Olivia may be one of the “First Ladies of hip-hop,” but in the span of almost two decades, she’s proven to have one of the most diverse ranges of talent of females in the industry. This week, she debuted her new single, “No Permission,” off her upcoming album, Under Pressure. Olivia sat down with The Source to talk about her upcoming album, film projects, musical and fashion inspirations, and how she manages her mental health.
The Source: What can fans expect different on this album than past albums?
Olivia: They can expect something totally different because the first album that I did was on J Records- and that’s when I first came out, which was when I was like 21 years old. And then on G-Unit, we didn’t do an album. We just did a bunch of singles and features and everything. They can clearly hear how much my sound has evolved.
I’m a big Brandy fan, so you get a lot of those tones and we have similar tones, but I always listened to her harmonies and stuff. One of my first favorite songs that I recorded, she was actually in a session with me because she was married to Bert (Robert ‘Big Bert’ Smith) at the time. She walked in and I was stunned because again, I’m like 22 years old and I’m like, ‘oh my God, Brandy is actually in the session.’
She is really one of my inspirations as far as the R&B side, but everybody knows I love hip-hop, so that’s infused in it as well. I have a lot of different blends in there because I don’t like to stick to one genre, but the album totally follows. You can play every track back to back and you get the same vibe.
The Source: You worked with multiple producers on this album. What do you think each of them brought to the album, in addition to your talents?
Olivia: Well of course everybody brings something different, but I have a particular producer named HV, which stands for high volume. His tracks just catch you when you hear them, like the tracks alone, you can tell those are smashes. So you have to automatically write something that matches the smash that he did. I feel like his tracks make me write even better and I try to make sure that I get producers that can come with the same type of energy, the winning type of mentality in the tracks that I want.
The Source: For sure, setting the bar high. So are there any guest artists on your new album?
Olivia: I’m keeping it a secret. I don’t want it to get out yet until we’re ready for the album [release].
The Source: Ok, so your album is called Under Pressure and May is Mental Health Awareness month. How do you deal with pressure, anxiety, stress, all the things that we all go through?
Olivia: One main thing I try to do since I live in Florida now and we’re close to the beach, I try to take long walks. We go for walks at night too in whichever city or state we’re in. Stuff like that kind of calms you down or relaxes you. I love flowers and sometimes I’ll have flowers in the house. They always bring up your energy. Also, simple things, just like sitting by yourself and with everything off, no TV, no music, just try to relax. You know, it really is the simplest things. It sounds like it’s so hard, but the simple things is what will calm you down and bring down your anxiety.
The Source: Well, you already mentioned Brandy, but who are some other musical artists that have inspired you?
Olivia: Joe is also one of my top favorite male, R&B singers. I had the pleasure of meeting him when I first came out. Also, he was down with my production crew, so he used to teach me his runs and I used to watch him and play the guitar. He’s actually why I tried to start learning to play the guitar. That’s probably why I like Lenny Kravitz. Everybody who knows me knows that I’m a big Lenny fan. My genre is all over the place, but there’s always great music. That’s all that matters- as long as it’s a great artist and they make great music.
The Source: If you could collab with any artist (past present, dead, alive, doesn’t matter), who would it be?
Olivia: One would be obviously Lenny Kravitz and the other one would be Luther Vandross. Some of my fans know this story from when I was signed to J Records. Luther was basically my godfather. He took me on my very first shopping spree when I got signed, he would take me to lunch at the Ivy, like every two weeks. I remember going into the studio with him and he has this long trench coat on with one of those big sweaters. We’re in California and it’s like 80 degrees in the studio and his engineer is sweating and I’m like, “Uncle Lou, why is it so hot in here?” He says, “that’s how I keep my vocals so warm.” And then I started doing it too because I realized that it does open up your vocals so much more. Luther and I used to walk down the street and sing so amazing together and harmonies, and I always wanted to do a record with him if I could.
The Source: In addition to being a talented musical artist, as we all know, you’re also something kind of a fashionista. We’ve seen your Instagram, your nails, and you’ve been featured in several fashion magazines. Who are some of your fashion icons or where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
Olivia: That’s a tough one because I like a lot of different things. Sometimes I like to be a really girly girl and then other times I’m very tomboy. I like color, so if I go for the color types, it’ll probably be Missoni, but if I’m going for like the clean lines and for color, it could be Versace also.
I like simple, but still classic. It’s a plethora of things. It depends on the day or on how you feel like dressing.
In addition to her upcoming album, Olivia also stars in the movie “Better than My Last,” an action-suspense film directed by Shawn Baker that is expected to be released nationwide later this year.
“No Permission” is available on most streaming platforms. More information can be found here: https://unitedmasters.com/m/625daffb4269dc24e93a1165.