The Idolator Interview: Robin Thicke
It’s no wonder Robin Thicke tells us how impressed he is by 15-year old Justin Bieber, whom he calls “wonderful”—the seductive singer has been making tunes since he was basically the same age. Thicke has been in the limelight since he was a kid—at first by association with his famous parents (TV actors Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring), and then in his own right as as a 16-year old writing and producing wunderkind, knob twiddling and penning tracks for the likes of Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya and more.
Sixteen years later, Thicke is a grown, sexy man and heading down a whole new path professionally and personally—he and his wife, actress Paula Patton, are expecting their first son this May, and his latest release, the seductive Sex Therapy, is full of determined beats that allow Thicke to stretch beyond his customary boudoir R&B into dancefloor-ready hip-hop. (He’s a student of history, too, as his opening track, “Mrs. Sexy,” is a clever cover of Eric B. and Rakim’s classic “Mahogany.”) “I just kind of wanted to explore my hip-hop roots a little more on this album,” Robin tells us. “Take some chances and work with some new people.”
That he definitely does. Read on to hear what the silky-voiced crooner thinks of the state of hip-hop, whether it was a mistake to re-record “We Are The World,” and the significance of Justin Bieber. Sex Therapy features a whole range of hip-hop stars—Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Kid Cudi and Jay-Z, just to name a few. How did all of these collaborations come about? And was there any pressure to keep adding vocalists? RT: No, luckily they always give me the rope to hang myself with. [Laughs.] It’s always up to me. Once I had most of the songs together I just started to think who I’d like to hear on what song.
I’ve worked with a lot of the people or knew a lot of these people beforehand except Nicki Minaj—that was Jay-Z’s ideas. I played the album for Jay, and he picked the song he wanted to be on (“Meiplé”), then he said you should get Nicki Minaj for “Shakin’ It 4 Daddy”. I didn’t know much about her, but obviously when Jay-Z speaks, one listens. As soon as I checked her out and saw how talented she is, I thought, okay this is a sure thing. Especially when Jay is telling you you should work with her, otherwise Jay wouldn’t even mention her name.
How about everyone else? RT: With people like Game, I had seen him at the waiting room at Jimmy Iovine’s office a week earlier and we exchanged numbers and I just hit him up and asked him if he wanted to come into the studio, cause I woke up on a Sunday morning and was like, “Oh my god, I should put Game on “Diamonds”! It’s perfect for him. And that’s how those kind of things go. [For the song “Rollacoasta,”] I was on tour with Estelle while I was opening up for John Legend years ago, and Estelle and I are very good friends and that was easy, she’s amazing.
Snoop and I had been talking about doing a record for years—we had hung in the studio and seen each other a bunch of times and always wanted to do something. But then [producer] Teddy Riley showed up in my studio and said him and Snoop had written up this little idea for me, and that was the “It’s in the Morning” track. So actually Snoop and Teddy started that one and brought it to me.
Can you tell me anything about the “It’s in the Morning” video you’ll be shooting with Snoop? Shooting the video [this] week. We’re gonna be in New York City cause that’s where Snoop is. It’s about romance and love in the morning, you know. Obviously, it’s gotta be love because if you’re still there in the morning time, then it means you really like them. So it’ll be romantic and sweet.
What do you think of the relative health of hip-hop today? The modern King of Hip-Hop, Jay-Z, just turned 40, and everyone from Nas to the New Yorker are proclaiming that it’s dead. What’s your take? If hip-hop is dead, then nothing is living, that’s for sure. Hip-hop’s the king of all charisma and swagger and brand new influence. Hip-hop is Harlem and Atlanta and Paris. Hip-hop is the guide that we all follow. Drake and Lil Wayne and all these guys are leading the pack on something fresh and new.
You worked with Lil Wayne before everybody under the sun was collaborating with him. Is there anyone else who should be garnering more attention by people in the music industry? I don’t really know—my radar isn’t that broad. I am always making music and touring… I don’t really know what new artists… I’d have to call Jay-Z and see who he knows. He’s on the radar.
Jay-Z recently made comments about the “We Are The World” recorded in 1985 as being “untouchable.” Do you agree that a new song should have been recorded instead of using the original? I think he’s correct. And also, it was nice to do it anyway. For the people that were there, for the history of all of us being kids when the first “We Are the World” came out, we were a part of some part of history. I mean, the song can’t even compare to the original and Jay’s right about that all the way. It was one of those “it’s the thought that counts.” It was a moral victory, not a shining light for music. [Laughs.] It’s not like we changed music that day. It was really the thought that everyone wanted to try to lend their voice or energy to try to help Haiti. But Jay’s not wrong, the song is untouchable.
What was your experience during the recording? Was it exciting? Oh yeah. I knew all those people because I’ve been doing it since I as 16. Lil Wanye, Snoop Dogg… There’s Mya who I did a record with when I was 20, and Pink who I had a song on her first album when I was 16, and Brandy was next to me, I worked with her when I was 16, so I was surrounded by friends. For me it was a reunion. I’ve done a lot with all those people. Justin Bieber kicked off the whole song. What do you think of this Bieber phenomenon taking over the world right now? I think he’s wonderful! He’s such a great little kid. He’s like New Kids on the Block! He’s gonna bring back that era of New Edition and New Kids on the Block—good young music for young people. The music is good songwriting, good producing – he’s working with the best producers, he’s got a good voice. I like he kid a lot, everybody likes him.
Would you consider writing a song for him? Oh yeah, sure! Usher’s my buddy. He asked me to write a song for him, I just didn’t have time yet.
You have a huge female fan base. What do you think it is about your music or your personality that is so attractive to women? My relationship with women is to give them everything they ask for. Anything they want. That’s why women like me, I just give them anything they want. Whatever they ask for.
We’re sure your wife loves that! Congratulations on you and Paula being pregnant with a son! Is there any advice your father gave to you that you plan to give to your son one day? “Stop spending all my money!” [Laughs.] Save some money was his advice.
Will it be your first time going to the Oscars? No, I went once when I was younger, but I’m not big on these kind of things. I definitely will be holding my wife, shaking hands that night.
One last very important question—how often do you hear that couples have “gotten busy” to one of your songs? Everywhere I go, I hear, “My wife and I got pregnant to your song,” and this and that. It’s great. Not just that—the lovemaking is one thing, but really it’s when people get married and they put your song title on the inside of their rings and your song is their wedding song. It’s nice to be part of love.
Robin is currently on tour with Alicia Keys.