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“I have the Faith that can move any mountain, Faith that can conquer anything,” is a verse in Faith Evans’ 1995 track “Faith (Interlude).”
In fact, no truer lyrics have been penned by the R&B songstress. Faith has certainly come a long way from her childhood days of singing gospel hymns before the congregation at Newark’s Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Throughout the duration of her career, the 43-year-old resilient star has expanded her professional and personal repertoire from singer to several other titles such as songwriter, executive producer, actress, author, mother and wife.
In the 90s and 00s, Faith released a string of hits that rocked the radio airwaves; “You Used to Love Me,” “Soon As I Get Home,” “Love Like This,” and “I’ll Be Missing You.” She went on to star in “Coach Carter” and “The Fighting Temptations” and executive produced TV One’s successful reality series, "R&B Divas." In addition, the platinum selling artist published a New York Times Best Seller with her candid autobiography, "Keep The Faith: A Memoir."
Later this summer Faith will embark on the BadBoy Family Reunion Tour alongside Puff Daddy, Lil Kim, 112, Carl Thomas, Mario Winans and Total. The Grammy award winner will also be adding another classic album to her catalog this year. Faith is readying her latest effort, "The King & I," a collection of all newly arranged duets with her late ex-husband, the Notorious B.I.G.
While gearing up for her three Essence festival performances, Faith gave NBCBLK contributor Alex Titus the scoop on her distinguished career.
This year marks your 21st year in the music industry. What do you remember about coming up in the golden era of music as the First Lady of Bad Boy?
It was fun and a new world to me. It was a blessing to be able to make a career out of my gift, which is something I’ve doing since childhood in church. I never knew I was going to be a recording artist because it’s not like I was out shopping for a deal. A lot of my friends were entering the industry at that particular time and I was at a certain place at a certain time and somebody heard what I could do. That’s all it takes sometimes.
I always assumed I would be singing but not necessarily making records. By God’s grace, it turned out that I was able to sufficiently record myself and write songs. Growing up, I heard you could make money singing jingles and I used to hear the ladies in the hotel lounge bar singing jazz. I thought that was going to be me. (Faith breaks into song)
Prior to you releasing your debut album Faith in 1995, you wrote on Usher’s debut and Mary J Blige’s "My Life." You and Chucky Thompson had created such a raw sound together. How has your writing evolved since you first started?
When I first met Puff, I was self-contained. I would go in the booth, hear the track and start writing the lyrics. Second album, I didn’t even want to record. That was when B.I.G. died and emotionally speaking, I was in a whole different place during that album. I didn’t even want to be on Bad Boy anymore, I was over everything. I was going through my anti-everything phase.
The Keep The Faith (’98) album was the first time I had taken songs that were previously written. Not that I hadn’t wanted to before, it’s just that writing is a part of my artistry. I was never opposed to it, but my lifestyle had changed so much that I would be in the studio and over think.
I have my team of people with me and we come up with great melodies, ideas and lyrics to give it that Faith Evans feel. Even if I don’t have all of my lyrics together in the beginning, I always find a way of getting it done because I’m not leaving something until I get something on a damn track (laughs)!
My life is in a different space, so I write about different things. I have a whole lot more to juggle. I have to maintain a house full of 4 kids and a husband. I have a son with autism and a career to upkeep. Plus, the song has to be dope.
I was fortunate enough to catch the very first look at the Badboy Reunion Tour in Brooklyn in May. To me, your set list represented impeccable moments throughout your career. From “No Other Love” to “Soon as I Get Home,” it was very well structured.
Thank you so much, everyone has been saying the same thing. The set list was Puff’s idea. I never toured with them back in the day. For me, it didn’t make sense at the time to do promo and performances for free when I was getting paid to do my own shows on the weekend. And plus, my then husband was on the road with his mistress and the girlfriend, I was like, “No, I’m not about to do that!” (laughs)
It took me some time to even make that decision to go on this reunion tour because I’ve worked to the point where I have my own ‘Faith Evan’s’ tour with my own ‘Faith Evan’s’ band- just the way I wanted it to be.
Typically, it’s different because we have to cut the songs in half with the verse, chorus and bridge. Even when I do my own shows, the song selection has to be right because the fans will call me out and say, “You didn’t do this one from the 'Faithfully’ album."
How excited were you when you reunited with your label mates 112, Total, Carl Thomas and The Lox?
I’ve stayed in touch with them throughout the years. A lot of us have been being booked by various promoters for the same shows. They’ll do a combination of us, so a lot of fans had already thought we were on an official Bad Boy Tour. I’ll be paired up with Carl somewhere in the DMV area, then be booked with Total the next week in Atlanta.
The biggest thing is I’ve never had a production like that. That was the main difference for me. Getting up on that stage and singing my face off is actually the easiest part. But I’ve never had a full blown stage set, I’ve never had lighting, I’ve never made an entrance on 6 feet rise, never had background dancers in full force. It felt great to know the fans were satisfied and it’s a whole lot of craziness going on backstage.
You’re releasing a new album, "The King & I," which is a duet album between you and Biggie. How did this idea originate?
I told Ms. Wallace (Bigge’s mom) a long time ago, “One day, I’m going to do a record with me and Biggie.” This was probably before Puff sold the masters. It was just a thought; I wasn’t even thinking about executing it yet. I didn’t know how well it was going to come together but man oh man, it’s coming together very well. Listen, I wish I could bottle you up and put you in my pocket so you could hear this music; it sounds so good.
Is the creative process different than how you would normally piece together a solo album?
Yes, and it’s amazing. There were two songs of his that I knew I wanted to touch. Those were “Ten Crack Commandments” and “Me & MY B****" for obvious reasons. The way that I took his vocals and arraigned myself around him…. There are various technical things in place to make it sound cohesive.
I originally didn’t want a lot of features, but I have Snoop Dogg, Lil Kim, Jadakiss. Eminem might do a verse. They’re all hot and they are on the right tracks. It doesn’t have to receive a Grammy nomination or any awards, it doesn’t even have to sell that much. People are going to be bumping this, I promise you.
I’ve never felt this way about any of my own albums and I know it’s going to be bigger just because of what’s it’s about. But in today’s climate that’s not me measuring in sales. It just means that people will be knowing its coming. It’s bringing his fans, my fans together and Snoop heard the album and he’s been telling everybody about it.
And there is a label that’s behind it as well. I’ve been independent for my last three albums. So I did this deal with a major label, who typically does catalog records. This means a whole machine is pushing it and they’re very excited. To have a whole team of people behind it and the proper money behind it [which] makes a huge difference. I want people to listen and say, “She did that.”
Since your son CJ is following in his late father’s footsteps as a rapper, did you ask him for any input?
Actually CJ and I are writing a song right now with Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Nas, Miguel). He has a new movie coming out and I’m super proud of him.
How does it feel to look back and reflect on the things you’ve accomplished in your career?
I’m appreciative of my blessings from God. God has his timing. Even with my independent records, if I didn’t sell a certain amount or accomplish, it never hindered my happiness or how blessed I thought I was. My records never had to compete or depend on plays or streams or charts. If I still feel in my heart, that people are receiving me, then that means every day is going to be even greater. I’m still doing a bunch of stuff like developing television shows and being a great mom, not being away from home for too long. Every day is a next step closer to the greatest moment.
How excited are you to be performing at Essence festival?
Essence is my all-time favorite festival to be at. But it’s even better this time around because I’m performing on the Mainstage for the first time. Plus I’m tripled booked. I’ll be performing my own set, the BadBoy set with Puff and then I’ll be doing The Clark Sisters tribute on Sunday. I’ll be super busy. I have so much fun on stage now, unlike the beginning of my career when I was a nervous wreck.