When Marcus Cooper was first introduced to the music world, he was known as “Pleasure P,” a member of the emerging R&B group Pretty Ricky. After the release of two gold-selling albums, Bluestars and Red Light Special, Cooper would eventually part ways with the group and pursue a solo career.
Although “Pleasure P” was very popular with female audiences, his ultimate desire was to broaden his fan base with the Introduction of Marcus Cooper, his Swagga Entertainment/Atlantic Records solo debut. This mission was accomplished on two separate occasions, when Mediabase and Nielsen BDS announced that “Boyfriend #2” and “Under” topped the charts of urban and mainstream R&B radio outlets nationwide.
In the midst of the young singer’s preparation for a 36-city trek with R. Kelly, as the opening act of the “Ladies Make Some Noise” Tour, Marcus Cooper managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on his underdog status, his mother’s influence, and the marketing strategy behind “Under.”
Over the past 16 months, you have spent a great deal of time on the road. A few months ago, you were billed as a featured performer on the Young Money Tour with Lil’ Wayne, and now you are serving as an opening act for R. Kelly’s “Ladies Make Some Noise” Tour. In what ways did the Young Money Tour prepare you for your upcoming trek with R. Kelly?
Well, it’s definitely different from doing a club show, you know? And the Young Money Tour just put me into a state of mind where I felt comfortable performing in front of thousands of people.
How did this touring opportunity with R. Kelly come about? Did you receive a direct invitation from Mr. Kelly?
I’ll tell you one thing about Kelly, he does watch the charts. And he isn't going to just tour anybody. So when he opened up his arms and allowed me to be on this tour, I was very happy to be put into this situation. It’s a big deal for me and I'm very thankful to have this kind of opportunity so early into my career.
In some outlets, you have been pegged as being the new bad boy of R&B. As someone who grew up listening to R. Kelly’s music, how do you feel about the title that you have been given?
Well, R. Kelly is the king of R&B. He’s the king and I’m just a bad boy, you know what I mean? I used to get into trouble when I was younger, and I had a different kind of life. But I'm sitting in my own lane. “Kellz” definitely paved the way for a young man like myself, you know, Babyface, Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure, and so many others. I’m just a young guy that’s trying to follow in their footsteps.
Not too long ago, you were on BET’s 106&Park promoting your third single, “Under.” During one segment, you made a comment about how you were trying to solidify yourself as a solo artist and prove that you were more than what people thought you were. What would you like to prove to all the attendants of your upcoming tour?
Well, I just want people to give me time to prove myself. It’s going to take a little bit of time — just like every other artist. Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z, they are mega-stars now, but they used to be in my shoes when they first started out. So I’ve spent the past two years slowly building my name. And if you look at the success I had this past year, things are definitely working out. So, I'm just on that right now.
As you made your transition into a solo artist, what particular obstacles have you had to overcome?
After my split with Pretty Ricky, I was hearing all kinds of stuff, like “he ain’t got what it takes” and “he ain’t cut out for it.” So I’m the underdog. And to their surprise, I was able to overcome a lot of the B.S. A lot of people are just now buying my album, so a lot of people slept on me. Now, people are telling me that I have one of the best R&B albums of the year. It wasn’t always like that though. My motto has been “We’re going to turn them into believers.” And that’s what me and my team have been doing. I want people to know that I’m out here doing my thing and making the songs that people like, because I have something to prove to myself and everybody out there.
I must admit that I was very surprised by your album, and I would agree with you that it is one of the best R&B albums this year, especially from the crop of male artists. I am still disappointed that you didn’t release “I’m a Beast” as a single [laughing]. That was my favorite track.
You know, at first I wanted it to be a single, but then we thought about it: “Do we want to put a song that's like everybody else, an up-tempo, club kind of song?” So we looked at Craig Kallman, [executive producer of the Introduction of Marcus Cooper], he's a genius when it comes to this kind of stuff. He said, "Let's go for something slow. A ballad lasts longer. And we need to solidify you as the man that makes the sexiest music out right now."
A lot of people are just following trends. When you turn on the radio, this person sounds like that person, and that person sounds like this person. Everyone has the same kind of vibe, and ten years from now, you won't even remember their songs. I don’t want to become dependent upon trends. I’m trying to be like Keith Sweat and “make it last forever.” If you play some of Keith Sweat’s music now, man, people will still go crazy. The same goes for R. Kelly. So I’m trying to follow in their footsteps but in my time. The ladies are loving “Under!” Name one other song like that on the radio right now?
Hmm. I can’t.
You understand? That's why we went with that track.
Since the name of your current tour is “Ladies Make Some Noise,” I’m curious to know which song you think the ladies make the most noise on?
All of them! I got hits, man! [laughing] The ladies always show me love, even when I do my Pretty Ricky songs.
Is there a particular song that you look forward to performing?
My favorite song is "Dream in the Air." That definitely has a special effect on me. I haven’t had the opportunity to perform it yet, but I will, when the right opportunity comes up with the right place and the right time. It’s such a meaningful song. It has the perfect lyrics, and the vibe is just right, and I like the way it motivates me to maintain a positive outlook for my kid's life.
It’s hard to believe how quickly time flies by. As I was preparing for this interview and reviewing the release dates of your singles, I had forgotten that your first single, "Did You Wrong," was released back in June 2008!
Yeah, man! "Did You Wrong" has been around for a minute. That was actually a single that I put out independently. From there, Atlantic Records took over the single and turned it into a Top 15 hit. Then of course, my other singles followed: "Boyfriend #2," a No. 1 urban single, and "Under" which was also a No. 1 urban single.
When you look back on the early years, long before Pretty Ricky, at what point did you realize that you wanted to be a singer?
Oh, man, ever since I was a little boy. At four years old, I used to dancing and stuff. And my older brother and I, we used to rap like we were Kris Cross [laughing]. We used to be Kris Cross in talent shows and rock our cross-colors and backwards overalls and stuff like that [laughing]. And with some of the other elementary school boys, we used to get together and pretend we were Another Bad Creation and just rap on the playground. And it just went from that to me seeing Marques Houston and the other fellas from Immature.
That’s when I really started singing. I used to sing “I Would Never Lie.” And my uncle heard me singing that song in the shower, and he said, “You can really sing!” And my mom heard me and I ended up singing in a talent show. My mom worked with me and I ended up winning first place. I even took my mom to Red Lobster with the money I won [laughing]. So that’s were my love of music comes from, you know? From then on, I would perform with my mom, because she had a band. And I would perform at festivals and stuff like that, the kind that come around once a year. And then time went on and on and on, until I ended up running into a group called Pretty Ricky.
In addition to singing and songwriting, you are also the co-owner of two companies: Swagga Entertainment, with Bryant McKinnie, and Jean Addicts, with Cuda Love. What updates can you share about these business ventures?
Swagga Entertainment — I just signed my first two artists. One's name was Sonny Mason. He's from Scotland, moved to London, ended up moving next door in T.I.’s old house in Los Angeles. His music is a mixture of pop, funk and soul. It’s crazy, and he's really something different, so look out for him and his first single, "I'm a Bad Boy." I also have Al B. Sure, Jr. coming out soon. So we’re about to change the game up.
Jean Addicts — I stopped working on jeans for a while. For now, I just want to focus on the music side. But January's coming around the corner, and I'll be back 100 percent on my clothing line. So lately, I've just been going through different looks and designs. We definitely have some plans for the future.
As you explored additional options on the entertainment side, did you have any mentors that helped guide you along the way?
My mentor was my mentality. He helps me through everything! [laughing] But Keith Sweat, that's my real mentor. He taught me a lot. Static Major, too. He definitely taught me a lot about the business. Bryant McKinnie’s a good dude as well.
Between Keith Sweat, Static Major, and Bryant McKinnie, what's the best advice that they've given you?
The best advice they gave me is to stay humble. If you have a good heart, then you’ll make good decisions, because you don’t let your mind get carried away or let your head blow up. That's the most important thing that they told me, and that helps me make the decisions that I'm making, do the things that I do and carry myself the way I carry myself. So it's not about what's in my head. It's about what's in my heart.
For more information on Marcus “Pleasure P” Cooper, visit his official website.