With the nation cringing at the news that Donald Trump won the presidential election this week, Eric Bellinger is here to offer his leadership in the midst of turmoil. Not in the Yeezy 2020 way, but the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter wants to be an example for others through his life and music, including his recently released Eric B For President: Term 1 EP.
“My overall brand is like hey guys, there’s another alternate route. There’s another alternative instead of just popping pills, doing lean, having sex with your girl’s friend,” Bellinger says with a laugh in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX.
As a married man with a son, Eric B For President: Term 1 is full of love and joy. He understands that the typical image of an R&B singer is a single ladies man, but he wants to set the example by saying you can have a committed relationship and still fulfill your dreams.
“At least try!” he says. “It’s like we’re giving up, I feel like the marriage age has gone up so crazy. Like my parents and a lot of my friends’ parents got married when they were so much younger. My mom and dad got married when they were 19, been married 25 years. Now, people are 30 and they’re like, ‘Marriage?’ So it’s like oh my God, where are we headed? I’m a little scared, we’re gonna be grandmas and grandpas with tattooed sleeves then maybe getting married, in Vegas, though, at a chapel. It seems we are in trouble here.”
He says that the lack of commitment and need for instant gratification has seeped into the political climate and was on full display in the presidential race between Trump and Hillary Clinton. The election wasn’t about policies, but about theatrics.
“It’s all about entertainment,” he says. “Now, it’s a little sick to see that it even goes up as high as the presidency, but the people and just everyone, it’s not the same. It’s not the same morals. It’s not the same values that we grew up on. So I think it’s low-key like this is what needs to be done in order to get people’s attention because, I’m saying as far as like all the madness that’s going on because it’s a little bit different. The patience is different, the overall just climate is just crazy. So people are kinda rolling with it and it’s a little scary to me to be honest.”
That’s why Eric B For President: Term 1 came at the perfect time for Bellinger as he seeks to further establish himself as a solo artist beyond being a songwriter for some of the top names in the game. Bellinger fully embraced his Hip Hop inspirations on the project, including Eric B & Rakim after growing up annoyed that people would always joke about the similarities between his name and that of the legendary New York artist.
“Eric B is something that already people would call me and it was an ongoing joke like ‘Where’s Rakim?’ everywhere I go,” he says. “So I went to a studio or something everywhere, that was the ongoing joke, ‘Where’s Rakim? Where’s Rakim?’ so then finally now, I was like, you know what, this might be a cool time to pull out the whole Eric B for President thing with everything that’s going on in the world with Donald and Hillary and the madness and the example that I’m trying to portray because it’s interrelational for the culture. I was like, you know what? I need to be the example. Let’s do Eric B for President. It just kinda all fell into place. It’s kinda like destined to happen.”
He had not heard that Eric B & Rakim were possibly reuniting for a tour, and thought the news was exciting. He admits to being anxious of the duo’s thoughts of his project, but got relief when he learned Eric B respected the tribute.
“When I put out the project, his son reached out to me like ‘My dad is Eric B, I just wanna say I love the project,’” he says. “I was like, oh, that was a surprise. When I first did it, I didn’t know what they were gonna say. I didn’t know if they was mad at me. I didn’t know if they thought I was gonna be trying to steal their little title or whatever, but they knew that I was paying homage, so it was cool.”
Bellinger is using his music to pay it forward to the next generation of artists after him as well. He enlisted Aroc and RJ to give some edge to the project. He grew up going to church with Aroc, who appears on the infectious “G.O.A.T.” in Inglewood, California and now helps guide him in every aspect of his game including writing, beat selection and fashion.
“Aroc has been someone that I really been trying to help get out there because I just believe in him so much,” he says.
RJ grabbed Bellinger’s attention because of his hustle to get his name out in the streets. The singer believed he could take his industry knowledge and help the up-and-comer hone his craft.
“I know what it takes and I felt like RJ had a lot of those instincts of just the work ethic and his determination and his ability to flip flop and switch his style was amazing to me,” Bellinger explains.
Bellinger is especially proud of offering the “Rich” rapper a new lane to show fans his talents on “Remind Her,” which includes a sample of R. Kelly’s “Down Low.”
“When I first hit him, we always been talking about doing a song together, he’s a West Coast artist with those party single-type guys, those turn-up guys,” he says. “I was like, ‘Yo, I think it would be dope if we switched it up on ‘em and we did like an R&B song.’ He was like, ‘I’m down, bro. I’m down, bro, what you got in mind?’ I sent him ‘Remind Her,’ which is R. Kelly flip of ‘Keep It on the Down,’ and it’s like he didn’t even question it. When I first sent it, he was like, ‘Wow.’ He was like, ‘Bro, this is crazy.’ He was like, ‘I’ve been wanting to do some R&B stuff. I’ve been wanting to sing. Listen, let’s do it. I’m ready.’ I didn’t know, when he first heard it, because my part was done, I was like, I don’t know if he’s gonna hear it and do a rap, that happens a lot of times, but he actually went ahead and joined me. And he sounds really, really well on it. I’m glad that I was able to be an instrument in pushing him to try something a little different because I see a lot of consumers and a lot of fans have been commenting and tweeting some things like ‘Wow, that’s dope how RJ switched it up’ and ‘It’s so versatile.’ That’s exactly what we were aiming for.”
The vet is now preparing the release of Eric B For President: Term 2 after soaking in the success of the first drop. Bellinger has been crafting his solo career for a few years now, but believes this new EP has really set him on the map.
“It really did well for me, the first time I had a project go #1 on iTunes and me being an independent artist not signed to a major label, standing for all the things that I stand for, in this time, for me, is something that I was extremely proud of myself,” he elaborates. “No help from a major, no budget, no marketing, nothing but good principles, good music and positive vibes. So Term 2, I’m really excited to put that out. I feel like we’re gonna do it again.”
Term 2, set to drop before the end of the year while political talk is still rampant, will carry the momentum of Term 1. But it will have a different aura of confidence that’s reflected in the complete package from the music to the promotion.
“The second one is just for the relaxed vibes,” he says. “It’s like I won already. This is my second term. You guys want me for a second term, so it’s a paradise vibe. It’s like, ok cool, we’re comfortable now. On the first one, it was Hip Hop, hat backwards, glasses, jean jacket, hoodie, those were all the pictures that I was releasing. But now, the vibe will be much more rico suave, no hat, no glasses, just like I’m here now and I’m gonna embrace my seat in the Oval Office. I can relax. I can unbutton my top button button-down maybe two or three more, show some chest, show some chains, just have a little more fun with it.”
The journey through the industry has not been an easy one for Bellinger, who didn’t even do music until high school. He quit football after receiving a scholarship offer from USC to pursue songwriting.
“I hadn’t thought of doing music my entire life,” he explains. “I was playing football in Pop Warner leagues since I was six years old. So that’s from 6-18, that’s like 12 years of complete football practice, shoulder pads, hitting, doing drills, doing all these things, then when I graduated, it was like I got an offer to be, to go to an audition and I had just hurt my knee. So I think the combination with hurting my knee and going through the process of rehabilitation, mixed with, go to this audition, get a deal on the table, sign to Epic Records and you don’t have to get hit anymore by 200-pound, 300-pound barbarians. I’m gonna go with music.”
He admits that the transition away from football was difficult and, early on in his songwriting career, he did have doubts about if he made the right decision.
But that all changed when he won a Grammy for Best R&B album for his contributions to Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E. And not only did he win a Grammy, but that very night he found himself working with one of his idols who congratulated him on the accomplishment.
“While we were watching the Grammys, I was in the studio with Usher in Atlanta working on his album,” he reveals. “So it was like double confirmation. It was like, boom. It was a celebration in the studio, not just with anybody, but someone who I had looked up to and studied for my entire career, Usher. He’s like, ‘Man, congrats, bro. You ready to do it again? Let’s go?’ So it was like, ok, I’m exactly where I was supposed to be.”
As he’s rising through the ranks, Bellinger is not only working with his inspirations, but he is building relationships with those who are coming up alongside him. One of his truest friends in the industry is Don Benjamin. Even though Don is mostly known as a model, he takes his own music seriously and Bellinger has worked with him on two songs.
“He’s one of my favorite people to work with watching him create, he makes it look so easy,” Don said to HipHopDX in September. “And he’s such a cool person. We both have good sense of humor. It’s fun in the studio. Nobody’s just sitting around, so Eric is my guy.”
Bellinger echoes the sentiments that working with Don is “organic,” especially after the “Jealous” rapper did a photo shoot for Bellinger’s merch without asking for money or a return favor.
“I was like ok, I wanna sell these shirts,” Bellinger says of enlisting Don for their first project together. “It’s really just my logo, EB, how can I try to sell these shirts or get some photos? I was like, Don is the guy for the photos. I saw it all over his IG, I saw it all over the internet, so I was like if you can get Don in your shirts, you win. I feel like I reached out to him when I barely knew him. I was like, ‘Yo, what’s going on man? Love your work, I’m doing a photoshoot for some T-shirts, for some merch.’ He was like, ‘No problem, say no more.’ He pulled up, had my back.”
As Don is expanding beyond the modeling world, Bellinger feels he has done the same thing by breaking free from the behind-the-scenes world of songwriting. He explains that it’s not easy in today’s society to express yourself as a multi-talented artist when so many people are ready to put you in a box.
“I think the time we live in, what people are introduced to you as is what they feel like you should be,” he says. “I look at it like for them, they can’t see themselves be successful at multiple things, being successful at multiple things because they’re struggling to still get one thing off the ground. It was tough for me transitioning from songwriter to say, ‘Hey guys I’m a superstar.’ They were like, you’re a background guy, you’re a behind-the-scenes guy. Why are you trying to get in the front of the stage? Why are you trying to get in the spotlight? I really got a lot of flack. I really got a lot of those people not believing. I had to prove so many people wrong.”
Well, the people are believers now and are flocking towards Eric B For President: Term 1. A quick look at social media shows the buzz that he’s created as fans anticipate more music and he’s working on creating videos that fully match his vision.
“I’m just excited for what’s to come,” he says. “People are just figuring out about Eric Bellinger and I think now’s a good time for them to find out because I’ve really got my thing together.”
Bellinger leaves his fans with a motto that he lives by. He emphasizes you don’t need to be a Grammy-winning recording artist to enjoy what you’re doing. And if you are in this fast-paced industry, you should take these words to heart even more.
“I feel like as songwriters and as artists and as people in the industry, we’re on this crazy grind that we never actually take the time to enjoy life. We’re chasing. We’re chasing the next placement. We’re chasing the next big hit. We’re chasing the next new it thing. And people forget to live. So it’s like that’s one of the biggest ones for me is live.”
“All of my music, everything is love. God is love. Love is a universal language that feels good to everyone. So that’s my vibe.”
“I’m a singer. Everyone sings. Music is the universal language as well as love. Love and music is who doesn’t want those things? Music is the soundtrack to life. Even if you’re not a singer, you still love to sing. Even if you can’t sing, you still love to sing when your favorite song comes on. In the shower, you feel like you’re Beyonce. In the car, you feel like you’re Whitney Houston.”
“Just continue to do those three things, then life will be to me, just a lot more fun.”