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Kevin Ross And Eric Bellinger On New Collaboration, Black Women And The State Of R&B

Kevin Ross And Eric Bellinger On New Collaboration, Black Women And The State Of R&B
Kevin Ross and Eric Bellinger

Last month, chart-topping artist Kevin Ross released the new EP Midnight Microdose Vol. 2, featuring the breakout hit, “Ready For It.” The song – in collaboration with the iconic Eric Bellinger – incorporated themes of romance, dedication, and all the other facets that make for the perfect record about love. It also serves as a testament to the resilience of the ever-changing genre of R&B.

“Ready For It” is a passionate and flirtatious track crafted by Ross, and it captures the spirit of what his new EP aims to be – an atmosphere of relentless riffs and pristine percussion, brought together by flawless production and intoxicating vocals from an award-winning songwriter. “If I had to sum up Midnight Microdose Vol. 2 in one word it would be dramatic,” the 35-year-old says. “I love sequencing my projects whether to create a flow, set a vibe, tell a story or all three at once. Excited for people to uncover another layer of my artistry with this project.”

Following the exciting release of Ross’ single with Bellinger, the two talented musicians spoke to ESSENCE about how the song came to be, the current state of R&B, the collaborative process, and much more.

Article continues after video.

Kevin, my first question is actually for you – how did this collaboration between you two come about?

Kevin Ross: So when I decided to write “Ready For It,” I wanted to make a song based on clarity. I wanted to make a non-toxic bop, you know what I mean, for summer, fall, and for all seasons. I felt like as I was writing it, I just kept hearing Eric on it because he has an illustrious catalog that’s really based on stability, that’s based on love. And it’s rare, especially within this R&B ecosystem right now that, you know what I mean, we get really amazing artists, songwriters, and producers who can really stand on what they believe, and that is love and clarity.

So for me, I was like, “Yo, if I can’t get Eric on this record, then I’m going to just ice it.” You know what I mean?

Eric Bellinger: Man, I appreciate it, dog. I was so hyped when I got the call and they sent me the record. I was like, “What is this?” And that’s the best feeling, dog. As an artist, we always are just trying to write the craziest song and as a songwriter, but then when something just falls on your lap, that’s just a song that you love and that inspires you. It’s like those are the dream collaborations.

I want to transition to the “Ready For It” video – it was dope. Kevin, who came up with the concept of the video and what does that briefcase symbolize?

So, I wanted to do a kind of a quirky approach with the video. So I think we really hit that on the head in the sense of the quirkiness and even behind the scenes, everything that happened. You know what I mean?

We don’t have Teslas as you can see.

But for me, I wanted to do a video that kind of went a little left of what we’re used to saying visually. So to take us out of being Kevin Ross and Eric Bellinger into becoming characters. And so this is an extent of kind of a four-part series as far as videos. I was blessed to have brother Bellinger in the first one. So with the briefcase, you guys are going to have to see, but it definitely means a lot more than just money. But for Eric to have it first and for me to be after it, and you just got to see where this briefcase is going to land in the hands of next.

Eric, this is kind of a larger question about your music and career. What goes into your decision making when you’re looking to collaborate with another artist?

I think just loving the song, genuinely loving the song. I feel like I have been blessed enough to build a reputation where people are like, “All right, cool, I see a Eric Bellinger song. I know it’s going to be good.” That has been my thing to try to build that, a brand in my name, a brand that you can trust when it comes to satisfaction in R&B. When it’s me, it is just me. But when it comes from someone else, it still has to have the same foundation. It still has to be rooted in the same nostalgia when it comes to as soon as I press play, “Oh, I knew it was you.” I gotta make that decision for the people even if I don’t write it because it’s not about me writing it. It’s just about the feeling that comes from Eric Bellinger. So it’s about making the right decision. I love the song and I could get offered whatever, but if I don’t like it, it’s like it’s not true to my brand.

A couple of years ago there was this conversation about traditional R&B not where it used to be, This question I ask for both of you gentlemen. How do you guys feel about the current state of traditional R&B?

I honestly feel like it’s great. I really feel like the music that I’m hearing is incredible. I think when that statement was made, it was a trolling post. You know what I’m saying? I think he was just trying to market himself to the point where now he drops R&B and he wants to have the credit, and I’m going to say his name – brother Combs – but I definitely think R&B has been thriving. If you look at the charts, you do see a lot of R&B at the time. And we got to shout out the ladies for really, really honing in and taking it there. I think now it’s just becoming mainstream again. But it has always been something that you had to just kind of discover and find on your own because they didn’t have the same marketing dollars, I look at it.

Come on, and that’s real talk. Just to second that emotion, like Eric said, shout out to all of the women with their R&B and just Black women. They came in to nurture the genre.

Just like Black women.

The ultimate nurturers of this earth to come in and to really revive the genre and to really speak on how they felt and the climate of how they felt like they were being treated. So it was kind of a reflection of the culture. I definitely think that traditional R&B, progressive R&B, all of the names that fall under the sub genres of it, we’re creating bridges in a way that hasn’t been done before, where usually traditional artists wouldn’t really do collabs with progressive. So now we’re just creating bridges because we understand more than ever we need each other in order to continue to thrive and to build a new future for the genre because it ain’t going nowhere.

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