Mariah sat down with VJ Sway and talked about "The Emancipation of Mimi" album and
her collaborations with Jermaine Dupri for a pre-Grammy interview on MTV Overdrive.
Mariah also talked about the "Butterfly" album and described it as "ahead of its
time", her songs "Breakdown", "The Beautiful Ones" and "Babydoll" as some of her
"favorite little gems" and "Underneath The Stars" as one of her best writings both
lyrically and melodically.|
Sway: First and foremost, congratulations on your Grammy nominations, including
album of the year.
Mariah: Thank you.
Sway: I know "The Emancipation of Mimi" - this has to be very gratifying for
Mariah: It's incredibly gratifying and I think we've spoken a couple times
throughout this project and it's just been one incredible blessing after another. So
Sway: You and Jermaine Dupri - this is like an award winning tandem, the two
of you. Every time you guys come together, you always produce hits. At what point did
you decide to work with Jermaine on this album?
Mariah: I always want to work with Jermaine. I've worked with Jermaine on every
actual album that I've done, but this time around he was really busy with Usher in the
beginning of the recording process of the word. It wasn't that I called and he was
like, "Oh I'm busy with Usher." No, he was just out winning awards with Usher and I was
just like, "Let me do other things" and whatever. Then I saw him in Mexico, played him
some of what I had. He had certain favorites, one of which didn't even make it onto
the album. We were planning on working together, and finally I was fifteen songs deep
into the record and both L.A. Reid and Benny Medina were like, "Why haven't you and JD
gotten together yet?" I was just like, "I don't know. Maybe he's busy". I called him
and he's like, "Come down tomorrow." So I came down there, my usual two or three in the
morning arrival. They were like, "Thanks", because typically they're going out to the
club at that time. So we worked until six or seven in the morning and I think the first
one we did - we did "It's Like That" and "Shake It Off".
Jermaine: I wasn't even part of her record at first. It was just something that
L.A. was determined to do. He's like, "Yo, you just gotta go." He tells me one of his
favorite records is one of the records that I did which was "Always Be My Baby" a long
time ago. That's one of his favorites and he was like, "One of the biggest records you
ever made was with Jermaine and he's not on this record." So he sent her to Atlanta and
we got in the studio. The first record we made was "Shake It Off". I think that was the
first record we made. Then the second record we made was "Get Your Number". That was the
second record. Then she went back home and played those songs and L.A. was like, "Y'all
seem like y'all got something."
Mariah: Nobody could tell me that "Shake It Off" wasn't going to be my first
single and my favorite song. All my friends were like, "You've got to put that song out
first," just from the demo. I was like, "I know. I love it. I don't know what to do." So
then L.A. was like, "You guys should go back down there. Go back to Atlanta and do one
more just to see what happens because you make magic together."
Jermaine: When I went in the studio that was my whole thing just like, "Mariah
let's make records that remind me of the records that I used to hear before I even
worked with you." I had to give her a piece of me and at the same time she gave me a
piece of her and we collaborated together. It became something that's unbreakable at
this point. We belong together.
Sway: Okay, let's talk about "It's Like That". I want to understand where you
come up with some of these lyrics because they're some of the catchiest lyrics and when
you listen to them you go, "Wait a minute. What made her think of 'them girls are ash
and I'm lotion'"?
Mariah: It actually says, "them chickens is ash and I'm lotion". We were sitting
around basically having jokes. I put so much time and effort into my lyrics usually and
usually I'm alone on a beach just writing and scribbling things out and going over and
over, but when I do get with people that I like to work with and collaborate lyrically
with it's cool particularly when it's from the school of people that do rap music as
well because obviously I'm a big hip-hop fan. Also it's a different perspective and a
different take on things. So I was sitting there and we're just joking around and Johnta
Austin who also worked on the song with us - I think everybody else had passed out at
that point - and we were sitting there on the beanbag chairs because Jermaine has these
beanbag chairs in the studio. We're like making up stupid stuff just to entertain
ourselves at this point. Then Jermaine came back in the room and we're all sitting
there going something about ash and lotion. I don't even know how it happened, but it
was like, okay here's the rational. We're not calling somebody ashy. We're actually
saying, "You are ash and we're lotion." So basically, you are the antithesis of us.
Basically I'm talking to the guy like, "Them chickens is ash and I'm lotion. You need
to get rid of them and I'm the antidote." It's just to make the girls going out to the
club that night feel good. I look at it as a feel good lyric, like you're getting ready
to go out, you're in the mirror. You don't know about this because you're not a girl.
Guys just get dressed and go. Girls, we take time. We put on the music we want to listen
to. We get the make-up together. We're in the mirror like, "Them chickens is ash and I'm
lotion" getting ready to go out. I was like, "We need to inspire the girls." You know
what? Never did I think after all these years of writing songs and being like, "No, I
can't say that. No. No," that "Them chickens is ash and I'm lotion" is going to be the
Grammy nominated song.
Sway: That's great though. However you can get it.
Mariah: You know what? It's fun though because it's like the real me having a
good time and that's what's really cool about it.
Sway: The Calgon lyric. What is it?
Mariah: JD. It's, "just like the Calgon commercial." He was saying, "I gotta get
away" and I was like, "I like that, but I think maybe we could come up with something a
little more specific. So we went back and forth and came up with "I gotta shake it off"
and so many people are telling me that's their favorite song because they can apply it
to a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a life situation, a job, whatever. You've got to just
shake everything off. So when was saying, "I gotta get away", I guess that probably
inspired the Calgon "take me away" thought to come into his mind. Bow Wow was in the
other room. I was like, "JD, people don't know Calgon 'take me away'. That's from like
1901. Don't nobody know that anymore." He was like, "Yes they do. We goin' bring it back"
and I was like, "Alright, we'll see." So I went in the other room and I'm like, "Bow
Wow, do you know something called Calgon 'take me away'?" He was like, "I know it from
Snoop" because Snoop used it in a song. So I was like, "Alright, Bow Wow knows it.
Sway: He knew what it was? Bow Wow knew what it was?
Mariah: He didn't know what it actually was. He just knew that Snoop used it.
Jermaine: "Shake It Off" was called something else. I can't remember what the
song was when we first started making the record, but it wasn't "Shake It Off". It was
something else and it had something to do with, "I gotta get away from this situation."
Even though that's what "Shake It Off" means, "I gotta let it go. Get away from me." It
was something closer to meaning "get away". The only thing I could think of with the
"get away" type of thing at that point was Calgon "take me away". I thought it explained
best "to get away", but I think when I said it I was showing my age too because the
Calgon commercial ain't been on in the last ten years or something. So she was like,
"Calgon? Nah!" She wasn't with the Calgon line. Then she was like, "It's too old. Don't
nobody say Calgon no more." Maybe it was vintage, but I think it was a vintage line that
became something where people were like, "What is Calgon?" Bow Wow didn't know what
Calgon was. She asked him. He said he thought Snoop said something about it before, but
I think he was thinking about Calvin. The younger generation, they ain't understand what
Sway: So finally, in your opinion, in comparison to your previous albums, what
separates The Emancipation of Mimi from those and why do you feel like it resonated so
well with radio and the audience and now the Grammy's?
Mariah: I feel like timing is really everything in a lot of ways. I do feel like
I had to go through some struggles and learn some lessons and be publicly stepped on to
be embraced in a lot of ways because that's just human nature. If I had to rate my own
stuff, I definitely still love Butterfly as an album. I think not to be like, "Whoa! I'm
so ahead of my time" but perhaps it was a little ahead of it's time because songs like
"Breakdown" and songs even like, I did a duet with Dru Hill on that record of a remake
"The Beautiful Ones", and "Babydoll" is still one of my favorites. I was playing it the
other day when I was getting ready and Tasha who was doing my hair said, "Oh is this
something new? Are you putting this out?" I'm like, "No. This is from Butterfly, but
they never released it." A lot of those songs that are my favorite little gems never
got put out. Even on an album as big as Daydream, I was still under the control of a
huge conglomerate that didn't want me to go to urban. So even after three huge hits,
"Fantasy" which the pop people were only allowed to know it was a pop song. They didn't
know the O.D.B. version. Now everybody knows that because...
Sway: That was the version!
Mariah: Right, but to the suits that wasn't the version. Then "One Sweet Day"
and "Always Be My Baby" - still they made me put out a real straightforward ballad
and I wrote it. I know how to do that, but I wanted a song called "Underneath The Stars"
which to me is some of my best writing lyrically, melodically, and in every way, and it
was never released. So I think that this time around, the great thing is the songs that
I love were allowed to be released. The people that I'm dealing with - everybody at the
label - is so supportive of me being me and I think the fact that L.A. Reid came was
really a godsend because he didn't try to put me in a box that I don't belong in. He
didn't try to say, "Let's try to capitalize on what - people think this or people think
that." He was just like, "You make great records and I love what you do" and I was like,
"Hi. I love what you do and you've inspired me to be the writer and artist that I am."
It was such a blessing to have someone there who understands and gets it. So for the
first time it was like, "Let's just do you."
Sway: All the ducks were lined up and here we are.
Mariah: Here we are and it's a blessing. Truthfully I believe that it's about
faith. Above and beyond everything, it's about never losing sight of the fact that God
put you through everything you go through for a reason and if you don't lose faith
through all that, you make it through and all your blessings will be even more abundant
than ever before.
Sway: Thank you very much.
Mariah: Thank you.
Sway: Alright. Good luck at the Grammy's. See you there.
Mariah: Thank you. Okay. Alright dahhhling.
Sway: Very well. Glad we did this.
Mariah: Yes I am. I'm sorry it was such a drama with the clothes.