When it comes to soulful, sultry, and sensual sounds of R&B, Kevin Ross is the man. This millennial, who happens to be a D.C. native, gained success straight out of college, writing songs for major artists such as Jamie Foxx, and shortly after, signing a major record deal with Motown Records. It didn’t take long for Ross to reach the number one charts, after releasing his first album, The Awakening, in 2017, the first single “Long Song Away”, hit #1 on Billboard. From there, Ross received high nominations from the Soul Train Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and iHeart Radio Awards, for best new artist. Although Ross gained great success with Motown, He decided to take a short hiatus, coming back with the creation of his own record label, Art Society Music Group. Ross took no time in creating new music. He is scheduled to release the new hit single “Thing Called Love”, from his up and coming album Audacity, in the Spring.
Recently, we had an opportunity to chat with Ross about his new label, new music, and so much more.
MillBuzz: Tell us more about Art Society Music Group and what made you decide to create your own label?
Ross: Ownership is really important to me at this point in my life. I learned a lot by being in a major label system, and I always pride myself of being a student first of the craft. I am also a student of the business, because it is always changing. There is always new business acumen that you need to learn. With technology moving so fast, it’s all about keeping yourself abreast to what the current state of how you’re going to remain visible, and so for me the deal that I did back when I was 23 years old, it made sense for me. Years later, to write every record on The Awakening, which is the last album I did, and not be the executive producer, or have any ownership over something I put my blood, sweat, and tears into, led me to create Art Society Music Group. It’s always been a brain child for a couple of years, I was going to humbly weigh out the situation at the major label, so God kind of revealed an opening, and a timeframe, and I was like I need to take it.
MillBuzz: What was your reason for leaving Motown?
Ross: I wanted to have the freedom to decide who I am doing co-ventures with. It’s just like in any kind of business, when you have too many cooks that’s within the kitchen, sometimes you don’t get the best result, especially when everyone doesn’t have the same end goal in mind. Everyone can have great intentions, but if you’re not on the same page, good intentions are kind of pointless.
Who are your musical influences and why?
Ross: One of the favorites is Stevie Wonder by far, Donny Hathaway, Patrice Rushen, Prince, Michael Jackson, Neo, Maxwell, and John Legend. They all have inspired me, and they all hold a different place in my heart as far as what they do artistically or business decisions that they made. I am grateful that I can be able to admire these people from a far and a holistic view.
MillBuzz: Coming from Motown, how was it being around the musical history, and being a part of the new legacy?
Ross: Motown is different now than what it was then. I did go to the Motown museum when I was there, and I think that in my mind, it was about upholding the tradition of Motown. The tradition has always been good quality music, that lasts through the test of time. But I do believe the brand that Motown was, is very different than what it is now. So, to each his or her own, and the survival of the fittest.
MillBuzz: Tell us more about your new project?
Ross: Audacity, it will be released this Spring. I’ve been working on this for a little bit of time now, I think it’s different, because I worked with one producer throughout the whole project, so it’s a lot more cohesive, and has a lot more grit. It is honest, vulnerable, and sensual, so I think people are going to get more sides and facets of me, than what they were able to get on The Awakening. There are no features as of yet, and I like it that way. I get to tell my story without any kind of disruptions. I am excited because I’ve been holding and working on this project for so long. You never know how people are going to except it, but you have to know, believe, and stand by your art and craft. Knowing that you put effort, a lot of time, hard work, and energy into your project, you have to allow for God and the Universe to do its thing.
MillBuzz: Tell us more about the single Thing Called Love.
Ross: I think it is a great reputation of who I am, what you heard previously, and where I am going to go. Incapsulated in this one record, I am about making conversation pieces within my songs and albums, and whatever I do. The Thing Called Love is based on the inadequacy of a man loving a woman. He wants to provide, and do all the things that she wants, but he just feels like he can’t live up to it. I feel like a lot of what happens in relationships as far as self-sabotage happens because we don’t know what to do when we find a good woman. We will say “all man she’s a good girl”, and lot of times, we don’t relate, or it doesn’t correlate with us as being a good guy, too. So, when we see a good girl or a good woman, we don’t want to mess it up, but a lot of times we will mess it up regardless just by doing nothing.
MillBuzz: Being in the industry and seeing so many things change, what direction do you think R&B and music as a whole is taking?
Ross: Music is doing a great job as far as dictating our lifestyle. Every year we pick one or two artists to focus on, how they are speaking to the culture. The culture has done a great job of picking leaders and front runners to explain where we are. For instance, J Cole, his new single Middle Child, really does resonate where we are as a culture; we are old heads, yet we aren’t Spring chickens, so it’s surreal for us because we don’t have a lot of people that’s telling our story. We are fortunate to have people like Issa Rae, Kendrick Lamar, and J Cole, but as far as the R&B soul movement, it’s not a lot there. There are some, but the consistency of my genre is inconsistent, and a lot of the artists take longer, or a more traditional approach to dropping an album. So, the narrative of what we believe or what we want to hear from them, is too inconsistent. I feel like we have to fill our void and that’s what I plan to do with Art Society Music Group, and in my projects.
MillBuzz: What do you want people to get from Kevin Ross as the artist ?
Ross: I want people to take away that I am limitless in what I am able to do, and that I can reach any audience. The stories that I tell, and connection is what’s most important for me right now. Connecting through songs with people, having conversations that lead into a discussion, and making them feel a certain type of way with my music is most important.
MillBuzz: Tell us more about growing up in D.C. and the influence it had on you being a record artist?
Ross: Growing up in D.C. played a big role in how I approached music. Back home, we have go-go elements in our songs. I just decided to do something completely different. it was weird for me growing up in the 90’s. Even though you had Bad Boy, Death Row, and all the hip-hop music that was playing during the day, at night I was listening to WHUR Quiet Storm, all the music got smoothed out and super sensual, so I implemented that kind of sound into my music.
MillBuzz: Where did your inspiration for being an independent artist derive?
Ross: Growing up in D.C., I learned the spirit of entrepreneurship. We had so many businesses up and running and we were so supportive of one another. I think whether we knew we were hustling and go getters when we were kids, it was around us. Eventually we have to tap into it and say ok everybody around us is trying to get it, why not me, why not own something?
MillBuzz: Do you feel social media has made an advantage or disadvantage for artists?
Ross: I think it’s more of an upswing than anything. I think we see a lot of social media artists that don’t have to be on social media as much, and still succeed. You have people that are kind of the kings and queens of social media, that are artists that really take advantage of it. Kendrick Lamar and J Cole; those guys really don’t show up on social media at all, but when their albums come out, we’re all over it. Then you have the opposite, Cardi B. Social media was the key to her success. Not to mention, Nikki Minaj, at one time brought her music, and we saw what made her unstoppable. One thing we forgot about is, that transparency and vulnerability is an important part as far as artistry, that’s what fans fall in love with. When you talk about social media in that regard, if somebody is comfortable and able to transcend, then yes, you can have as much success as possible, because they can follow the storyline and the narrative.
MillBuzz: What has social media done for you as an artist?
Ross: It has allowed me to use it as a creative outlet. In between time, it helps for me to stay sharp as an artist and a vocalist, but also release that creative anxiety. A lot of the stuff that I am able to do on my mash ups, may not be received on a record. I am able to be as musically as possible as I can be and bring people back to nostalgic moments.
MillBuzz: What impact do you feel music has on the culture?
Ross: I feel like that’s what we need, people are hitting 30, and were still trying to figure that out. We still feel delayed as a culture, and between the ages of 26 to 32,a lot of us aren’t married or in a place where our parents were in, from what we saw growing up. There was a certain number or age that we had an expectation to accomplish things, and a lot of times now, it is delayed due to social media. The effects of the internet have kind of delayed us, and its freaking some of us out, yet some of us are more composed about it, but we are trying to figure it out. So, we need every outlet whether its publications or music to help us get through it.
To stay current on everything going on with Ross follow him on social media @KevinRossMusic and his site KevinRossMusic.net.