c’mon, who doesn’t want to live in Miami? I’m a Floridian now, officially. The music scene is good — we’ve got great producers and artists. I’m just doing my thing. People definitely know who I am now. I’m real enough to admit I’m putting in the work and close to reaching my goals.

Can you talk about the theme of the album?

I started writing it about two years ago when I was going through a breakup so it represents a certain period in my life. The “lights” in the title represent success. When a guy loses a girl, what led up to that? Did success change you? I don’t believe in putting out cheap, generic fluff. I wanted it to have true meaning. You can’t fake how you feel. I wrote everything from my heart. It’s like an autobiography. When I wrote the songs I wasn’t even going through the pain anymore. I had already gone through it, and she and I are back together.

You seem to have the formula for success. Can you share some secrets?

I think fans are sick of songs that they can’t connect to. You have to have emotion there to captivate people. You have to write with a certain level of conviction. Who can relate to lyrics like, ‘This girl, she’s thick, she’s fine, that’s a nice dress.’ I mean, how much of that can we hear? I have passion. I can write the saddest song on the happiest day of my life and the happiest song on the saddest day of my life. That’s my gift. The great music always wins and talent always rises to the top. I never write bull----. If my song doesn’t make you have a conversation after you heard it, then it didn’t do its job.

How did you come up with the name Rico Love?

I was born Richard Butler. I had a neighbor who would always say my skin was muy rico. And instead of “I love you,” I just say, “Love.” So I just adopted that moniker when I started rapping.

What do you think of today’s pop music scene?

They all borrow from hip-hop! They take our lingo, our way of dress, they put a grill in their mouth. But everyone takes stuff from somewhere else. As great as Elvis was, he was Jackie Wilson’s stunt double, down to his lip curling and gyrating hips.

You help others climb the charts. Who inspires you?

Usher is a close friend. Writing for him helped me discover myself. I also listen to the classics — Pink Floyd, Queen, the Eagles. Abbey Road is one of my favorite albums. I’m inspired by the greats and chasing their legacy. I feel like I know these people when I listen to them — Prince, Def Leppard, America, Journey. Something about their writing and arrangements is just incredible. I believe you have to know your history. I mean, athletes sit up and watch hours and hours of footage. I’m a student of the game.

MADELEINE MARR

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