Cheri Dennis: Finding Her Way

Cheri Dennis has finally emerged out of the background and into the spotlight, all with a song title as simple as “I Love You.” When the Bad Boy singer signed her deal back in 2001, she didn't anticipate five years of playing the background before her own single would come out, but patience has been a virtue. Now referred to as the “goddess” of Bad Boy, this Cleveland, Ohio-native is leading the comeback for the legendary label.

In recent years, there's been some drama between Bad Boy artists (the Lox, Mase, etc.) and Puffy. Does that make you suspicious about your business dealings with him?
You always have to be aware and ask questions. I really don't let other people's situations dictate my future. I am only concerned about my situation, and I can't speak about any of theirs. For me, I'm concerned about me. You have to know your business from the jump to begin with. I'm always cautious and I'm always asking questions.

How did you link up with Diddy?
A friend of a friend actually invited Puffy to a Valentine's Day party. Getting my deal was easy. It's getting to the point we're at now; that's been my struggle. For me, it was getting it to this point.

When did you actually get signed, and why did it take so long to come out?
2001. Well, it wasn't always an artistic thing for me. A lot of times, I had to deal with the circumstances around the label. I've always been [doing] background [singing].

What songs have you been featured on?
“So Complete” and “We Invented the Remix” are a couple.

And your album, which comes out in October, is there a title for it yet?
We actually don't have a title for the album. So at the end of the day, it will be self-titled.

Who are some of the artists that have inspired you in your career?
Well, you know I love Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Prince. I have such an eclectic ear. I don't get star struck, not into artists, just love music.

What producers did you work with so far for this album?
Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, a lot of producers. Yogi, EZ Elpee, a lot of stuff going on.

Out of all of them, who would you say you have the most chemistry with?
Yogi and I work really well together. He has two or three [tracks].

Who haven't you yet worked with that you'd like to work with in the future?
Andre 3000, Kanye West, Pharrell, Prince, oh gosh, T.I. I love music, so I'm willing to work with anyone if I feel like they're creative and talented. Art is about expression. I'm willing to work with anyone who is creative and into their art.

Speaking of creativity, you write your own music, don't you?
I am songwriter. I have written songs with other Bad Boy writers. I don't have an issue singing songs that I didn't write, because I can't just sing a record just for the sake of it. The record has to be a reflection of my personality. When I hear a track, however it makes me feel, that's how I feel. If I hear it, and it sounds like a club record, then it becomes a club record.

What inspires you to write?
My writing comes from the music that I want to hear. Everyday life is where I pull my lyrics from.

With the success of your single, what's the next step for you?
The next step is to keep pushing this record, and drop a second single.

What's been the hardest part of your career thus far?
The hardest part of my career is understanding that this is business. This is business and, you know, when you first get into the industry, you think it's about being glamorous and the music—that's a small part of what it is. Sometimes the business of music can take the fun and the artistry out of the music.

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