If some of your favorite music artists are Beyonce, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, T.I., Mariah Carey, or Avant, then you’re likely bobbing your head to the dope lyrics of one of the music world’s top hit making and highly sought after songwriting divas, Makeba Riddick. Working with top producers like Rodney Jerkins, Swizz Beats and many music acts alike, Makeba has penned some high energy favorites like “Déjà vu”, “Get Me Bodied” and “Upgrade You” from Beyonce’s sophomore album B’Day. Makeba has also recently made headlines with the co-written smash hit single “Live Your Life” by T.I. featuring Rihanna, which snatched the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart, staying there for several weeks. Not only is Makeba a hit maker here in the U.S., her hotness can be felt abroad in the U.K. and beyond, creating tunes for up and coming international acts. From Baltimore, Maryland where her talent and passion for music was cultivated and nurtured by her grandmother, to the New York City offices of Bad Boy signing big time publishing deals with Sean Combs, Makeba Riddick, self-described as “Girl Wonder” is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
We spoke to Makeba to see just how this lyrical genius has gone from a little humming bird to the full-grown songbird she is today.
Clutch: So Makeba, when did you first fall in love with music?
Makeba: From as far back as I can remember I have always been into music. My family said that before I could even talk, I was singing. When everyone would come over for the holidays, they would put me on the table and I sung little songs. That’s when they recognized that I not only had a talent for music but a passion for it too. I started playing the piano at the age of five, sung in the church choir, attended a performing arts school and performed in arts workshops, showcases and more.
Clutch: I know you must get this question all the time, but I’m sure our Clutchettes want to know what it’s like working with Beyonce.
Makeba: I must honestly say that working with her is like being in the studio with one of my home girls I grew up with or working with a distant cousin. From the moment we first shook hands I knew that it was going to work out well. We always have a ball in the studio.
Clutch: You’re self-described as “Girl Wonder” Why do you call yourself that?
Makeba: That’s something that I called myself back when I finished school and moved to New York City. I was on the grind interning for Columbia Records, temping at Def Jam and going to the studio at night. I just tagged myself as “Girl Wonder” like “Superwoman” because people like my family and friends would say that it’s not humanly possible the way I don’t sleep, always working and still find the time to be creative, write songs and pursue my dreams in the world of music and entertainment. So I gave myself the name “Girl Wonder” around the time I was working with 3LW and B2K.
“I always knew I was going to do something great, and be dope at whatever I set out to do because that’s just how I am. I go hard for everything.”
Clutch: On Beyonce’s latest CD, I Am… Sasha Fierce, there’s a song you co-wrote called “Ave Maria”. I think this song is so beautiful and different from anything I’ve ever heard Beyonce perform. What was the inspiration behind the creation of this song?
Makeba: I used to go to Catholic school and I always heard the song but never knew what it meant. When B (Beyonce), some friends of ours from London and I were hanging out in the studio, one of the girls stated she had come down the aisle on her wedding day to that particular song. The song is over 800 years old and about a girl who knows what it means to lose love and have her heart broken, but thank God, love has now found me, Ave Maria. I was so touched and inspired by this meaning. There are so many people out there waiting for their Ave Maria moment and I thought it could be a powerful song.
Clutch: Are you working with any international acts?
Makeba: I am! I was just in London about a month ago working with a new artist signed to the new Rock Nation label, and he’s a phenomenal alternative artist! People are going to be so surprised because he’s coming out of the Rock Nation camp when you would think that he would be hip-hop or urban. This artist has so much staying power and he’s so different.
Clutch: So you’re not only a songwriter but a musician too. When are you going to start keeping some of these hits for yourself?
Makeba: Lot’s of people ask me that. It’s going to happen when it’s supposed to happen. I don’t believe in forcing anything. I’ve gotten numerous offers, but it just has to be the right time for me. God has to tell me that he’s giving me the torch, now go. I have not yet had that moment. I don’t wake up in the morning dying to be on a road tour. I’ve lived the life of an artist with all the traveling, all the perks, and all the hit records on the radio. I actually think my life is better than most artists so I’m not in any hurry to change that.
Clutch: Will you be adding producer to your skill set?
Makeba: Definitely! I’ve actually hand picked a few producers that I’m going to be working with in 2009 on a bunch of new stuff that I have coming out. Producing has always been easy for me because I’ve played the piano my whole life.
Clutch: What’s your favorite song?
Makeba: I would have to say “Adore” by Prince. Also a song by Jeffrey Osborne called “Love Song” that K-Ci and JoJo remade, and anything Jodeci has ever done. They’re my all time favorite artists ever.
Clutch: Who would you like to work with in the future?
Makeba: John Mayer. I think he’s phenomenal! It was my dream to work with T.I. and now I have a hit record with him, “Live Your Life”. I also love Keyshia Cole. I think she’s very talented. I may not be able to write for her because she’s such a dope writer herself. But hopefully maybe one day we could collaborate. I love her as an artist and I love her voice.
Clutch: What qualities would you say are needed for this business?
Makeba: A lot of perseverance. You have to be built for this. It rarely happens overnight. It’s a journey. It takes a long time and you’ll face a lot of rejection and disappointment. But if you keep persevering and running in the race, eventually you’re going to get closer and closer to the finish line. Integrity is another quality you need. You also have to make sure you build good relationships, because it’s not so much about who you know but who knows and likes you. Building relationships in high places like the presidents of the labels, the artists’ managers and the producers that are proactive and go hard for you just like you would for yourself.
Clutch: Did you envision this kind success for yourself?
Makeba: I always knew I was going to do something great, and be dope at whatever I set out to do because that’s just how I am. I go hard for everything.