Leon Thomas has by no means been too distant from the highlight. His early days have been spent closely within the performing world as he frolicked on Broadway earlier than shifting to a giant function on Nickelodeon’s Victorious. Each experiences gave Thomas the motivation to pursue a profession in music, and after Victorious got here to an finish, that’s precisely what he did. Through the years, he’s written for the likes of Ariana Grande, Rick Ross, Kehlani, Submit Malone, and Drake.
Whereas his skills as a songwriter and producer are simple, so are his as a singer himself. Again in 2018, Thomas launched his debut EP Genesis, which was spotlighted by “Favourite” with Buddy and “Beg” with Elle Varner. 4 years later, Thomas is able to share new and unheard tales about himself with the world by his upcoming debut album. This mission will even be launched below a brand new imprint as Thomas not too long ago signed a take care of Ty Dolla Signal’s EZMNY Information imprint.
Contemporary off the music video launch for “Love Jones” with Ty Dolla Signal, Uproxx spoke with Thomas about his new releases, his upcoming album, the state of R&B, and extra.
What would you say your identification and even influences are on the subject of you being an total entertainer and artistic?
Music is a large a part of my basis. A lot of the roles that I’ve been featured in over time, from a child till now, have had facets of music woven into them in very actual methods. Beginning on Broadway actually taught me my work ethic. No one’s actually babying you on Broadway, you gotta present up, get it completed, hit these rehearsals, and carry out each night time for everyone who’s paying these actually costly tickets to sit down in and escape into this world. In order that’s an actual huge a part of my basis. Exhibiting up ready, I feel preparation is a large a part of all of it.
My household, they’re additionally very concerned in music. My mother and my stepdad had a band that carried out and opened up for folks like Chaka Khan and [other] actually huge artists. My stepdad used to play for BB King, Salt N Pepa, [and] Missy Elliott. I simply really feel like rising up round superb musicians has at all times helped me fall in love with music from the facet of people that actually frolicked perfecting their craft and coming by with a novel capability.
You launched “X-Rated” with Benny The Butcher, your first solo music in a number of years, again in Might. What made it the proper time to get again into the swing of issues and why that music to begin?
At the start, “X-Rated” lives in such a really particular place that’s actually solely attributed to my music proper now and the following album that I’m about to launch. I feel seeing what Griselda was doing was tremendous inspiring. I’m from New York, I really feel like culturally while you’re being reintroduced to an artist or launched to an artist for the primary time, it’s actually essential to form of perceive culturally the place they’re from. “X-Rated” to me had loads of that boom-bap hooked up to it, and including in Benny The Butcher actually, actually took it over to the highest into that ’90s and nostalgic place. I needed to actually pinpoint that because the by line for what we have been doing sound-wise for the remainder of the album.
That course you’re speaking about continues with “Love Jones” that includes Ty Dolla Signal. What was the inspiration for that music?
Part of my course of once I’m writing and producing information, is I at all times have a film on within the background. Whereas we have been creating that music, I had Love Jones on. It’s one in all my favourite movies, I like the cinematography, I simply love the vibe of it, it simply feels good. I wasn’t capable of really use the scene that I initially had within the intro, however that intro form of impressed loads of what I used to be doing lyrically. Love Jones is about falling in love with someone who has a ardour, who’s inventive. If you consider the film, Nina and Larenz Tate’s characters each had inventive passions, from him being a poet and her being an incredible photographer, they have been capable of fall in love in a number of methods without delay. That’s an expertise that I’ve additionally gone by personally residing in California. Everyone’s obtained a dream and so they’re chasing one thing greater than only a white picket fence and a household. I really feel like generally you possibly can fall in love with someone’s ardour for the artwork simply as a lot as you possibly can fall in love with their bodily and emotional attributes. “Love Jones” is all about that.
Each “X-Rated” and “Love Jones” sound a bit extra slowed down and dimmed from the brighter and extra upbeat information we heard on Genesis. What are you able to say concerning the whole course of your subsequent mission?
For me, it was actually essential to place it into music and discover methods to actually doc my story and to provide folks extra of an actual look into my story as a human being. Outdoors of chasing charts, I felt prefer it was essential for folks to lastly get an opportunity to actually have that musical dialog with me and actually get into my head and see a few of the issues that I’ve been going by as a human being. Typically I really feel prefer it’s simpler to inform tales like that tremendous quick, in your face, and doing all sorts of stuff. I additionally co-produced on loads of his music as nicely, simply as I did on Genesis, however I felt prefer it was essential for me to specific that sonically simply as a lot as I did lyrically. There are specific sounds that convey that out of me and we used all of them on this one.
You probably did an interview final fall, and in it, you talked about that you just’re okay with being identified, revered, and heralded by these behind the scenes extra so than wanting all of the flashy materialistic issues from fame. Along with your upcoming releases, how would you outline them being successful in your eyes?
I feel success to me is actually with the ability to genuinely contact the people who genuinely care concerning the music. Clearly, numbers are lovely and we attempt for greatness, however I really feel like genuinely constructing a model, that’s breaking a mildew that’s been used for a really very long time, takes time. I’m personally feeling very affected person and I’m prepared to simply construct this brick by brick. I would like the identical form of love that J. Cole will get from his followers who’re capable of actually trip with him by being true to himself all through every mission that he dropped and launched, no matter what the traits have been doing at the moment. I actually respect him rather a lot. Even once I was within the Bahamas working with Drake, J. Cole was additionally on the market and we had in all probability like a four-hour dialog within the studio simply kicking it. Seeing the way in which that man’s thoughts works simply form of confirmed me loads of the similarities and the locations that I wish to go. At one level in my life, after I completed up all of the work that I’m doing with EZMNY, I might like to have a Dreamville of my very own someday or an EZMNY of my very own someday, that’s the true concept of success.
What’s a collaboration, a loopy coincidence, or something normally out of your life that with out it, you wouldn’t be the artist you’re right this moment?
My mother was doing a present and she or he took me to the rehearsal. A good friend of hers was like, “He’s a charismatic child, he ought to audition for The Lion King.” I at all times take into consideration if I might have mentioned no to that chance as a child. Would I be sitting right here talking to you proper now? I really feel like that was the spark that introduced me by a complete snowball of a profession that I don’t suppose anyone anticipated to be as lengthy and as fruitful because it has been. Even in my grownup years, actually having big giants like Babyface open up their studios to me, like opening up that door and saying, “This big, multimillion-dollar studio is free, and you may simply do your factor, you’re good.” To have entry to a few of the greatest devices on Earth, the perfect tools on Earth to hone in on my abilities, and watch his course of rather a lot with big artists, actually put me ready to create issues for myself that I in all probability wouldn’t have been capable of create as an artist who was reliant on a producer or author to create for me. For the third one, at a sure level, I felt like I had hit a little bit of a glass ceiling. Drake opening up the opportunity for me to work with him as nicely, grew to become this big snowball impact of notoriety and other people noticing what I’m doing in music in several methods.
What artists can we anticipate to listen to you’re employed with within the coming future? And who’s somebody in your bucket checklist that you may’t wait to work it?
I obtained some actually cool report dropping man. I’ve been working with Snoh Aalegra and 6lack rather a lot. I’ve been working with Chloe Bailey, I’ve one thing along with her too, she’s actually superior. We’ll see once they find yourself dropping all of their initiatives, however these are three superb artists that I’ve been capable of faucet in with who’re doing superb issues on the planet of R&B. In hip-hop, I took a little bit of a backseat as a result of I used to be doing loads of stuff in R&B for myself, however I’m actually trying ahead to working with loads of the artists killing it proper now. I really feel like over time, it’s simply gonna all come collectively, it’s gonna work out.
Scroll up to take a look at the brand new “Love Jones” video.