Our love for Lalah Hathaway has kept us awestruck since she blessed us with “Heaven Knows” in the early ’90s. The Grammy Award winning soulstress has built her own legacy while honoring her late father’s. She is the epitome of melodic seduction. An irresistible aura that continues to reach higher planes of artistry.
ThisisRnB’s Rocki recently spoke with Hathaway about her new girl boss role with Hathaway Entertainment. “I would love to be able to be a part of the story that changes music right now,” she said. She also shared what it was like to work with Pharrell and King Kendrick, as well as why she collaborated with a new producer for her upcoming album Honestly. “As a musician, I’m constantly in modes of exploration.”
Find out about her new single “I Can’t Wait,” what she learned while recording Lalah Hathaway Live, her nickname for Mary J. Blige and much more in the new interview below.
TIRNB: I recently reviewed “I Can’t Wait.” I love how upbeat it sounds. With all that’s going on in the world, we need something upbeat. What made you decide to have “I Can’t Wait” as the first single off of Honestly?
LALAH HATHAWAY: Yes … a little bit a peace. A little bit of joy. A little bit of rhythm. A little bit of forward motion. It was always gonna be first or second. And one day, I was hanging out with a bunch of friends of mine, and we put that record on and everybody just got up and started dancing. It’s like they were in a trance. That record, for me, felt so great in that moment.
The point of it is not to make you forget what’s happening because you can’t forget what’s happening. But it is a mode of resistance for me to still be a creative. Our music is also a protest. I refuse to let anybody steal my joy. It’s meant to uplift.
TIRNB: It’s been six years since your last studio album. Honestly, is your seventh or eighth album?
I think this is the eighth album. The live album was just 2015, I’m getting a little bit faster … to where I’m putting out a record every 18 months or two years or so. It just takes so much longer for me. What it is, is having the opportunity to express it how you want to express it. Now I have my own label, I’m doing my own thing, I’m executive producing everything. I feel enabled to be more creative now because I’m not on that record company cycle of two years, three yearS, and then the A&R department is done and the one who signed you is gone.
TIRNB: I kind of like when artists take their time because sometimes, we get inundated. What can fans expect from this album? Who did you collaborate with?
There’s only one other woman I worked with on this whole record. Her name is Tiffany Gouché. She’s a young female songwriter-singer-producer out of L.A. We did the whole record. We co-wrote all of the songs, she produced all the tracks. We co-produced the whole album, it’s just us two. I was really trying to do something new and come from a new perspective. I heard her records and I was struck by her voice and how she created the music. I would really like to be able do that more often and now that I have a label, I can do that more often. As a musician, I’m constantly in modes of exploration.
TIRNB: It’s good that you have the platform to give new artists exposure. What is it like having your own label? I love the way Hathaway Entertainment sounds. It was naturally the next step.
It’s exciting because I know that my name was a brand before I even got to the planet. So I know that the name association and music—it’s such a great thing, just such a legacy that my father left for me that I’m trying to continue on. To be able to present the world with new music, new things that are excellent, it’s an honor for me. I would love to be able to be a part of the story that changes music right now.
TIRNB: How do you think the story should be different now? What kind of story do you want to tell?
I just want to tell the truth. I’m not trying to write a narrative. I’m just trying to help the narrative be exposed. I feel like this is such a great time for independent artists and such a great time for women in music. It’s such a good time for soul, which is making a resurgence. I would like to be at the front of that and helping people and inspiring people and encouraging people and empowering people—especially women of color—to step out and do what they do.
TIRNB: Do you have any artists signed yet?
No, I’m doing my record first, and I’ma see how it goes from there.
TIRNB: Hats off to you for doing that. I love hearing about girl bosses doing their thing in a male dominated industry.
Absolutely; particularly on the producer side.
TIRNB: Speaking of male producers, what was it like working with Pharell on “Surrender” from the ‘Hidden Figures’ soundtrack?
It was a dream come true. He was one of those names that when people say, “Who do you want to work with?” And I’d say, “Pharrell.” They’d say, “Oh wow, really?” My response is always, “He’s so musical, who wouldn’t wanna work with him?” It was great, and he is wonderful, I look forward to working with him again.
TIRNB: How was it working with Kendrick Lamar on ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’? Are there other current hip hop artists that you would like to work with?
He’s one of the greatest. For me, right now—he’s thee greatest. He’s just a cool kid, he also happens to sorta be peripherally family ’cause of my best friend’s nieces. He’s somebody that I see occasionally at a barbecue. Very smart, I love his spirit and his energy; so humble. I love really smart people. I would love to work with Timbaland and Missy. I keep putting that in the universe.
TIRNB: How do you feel about R&B music today?
I think there’s room for everything. I feel like the story that is being told right now is through a narrow lens. I think that now that black music is so varied and wide, that it influences every other music in the world. It’s out there, you gotta seek it out. It’s an interesting space right now because I find music all the time and people tell me about stuff all the time. If I listened to regular terrestrial radio, I wouldn’t know all that stuff is out there. But I find it on the internet, I find it when I travel, and I think it’s okay.
TIRNB: Do the sounds and styles that appear popular in the mainstream ever influence or affect your brand of R&B?
No, not at all. When I sit down and really go to listen to music or create music, I’m in my own space. Not too much current stuff even makes it into that area of my life.
TIRNB: Congrats on all the amazing success with ‘Lalah Hathaway Live.’ Through that whole process, from performing some of your father’s music in the same venue as him, to the fans’ and critics’ response. Did you learn anything new about him or about yourself?
It’s interesting, I learned a lot of stuff that I cannot quite explain. To be making a live album in the same room where he made his albums … to be recording “Little Ghetto Boy” … I definitely had an epiphany in those moments when I was working on that record. It was such an honor ’cause I grew up with that record, that record meant so much to me as a kid. Listening to the people in the room and wondering what it would be like to be in front of all those folks and the interaction and the conversation. To be in that space, is so full circle. It was really deep.
TIRNB: How has it been on the “Strength of a Woman Tour” with Mary J. Blige?
I refer to her affectionately as “Mary J. Thighs.” We are having the time of our lives out there in front of people, and watching her show every night and learning. Just another opportunity to get up there and play music and empower women, it has been really an honor.
Lalah Hathaway is on tour independently and with Mary J. Blige now. Honestly is due out this fall.
-Interview by Raquelle Harris