Considering his roots and upbringing, it is no wonder that Eric Bellinger has become an R&B sensation. An LA native and grandson of Jackson 5 hit songwriter, Bobby Day, Bellinger has been engulfed with music his entire life. His love for music drove his decision to turn down a football scholarship at USC to pursue his real passion. Bellinger began his musical journey recording and touring with the R&B group, AKNU (A Kind Never Understood) and soon signed to Epic Records by legendary executives, Max Gousse and Tommy Motola. His natural talent for songwriting became apparent and he returned home to hone his abilities under the guidance of his childhood friend and mentor, Erika Nuri of “The Writing Camp.” After signing a publishing deal with Sony ATV, Bellinger hit the ground sprinting with stellar contributions to major R&B and pop artists such as Chris Brown (“Fine China,” “Love More” featuring Nicki Minaj), Usher (“Let Me See” featuring Rick Ross), Selena Gomez (“Intuition”) and Justin Bieber (“Right Here” featuring Drake) to name a few. Bellinger’s music continues to gain prestige through illustrious awards from ASCAP (“Lemme See”), BMI (“Lemme See”), iTunes (“Lemme See” 2012 Song of the Year) and the coveted Grammy’s (for multiple contributions to Chris Brown’s ‘Fame’ album, voted “Best R&B Album” in 2012).
Looking at the album cover, you can see the Ready Player One inspiration. What role did that movie play in the process of making this album?
Ready Player One is my favorite movie, man. I play it in the studio on repeat when I’m recording. I just have that joint on silent, you know, just to give me the visuals while I was creating. We were just thinking outside the box, trying to think in the future. So I decided to release the whole album in virtual reality on top of the regular streaming way. I just thought it would be so dope to just take advantage of that since no one was really paying attention to that.
How are you incorporating virtual reality into this album?
What I basically did was create a digital world for people to watch as they’re listening to the music. I just wanted to do something to take people away from their cell phones and social media. I feel like all that is a distraction and once you put those VR goggles on you can’t see or do anything. You just have to really focus on what’s going on in front of you. People are not only getting the music to listen to but they’re also getting the visual aspect of it.
How did you come up with the formula of releasing two discs for The Rebirth series?
I came up with the formula during the creation of the first one. When I put that out five years ago I was doing so many albums and different things. I had four years of music that I wanted people to hear but I also had so many new fans that had absolutely no idea what I had been doing in those four years. We can bring people up to speed and the older fans will have a dope playlist that they can go back to.
What were some of the changes you had to make on The Rebirth 2 to really have it stand on its own?
I know I needed to get some features and I needed it to go crazy because as an artist nowadays, the past, maybe five major artists that have been broken like a Kendrick Lamar or Big Sean, these guys have co-signs that are very substantial to their career. Even Drake with Lil’ Wayne. For me, I don’t have a co-sign and I’m not signed to anyone, I’m signed to myself. I knew features were somewhat of a co-sign as well. Maybe I don’t have the co-signs I wish I could have but these cats actually jumping on songs with me is giving me the approval of their fans.
You touch on a lot of topics that revolve around love and relationships on this project. Where or even how do you find your source of inspiration to write about these similar records in so many different ways?
I like to call myself the human thesaurus, bro. For me, every song that you’ve heard on my album, Usher’s album, Chris Brown’s album, Alanis Morissette’s album, anybody, really, we’re talking about love, heartbreak, I love you, I hate you, I miss you—it’s the same exact storyline every time. But it’s about how can you say it in a way that we’ve never heard it. For me, it was like I needed to put something together that will make people want to make it a daily listen rather than feeling like they’ve heard it already.
You have worked with the likes of 2 Chainz, Ty Dolla $ign, Justin Bieber, Wale, Usher, and more. Who has been your favorite artist to work with those far and why?
I learn something from everyone I’ve worked with. Some sessions taught me what to do and some taught me what not to do. I think the Justin Bieber sessions were super cool. Watching him work was crazy. He’s so talented and fearless in that booth! One time when we were working he took a table in the booth and angled the mic against the table. I was like “aye bro… what you doin?” He told the engineer to hit record and he started making a beat on the table like we were in junior high eating lunch in the Cafeteria at recess… We ended up using that part as a breakdown in the song. It showed me that you can really do whatever you feel on these songs. There are really no rules!
You’ve been always been one for a looser, more-fun R&B, while remaining relatable. Is that an aim for you or is it just part of your personality?
I’m always smiling, just ear-to-ear positive, optimistic. And it comes off in the music. My actual life is really the happy life. I got a son who is 3 years old. He keeps the house full of energy. And my wife takes care of me. Writing and being behind the scenes set me up to where my finances is straight. I’m not a struggling artist even though I’m independent. I can create comfortably. Not having to answer to no label allows me to be the creative I am, without having to get approval from people who don’t necessarily see my vision.
What do you feel today’s R&B is missing?
It’s missing its swag. I feel like everything is corny. I feel like R&B songs are too R&B—-they’re too pretty with these soft ass beats and soft ass lyrics. With rap, it’s hard to make a catchy rap song but I feel like the rap songs are much more edgier and harder that people rather listen to rap. People are not going to want to listen to that corny R&B song that whoever put out. When people play me beats that are too R&B I tell them to play me something harder.
Speaking of Jacquees calling himself the king of R&B, what do you think a person needs to do to really be the king of R&B?
Decades. Decades of success and hit records, like give me a top 10 record maybe for yourself and somebody else. I also think consistency. With Jacquees saying that, it was interesting because R&B isn’t really about that. R&B cats won’t promote they’re the best like rappers do. It was interesting for him to say it because it really got the whole game in an uproar. Now we’re checking your receipts. But when you come over here and you doing the covers and shit, it’s like come on you can’t say you’re the king. I feel you stirring shit up and stirring up the pot because that’s the day and age we live in. The trolling and the 6ix9ine/Soulja Boy antics is what gets the people riled up. I’m independent, written for myself and others since 2010, everything I’ve been doing I can say I’m the king. But I just feel like being the self-proclaimed king isn’t a real title. I want to be the people’s champ, I want people to say it not me.
You’ve achieved a lot as a songwriter and producer already. As you continue to make your strides as an artist what are some of the goals you want to achieve in 2019?
I would love to have like three top 10 songs. Give me like a number one song on the Billboard Hot 100, not the urban side either. I want to get my acting started. I already did a movie and I got a TV show that I wrote. I got a book that I started and I also have artists that I’m trying to develop with the label. With me doing this for so long, I do feel like I’m ready for so many other ventures. I think this year I’ll be balancing myself while focusing a lot on the music because now is when people are really getting it and paying attention.