Ledisi on ‘Let Love Rule,’ Touring with Maxwell and Revamping Her Swag
This year, Ledisi is doing things differently. With her eighth studio album Let Love Rule out today, September 22, the R&B songstress is redefining her style and most importantly, her ‘swag.’
Not only does Let Love Rule introduce a new Ledisi, but it embodies the mantra that allowed her to break free of creative boundaries and expectations. “You know, last year sucked,” she tells TIDAL, “but I had a good year. I don’t know what everyone else had but my year was off the chain.”
Find out below how Ledisi got her swag back and how she’s letting love rule not only in her album but in this new chapter of her life.
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Talk to me about your last few months. You were just on tour with Maxwell and you released a new track, ‘High.’ Walk me through what it has been like.
It’s been amazing, the response to ‘High’ on tour. We did 33 cities, and that was amazing and fun. I had never done an arena tour before, so that was my first time. When ‘High’ came out, people were like, ‘We love this. This is a fresh sound for you, and you kind of got a swag.’ And the combination of mixing old and new, you know R&B on top of trap, It’s like heaven for me. I love being in the middle.
Where did that new swag come from? What was the inspiration behind the track?
Last year was pretty weird. We lost a lot of legends, a lot of things were happening, and we were talking about it in the studio with Rex Rideout, my long-time collaborator, also my co-executive producer on the album who also [produced] ‘High.’ He was there with Prince Charles [Alexander], who also helped him with ‘High.’ So we’re sitting there talking, and we’re excited about life and things. I go, ‘You know, last year sucked, but I had a good year. I don’t know what everyone else had, but my year was off the chain.’
I got to act, I got to write, just explore different parts of my whole self. So I was talking about that in an East Oakland/New Orleans East kind of way, and he wrote it exactly like I said it. It blew me away. We had to change some things because Rex was like, ‘We have to make it a bit more classy and keep the R&B feel on top of it and keep the beat on the bottom.’
A lot of people don’t know a lot of about me and don’t know I love both worlds. I started as a hip-hop artist loving breakdancing, and then I got into singing and then learned jazz and all the gospel stuff way later. So I’m just revisiting parts of myself in each album. In this one, it gave me back swag that has been here. I just never show it.
How does this album differ from your past projects?
This project was harder for me because I wasn’t ready to record. It’s like going into a marathon and you’re physically in there but your mental isn’t there. That’s how I was, trying to get into it. I just wasn’t ready, but Rex was like, ‘It’s time.’
When I started to work on it and met different producers and different people, I didn’t know who they were. I just walked into a room empty, blank, not really knowing what to do. I just became a follower and it opened a door for me to experience different writers and producers. I had a good time working with DJ Khalil, John Legend as a writer. Working with Rex was my favorite still because it was just basic piano and singing. It was us together just writing a song the old-fashioned way. Coming into those different vibes was amazing.
Having a partnership like that is invaluable.
[Rideout] knows me. He knows if he didn’t push and pull, I would never get started. I’m glad he made me do it. It happened that way for a reason because it made me a better songwriter and vocalist. I didn’t have to prove that I am a good singer because I am. What I had to prove was how to stylize and color a song to be a great songwriter, and then how to work well with others. So that was fun. Working with different people and songwriters. Singing from a songwriter aspect was fun. I enjoyed that.
It’s beautiful to start with a blank canvas and get lost in the process.
Yeah, I’m glad I did that. I was not happy during it because I didn’t know where to go, and I’m just free. When I recorded ‘Hello,’ the guys were teasing me. They didn’t know if I could do this, [saying], ‘This might be too much for her.’ They’re used to me being the singer of ballads, but they don’t know my hip-hop root where my friends are at a RUN DMC concert while I’m at home listening to my records in my Adidas suit like, ‘Dad, please let us go!’ And I couldn’t go. They don’t know that part about me. So here I am.
I said, ‘Turn the mic on. I got this.’ They all went, ‘Woah!’ So when you listen to ‘Hello,’ it’s going to blow you away. You thought ‘High’ was one thing. Wait until you get to ‘Hello.’ I don’t have to prove nothing to nobody. I’ll just sing it.
Tell me about the content of your album, Let Love Rule.
‘Let Love Rule’ felt appropriate for now. The song was one of the first songs I wrote, and I just wanted to go on vacation. I didn’t feel like writing, to be honest. I was just like, ‘OK, I have a hook and I like it.’ I just felt it had to have a Bob Marley feel on my album. I wanted that energy because I was studying him for a year and a half, and I’d never been to Jamaica and I was on my way to Jamaica for the first time.
When I came back is when I finished writing it. Then, we ended up cutting the song and then we ended up going back to it. So, the title of it became appropriate for now. Also, I love the way the song made me feel. It felt like water going in the ocean. It was powerful for me.
And the content on the album is just starting with how we are today. Today is where everything happens. No matter what happens, tomorrow is a new day. So my thing is, let love rule in your actions, the way you move, the way you speak to people and how you interact. Just let your intent be faced and rooted in love. Love through all that pain, forgive me, let it go, be here. We are dysfunctional, crazy. Love ain’t perfect.
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