The-Dream is not just R&B personified, but one of music’s unsung heroes. Throughout his 12-year career, the singer/songwriter/producer has earned more notoriety for his behind-the-scenes work, such as crafting megahits for superstars like Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Beyoncé, than his own solo offerings. But that’s evolved into more of a gift than a curse for the multi-talented musician, whose fifth studio album, IV Play, experienced delays after a few big-name friends (Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kanye West) enlisted his songwriting and production services for their solo full-lengths—hardly the worst of problems to have. Here, The-Dream speaks on his recent album, his A&R role at Def Jam and working with Pusha T.—Ralph Bristout

On IV Play, it’s clear that you’re focused on restoring a certain feeling back to R&B.
Yeah, it’s just that feeling. It feels like I’m fighting against a machine—I swear. It feels like I’m fighting against a well-oiled machine and I definitely can’t do it without the people that want to feel that way. People have to want to feel like you wanna take your girl out and hold her hand and go post, grab a beer, do whatever y’all do and then take it to the crib after that, but it being all love. But not senseless, not stupid. Just how we used to do it.

You’ve recently been appointed VP of A&R at Def Jam. How is the new venture treating you?
Being an artist is one thing but being an executive is a whole different thing. You know I’ve been in that position, on the Island Def Jam side, for a couple of years. The whole top, executive level was being changed with L.A. [Reid] stepping away to go do X-Factor. Just getting back in the swing of things—and of course I picked up on the Pusha T project (My Name is My Name) and I just took that under my belt and started working on it. Then his stuff started coming out great and we developed great chemistry with that.