Pamela Long has now finally embarked on a lifelong desire; her journey into solo stardom. While the name may sound familiar, that is because the songstress comes from a family that is legendary. That of course being the Bad Boy Family. Having risen to prominence in the mid ’90’s as one-third of the platinum-plus selling R&B collective, Total, also comprised of Kima Raynor Dyson and Keisha Spivey Epps, Pam, is finding her way on a new journey now.
The native Plainfield, New Jersey, trio – then one of only a few signature acts inked to Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Records imprint – are most famously known for a string of hit singles; including The Notorious B.I.G. assisted “Can’t You See,” which originally appeared on the motion picture soundtrack to New Jersey Drive, “No One Else,” “Kissin’ You,” “Do You Think About Us?,” “What About Us?,” “Trippin'” – the last two songs featuring Missy Elliott – “Sitting Home” and “I Tried,” as well as other high profile collaborations with the likes of LL Cool J, Foxy Brown, Ma$e, Gang Starr, Tony Touch and Talib Kweli among others.
We caught up with Pamela Long to talk about the storied journey that has lead us here, plans for new music and everything in between. Check out the full interview below.
Parlé Mag: More than 21 long years have passed since the release of Total’s gold certified sophomore set, Kima, Keisha, and Pam — For those not in the know, what all exactly have you been up to, both personally and professionally speaking, over the course of two full decades?
Pamela Long: That is a loaded question! Long chuckles For the last 20 years, I’ve been finding me. I’ve personally been on a journey of discovering who Pamela Long really is. It hasn’t been easy, but definitely mind blowing. I’ve come to know that I am more than Pam from Total, Judy Long’s baby and so on and so forth. I am a child of God who has been put on this earth to fulfill a purpose for God, who created me. And now that I understand the memo, It’s time to execute!
…Now on a professional note, I have been working on my solo project; which is off to a great start! It is bubbling quicker overseas, which is great. My record, “You Said,” hit #3 on the charts, and I also released, “Why,” featuring Bre-Z, and “Ghetto Love,” featuring DJ Merlon a.k.a. Black Coffee from Africa. I’m back working, and I am more determined than I’ve ever been. And, I’m also very excited about people being excited that I’m still doing music. I also will be releasing my book this year. I am a personal trainer, motivational speaker, evangelist and more.
Parlé Mag: In the summer of 2016 Total reunited for The (super successful might I add) Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour — How was that entire experience for you?
Pamela Long: The Bad Boy Reunion Tour was AWESOME! What else is there to say? It felt so good to be back in the company of everyone. It was family to me. I will cherish it always, and I look forward to (another) reunion 20 years from now. The reaction from the crowds every night when Total hit the stage was off the chain! They had your girl ready to jump into the audience, because of them screaming so hard and rocking so hard. It made me turn it up about 20 more notches. It was lit! I loved every minute.
Parlé Mag: One thing that definitely happened for sure with the reunification is that it sparked rumors of an exceedingly overdue, anxiously awaited follow-up, third Total album, but nothing ever materialized. Why is that?
Pamela Long: The tour did have fans on the edge of their seat for that third album, but things didn’t materialize because I have unfinished business to attend to… and that’s my solo project. I know that a lot of people felt and still feel some kind of way about it, but I have to follow the path God has me on. Once I complete what He has placed in my heart to do, afterward, if it’s in His plan, a Total album will be in the making.
Parlé Mag: Speaking of Total, what’s the relationship like now with the other ladies of Total? Every once in a while there are rumors or issues between the women, can she clear that up once and for all?
Pamela Long: The relationship that I have with Kima and Keisha will always be that of love.
Parlé Mag: We, the masses, did however receive a couple of solo singles from both you [“You Said” & “Why”] and group-mate Kima [“Distraction” & “Luv Me Back”] — were solo projects always in the plans?
Pamela Long: To be clear about my solo project…this is something that has been in the making before Total even began. I was a solo artist when we came together as a group. I always saw myself as Michelle Jackson, [Michael Jackson’s] unknown little sister. More chuckles I have to do what was always in my soul to do, and will accomplish it. I have to complete the task.
Parlé Mag: With that being said, why exactly did it take you so long to embark on this solo journey?
Pamela Long: It took so long for my solo project to come about because I was searching for me. I had to find my voice again. I had been so used to being in Total, that Pamela Long had become somewhat obsolete. In the studio, I went from song to song – and from track to track – to find my sound. And finally, here I am. If I had it my way, it would have been a lot sooner, but honestly speaking, it would have been premature. Now is the time, and I haven’t skipped a beat. Thank God, I’m ready…
Parlé Mag: A lot of things happening for you! As far as the music, how does it differ and compare to Total circa ‘98?
Pamela Long: My solo project differs from Total because it’s Pamela Long (solo), and at the same time it resembles Total because of my voice (being the lead vocalist), which many have called a signature sound. My project is very colorful. It has something for every genre. Total was strictly R&B with a Hip Hop flavor. On this album, I’ve explored music without restraint.
Parlé Mag: Your last single, “Why” was released back in early 2019. Any plans for to release new music anytime soon?
Pamela Long: Not only do I have a new single coming this year, but the album. I am so excited!
Parlé Mag: Do you have a title for the album yet? It’s a long time coming, figure a lot of thought has been put into it at this point.
Pamela Long: The name of the album is ‘Pamela Long.’ It really has been a long time getting this album together, but it wasn’t just the album. I also was being rebuilt for such a time as this. Everything had to become new.
Parlé Mag: Is this an independent release or would you consider signing a deal to put out the album?
Pamela Long: There is a possibility that I may entertain meetings about signing, but I won’t fall for the okey doke – meaning the lies – about signing a deal. I have learned a lot on this journey, and being signed to a label is not always the best route. If I have to stay indie, I am good with that. It may be a little tough in the beginning to manage it all, but it will all pan out. Good music always prevails.
Parlé Mag: Having said that, what all exactly do you have in store for 20-20 and beyond?
Pamela Long: I know this may sound cliche’, but the sky is the limit! I am going after everything. I will be touring for my music and book. I will be training my clients, and I also have a sports drink – I forgot to mention – that I look to release. I will be doing speaking engagements globally, and I will be looking into my own fitness center. And last but not least, I will be working a lot with the youth. They are our future.
Parlé Mag: What got you into fitness/personal training and what is inspiring you to want to open up your own venue?
Pamela Long: I’ve been working out since I was 15 years old. I’ve always loved running, jumping, playing football with the boys and all types of athletic games. Working out is something that comes easy to me, and, plus, I love feeling good. When you exercise, you don’t feel drained and lethargic. I also like the benefit of looking good and being healthy, which is most important. There really isn’t an inspiration to open a gym. I just believe that it is something I am destined to do. I believe God wants that for me, so I am going to do all that He wants. I believe that when the gym comes into fruition, my answer will have more depth… but as for now, that’s all I got.
Parlé Mag: Talk to me about the book. What can fans/readers expect from that?
Pamela Long: To give you a little insight on the book, I go into detail about a good bit of my personal struggles and deliverances from adolescence to present day. I talk about dark secrets that many won’t disclose due to fear or embarrassment.
Parlé Mag: Will you be teaming up with a publisher for the release?
Pamela Long: When it comes to publishing the book, right now I am deciding what is the option best for me. If the publishing company understands my direction, I don’t have an issue signing. But if it is better to self-publish, I’ll take that route instead.
Parlé Mag: Switching gears here, how has not only the industry itself, but even more so you, either changed and/or evolved since your whole inception into music?
Pamela Long: Since my inception into the music industry, so much has changed. On a good note. I have learned how to do BUSINESS. I have been burnt several times in my dealings with the music industry, but it taught me something. LEARN for yourself. So I did. And now that I know, it can’t be taken from me.
Parlé Mag: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from this music business?
Pamela Long: The greatest lesson I’ve learned in this industry is to ALWAYS do business. It is good to love people, to have friends and peers that you are close to, but business will always be business. Make sure you have this understanding, because it is not a good feeling to find out in the end that the only person who didn’t do business was you.
Parlé Mag: Reflecting, how did you first discover your musical talent?
Pamela Long: I first realized that I could sing when I was very young. I’ve been singing and dancing since I can remember; maybe 2 or 3. But there was a time when I knew I was the bomb. It was at our family cookouts. All of us kids would be running around playing, and I’d be called into the living room to sing and dance like Michael Jackson. I would be moon walking and everything. That was my Showtime at the Apollo debut. I would be all the way in! My Mama was the first one who knew and let me know that I had talent.
Parlé Mag: Who have been your greatest inspirations musically and why?
Pamela Long: My greatest inspiration in music has to be accredited to two people; my Mama and Michael Jackson. My Mom, because she was the first one to introduce me to Stephanie Mills, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and especially Michael Jackson. As a little girl cleaning up the house on Saturdays, she would have their music playing as we cleaned. She was the first one to show me how to sing on a microphone; i.e. a broom! She also showed me how to sing lead and how to be a background singer.
Michael showed me everything. Michael had music on the inside of him. He showed me how to sing, dance and allow the music on the inside of my being to come alive. He taught me about true artistry.
Parlé Mag: Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?
Pamela Long: My longevity in this industry is ONLY because of God. There is no other reason for such. Artists come and go, and for me to still be relevant that is God and God alone.
Parlé Mag: On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of R&B? And, even more specifically, where exactly do you “fit in” when it comes to today’s current/trending sound-scape?
Pamela Long: I’m not here to judge the state of music, but I am here to bring about a change. Everything has a time and a season, and right now it’s time for a fresh wind…and that’s where I come into play. It’s not about doing what everyone else is doing, it’s about knowing who I am and what I have. And by doing such, it will become evident to all who hears; Pamela Long is of the now!
…On a more serious note, moral values are at an all time low and carbon copies [artists] are everywhere. It seems as if labels don’t look for that it factor anymore. It has become all about what makes quick money. When we first started in the game, most labels looked for unique talent. Nowadays they care nothing about the artist, even to the point of them knowing that they have drug issues and allowing them to capitalize on that to make them money. They can care less if the artist lives or dies. Either way, they still make money off of them. It’s sad but true.
It is time for change…God please help us!
Parlé Mag: To date, what has been your greatest career achievement(s), at least thus far anyway?
Pamela Long: My greatest career achievement to this date is winning a Grammy for “Hypnotize.” I have yet to receive it, but those are my vocals.
Parlé Mag: If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Pamela Long: The artist that I would and will be collaborating with is Chance the Rapper. I love his style, and he is not of the norm. And on top of that, he loves Jesus and he is a family man.
Parlé Mag: Ministry is a big part of your life. Would you ever consider making a Gospel album?
Pamela Long: I’m down for whatever God allows me to do. I won’t ever look to put myself in a box, but what I will say about the Gospel is this: It’s not so much about singing songs about Jesus, anybody can do that. It’s about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allowing His life to shine through you, so that when people desire what you have you can tell them how to receive it. And that someone is Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God. I’d rather live the Gospel because that pleases God more than me singing songs about Him, and my life not resemble Him at all. I’ve learned that God strategically knows how to reach people, and knows how to speak directly to every man/woman. As long as I don’t compromise who I am in Jesus, singing music other than Gospel music is fine. I just have to be sure to live how the Bible says to live, and be careful not to fall away from it.
Parlé Mag: If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Pamela Long: If I could play any venue, I would play at Wembley Stadium. The reason being is because it holds 90,000 people. The bigger the crowd, the harder it makes you perform. And also, because Michael played there and they say he rocked it.
Parlé Mag: One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
Pamela Long: One of the tracks that define me from the solo project is “Triumphal Entry.” It best describes me because of how people thought it was the end of me as they yelled for me to be crucified. But even with their threats on my life and finding out that they were never for me, I’m still standing.
Parlé Mag: What’s your favorite track that you’ve ever worked on and why?
Pamela Long: My favorite track that I’ve worked on thus far is “Can’t You See,” hands down! It will always be something about that track. It is the sound, the vocals, the instruments, the melody and so much more. It is timeless… and it is Fiyah!!! And to top it all off, B.I.G. ripped it. It’s a record that will live forever.
Parlé Mag: Let’s talk further about the track, because it is a bonafide R&B classic — How did the song actually come about? Who came up with the concept? And, please describe for me the overall studio vibe on that fateful day?
Pamela Long: “Can’t You See” was written by Terri Robinson. She used to be in the group called Terri & Monica. She wrote the song, and came up with the concept. The day we went into the studio was a doozy. It was really like our first time recording an entire song. There I was standing in this huge recording booth, and I can hear every move I made in those headphones I had on. It was very intimidating at first, but I got through it. Once the vocals was laid down to the song, Puff came in and heard it and he knew what else he wanted on it. He contacted B.I.G., and he came to the studio, sat down in a chair, rocked back and forth listening to the track and then he said, “I got it!” He went inside, and the rest has been history.
Parlé Mag: What’s next for Pamela Long?
Pamela Long: Everything God has for me! Whatever God wrote in his plans concerning my life, I want to see it all come to pass… and I’m seeking him to find out what it is.
Parlé Mag: Not to end on a sour note, but this past August you were in the headlines because of your then just ending marriage — Did you want to state anything additionally for the record?
Pamela Long: It’s not a sour note at all. It’s also a part of my past. I have nothing else to add. I spoke the truth…
Parlé Mag: Any “parting” message(s) for our readers?
Pamela Long: One message that I’ve learned (that) all should live by because it never fails: Put not your trust in man, but in the God who created him.
Image credit: Michael Isiah Photography (NYC)
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