Rhythm and blues crooner Bobby Valentino has said that he aims to "bring R&B back to its roots," according to an interview on the Hi5 Web site. After a promising but short-lived start as part of the vocal group Mista in 1996, Valentino returned as a solo artist in 2005. His two albums of smooth neo-soul—2005's Disturbing tha Peace Presents…Bobby Valentino and the 2007 release Special Occasion—both hit Number 1 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. And his two most popular songs, "Slow Down" from 2005 and "Anonymous" from 2007 rose to Number 1 and Number 21, respectively, on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Valentino was signed by rapper Ludacris's Disturbing tha Peace production company in 2003. Described by Ludacris as "a singer trapped in a rapper's body," Valentino is the only R&B singer on the company's roster of rap and hip-hop talent.
Valentino was born Bobby Wilson on February 27, 1980, in Jackson, Mississippi, and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned the "Valentino" nickname because his parents had expected him to be born on Valentine's Day. He was drawn to music at an early age, inspired by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Boyz II Men, Anita Baker, Prince, and Stevie Wonder. Despite his parents' skepticism about the music business, he was determined to pursue a musical career. By his early teens he was on his way: he joined with three other teens—Darryl Allen, Brandon Brown, and Byron Reeder—in the vocal group Mista, which was put together by producer Eric Johnston and former TLC manager Ian Burke. The group's first single, 1996's "Blackberry Molasses," was produced by Organized Noize Productions, a top outfit in the Atlanta R&B and rap scene that had produced records for TLC, En Vogue, and OutKast. A song with smooth, Boyz II Men-style harmonizing, "Blackberry Molasses" rose to Number 13 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and Number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 (the magazine's general pop chart). The group's debut album, Mista, also released in 1996, did not do as well, however. It reached Number 37 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart but only made it to Number 183 on the Hot 200 Albums chart. A second album, recorded with famed producers Tim & Bob, was never released. The group disbanded largely as a result of what Valentino referred to as "management issues" on his Web site. On his MySpace page, Valentino called the group's travails "a learning expe- rience, as it shows how you can be here today and gone tomorrow." He told the All Hip Hop Web site that the experience influenced his decision to enter college: "I felt like this music business is so competitive, so I felt like if it's something you want to do, you definitely have to have something to fall back on." Valentino entered Clark Atlanta University, where he played football and baseball and earned a bachelor's degree in mass communications in 2003. "This was a rough time in my life," Valentino remembered in his MySpace biography. "One day you're on TV, living the life, and the next day you are back to reality. But I didn't give up; my dream was to do music and that's what I did. Every day was the same routine: school in the morning, baseball practice in the evening, and the studio at night."
Valentino recorded a series of demos, and after he left college one of these caught the ear of Ludacris (Chris Bridges), who, with his business partner Chaka Zulu, signed Valentino to their Disturbing tha Peace production company. Valentino's Tim & Bob-produced debut, Disturbing tha Peace Presents…Bobby Valentino, was released in 2005 on the DTP label (distributed by Def Jam Recordings). The album went to Number 1 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and reached Number 3 on the Hot 200 Albums chart, and it included the hit singles "Slow Down" and "Tell Me," which reached Numbers 1 and 13, respectively, on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The album eventually sold more than 800,000 copies, winning a gold record award. It also garnered nominations from the annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Awards for Outstanding New Artist and from the Soul Train Awards for Best Male R&B/Soul Single and Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist. Rolling Stone magazine contributor Bill Werde rated the album 4.5 out of 5 stars and wrote: "Valentino portrays the lovable lothario, an R&B singer you can take home to the family. Just hope your sister isn't his type."
Valentino followed his solo debut success in 2007 with the release of his album entitled Special Occasion. The singer co-wrote most of the tracks and collaborated with a bevy of top producers—Tim & Bob, Timbaland, Dre & Vidal, Delite, Sean Garrett, Brian Cox, and Rodney Jenkins. Valentino described the recording as "a classic R&B album with a Valentino twist," according to his DefJam Web site. It shot to Number 1 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, but the reviews were mixed. Entertainment Weekly critic Simon Vozick-Levinson complained that "his self-assured attitude isn't always enough to sell these songs" and concluded that "The songs…will provide agreeable mood music for a candlelit dinner in a pinch, if nothing else." Billboard reviewer Mariel Concepcion proclaimed, however, that "the crooning on ‘Where You Belong’ and ‘Over and Over’…remind us why we fell in love with Valentino's sound in the first place."
Valentino possessed a deep drive to develop skills that would enable him to enjoy a long life in the music business. Despite his early success as a solo artist, Valentino wrote: "I feel that I haven't done nothing yet. I have just scratched the surface," according to his MySpace page. "I'm going to continue to work hard and grow as an artist and to make music that people will love not only today but twenty years from now." He credited Ludacris as a mentor in the art of sustaining a career, taking note of how the rapper has branched into the business side of music—through Disturbing tha Peace—as well as into acting. Valentino has taken his own tentative steps into "brand extension" by introducing his Bobby V line of jeans for women. As he told National Public Radio's Ed Gordon, "I just watch everything [Ludacris] does, as far as his interviewing skills, as far as him being an actor, as well as his business skills. Those are three great things a black man needs in today's society to really make it. It's not just doing music."
Mista, Elektra, 1996.
Disturbing tha Peace Presents…Bobby Valentino, DTP, 2005.
Special Occasion, DTP, 2007.
At a Glance …
Born Bobby Wilson on February 27, 1980, in Jackson, MS. Education: Clark Atlanta University, BA, mass communications, 2003.
Career: Mista, vocal group, singer, 1996; Disturbing tha Peace label, solo R&B artist, 2005-.
Addresses: Label—Disturbing tha Peace Recording, Atlanta GA 30318. Web—www.bobbyvalentino.com.
Billboard March 26, 2005, p. 30; May 12, 2007, p. 37.
Entertainment Weekly, May 11, 2007, p. 75.
Rolling Stone, June 2, 2005
"About Bobby," MySpace,www.myspace.com/bobbyvalentino (June 20, 2007).
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"Bobby Valentino," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:hjfixq8aldhe (June 19, 2007).
Bobby Valentino,www.justbobby.com/home.html (June 19, 2007).
"Bobby Valentino: A Class of His Own," VIBE,www.vibe.com/news/online_exclusives/2006/08/bobby_valentino_a_class_of_his_own (June 19, 2007).
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"Bobby Valentino: No Slowing Down," Soundslam,www.soundslam.com/articles/interviews/interviews.php?interviews=in050222bobbyv (June 19, 2007).
Bobby Valentino Official Website @ defjam.com,www.defjam.com/site/artist_bio.php?artist_id=580 (June 19, 2007).
"Bobby Valentino: Raising the Bar," All Hip Hop.com,www.allhiphop.com/blogs/alternatives/archive/2005/03/11/18135422.aspx (June 19, 2007).
"Bobby Valentino "Slows Down" for AC," Associated Content,www.associatedcontent.com/article/186694/bobby_valentino_slows_down_for_ac.html (June 19, 2007).
"Conversation with Bobby Valentino," Honey Soul,www.honeysoul.com/wp/?p=608 (June 19, 2007).
"Exclusive Interview: Bobby Valentino," Concrete Loop,http://concreteloop.com/interviews-bobbyv (June 19, 2007).
"Interview with Bobby Valentino by the Rap Hype/Hi5," Hi5,www.hi5.com/friend/profile/displayProfile.do?userid=100825457 (June 20, 2007).
"Mista,"All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=&sql=11:dnfixqqgld0e (June 19, 2007).
"No ‘Slow Down’ for R&B Fave Bobby Valentino," National Public Radio,www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4693956 (June 19, 2007).
"Organized Noize," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:k9fixqlgldkeze). (June 19, 2007).
"Valentino's Day," Cleveland Free Times,www.freetimes.com/stories/15/1/valentinos-day (June 19, 2007).
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