Angie Stone’s almost 4-decade career as a hip-hop pioneer, songwriter and unyielding force in soul music has given her the rare status of being an artist who’s had commercial success with creative integrity. From her beginning as a member of the all-girl rap group The Sequence to her solo albums and collaborations with people like Prince and Beyonce, she always asserts her unmistakable voice with honesty. Dream is her seventh studio album and the music represents a spiritual turning point because the inspiration behind it brought her out of an almost career-ending silence. In this interview, she talks about Dream, Sugar Hill Records, the aftermath of the much-publicized fight with her daughter and longevity.
There’s pain and then there is the process to get to the promise
Why did you call the new album Dream?
I had given up, I wasn’t doing music anymore. I was tired of the way the industry was treating me and I was done. Walter Millsap III called me based on a dream God had given him.
You said that Dream is about the pain, the process and the promise?
I was in Bible study one Wednesday and we go through certain things for a certain reason in order for God to get us where we need to be. The reason I said the Dream, is because there’s pain and then there is the process to get to the promise. Part of my pain was giving up, the process right now is God showing up and showing me that he can do all things. The promise is yet to be seen but, I’m working my way up through the promise because what is happening right now is evidence that God is all seeing and all doing. I’ve gotten more interviews in the past week than I’ve had in the past 10 years combined. That tells me that the promise is real.
Is that what got you to come back to music?
God got me to come back to music because this is his doing and not mine. When I tell you that I was done, I did not want it I’d given it back to him. He said in a dream, “that if you would just let me be God all by myself, I’m going to show you better than I can tell you.” I’d given up and it wasn’t until I gave out that until God stood up and sat me down. When I asked the Lord God, where were you when I needed you the most? When things were dark, when times are hard. He said those were the times that I carried you, he’s carrying me right now, and that’s the way I have to put that.
Is that what your song “Forget About Me” is about?
That was part of what the song was about, me asking God did you forget about me and then having unrequited love that I could relate to. Because a lot of people can’t relate to how’d you forget about me? So I have to put it in terms where they can get it. And then I had to go back to the love in my life that was important in which man and woman I asked that same question, did you forget about me?
Speaking of your new single, “2 Bad Habits” Have you had any bad habits that you’ve rid yourself of?
All my men have been bad habits. I couldn’t say it this way because my kids would say, “Mom you’re trying to be young” But see all of us wanted that tough love, we wanted that thug love we wanted that hard love. We know that stuff is bad for us but we want it anyway. The men I fell in love with, they put on a certain persona because they were dating me, you know Angie Stone the celebrity. But at the end of the day, their mask came off their shields came off, the skin they were hiding in came off. Because it’s very hard to pretend to be something that you’re not, eventually the real you shows up but by that time you’re used to the bad part of the person and you’re still digging it. But whenever they call for months on end you continue to play with them, that’s what you call a bad habit. You already know it’s not working, you’re not going to make it to the finish line. The finish line is marriage and to live happily ever after but, you know you’re not going to make it to the finish line so why are you still fooling with it? Just like a cigarette, you know it’s bad for you but you keep smoking. You make up your mind to quit or you die.
You’ve worked with a lot of cool people like Prince and Omar, is there anyone that you haven’t worked with that you’d like to?
I always tell people Lauryn Hill. I think Lauryn Hill is a younger me. She reminded me of me from day one, she had the ability to sing and write and rap. She also has the ability to have mother wit, she was never a stupid girl, she’s smart, she’s a survivor. She reminds me of me because she’s like the phoenix that rises from the ashes every time.
They’re making a movie about Sylvia Robinson, what do you remember the most about your time with Sugar Hill Records?
I remember the first time I hooked up with her and her pulling me to the side and saying you’re a great songwriter, you’re going to be great. And she just said that to me and I never said anything and I remember seeing her 20-something years later. I went by her house, and she looked at me and said “I told you, you would be a great songwriter, you were the one.” After that when she passed away, evidently her kids knew how she felt, and they called me and asked me to sing at her service. That’s what I remember, those are very prominent memories. During my childhood at Sugar Hill, it was a rat race because we were young and co-dependent on one another but we were always manipulated throughout the label by different people. Different circles of energy, that took the focus away from what we were supposed to do. I think we started to fall apart when Sugar Hill started to pick us apart, because in that way they could control us. But I wasn’t one to be controlled I was the wild card, I would not be confined, it was like being mentally jailed, besides I served a greater power than Sylvia or Joe Robinson. I served God and I walked out on faith. I left on faith with a newborn baby and a husband. And I went and got a regular job, and I brought my way back into a studio. I paid my way, I paid some dues for a mighty long time but I did it the hard way and I finally cracked the shell, when I put out the record “Seems You’re Much Too Busy” by Vertical Hold. When I went back everybody from Sugar Hill is now looking at me to help them. I’m currently working on a documentary on the real music of hip-hop, which is the band that actually created the biggest hip-hop record in the world which was“Rapper’s Delight.”
You had a much-publicized situation with your daughter? How were you able to feel comfortable enough to discuss it with her on the T.D. Jakes show?
You didn’t see me do much talking at all, if you saw that you saw I kept my mouth closed. I was very, very limited with what I was saying to him in regards to that situation. I went on the show for my daughter to have some peace. I needed for her to be able to vent whatever it was that was on her heart, and that maybe she could throw enough of that junk away. All the hatred and anger and find herself again and it’s beginning to work. My children are my life, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them, but here’s the catch, when you’re in the limelight it doesn’t matter how many sacrifices you have the enemy is the media. They’re going to take everything negative and twist it and make it dirty and make it darker than it could ever be in real life. Once people understand the nature of the beast, you can win but in order to play the game you have to know the game. I’m one who has played long enough to know when to speak and when not to speak. I got around it because the devil wasn’t going to win anyway. That’s what the government does to us, makes us think we can win but they trick us every time.
Where do you give credit for your longevity?
My humbleness with God has been my secret. I’m very, very focused on what my purpose is and tithing is everything. I decide to do it his way, if I do it my way, my career would be over. If you do it his way there is no way you can lose. I’m still being humbled and consistent with the music and that’s been the secret to my success.
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