Bobby Valentino can't stop thinking about the good ol' days. The Clark Atlanta University grad and former member of the group Mista has vowed to bring back the sweetness of yesterday's rhythm and blues to replace the shallowness of the material permeating today's airwaves. Valentino's newest album, "Rebirth," boasts 16 tracks of chivalry and romance, delivering more of what his fans craved after his sultry debut, "Slow It Down." ESSENCE.com caught up with the singer to talk old-school R&B, his break from rapper and actor Ludacris, and how that darn vocoder has made it rough for real soul brothers.
ESSENCE.COM: Mr. Valentino, we're so happy you're back and giving us romance in R&B.
BOBBY VALENTINO: I want people to love R&B again. It's overshadowed by pop and rap. I'm a 90's music lover. I was a pre-teen who grew up on Jodeci, H-Town, Silk, so that's my vibe. Now, R&B is a little lost. If you want to be a mainstream artist you have to change your sound and can't really put out ballads anymore like they did back in the day.
ESSENCE.COM: We hear you, and not to mention that darn vocoder that everyone is using nowadays, including the rappers. How's a soul brother to survive in this game?
VALENTINO: The music industry has been suffering for a while. It's tough because all the rappers are singing now. They are really making it extra hard for a brother. If it was up to me, I would sing ballads—real love songs—all the time. The love is gone; folks don't want to hear the good ol' rub-on-the-booty, slow dance music. I remember the days when you were considered the man if you got a slow dance at school. What happened to that? I want to be a mainstream artist, but it's like I have to dumb down my sound. The vocoder is killing real R&B. If you listen to the hot songs that are out like T.I. (and don't get me wrong that's my homeboy), he's basically singing. Man, it's rough out here for real singers.
ESSENCE.COM: We understand you have split from Ludacris's DTP (Disturbing Tha Peace) label. Was it an amicable parting?
VALENTINO: Yes. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and I had to step out on faith. Me and Luda are good and he appears on one of my remixes. My dad always told me I should never be too comfortable and that I should always have new challenges to gain new experiences. Well, I got too comfortable and I had to make a move.
ESSENCE.COM: For sure. Now is the time, especially with our new President. How has his election affected you artistically and personally?
VALENTINO: In a positive way, because President Obama stepped up to the plate. What people thought would never happen he achieved and that's a great thing. I feel like it's time for the brothers, sisters, minorities, majorities to pull our pants up. There are no more excuses. It has only reinforced my commitment to community service through the Bobby Valentino Foundation. The biggest appeal any one can have is how they affect their community by giving back and I want my foundation to be a success in all its efforts.
ESSENCE.COM: What does your music mean to you?
VALENTINO: It's like my testimony. I'm just shining some light on real R&B music, and speaking through my music, so hear my cry.
Bobby Valentino's new album, "Rebirth," is in stores now.