You may not know Rico Love by name -- yet. But if you've so much as flipped on a radio playing any kind of hip-hop, R&B, or pop in the last year, you know his music. The 27 - year - old songwriter / composer / arranger / producer is the mastermind behind a host of inescapable recent Top 40 staples, among them Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams," Usher's "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)," and Dirty Money's "Hello Good Morning."
Rather than just being a knob-twiddler, though, Rico he sees himself more like an old-school arranger. Influenced by old greats like Smokey Robinson, he's said his method is to imagine the end result of a finished song, then work backwards and assemble all the required parts.
Though his signature style is still gelling, all his tracks do bear certain hallmarks. They're soulful, but still futuristic-sounding, full of computerized sounds but never touching the synth-heavy cheese clogging up the airwaves.
And if they, by default, wind up in general categories like "R&B," at their core they're essentially genre-less; one can imagine a wide array of artists tackling a robo-disco track like "Sweet Dreams." (One more thing: On pretty much every track, you'll catch the artist, or some disembodied voice in the background, exclaiming, "Turn the lights on!")
As such, Rico's rise to the top of the industry has been pretty swift, even if his path to his spot behind the boards was roundabout. Growing up between New Orleans and Harlem, he first arrived in Florida as a student at FAMU, where he aimed to study journalism (hah!).
Making the wise financial decision to abandon that, he decamped to Atlanta, originally to launch a career as a rapper. It's here that he met Usher, who would convince him to try songwriting, and would become a career-long mentor.
For the past couple years, though, Rico's been based in Miami, working his way up to the industry's official coronation: a regular seat at Hit Factory Studios.
It's also here in Miami where he's basing his new venture, a bona fide record label called Division 1, a subsidiary of Universal Motown. It's the first piece of a multimedia empire he said last year he aims to model after that of Diddy, another mentor. (In the works eventually are a management company for different artists, a fashion line, and more, he told New Times last year.)
The first artist signed to Division 1 is Young Chris, a Philadelphia-based rapper with more of a street swagger than the pop artists who have yielded Rico's biggest hits to date. It should be an interesting match-up.
He should be on hand November 5 here in Miami at Red the Steakhouse, when Rico will celebrate the official Division 1 launch. More exciting than that, though: Usher will also be in the house, of course, as the party's official host.
"Words can't explain how fortunate I feel to be in this position," says Rico, "and what makes it even more surreal is knowing that my big brother/mentor is taking time out to help me celebrate. God's blessings seem to be endless."
Unfortunately for the celebrity stans, the party's invitation only. Work your connections if you got 'em, or just check back here for the photos.
Here's a video in which Rico explains more about Division 1. You can also follow him on Twitter at @IamRicoLove.