The-Dream isn’t resting
The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter on his new album ‘SXTP4,’ his Instagram Live battle and COVID-19’s impact on the music industry
“Everybody’s not built to take that kind of talk. Somebody can talk sweet to you until you’re 60 and you have nothing,” he told The Undefeated. “Somebody can ruffle your feathers for about six months and you walk away from what you do or take pride in something to be remembered by.”
There is no greater form of currency than legacy to The-Dream, the pen behind needle-moving records such as Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” along with his own hits, such as “Shawty Is A 10,” “I Luv Your Girl,” “Rockin’ That Thang,” “IV Play” and “Fancy.”
Yet, resting on his laurels has never been The-Dream’s style. It’s why he released his new album, SXTP4, on April 17, even as he’s been taking classes at Savannah College of Art and Design to help him prepare to develop his own fashion line.
The Undefeated caught up with The-Dream for a wide-ranging interview covering his new project, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the music industry, his Verzuz Instagram Live battle with producer Sean Garrett and the decision behind The-Dream’s OnlyFans account, where users can submit their own videos with songs from SXTP4 as the soundtrack.
This interview had been edited for length and clarity.
What did you learn recording this album?
It just calls upon things I know how to do and know that, ‘Oh, if you need to be in the crib and get two or three albums out and you can focus on something else, then you should do it.’ And that’s exactly what happened, because I got back into school while releasing an album. That was, for me, the bigger accomplishment.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic change the way music is created?
You have touring artists — more of their music is felt through touring. That’s the place where it’s gonna hit the hardest. Some people will say, ‘I’m not just gonna go here and watch this band and risk dying.’
It’s almost like the NFL. I’ve been to the Super Bowl and I’ve been at home watching the Super Bowl. They’re pretty close in terms of the experience and what you can do at the crib. It just all depends on who you wanna deal with and who you don’t. Maybe you don’t wanna deal with the parking lot after that. Maybe you don’t wanna go all the way back to the hotel. When you’re at the house, you can get s—faced and lay on the couch. It’s just about rearranging the experience in how we consume things. That’s gonna be what we have to figure out from a music and entertainment component.
Take me through the process to launch an OnlyFans account in conjunction with the album.
I give all the credit to Roc Nation. I think it’s a lot easier to have an OnlyFans account when you’re dealing with somebody that has a maturation process. We have this thing when we’re around guys and we’re wondering why guys are so excited about a girl. Like, grow up, bruh. Meet women at the table halfway, at this space where they want to be. Because they either wanna be there or they don’t. That’s a real-life maturation process that all men must go through in order to even be considered one of those people where it’s like, ‘Oh, cool. I can lay this in his fan base and it’s gonna be cool.’ Nobody’s gonna look at it like he’s trying to take advantage of this thing or he’s trying to use it for this tool.
No, OnlyFans is something I probably would’ve started given the opportunity. That’s just who I am and how I go about it. People are grown. Do what you feel like doing. Everybody’s life doesn’t fit into that box of ‘this is how it’s going to be.’ Says who? Do what you do and don’t hurt nobody. I look at it more that way versus it being somebody over there busting it open. That’s not even the reason I would do it. I’m from Atlanta. We go to strip clubs to eat. It’s not like, “Ahh! We’re going to the strip club! Man, let’s go!” We’re going to get some fried okra.
What has been the most popular song that ladies upload submissions to?
I wanna say ‘Wee Hours,’ but it’s real close with ‘Say Something.’ ‘Say Something’ is jumpin’ right now.
What’s the craziest story someone has told you about what your music means to them?
Every day I get a blast on social media and it’s always somebody saying, ‘Bruh! My kid named Purple Kisses ’cause of you!’ Of course, I’m being facetious about the name, but people go that far. You’re part of these people’s lives in a real way. You’re into the fabric of these people’s homes and their lives. They’re basing how they wanna live off your music. Like, ‘Yo, ‘Fancy.’ That’s my joint. That’s what I aspire to be!’
We’re coming on the 10-year anniversary of Love King on June 29. When you look at your catalog, what does that signify to you?
Love King was the death of physical music and the birth of digital music. I actually learned the most from Love King. I was probably the last artist to break what we used to consider the ‘normal’ way of releasing music. At the same time, I’m helping produce this guy who changes the way things are presented and consumed in Justin Bieber. This was around the same time that ‘Baby‘ dropped. I wrote this record that changed the way people saw and started to consume artists.
What’s The-Dream the Student like? I can’t imagine having homework right now.
I had two assignments due earlier this week. I get through the weekend and I do all my work for my business that pays my bills. Then I jump right into my school assignments, which were due on Monday. I slept like two hours on Sunday and got back into my assignment that’s due on Tuesday.
I can do it, but it’s not easy. I’m just blessed enough that music doesn’t take me that long to create. It’s a blessing that I can go in, do a Rick Ross hook and get right back into homework.
What has been the biggest benefit from these Instagram battles?
I didn’t really have a preparation process other than going into it professionally. It’s just the normal go to the studio and play your s—. I never really looked at it as battling another person. People got to understand and started to see exactly what we touched.
How were you able to keep your cool when Sean Garrett was saying some intense stuff?
Ain’t nothing that deep to me, man! I’m from the west side of Atlanta. I don’t walk around like I’m this tough guy. Nobody does that. It’s not a tough-guy city.
If there’s a real problem, we on the phone like grown men talking about it. Nothing could get to that if there’s a real problem. Especially when you don’t know the individual. All my boxes were checked. Do you know this person? No. Do y’all have a real problem about something? No. Do y’all converse with people that know you both in that manner? No. Did y’all grow up together? No. There were so many nos.
Playing golf during the livestream was a pretty epic display of being unbothered.
My golf thing was just a natural component of, ‘Man, can we play this music?’ Let’s do what we came here to do and let these people go on about their business.
You’ve played in quite a few pro-am golf tournaments. How long have you been playing golf?
Like 20 years. I don’t know if you consider it playing when you take months off. The thing about golf is if you take time off, you might as well go on and push yourself back about four years. I haven’t played since about September. This is the longest I’ve ever been not playing golf. And it’s hurting me deeply. Everybody’s calling me talking about they can’t wait to get back out on the course. I know. I get it. The only difference is we can’t go nowhere.
How do you feel the coronavirus will impact your daily life?
On one end, there’s certain things you can’t control. I tell my people this all the time. Death, you don’t know when it’s gonna happen. People go to the gym every day, work out and they’re in great shape, and they get hit by a car and not here anymore. Right now, it’s just different because they don’t know what it is. There is no vaccine.
Of course, right now I’m not going outside or being in any area with anybody. For the time being, yes, it has affected me like it has so many other people. If we come up with a vaccine, I’m not gonna think twice about whether there’s the next thing. I can’t live life like that. Nobody can.