Editors' NotesTrey Songz talks about what it means to go back home and how that fed into his eighth album.
“I never stop making music,” Trey Songz tells Apple Music. “When I'm working on an album, when I'm not, when I'm in an album cycle—music is kind of my refuge.” The Virginia-originating R&B star says he recorded somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 songs while working on Back Home, his eighth studio album. The album has 22 tracks—18 full songs and four interludes—most of which, aside from a few notable exceptions (“2020 Riots: How Many Times”, Songz’s response to the civil unrest that plagued the summer of 2020 in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor) are of the baby-making variety. This isn’t new for Trey Songz, but he’s dialled in to love and love-making here in a way that he hasn’t been for some time. He says the COVID-19 pandemic had little affect on his recording process because he typically records and engineers himself anyway, but the solitude might have encouraged him to be a little more raw. “I feel like R&B lately—and I've done this as well—has so much bravado and so much backbone and so much 'I'm that n***a' in our music,” he says. “With this album, I wanted to strip it down. When you see the album cover, I ain’t even have no haircut.” Below, Trey Songz reflects on a 15-year career and tells Apple Music exactly how he got Back Home and what that idea means to him.
“Over the last few years, with my grandfather passing, me having a son, I've spent a lot of time back home, literally. And no matter where I go in the world, who I’ve become, no matter how much of a star I am to some people, sex symbol, whatever, back home I'm just Trey. So that's what it means metaphorically. But physically, if you think about my first album photo shoot, my first video, they were actually at home in my hood, like right around the corner from my great-grandpop's house. I wanted that same feeling. I wanted that same energy. “Before I got a record deal, it was just me and Troy Taylor, my mentor and producer. We made all the decisions. And when we got to the record label, it was a lot of chefs in the kitchen. We had to fight for me to remain who I was and what we wanted it to be. And it's because we fought that I was able to find a signature sound. In the time since the pandemic, I've been reflecting a lot, listening to my mixtapes and albums. I went back and kind of studied and asked, 'What is the real cornerstone of the music that I make? What can I do without and what can I not do without?' “Before I started singing, I wanted to be a rapper. I liked singing and I knew all the songs on the radio, but I wanted to rap. I lived a life of a rapper. That's what I come from. I was with street n****s. We was doing all the gangsta shit. It’s just that I was singing. And my approach—I know it was other artists doing it at the same time as me, but I was really the first one singing on rap beats. And to look at the trajectory of how R&B and hip-hop have kind of merged together—it’s so many dope artists, but I think hip-hop and R&B as a whole right now is one big sound. The lines have been blurred so heavily. “The R&B I grew up listening to, a dude would do anything to get a girl. Like, I would put my coat down in a puddle. I feel like in a lot of ways, it taught a young man what a woman was worth. A lot of music today teaches the opposite. It's toxicity. It's 'Fuck love,' it’s 'Fuck n****s, get money/Fuck bitches, get money.' And that’s an emotion as well, but it's not a lot of love in the music no more. With this album, I wanted to bring the complexity of love. I wanted to bring the downside, the upside, the inside, the outside. If you listen to 'All This Love', that's probably the most powerful love song I've ever had. When you speaking to somebody about spending the rest of your life with them, you think about Luther Vandross’ ‘Here and Now’, and about Brian McKnight, you think about true pioneers in this R&B thing; it was love. “I’ve had a few younger artists ask me, ‘How you stay in the game so long?’ And I think the key to longevity—for anybody—is being authentic to one’s self. If you chasing something, trying to sound like somebody, or you chasing a moment like, 'I want a No. 1 album, so I'm going to go get the producer that did all the top tracks this year.' I've never been on that wave. If you're not trying to be nothing but yourself, then you don't have to worry about when it comes time to be yourself again.”