XXL: What did you think of 50 Cent rapping over your song “I Love Your Girl”?
The-Dream: I only heard it one time. I felt like it was him just… That’s what hip-hop is about, you know. Getting your mixtape thing going on. I didn’t really put that much thought into it because at that particular time, 50 didn’t even know who I was yet, so I could’ve been like one hit and be outta here. Like, “Dude’s probably not gonna be around this year, but I love this song.” [Laughs] I think everybody has a bigger picture now. So I was flattered.
XXL: Your candidness makes people compare you to R. Kelly. What was his influence on you?
The-Dream: R&B was the genre, again, but the stories, he basically has it made up in his mind that it’s this way and this is how it should be or this is how I should cater to you under these circumstances. I don’t want to give him as much credit as my grandfather ’cause my grandfather was just like I am and was, like, you go to work as a man and the point is to provide. That’s your job… [R. Kelly’s] music was basically just selling the fact that lemme be candid and lemme be as honest as I can be and in the end they’ll love me more.
XXL: Do you want to be better than him?
The-Dream: Oh, of course. I think naturally you want to be better than everybody. Naturally. It depends on whether I got that type of time or not. Nobody’s really looking for an R&B artist like me until I’m 28, 29 and it’s because I knew so much about the other part of the business. R&B used to be this old Levert shit, hair hanging out the shirt, you know, 40-year-old shit my mom usually like.
XXL: Two stepping.
The-Dream: Right, two stepping. She’s like, “That muthafucka’s smooth!” Now, the shit is switched up. Now, everybody like the young-acting muthafuckas. So it just depends on how much time and how many albums that I can even fit. In Kelly’s case, he started out with the group so he had been on for so long. I may not be able to do it so many years. I may only have like one or two more albums that I really wanna do and then just let it go.
XXL: Do you have a favorite R. Kelly song?
The-Dream: My favorite R. Kelly joint would probably be… you know what, my favorite record is probably [starts singing “I Wish”]
XXL: I think your attention to melody is what makes you unique. I feel like it’s definitely one of your—
The-Dream: Strong points.
XXL: Yeah. But do you feel like maybe you get flack for your voice?
The-Dream: No, that’s funny because most of the times records where I’m really singing I choose to take them off the album. There’s two of ’em—“You Ain’t Shit and “Nothing But Love” is the other one. That’s the one that Mary wants.
XXL: How are guys like you and Ne-Yo able to write so well from the female perspective?
The-Dream: I think it has a lot to do with my relationship with my mom, who passed in ’92 from cancer. I think me losing her made me try to just understand more about the opposite sex, you know. So I think a lot of my songs come from some type of place where, I get what you saying, I hear you, you need this, you need a guy that does this, that and that, and try to keep it in my mind, not even as just songwriting, but as a real thing in life. And actually be thoughtful, compassionate and show a certain type of emotion and understand that that’s not a weakness.
XXL: How was your parents’ relationship?
The-Dream: My father, I only met him three times in my life. My mom, I just recently found out she was married. I didn’t know she was married to this guy that I just considered her boyfriend all the time. That’s probably because my grandfather didn’t put that much into it, so I didn’t have the father figure. It’s more so my mom and my grandfather and their relationship was he would tell her stuff and she wouldn’t believe it and then it’d happen to her and she’d call crying.
XXL: What things do you think you teach men, if anything, in your music?
The-Dream: Nothing yet. It’s all a big trick. I’m teaching opinion, in that it’s okay to love from a man’s perspective. I think those are the basics but as far as what I think about relationships or even to be able to talk in this particular way… It’s kinda like somebody gets to see the whole thing instead of y’all getting these shallow ass answers and shit. I remember reading shit from people and I’m just like, you can’t be thinking like that right now. You can’t not have no political point of view whatsoever.-Clover Hope