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ED GORDON, host:

In the 1990s, Bobby Valentino was part of the teen vocal group called Mista. It gave us the hit song "Blackberry Molasses." Now he's gone solo with a self-titled album. His single, "Slow Down," has topped the R&B charts. Valentino says classic soulsters such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the Isley Brothers are his inspiration.

Mr. BOBBY VALENTINO: That's some major influence for me because I feel like now a lot of people, specifically R&B, I don't think they go back to your roots. And if you don't know where you come from, you're not going to know where you're going, you know, and I really want to take my album to more what '70s, '80s, you know, when the people were really into their music, their songs told a story.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. VALENTINO: (Singing) Slow down. Never seen anything so lovely. Now turn around and bless me with your beauty. Do it to me.

GORDON: Now the single, "Slow Down"...

Mr. VALENTINO: Right. Right.

GORDON: ...there's been a lot of air play.

Mr. VALENTINO: Right. Right.

GORDON: It is a bonafide hit now.

Mr. VALENTINO: Right. Right.

GORDON: That must be exciting and I know you must have been nervous, too.

Mr. VALENTINO: You know what? Actually on "Slow Down," I knew that it was a hit when I recorded it because when I first heard the track--I'm very musical and I know good music and I think I know hit records.

GORDON: Right. But there's a lot of hits that got left...

Mr. VALENTINO: That got left in...

GORDON: ...in the studio, right?

Mr. VALENTINO: You right. You right. You right. And I was very thankful in that it is a hit, but consistency is the key. I don't want that to be my--you know, a lot of people, `Oh, "Slow Down"--are you very happy?' I'm happy but I don't want it to stop there.

GORDON: What about your collaboration and friendship with Ludacris? We had him on not too long ago and he is branching and growing in...

Mr. VALENTINO: Right.

GORDON: ...his career.

Mr. VALENTINO: Oh, man.

GORDON: It must be exciting for you not only to deal with him musically but to be able to be mentored by him.

Mr. VALENTINO: Oh, man, it's a great thing.

(Soundbite of music)

LUDACRIS: (Singing) That should be the day that could change your life. Let me show you a day without pain is like. Let's toast, come close, baby, I don't bite. Plus, I know you want a man that'll treat you right.

Mr. VALENTINO: I just watch everything he does, you know, as far as his interviewing skills, as far as him being an actor as well as his business deals. Those are just three great things that a black man needs in today's society to really make it. You know, it's not only just doing music. They might not like your music tomorrow. So to have some other things like he does to fall back on are great, and I'm just really just soaking it all in and trying to learn as much as I can.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: Now have you thought about what you want to be and how you want to be seen? I mean, you know, you talk about the '70s. You think about people like Teddy Pendergrass, Jeffrey Osbourne, Peabo Bryson and all of them balladeers...

Mr. VALENTINO: Right.

GORDON: ...and stuck to a great degree a love theme.

Mr. VALENTINO: Right.

GORDON: A lot of your album has a love theme to it.

Mr. VALENTINO: Love theme.

GORDON: Would you like to be known as that or do you want to branch out and be other things?

Mr. VALENTINO: Yes, I want to fall into the same realm as those artists because they've been very successful at what they do and I feel like for me to do, you know, more party-type songs, that's not really me. I'm more of a love kind of guy and that's what I really want to stick to.

GORDON: To hear tracks from Bobby Valentino's debut CD, go to our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. VALENTINO: (Singing) If it's all right. Tonight.

GORDON: That does it for the program today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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