With his third album, “Something Else,” out in stores, and his single “Magic” bubbling up the charts, Star Trak artist and soul singer Robin Thicke takes “The Source” on a musical journey behind the glitz and glamour all in a day. It may have seemed like Robin Thicke came out of nowhere a couple of years ago, but the truth is he’s put in years of work. The Source spent the day with the “Lost Without You” crooner who talked about losing friends because of money drama, being on his own at 17 and all the work he had to put in to get his wife.
ROBIN THICKE: I began with Interscope Records when I was 16, off and on. I was 23 when Andre Harrell–we made my first album together called “The Beautiful World” up at Interscope. Because they spent so much money [on the project], it was critical for it to be an industry success as it was a commercial success. [And] They were having trouble trying to figure out what to do with me next on the label. So after after a long time, finally Pharrell came in and was like, “Hey, what’s up with this kid Robin Thicke? What are you doing to him?” He’s crazy, ya know. He just asked Jimmy Iovine about me and Iovine said [to me later], “Come on in, Pharrell and I wanted to sit with you, talk to you.” So I came in. I played “Lost Without You” and for Pharrell that was it. He was like, “Forget the rest.”
MC: Uh huh. I don’t know if any of that recorded.
ROBIN THICKE: Haha! ….let me help this kid out. He’s the coolest, ya know, real calm and very intelligent.
MC: Have you heard the N¤E¤R¤D album?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, that shit is bangin’.
ROBIN THICKE: I introduced him a few weeks ago in London.
MC: Oh, word?!
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, yeah it was hot cause they were performing with Kenna and somebody else, and Pharrell–
MC: Another dude who sings!
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, Pharrell, back last year, when I did my show in London, he flew out just to do a song with me. And then I was out there, introducing him and I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ Now I get to introduce Pharrell. It was pretty cool.
MC: This Star Trak [crew] is a pretty eclectic catch.
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah definitely.
MC: You, Kenna, N¤E¤R¤D., well Pharrell, I guess.
ROBIN THICKE: Pharrell represents crossing boundaries and breaking genres. Pharrell is the first Pharrell we haven’t seen. He’s this skateboarding, fashion, producing, writing and singing–like Pharrell was the first of his kind in a way. And I think that he represents things that are original and different you know?
MC: Right. Quite cool. And you’re married, right?
ROBIN THICKE: Yes, I am.
ROBIN THICKE: Very happily.
MC: You’re wife is bad!
ROBIN THICKE: Thank you.
MC: You gotta be like, “Yeahhh, I got her!”
ROBIN THICKE: Well, actually the thing is I worked real hard for that. You can’t get a woman like that unless you put in the work. And I met her when I was 14, so I’ve known her for like–we’ve been living together for 11 years.
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, I worked hard for that one.
MC: How long have you been married?
ROBIN THICKE: Uh, three years.
MC: So, 11 years…
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, 11 years living together, 3 years we’ve been married, yes.
MC: I know a lot of guys that kinda have [the mentality] like, “Okay, well, things are going good. Why change it? Why alter the dynamic we have now?” And on top of that you’re singing and doing your thing, traveling, so what would make you just wanna just lock it down with marriage?
ROBIN THICKE: Oh, well it wasn’t a question of marriage, or locking it down. It was I want this woman. Period. I don’t care what the rules are. Whatever I gotta do, I gotta do to keep this one. I ain’t gonna let her go, and that was it.
ROBIN THICKE: I’ll break all the rules for her.
MC: Nice. So, what’s your kind of art? You’re not supposed to be like singing, and making soul music, ya know, swooning, the women…
ROBIN THICKE: Hahaha!
MC: …With the big, flashy wedding band. It makes a difference!
ROBIN THICKE: The difference is, I think if you were just selling sex, then women might not wanna believe it because it’d be hard for them to picture you sexually if they think about your wife. But, when you’re selling love with your music, everybody can be a part of that ‘cause they can connect that to their life.
ROBIN THICKE: And my music, generally, is always about love.
MC: Have you always been this friendly with people you don’t know? Is that something you picked up from your father?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, I think. When I was young, because my parents were celebrities, when normally in a family the kids are the celebrities–if you go to a barbecue, the kids get the attention; you come for Christmas, all the kids get the attention–you just stand in the corner and all the adults talk to your parents. They don’t talk to you. So, I think that for me, I just wanted to get attention. Straight up.
MC: At least you’re doing it that way.
ROBIN THICKE: I’d go to 7-Eleven on my own with my bike and if I saw some kids, I’d walk right up. I don‘t care what color, where they were from, and be like, “Hey, I’m Robin. What you guys doin’? You wanna play some basketball? Well, what you wanna do? Let’s hang out!” So, I make friends everywhere I go. I always do.
MC: How many friends do you really have based on that decision?
ROBIN THICKE: Six. The seventh one just stole a bunch of money from me. And the eighth one, yeah… mo’ money mo’ problems.
MC: Wait a minute, somebody just ripped you off?
ROBIN THICKE: No, somebody ran up the credit card. The funny thing is that Andre Harrell was like, “Yeah, I lost a good friend,” this and that. And man, when we were back, fools were buying patio furniture. And I said, “Why the fuck you need patio furniture to do a show in Boston?” Ha!
MC: Ha! What the hell does that have anything to do with what we’re talking about?
ROBIN THICKE: It was $10,000 worth of patio furniture! To do a show!
MC: I’m sorry to hear that though, that’s gotta suck.
ROBIN THICKE: What?
MC: Losing a buddy.
ROBIN THICKE: Oh yeah man, it’s really tough. Lost a couple friends… That’s because people wanna be involved more. They wanna be closer to things and you know a lot of times people will say, “Don’t change.” When those things happen, they don’t realize that everyone else is changing too. Everyone else wants tickets, wants that, needs this. My aunt is calling me now every couple of weeks, when she didn’t call me for seven years. You know what I mean? “The kids need this,” “You wanna come to the house?” “You wanna come to my birthday?” “What about the other seven birthdays?” But now, you’re the cool cat in the family and everybody wants to get down.
MC: But you can appreciate that?
ROBIN THICKE: Oh, no, this is the only problem I’ve ever had. I’m not complaining about the problem and I love the accolades and what they bring, but…
MC: ’Cause you made it and they’re proud of you!
ROBIN THICKE: It’s just funny how people can be very pushy. They can’t understand any limitations. It’s all even. If they weren’t there the whole time, then they don’t know when to stop asking for shit. They don’t see the situation, what brought it on. People be asking to be in videos and “All my homies and they girl in the videos,” and this and that and this. Then it’s like “Well, my girl’s pissed off” and I’m like, ‘What! because I didn’t put your girl in the video?’
MC: It’s like that!?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah.
MC: You’re not serious?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, I am, that’s life. [To someone else] Take care man, good to see you… That’s the lifestyle right there man. Everybody wants to get on, everybody wants to get up on something hot. If they can be around it, they gonna try and be around it.
MC: So how do you determine your true friends from these others cats?
ROBIN THICKE: It’s easy ’cause the true friends were always there. These other cats are all like if there’s 10% to be made on something, then it’s 15%. Then “There’s this internet website, if you can just do this for me, and I’m ok.” I love it, but it’s very hard to manage your dignity and still be kind to people all this time. That’s why people like Jay [Jay-Z] just won’t do an interview, won’t do this, ’cause it’s like I have to suck all of that out, so I can still have some dignity and privacy.
MC: Now, you’re the famous singer with the movie star wife…
ROBIN THICKE: I’ll take it!
MC: You gotta trade a couple buddies who want…
ROBIN THICKE: And that’s the thing, things happen for a reason. I would rather lose 15-20 grand now, then a 150 when it was available.
ROBIN THICKE: And it was like that with A Bronx Tale. My man says it always cost you $20 – ’cause he was hounding for $20 back in the day–not to trust that guy again. And that’s another way to think of it. Get rid of a problem, ya know.
ROBIN THICKE: When I did the Steve Harvey show recently, when I took over the morning show, everybody was like, “I want Robin Thicke to take over the show when I go out of town.” [At first, when] I went in there and sat with the other staff, they were just taking calls from people because he syndicates his show all around the country. But, there was this one lady, who had a four-year old child who was autistic and who was coming from speech therapy class. The child was having trouble putting the words together to make sentences and stuff like that; he could say words but had trouble making sentences. And so, the mom had just bought my album ’cause she liked “Lost Without You.” She was saying it was something different ’cause she usually listened to something for the kid, but this time she wanted to play something for herself. So the kid ends up hearing the song, “Can You Believe,” and says, “Can you play that again, one more time?” or whatever. And the mom played it a couple more times and all the sudden the kid ends up saying, ‘Can you believe/when all hope is gone/ when your mother and father can’t keep you safe from harm/ can you believe in yourself?/ Can you ask for forgiveness when nobody else believes/can you believe?’ Saying the words to her mom like that, the mom started to cry. She had to pull over. It was the first time the child had put that many sentences together at one time. So the mother said, “I just want you to know, your music is inspiring to me, and my baby loves you.”
ROBIN THICKE: Another lady said, “I was shot in the head by the man, by the person that I love,” by the father of her kids. She went into a coma and while in a coma, the whole family’s song was “Lost Without You.” Every time they would hear it, they would feel it cause they were lost without their mom and blah, blah, blah. So when she got out of the coma she said [continuing, when she called], “This is the song that made us think of you all the time.” It was like dang.
MC: Of all the interviews…
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah…
MC: It was no, “Hey how’d you get into the music business?”
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah…
MC: Everything was all, “How your music has inspired me…” I mean email after email after email, it was crazy?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, it was.
MC: You have a coach in all this?
ROBIN THICKE: I think the thing was, for me, is that I wrote the songs when I was struggling. I wrote the songs when I was hurting, when I was broke, when I was lonely. So what the song “Lost Without You” was about–being alone, missing the person. “Can you believe,” when it looked like they were not gonna put out the album, they were not gonna give me no money, it was the end of the line and I felt I had no support. My parents couldn’t save me from my pain. My woman, my friends, no one could save me from what I was going through. Just [had to] deal with it and get over it, ya know? So that’s why I think people connect with that.
MC: That’s part of the thing people have a hard time accepting, that you’ve been through all the struggles that you sing about. “Oh his parents… he comes from the family of a rich actor.”
ROBIN THICKE: Well, see that’s the thing – money. People are assuming the money is the only struggle. The inside, the emotional struggle, those are the hardest things to struggle [with]. You can still find a piece of bread and a beer sooner or later, but if you are messed up on the inside, then you’re messed up. It doesn’t matter how much money you got. And for me, I’m really hard on myself. I put myself down a lot, because I had such high expectations for myself that I put on. I mean even 1.5 million sold, and I wasn’t gonna take a break, take a rest. I was not impressed. Even though I was grateful, I gotta show my heart to sell one record. But, that wasn’t the plan I had, to have one good song, or one good album. I had a master plan when I was ten-years old. ’Cause I was the kind of kid that never wanted my dads help. I never wanted anybody’s help, I wanted to make it on my own. As a matter of fact, if I didn’t make it on my own, I wouldn’t have been happy. So when I was seventeen, I moved out the house, had my own apartment, made my own living making music. For my senior year of high school, I didn’t even live at home, and my whole life it has been: “I don’t want a penny, I don’t want a break, from you.” So whatever struggles I went through, I created them. Do you see what I’m saying?
ROBIN THICKE: Just saying, I could have gone to daddy at any time and had him take me under [his wing], but I made sure I didn’t ’cause I wanted to make it on my own. I made sure I did it my way.
MC: What was your first apartment like?
ROBIN THICKE: It was two blocks away (pointing). [And] that’s where I got all my Lean Cuisine meals from.
MC: Oh, Okay.
ROBIN THICKE: And I did my laundry, eating Lean Cuisine meals every night.
MC: What about school?
ROBIN THICKE: I went on home study. I didn’t even go to school the whole senior year. I went to Montclair Prep.
MC: For real?!
ROBIN THICKE: That’s where I went to high school. I was like fourteen or whatever and I came to high school reading like an Essence magazine, and the black kids would look at me and my friends and be like, “You’re reading Essence?” They were looking at me like, “This white boy is crazy!” ’Cause that was 20 years ago, times were different.
MC: For real, 20 years ago?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, 15-20 years ago. No, yeah it was 18 years ago. I got my first couple of interested people in the real business when I was 13 by singing, “Forever My Lady.” ‘So you’re havin’ my baby’… that would get ‘em lean. Cats be like, “Who’s this white boy?”
MC: Does the white thing come up very often?
ROBIN THICKE: Every second, nobody can figure it out. The same way everyone wants to put a color on Barack Obama, they wanna put a color on certain singers, and other artists. And in the era that is spanning out, real fast, it’s too much of an international mix in culture, only small towns are existing on that [non-mixed] plateau. Ya know what I mean? Major cities, are getting over that shit real fast. ’Cause you got your Saudis having dinner with your Chinese, you know money men at the same table with the young, Russian billionaire and across the table is “His Hovie-ness.”
MC: “His Hovie-ness?” That’s a brand new one.
ROBIN THICKE: That’s what I call him. “His Hovie-ness.”
MC: You know they named him King when it went down in Africa…
ROBIN THICKE: Oh yeah?
MC: For real, for real.
ROBIN THICKE: Well, you know he’s the king, the king of a lot of shit.
MC: No, King! They crowned him KING! His official title is King Mohammed Hovie.
ROBIN THICKE: King Mohammed Hovie?
MC: King Mohammed Hovie.
ROBIN THICKE: I like it.
MC: That’s real.
ROBIN THICKE: I’m gonna change my name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. When you’re lucky enough to have some fame, sometimes you’ll be at the clubs and somebody will be around these cats that have jeans and t-shirts on, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m goin to L.A. tomorrow.’ And they’ll be like, “You wanna hop on my plane?” And it’s just like, ‘GEEZ!!’ The funny thing is nowadays, big money–real big money–hide their money. They don’t want you to know [they have it]. They don’t wear that watch and that thing ’cause they’re money is so long, they don’t want you to know how much they have.
MC: You’re pretty low-key with your dress though? Your clothes are fancy, but they’re not “Hey look at me.”
ROBIN THICKE: Well, uh, you now, I wanna get up in the cut and look smooth, you know. I ain’t trying to be the one. I want my music, my spirit to be what people remember, not just my jacket.
MC: Now, you do a wildly impressive, well I guess it’s not that impressive, impression of your father?
ROBIN THICKE: Uh-huh. Well, I obviously have years of well training,
MC: His voice comes flyin’ out your mouth and that kills me! All the sudden I’m watching Growing Pains again!
ROBIN THICKE: [in his father’s voice] ‘Yeahhhh, I’m gonna make my son a big starrrr. You know he needs hits, the way he spends money!’
ROBIN THICKE: Getting these hits! Oh damn! What does my dad say, cause it’s “drops” now, it’s “you drop an album” release it. Ha!
ROBIN THICKE: He’s so super-cool. He’s Mr. Cool. He’s from the ’50s training of “as long as my hair and my tan are right.” Not in a stupid way, but in the Rat Pack [kind of way] of bein cool. Just be cool.
MC: Like the Rat Pack!
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, those are his heroes, the Rat Pack. He’s more of a Dean Martin. ’Cause Dean-o was, “I don’t raise my voice, I don’t get angry. Whatever you show me, I’m gonna turn it into a positive. It was humorous.” The bullet-proof man. He wasn’t the fighter. My dad, as you know, whatever you threw at him, at me, turned it into a joke. He’d be on the Howard Stern show, and if [Stern] started talking about my wife the way he was talking about my dad’s wife, I’d go nuts. He’s like, “Yeah, I’d love to bang her man, what’s it like bangin’ her?” My dad’s like, ‘Well, uh, I have a big appetite and she’s one heck of a cook. Let’s put it that way.’ That’s that old school ’50s shit. You have your one-liners bagged. And they’re ready, no matter what–they play along with it.
MC: What was moms like?
ROBIN THICKE: My mom’s? Umm… she was a starlet in her way, you know, on soap operas and she was real dramatic. She was from the school of Liza Minnelli, so you know my mom was always keeping a good ending. A big ending, you know? My mom’s got a little razz-a-ma-taz. My dad’s more of a good ol’fashioned man. Stand there and rock out, be a man and be smooth with the ladies. My mom was like, “Put on a show! The show must go on!”
MC: Which one do you think you got more of?
ROBIN THICKE: I think both are completely even. She’s more of a dreamer, my mom. She’ll try yoga and she’ll start painting. My dad’s like, [in his dad’s voice] “Haven’t got time to paint.” My dad’s way more of a realist, a realistic type guy, whereas my mom, she dreams. I’m right in the middle like, I know what the hell is going on, but I need to dream and stretch this stratosphere.
MC: You do have a lot of East Coast in you for an L.A. kid.
ROBIN THICKE: I think that’s probably the years and years of Andre Harrell and those guys. Like I spent so much time with Andre Harrrell, Jimmy Love and all the cats from Uptown Records. You just start to get that New York swagger, cause L.A. is more of laidback swagger. New Yorkers are like, “You better have something to say and say it cool, cause this is my muthafuckin’ time.”
MC: Ha! Just the way you said that right now. You could’ve been with the boys right now. You could’ve been in Brooklyn.
ROBIN THICKE: It was Puerto Rican from the Bronx. So fifteen years [of] management [by a] Puerto Rican from the Bronx and ten years of Andre Harrell screaming in my ear, “Yo, that ain’t hot! What is that? Elvis? You Elvis with that? That’s not hot!”
MC: What I really admire about your first album is that all your influences come across on every song.
ROBIN THICKE: That’s what this album is like.
MC: The new one?
ROBIN THICKE: Yeah, here, I’ll play a little bit for you. Jay’s here. I started crying–I walked in on this and I wasn’t prepared. The whole family was there and I’m thinking. I’m walking into a Pharrell birthday and they’re holding my plaque, and I’m like, “WHOA!! Crazy.”
MC: Like how you watch athletes do that? Ice all over the body [to calm the nerves]?
ROBIN THICKE: Oh, I used to have to sit in ice. This is the best place: put it on the back of your neck, cools you down the fastest. That’s what you gotta do for the videos, cause you gotta keep doing takes, keep dancing. So you put a little ice on the back of your neck, that’s where the nerve endings are.
ROBIN THICKE: They got the Ku Klux Klan up on YouTube saying, “Vote for Obama, anything’s better than Clinton.” They got Hells Angels on 60 Minutes saying, “We’re voting for Obama because we just cant take it anymore. I can’t afford healthcare, my grandmother–I don’t care where you from…
MC: From A-Z, all people want change.
MC (to self): Rob and Company set up outside –the executives– still nothing but jokes, having a cigarette, just being themselves. They just came back from premiering his video, the time it is what time you got: 7:30pm. Back to the van, back to the car to roll out, but before he does that, he’s gonna stop, shake some hands, probably pause for a picture or two, and that’s absolutely nothing for him to do. He’s been doing this all day. Anybody stops by, anybody rolls up, he’s quick to smile, extend a hand and take a picture.
MC (to Robin): Do you ever not take pictures?
ROBIN THICKE: Not really.
MC (to self): Quick call to his wife just to say, “I miss you, I love you, I just finished 106 and Park.”
MC (to self): Eight o’clock, back at Hot 97 to get up with DJ Clue, strollin up rocking the all red shorts, killing it.
MC (to Robin): Sum up your day for me.
ROBIN THICKE: Woke up in the morning, went to the historic Ed Lover Show. Then we went to Hot 97, the king of Hip-Hop in America, so we did this, we did that. Then we go to 106 and Park and we hear that response, we see these people. It really means something to them. And after you put all that together in a day, you realize you’re really living a dream. You didn’t realize how much you were asking for. You know what I mean? Until you started living it, until you’re like damn, “This is really a special thing.” So as you can see, I’m just really thankful. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Who wouldn’t be thankful after a day like that though, is how I think of it. I feel like this is still just the beginning of my musical journey. ’Cause I still feel like there are a lot of people still learning about me, my music and my journey, you know? This week was really that next step in that.