Exclusive: Dr. Dre's former R&B protege reveals how DJ Quik's neglect to clear a sample led her to leave Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. She also explains posing nude for "Penthouse."
It’s been a decade since Truth Hurts’ Aftermath/Interscope Records smash single “Addictive” first cracked Billboard’s Top 10. Featuring Rakim and a DJ Quik’s hypnotic Hindi-infused rhythms, in 2002, it seemed as if the artist born Shari Watson was merely at the precipice of star studded Pop career. While her US notoriety has waned considerably over the past 10 years since leaving Dr. Dre’s hit factory, Watson’s artist journey never wavered. Quietly, Truth Hurts has stacked acting credits, collaborated with Raphael Saddiq, R. Kelly, J Dilla (among others), and flexed her interests internationally. Now with a new mixtape and album on the way (both untitled) and a reinvigorated view on music’s global opportunities, Aftermath’s former First Lady is poised for, as she calls it, her first “real break out.”
With a Hoopla Media Group mixtape featuring unreleased material coming, HipHopDX spoke with Truth Hurts about her upcoming projects, the difference between Raphael Saddiq and Dr. Dre, her initial thoughts on “Addictive’s” $500,000,000 lawsuit, and why she posed for Penthouse.
HipHopDX: “Addictive” was a monster smash. That was a Top 10 single in 2002. I think the title is absolutely apropos. It really is an addictive song. The beat is crazy. Rakim is on there. What were your first feelings when you found out about the $500,000,000 lawsuit?
Truth Hurts: My first feeling was, “Why didn’t [DJ Quik] clear the damn sample!” [Laughs] My brother was my attorney. I remember then so much paperwork was coming through to him to clear samples on other tracks that we had on the [Truthfully Speaking] album. I was like, “You ain’t get that paperwork for ‘Addictive?’” He was like, “No, we never got no paperwork for ‘Addictive.’” I was like, “What!” It was each producer’s responsibility to clear their own samples. We did like 50 songs for the album. Everybody had to clear everything up front before it made the album. I just didn’t know how that slipped through the cracks. I had no idea, but it did. That was my initial thought. Then once I found out more about the lawsuit, I was like, “Wait a minute...” They saw the opportunity and decided to go for it - which is usually the case. People want to sue [Dr. Dre]. I don’t know why. He has this stigma on him. People are always coming after him with a lawsuit. Some of them actually make it to court and some of them don’t. Everybody wants money. You know how it goes.
DX: $500,000,000 seems so excessive. That’s a crazy amount of money.
Truth Hurts: It was a crazy amount that they never got. They didn’t get not a penny.
DX: Was there an injunction put on performing the song?
Truth Hurts: Not on performing the song. There was an injunction put on the credits. They took it off the shelves. It was supposed to be properly credited then put back on the shelves. At the time, I thought that Interscope [Records] would completely give up on my career and shelve me also because once they had to pay their lawyers to go through the lawsuit, I said let me see if I can get away while I can and maybe sever ties. Me and Dre talked about it and he said, “If you really want to go and you think this will disrupt your relationship with Interscope, then you go ahead.” I was like, “You would let me go?” He released me [from Aftermath Entertainment] and said if I want to go, I can go. So I did. I found out later that they just took the record off the shelves. There was no money contributed. The record was never put back on the shelves because I left Interscope. From there, the record stayed off the shelves. People look for it now and want to buy it but you can’t buy it. You can’t purchase it anywhere unless it’s used.
DX: I never realized that was the reason why you left Aftermath/Interscope. I knew you didn’t get dropped. But I never realized those circumstances weighed so heavily on that situation.
Truth Hurts: I was not dropped. That was [a rumor that was] circulating for a bit, but I was not dropped. Dre wanted to go on and create a new project shortly after “Addictive” and all that stuff started happening. After it got intense and they didn’t know what was going to happen, I was like, “Uh, oh, I think they’re gonna shelve me and I’m gonna just be sitting my ass here not being able to do anything. No records. No nothing.” At the time, my freedom was more important to me because I felt I could make a break for it and go somewhere else and still make records. But, that kind of put a stigma on me when I was trying to go to other labels and get a situation. They were more in love with the fact that I came out with Dre and the sound was Dre. It was just a hard call.
DX: You mentioned in an interview with DubCNN that you were coming out of your “anti-label kick.” Was the stigma received part of the reason you felt that way?
Truth Hurts: That wasn’t the reason. I was on my anti-label thing because I had met Raphael Saddiq shortly after that. He was on that at the time. I felt like the stuff that he was telling me was so educating. He was working with Prince at the time. Prince is my all time favorite [artist], since I was a child. I was feeling their whole flow and musicianship. I was singing with a band when I was 13 years old. My background is live [music]. So when I got with Raphael, I was like, “Yeah, what you’re saying absolutely makes 100% sense to me.” He was like, “Yeah, if you want to do a record with me, it’s going to have to be indie.” At the time, I was on that kick for that reason. Even now, there’s nothing wrong with being indie. It’s not a bad idea either way. It just depends on what kind of artist you are. It depends on what you believe in. It depends on what kind of records you’re trying to put out there. I’m not against it either way. I just know that a lot of times record companies are a little more institutionalized and a little more like slavery at times. It just depends. That’s what I always say.
DX: “Addictive” was the first major sign of what Aftermath and Rakim might sound like together. Dr. Dre and Rakim’s collaboration, Oh My God, never came out. Did you ever talk to Dre or Rakim about that project and process?
Truth Hurts: I really did not. As much as I respect Rakim, and as close as I was to Dre, I did not get into what they were doing with their project. I just know that there were creative differences. Rakim had a way that he wanted to do things. He’s a grown man and a legend. I just think they weren’t on the same page about the direction. With Dre, it’s so hard because Dre is such a perfectionist all the time. You can have a smash record in your eyes and you take it to him and he’s like, “Nah, we ain’t there yet,” and you’ll be like, “What? No way!” [Laughs] It could’ve been something like that. You never know. A lot of people went through that with Dre. I want to say that I’m the one act that came out under Aftermath that [never had that challenge]. It’s hard because he is perfectionist and he wants to make everything revolutionary, big, huge. If he don’t feel that way, he ain’t putting it out.
DX: We’ve seen that with Detox.
Truth Hurts: Right. With the Detox album, he might’ve felt there wasn’t enough of a movement to really trail-blaze. He’s a trailblazer. That must’ve been his thinking so he didn’t put it out.
DX: You seem to be a really efficient songwriter. There are a number of early articles describing your studio work ethic. How was that developed?
Truth Hurts: I don’t know. [Laughs] I know that that’s just my way and it’s something that I’ve developed working with the people that I’ve worked with. Even with Mario [Winans]. Mario is exceptional. Raphael is exceptional. Dre is exceptional. I picked up things a long the way that I didn’t own when I first started the songwriting process. Now I’m proud to say that those things have contributed to my way of doing things. It just depends. I picked up things along the way and kind of took those things and made a mark. Dre in the studio is amazing. The same with Raphael. I was in complete awe of both of them. Now I just have to experience Prince and it’ll be a done deal.
DX: What’s the difference between working with Dre and working with Raphael Saddiq?
Truth Hurts: The musicianship. That’s it. They’re both just as brilliant. It’s the musicianship. Dre is more of a beat-maker; a Quincy Jones of beat-making. Raphael gets in there and plays all of the instruments on his own in ways that you are just like, “Wow!” It makes you feel so much less than. [Laughs] Your journey is not complete in the music game until you get in the studio with Raphael. It’s amazing. R. Kelly also, actually.
DX: That’s right, you guys did [“The Truth”] together. That one came out right when he was about to go to court, if I’m not mistaken.
Truth Hurts: Absolutely. He was just about to go to court. He wouldn’t let me in on his process. He doesn’t let people in on his process. From what I understood, he just kind of laid the track down one time and went back and added the lyrics to it. There is no writing in the process. He’s amazing also. I’ve had the pleasure of working with people that are really, really great and huge in the industry; that have added so much to the industry.
DX: When asked by DubCNN in 2009 what you think of music, you said “...music is in a state of shock. Music has been lost and I’m hoping that it can find itself.” How do you feel about music in 2012?
Truth Hurts: I should’ve said music in the [United States] at the time. I feel that there was nothing just so ground breaking that has inspired people to do things. When I was growing up, music was to empower people; to settle feelings; to influence people. I don’t feel it does that anymore. Everybody is quick to jump on whatever bandwagon is popular. I feel kind of ignorant because at the time I did not know what was going on in Europe. You have Adele. You have so much music that’s coming over here from over there. They’re still into soul music. They’re still into relevant music. I guess it depends on the region you’re in. I think it’s gotten lost. Hopefully we’ll get back to what’s important about music.
DX: Why do you think it’s different? Why do people there place a different value on music in your opinion?
Truth Hurts: I think it’s the culture. I think they’re still inspired by different things than we are. Here, we’ve gotten caught up in this whole reality where “I’m a superstar because I’m on a stupid reality show.” Anybody can be a star. Any foolery going on here in the States can become celebrity. That’s just dumb. That’s what it’s come to now. People believe, “Oh, I’m a star, too, because I got ignorant on TV. So who are you?” Overseas, there still is a fan base that purchases CDs; that loves music in an amazing way. They just want to be fans. They don’t want to do what you do. They don’t want to be on reality TV. They don’t want to be a celebrity. I think it’s a mentality thing. I think it’s a culture thing. It just depends. But the little value we place on things here amazes me sometimes. I hope it changes because for the kids of the upcoming generation, I’m scared.
DX: You also started talking about experimenting with a Rock sound and collaborating with John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Did that song ever come out?
Truth Hurts: He’s putting his own [Letur-Lefr] project out. I sang for his project and I’m getting a track from him for my project. You never know with John [Frusciante]. He may put it out, he may not. His thing is, he doesn’t make music for people anymore. He doesn’t have to. But the song is great that we did together. We were chilling at his house listening to one project that he did and he never released it. There’s this track on there where I was like, “Man, please let me take this cause this track is crazy!” He’s crazy on the guitar like nobody’s business. I was like, “Please let me have it!” [Laughs] Nobody’s heard it. It’s crazy. He’s like, “This is just for the archives.” I’m like, “No way. No way.”
DX: What’s the latest on your project?
Truth Hurts: I’m still working on it. I’m like 75 to 80% done. I’ve just been - and I ain’t gonna lie - I’ve been like Dre with this thing. To me, this is my real breakout record because I’m doing it with a big producer. I’m finally coming out of my own shell. It will be about me so I’m just being careful. Just making sure that it’s great and that there is no comparison to what I’ve done before and that it’s just great that it’s all me. We’re almost done now and it’s amazing. I’ve worked with quite a few people and I have my own production team. It’s amazing. I think the other reason why we haven’t just thrown it out there - first of all, I have friends in the business who’ve thrown projects out there and nobody even cared. I think right now you have to do more of a branding process. That’s what we’ve gone back to doing, a branding process. I’m an actress. I’m a model. I’m a recording artist. We’re trying to do many things under the brand.
DX: What was the motivation for doing the Penthouse shoot?
Truth Hurts: The motivation for doing the Penthouse shoot was totally my grind in Europe. Penthouse Europe, I’m not sure if you know, is nothing like Penthouse in the States. It’s very artful. It’s very beautiful. I don’t know if you saw it, but everything was beautiful lingerie with €50,000 jewelry on. It was amazing. That was the best photo shoot I’ve ever done in my life. It was totally Diana Ross Mahogany, Josephine Baker. That was my breakout for my whole European movement as a model. It was a very good experience. People don’t know that. They just kind of equate it to Penthouse [in the United States]. It wasn’t like that at all. That’s why I’m glad I did it over there. There’s just an ignorance here that will never go nowhere. It’s just an ignorance in the States that I can’t stand; that I’m glad I do not have to depend on the States to get a check.
DX: I saw the pictures. The headline said: Penthouse. But the pictures were more tasteful than I expected.
Truth Hurts: Oh yeah. They will always be tasteful because I’m a tasteful woman. I’ve never been anything that wasn’t tasteful. They were classy. They were beautiful.
DX: What do you think about when you think about your career? What comes to mind when you think of Truth Hurts the artist in all aspects?
Truth Hurts: A brand called Truth. I’m so much bigger than just my music. Everybody that knows me knows that. That’s why I have a full team of people that work with me and push me towards my ultimate goal. That didn’t happen when I was with Dre because I was in the shadows of Dre. Now I actually get a chance to prove who I am as an artist, as an entity, as a woman. There’s so much more to me that’s so complicated that’s so much bigger than just “Addictive” the song. I think that there’s a brand there that even young girls need to see. I influence so many young ladies around me and instill so many great things into them that I feel like a movement and will continue to do that all over the world. So that’s what we’re doing and that’s what I think about when I think about me, my brand, my everything.
Follow Truth Hurts on Twitter @TruthHurtsInc and Facebook.