RESPECT. Interview: Adina Howard Reflects on the Golden Age of R&B, Love & ‘Resurrection’

Adina Howard

Image credit: Kin Cordell (Press photo)

The 90’s was one of the greatest decades of music for its generation, a golden period for R&B and urban music. Adina Howard is one of those pioneers who was not afraid to express her sexuality as well as her confidence. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native and R&B icon is better known for her certified Gold debut album  Do You Wanna Ride? and her platinum and #2 Billboard Hot 100 single “Freak Like Me” which showed the youthful side of America. She has also had successful collaborations with rising artists at the time such as Jamie Foxx; hits like “T-shirt and Panties” were more than just chart-topping singles, they were anthems of liberation.

Adina Howard has evolved as a woman and an artist. All that she has left behind to become who she is today can be heard on her new album Resurrection which was released early 2017. Adina was a young woman who was not afraid to be comfortable in her own skin; now, Adina is resurrecting those memories into something more, something that is wise and experienced.

RESPECT.: What was it like for you creating your art and making your music? What inspired you?

Adina: You know, what inspired me was the women that came before me, they were an inspiration for my music. I listened to Vanity 6, Skyy and Kylmaxx. These women were strong and cocky women. When it came time for me to do my thing, they definitely were an influence in how I did what I did because they were liberated so I thought. I figured I’d rather express myself in that manner as well because that was what I was comfortable with.

RESPECT.: Most definitely, when did you first get started with music? How long have you been doing it for?

Adina: Professionally, since ’95. I’ve been singing and doing the music thing and getting familiar with music since I was 7.

RESPECT.: What inspired you to take it serious (as far as professionally)?

Adina: I was chosen for music. I did not choose music, music chose me. It seemed that every single time when I was around certain people it would get out that I could sing. People started gravitating to me and wanting to work with me and wanting me to work with them. It was something just that organically happen because my mother was the catalyst for me doing music. I was shy as a little girl and singing in front of people was definitely not something I wanted to do. I would have preferred to have been playing with my sisters outside or upstairs in my bedroom versus trying to sing for my mother’s company but I could never get out that chore. It was just something that was automatic when it came to me. My mother would force me to sing all of the time and I guess that energy was put into me. As I got older that was something that just always happen to gravitate to me. Singing the music this is what I am a magnet for and when it finally went down it was like, ok here I am.

RESPECT.: Everything is for a reason.

Adina: Exactly.

RESPECT.: With the 90’s, being so fresh and raw with more young African-Americans musicians expressing themselves, you gave women confidence of themselves, whether it was sexually or showing boldness with their intelligence while still placing valuing in themselves. What was the process like as far as finding out what worked for you and what didn’t?

Adina: I was just being me. I did not know any other different person to be. You know, you can play dress-up all-day long. You can look in the mirror and do xyz. For me, I’ve always just been comfortable in my own skin and doing me so to speak. When it came to music, it was just there is no other person you  can be and no better person to be other than yourself. That’s what I brought to the table. For me it wasn’t about being somebody else because I didn’t know how to be anyone other than myself.

Photo Credits: Jasun Wiggins (Press photo)

RESPECT.: Definitely, I agree with that. So with you being from Michigan, all of a sudden you decide to do music, did you have to move to California?

Adina: I lived in Arizona at the time. So when I met my first manager, I did have to go to California. It was only after I met with him because he lived in California. So once he had decided that he was going to take me under his wing and help me get to where I wanted to be, you know that was when I decided to make that move.

RESPECT.: Right and you got your experience as well working with different artist from Warren G, Jamie Foxx, Krayzie Bone, and Play-N-Skillz. All of them are great producers, musicians, and artist. When it came to creating those hits,from your first project to the ones that made it to the soundtracks like Woo with “T-Shirt and Panties” ,”collaborations like “What’s Love Gotta Do With It?” those different songs. How did you come into the room with your energy when it came to the writing sessions?

Adina: You know what honestly, it was just doing me. That’s it just doing me and saying this is what I like and this what I don’t like. Put that in works. They approached me with a time-set. They would tell me what the time-set was with the “T-Shirt & Panties.” Jamie approached me and was like I got this song idea I want you to hear and I want you to tell me what you think about this song. So he went to the keyboards and played a little bit and I was like “You know what, I’m liking what I am hearing”. Just go ahead and write the song and demo it for me and get it to me so I can hear it. Within a day or two he got it done and I heard it over the phone and I was like that it’s it, I will take it.

RESPECT.: Definitely and until this day it is still a hit for sure and it was a good one. So let’s say with Play-N-Skillz and working with them on “Freaks” — what was the process like with that sampling and recording that song?

Adina: The process was easy because they already had the song done and really all I had to do was come in and sing the hook, you know. It was easy because of course we are talking about freaks *laughs*. It was basically derived from “Freak Like Me” so it wasn’t hard. Usually when I go into the studio — 99.9% of the time when I go into the studio — the song is already written and all I have to do is my homework because time is money and time is something that you can’t get back. So you don’t want to waste time nor money especially not time. So I always go in knowing what it is i’m supposed to do and how I am supposed to do it. Only time I hit the studio, it’s definitely about getting the job done and going in ready to do what I’ve been paid to do.

RESPECT.: Exactly. So what advice would you give to young artists who have to understand the value of time while putting work and value into their own craft, especially in regards to building rapport and being consistent so that people want to bring you around and put you on projects?

Adina: Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Put yourself in that person’s position. Would you want an artist to come in wasting your time and your money when there is value in your time, money, and your talent? You wouldn’t want somebody coming in and you’re footing the bill, you know, and that person is late and that person comes in with an entourage and they are not focusing and they want to dilly dally around, smoke, chop it up, crack jokes, and all that s***. You know, you really start to put a dollar amount on the second, the minute, the hour, you know. It’s coming out of your pocket, then your really start to think about that, and your investing it in somebody else knowing nine in a half times out ten they ain’t going to be able to give you your money back, you would really think about how you utilized that opportunity. So it is like always put yourself in that person’s positions and shoes. Don’t take for granted the opportunity because the minute you take for granted that opportunity you are going to lose it. You never miss a good thing until it is gone and once it’s gone the creator more often is not going to give it back to you right away until you have learned a lesson from pissing it away.

RESPECT: I agree. More about you…you’ve achieved so much in your career. From you being a young lady to becoming a grown woman, you are a wife now, a mother, friend, daughter, and a mentor. Using the term Resurrection for your latest release, what does this mean to you?

Adina.: Everything that I have gone through, my story isn’t what it used to be so to speak. My life isn’t recognizable. When I came out in 95′ with Do You Wanna Ride?, I was just a young woman. A young female coming out in the industry. Fresh out of high school, fresh out of my momma and my step-dad house so to speak and really now I’m living this life without the training mode. I’m learning as I go along and I am making mistakes and I am learning from my mistakes and being foolish, so on and so forth. Just really looking at where I’ve been and then to look at the Resurrection album is where I am today. I’ve grown astronomically. It’s amazing to see how I’ve not only survived, but I’ve thrived in the mix of the chaos and who I was back then. They say growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional and I chose the option to grow up, to mature, and to allow myself the luxury and blessings of maturation. Getting older, really saying and looking at my life like “Wow! I’ve grown.” You know back then I wasn’t a wife, I wasn’t a step-mom, I didn’t have my associate degree in culinary arts. I didn’t really have direction in certain areas of my life and now I’ve come out on the other side to say “Ok, you know what. Go through what I have been through.” I am still standing and I am still here, and I am better than I was before. I’ve created new and that’s what Resurrection is about. I found peace and balance. Really understanding my relationship with the Creator and eliminating religion so much that Resurrection reflects me going from point A to I guess you can say this is point D *laughs*. I still have a long way to go.

RESPECT.: Is there any advice that you have for young women, especially young black women who want to be confident in themselves without them feeling like they are giving that away with their sexuality?

Adina: For young Black American women or just let’s say to young women of color period, no matter whether they are in the states or abroad, it’s valuing yourself. Yes, sex sells. But one of the things that people have to understand, because I know people look at me and then they are like, “You know you helped with the sexual liberation and all of that greatness.” While I appreciate the acknowledgement, one of the things that is very important to me is for women to understand that selling sex is option but it’s not the only option. When you get into this industry of entertainment — not just music but be it acting, producing, dancing, whatever it is — selling sex is an option, it’s not mandatory. So that is something that I would like for these women to understand. You have an option, if that is the route you want to go and you’re comfortable in doing that, cool, then do that…but don’t do it because they are telling you that it’s the only option you have to sell records because that is a lie, that’s not the truth. You know, find out what your niche is, be comfortable in that. If you are going to sell yourself, make sure that they recognize you’re priceless and not cheap. You know and that’s one of the things these young girls, these young women, they’re cheapening themselves in thinking that it’s going to get the attention that is needed to sell records or I guess likes or followers, I don’t know. It is very interesting what we having going on, because value or self-worth is no longer within. It is now all about social media, you know. People find value in themselves through social media with their thoughts. If I sit there and post a picture d*** near butt a** naked and I get 100,000 likes, 1,000 likes, 100 likes, or whatever, somebody liked it. No not really, they just like the picture. They need to find true genuine value in themselves. When you respect yourself and you set the standard for the respect and you set the tag for what your worth is, then people will abide it, but if your just going to fall for anything and do anything because you want the statement then you are just setting yourself up for major failure and heartbreak. These women are worth more than that, women your worth more than that.

Photo Credits: Daniel Vasquez (Press photo)

RESPECT.: I’d give men the same kind of advice, about supporting their women, respecting their women and keeping an open mind about the value of the relationship. Being born in the 90’s and seeing how my parents were and understanding what a healthy relationship is, you know not to let everybody know what your business is and knowing everything isn‘t meant for social media. Some things are meant just to be private. We are in a period now with this internet where there is no value in that. We really strip away all of those values as far as the family. How would you give men advice to  really keep an open mind about good women and respecting women, supporting them, as far as being who they want/need to be and not selling them a dream?

Adina: Well you know what, I think when it comes to our men and women, our kings and queens, and our gods and goddesses…when it comes to us as a people and I say us as a people, I say us as Black Americans, because we are completely different — African-Americans and Jamaican-Americans, and all the other Americans that come from different countries, nations, and continents. Black Americans we are an orphan, we are orphans in our own country. So when you don’t have roots and you can’t trace back where you are from, there is this confusion and discourse from not knowing where you’re from and where you belong and because of that we have a tendency to be at each other instead of unifying with one another. I think that is where where we come in. It has to be not just a man saying let me support my woman or a woman saying let me support my man, we have to definitely support each other. Without unity within our homes — and you know this just as well as anybody because you’ve seen what a healthy relationship looks like between your mother and father, not many of us have that. I am one of those who grew up in a fatherless home and I still search and I am still seeking a healthy relationship with a man. What I can say to the best of my ability is that we have to support one another. A sister should have a brother’s back to be there for them and vice versa. One of the things I recognize, that we as women, those of us who give birth and bring forth life into this world, we have to position our sons, our young kings, our young gods to understand the value of a woman. If a woman brings a son into the world and she doesn’t understand the value of a man then she really is not  going to know how to value her son if that makes sense. Then that creates a [problem] because now she doesn’t know how to sow into her son and this young king is growing up and not understanding what it is like to be respected and loved by a woman and isn‘t able to reciprocate that. You know we have to start from birth to get this thing together but for those of us who don’t have it like that to learn from birth from those potential people who are getting it right. If you have to put your self in the other person’s shoes, male or female, do you want a person loving you like this? Do you want a person treating you like this? Do you want to a person talking to you like this? If you want support you must learn how to be supportive. If you want to be loved you must know how to be loving. You know you attract that which you are. If you are not that, then you can forget about that because that is the energy you are putting out there. It is important that we recognize men and women alike from Black America that self-love is important. Self-respect is important. When you have self-love and respect you can then turn around and have love and respect for somebody else. You know when you choose to intentionally and purposely live in love and do that for yourself, you can do that then turn around and do that for somebody else. That’s what it is about. Do what you want done for you for someone else and be grateful. Don’t do it with the mind state that you are going to get something in return. If you do it with the mind state that you are going to get something in return then that is going to be an epic fail, because the creator doesn’t bless mess.

RESPECT: What does RESPECT. in one word mean to you?

Adina: Love. It means choosing. Love to me means integrity and consistency, It’s an action. You can’t tell some one you love them and then slap the s*** out of them unless that is your definition of love. Love is kind, it’s gentle, it’s understanding, it’s compassion, it’s empathy, it’s God. In one word really, love is God, period. If the God is not in you then it going to be difficult for you to love and if you are not seeking the God within, then it is going to be difficult to find what you are looking for.

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