Bobby Valentino: Raising The Bar

When most music listeners first caught wind of the song “Blackberry Molasses”, chances are they never imagined that Mista, the group behind the slow-burning, yet solemn single, consisted of four fresh faced teens. It was hard to believe that the lead singer with the grown-up voice that was seemingly filled with years of frustration could […]

When most music listeners first caught wind of the song “Blackberry Molasses”, chances are they never imagined that Mista, the group behind the slow-burning, yet solemn single, consisted of four fresh faced teens. It was hard to believe that the lead singer with the grown-up voice that was seemingly filled with years of frustration could belong to a then 16-year-old Bobby “Valentino” Wilson.

Released to glowing reviews, Bobby and his label mates were poised to become the next Boyz II Men, based in part to the four-part harmonies that belied their youth. However, shortly after releasing their self-titled debut, Mista’s rising star seemed to fizzle. In no time, music fans quickly forgot about the promising quartet and moved on to the next flavor of the month.

Undaunted, Bobby would later resurface, but this time on the collegiate playing field. After enrolling in Clark Atlanta University, the Jackson, Mississippi native quietly immersed himself into the experience, on the surface appearing to be your average college student. But deep inside, he never lost his passion for music, recording several demos during his time away from the limelight.

After earning his degree in 2003, he decided it was time to return to his music roots. He aligned himself with Ludacris’ Disturbing The Peace clique, becoming the only R&B artist in the group. Now a little older, a little wiser and oozing with sex appeal, 22-year-old Bobby Valentino talks with Alternatives about his desire to tackle the music charts again with the release of his upcoming album, Give Me A Chance. Alternatives: First, fill us in on what happened with Mista. Was that a bad experience for you?

Bobby: No, I won’t say it was a bad music experience; it was a learning experience for me, which I was real glad that I had that chance to learn about it. It’s hard getting four people on the same page all the time, let alone get four people at the same venue at the same time. It was a learning experience. We’re all still cool. We had worked on our second album, but we had had so many different management issues and people not liking different managers, so we just kind of split up after we had did the album. It was extra hot too because we were working on it with [writing team] Tim and Bob, which made me want to work with them on my solo album because I realized how hot and how tight they were. They were very talented.

AHHA: Are you guys still in touch now?

Bobby: Yeah, we’re still in touch; we’re still cool. It’s all good, but everybody trying to do their own thing.

AHHA: Are they still doing music?

Bobby: Yeah, they’re still doing music. I was just one of the fortunate ones that got a chance to go with DTP and do my own thing. I had a few different demos and I had gotten them to a guy named P### Daddy that used to be on the radio with Ludacris. He took it to Chaka Zulu and Luda and it was history. They loved it from there.

AHHA: How has it been being linked up with Ludacris and DTP?

Bobby: It’s real good because it’s just like you just said, I’m the only R&B singer, so a lot of time is being put to me versus being another rapper on DTP. You might get lost in the shuffle. That was one of the things that interested me about going with DTP.

AHHA: Tell us about your decision to put your career on hold and earn your college degree.

Bobby: Well, I felt like this music business is so competitive, so I feel like if it’s something you want to do, you definitely have to have something to fall back on. I really wanted to enjoy college, first of all, and get a degree and make sure that there’s always something else that I could do in my life. I wanted to learn more. I learned a lot about being a man, being a Black man and just about life in college, which are things that I’m glad that I did because it’s helping me now in doing this music thing. It’s not just about being an artist; it’s about being able to talk to people and be very versatile.

AHHA: What’d you get your degree in?

Bobby: Mass Communications, radio/TV/film.

AHHA: That’s a good major to fall back on.

Bobby: Yeah. I actually wrote the treatment to my first video, so I put that [degree] to use a little bit.

AHHA: How was it being on campus for you? Did a lot of people recognize you from Mista?

Bobby: Some people remembered and some didn’t. But it really didn’t matter because I was there to really just be myself and not be a celebrity or a has-been. I just wanted to get my degree, have fun and have memories for the future.

AHHA: You were on the football team while you were there, right?

Bobby: Yeah, I played football and baseball. I really got into the whole college life.

AHHA: So you finally decide to come back to the music industry. What was on your mind when you were making the album?

Bobby: I just wanted to make this album the next R&B album that really catapults R&B and takes it to the next level. It really raises the bar for anybody else that wants to put out an R&B record.

AHHA: Tell us some of the people you worked with on the album.

Bobby: I wrote on every record. I wrote with Tim and Bob mostly and I worked with a couple of new producers. That’s pretty much it.

AHHA: You co-wrote the single, “Slow Down”. Tell us about the idea behind that song.

Bobby: Well actually, I was driving down Melrose with Tim and I just saw this pretty girl from the back. I never got a chance to catch up with her. She’d dip into a couple of stores, then I’d see her again, then she’d disappear. So when we went to the studio, we just came up with that whole little concept and we wrote the record about that. So when I write songs, it’s all about a mood or it’s all about a moment. I work with Tim and Bob a lot because they can help me capture all these ideas. In the musically aspect, they can take me there.

AHHA: Is there anything that you know now that you wish you had known a few years ago?

Bobby: Oh, everything! The whole music game. I wish I had known that it was a business then and not just fun. But it was a learning experience and I’m glad I had the chance to do that because I really learned a lot. It’s really helping me now to decipher the real people from the fake, to know what to do and how to talk to people and how to make them interested in me and not just be a singer. I have to be more than a singer. So, I learned a lot and I’m glad I had that chance.

AHHA: What’s going to make listeners stop and take note of Bobby Valentino?

Bobby: They’re gonna stop because I have great music. To me, it’s all about the product. I feel like a lot of R&B cats just go in the studio and record something that somebody else wrote. I feel like, these are my thoughts and my thoughts are the thoughts of many, especially guys and there are thoughts that girls can definitely relate too also. I think people are going to really enjoy this album, especially because it has a lot of different feels like Jodeci or the Isley Brothers. With all these different feels, people are really going to enjoy it. It’s going to take them back to a moment when they remembered that R&B was for real. Now, R&B is just like — who knows what it is? Cats just get rappers to rap throughout their whole album, so it’s kind of taking that R&B element away. I really wanted to bring it back.