[INTERVIEW] Tammy Lucas Talks Working With Teddy Riley, The Neptunes; Long Career

Tammy Lucas Pharrell Williams

Singer-songwriter Tammy Lucas may not be a household name, but rest assured because her hit making discography includes working extensively alongside both Teddy Riley and The Neptunes [Pharrell Williams & Chad Hugo], with chart-toppers for A Tribe Called Quest, Noreaga and BlackSTREET, among others, speaks great volumes…

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We caught up with Tammy to talk about her story, working with legends and much more.

Parlé Mag:  You’ve been away from the public eye, what have you been up to – both personally and professionally – during your hiatus from music?
Tammy Lucas:  Well let’s see…my hiatus from the music biz has been over 20 years; it began around 2004 because of a bunch of music biz disappointments that made me feel defeated and depressed. Thank God my mother, my father and my aunt were all alive and well because they (and including my whole family) helped me to totally heal during that time 2004-2006. Through it all, I was never disconnected from my love of making music; lots of producers gave me open tracks and I never stopped writing my songs.
2004 I wrote and recorded a song with beloved producer J Dilla called “Ma Dukes” (for) Frank n Dank…
Tammy Lucas NERD Teddy Riley2006-2008, Pharrell made promises to use some of the over 40 songs we [me, him & Chad] had written together; but it never happened…
2008-2010, I worked with the legendary Marley Marl and 88-Keys and I tried to find a new music situation with a great producer that would lead to me recording my solo project, but it didn’t happen then.
Early 2011, my mom got sick; I became her caretaker and by October 2011 she had passed. My mom was everything to me and my entire family; I’m an only child, we were always super close and her death hit me HARD!!! My second mother – my aunt – was so hurt about it, that her health began to decline in 2012 and I became her caretaker until she passed December 2019. As well as caretaker for my dad, 2015-2017 when he passed away. After all of that; I had just decided to get back in the game in 2020 and then the pandemic happened…
And here we are now, 2022.

Parlé Mag:  Wow, that’s a lot! Very sorry for your losses…

On a less somber note, how has not only you yourself – but also the entire industry in general – either changed and / or evolved since you debuted on the scene?
Tammy Lucas:  After all I’ve experienced so far on my music journey, I am no longer naive about the fact that this is a business. And I think it was better when recording artists sold vinyl records, cassettes and CD’s. We made more money than with this streaming.

Parlé Mag:  When did you first become interested in music? And, how did it all begin for Tammy Lucas?
Tammy Lucas:  My dad, the phenomenal drummer Ray Lucas, gave me my musical pedigree. My Dad’s discography is crazy!! He was a sought-after drummer who played and recorded with the music legends of his era; Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and he was Dionne Warwick’s drummer for over a decade. Recently in 2021, he was depicted in the music doc Genius: Aretha; a scene with my dad on the drums, in a studio session with Aretha and his musician buddies. And in 2017 the year my Dad passed, Jay-Z’s song “Legacy” sampled Donny Hathaway’s song “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” where my dad / Ray Lucas is on drums… my mom had an enormous record collection when I was a child.

I was discovered by my church choir director at age 7, then my dad bought me my first tape recorder. I sang in the children’s choir until I was 12 years old, when my Mom put me in the Harlem School of the Arts for voice, theory (and) piano. Hip-Hop was emerging all around Harlem, and the club scene was huge in Manhattan, New York, and I started going to clubs like The Reni and Harlem World and to Disco Fever and Club 371 in the Bronx. Then at age 15, some friends took me to the Paradise Garage in Greenwich Village; and from that wonderful place I learned an entirely new facet of music from the legend, Larry Levan. About 4 years later, I met Boyd Jarvis & Timmy Regisford, and wrote and recorded my first record, “Hey Boy,” that was released in 1986; I was 22.

Parlé Mag:  Growing up in New York, who did you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
Tammy Lucas:  I was born and raised in the Sugar Hill area of Harlem / Riverside Drive; other notables from my area were Diahann Carroll, Frankie Lymon, Black Ivory, Kurtis Blow and so many more.  My strongest music influences were hearing my dad practicing his drums in my crib – at my first childhood home – my mom’s record collection, the radio ([WBLS and many New York stations], Martha & The Vandellas / Dionne Warwick / The Supremes / The Jackson 5 / The Sylvers / Gladys Knight & the Pips / Stevie Wonder / Rufus featuring Chaka Khan / Marvin Gaye / Earth Wind & Fire / The Isley Brothers and many other recording artists from that era.

Parlé Mag:  How do you classify your overall sound?
Tammy Lucas:  I would describe my sound as sophisticated soul.

Parlé Mag:  As a songwriter, when you sit down to pen your lyrics where do you draw inspiration from?
Tammy Lucas:  I draw inspiration from life and love.

Parlé Mag:  What particular string of events led to your initial linking up with Teddy Riley?Tammy Lucas:  Uptown Records / Andre Harrell is where I met and connected with Teddy Riley.

Parlé Mag:  Through that relationship you met The Neptunes, correct?
Tammy Lucas:  Correct! When Teddy moved from Harlem to VA Beach, he asked me to join him at his new
Future Records label and I relocated to VA Beach as well; and in 1991, I met Pharrell and The Neptunes.

Tammy LucasParlé Mag:  From there, you became involved in the creation of many contributions that today is considered the New Jack Swing era — Can you give me a quick run down of some of these selections?
Tammy Lucas:  Some songs I did in the New Jack Swing era;
I wrote “Real Love” for Stephanie Mills,
I’m the female singer on The debut Guy album, singing backgrounds with Aaron Hall on “Round and Round (Merry Go ‘Round of Love),” “I Like,” and “Goodbye Love.”
I’m featured with Heavy D on “Is It Good To You” / Heavy D & the Boyz, and I wrote lyrics and melodies on the second version of “Is It Good To You” that I recorded for the motion picture soundtrack Juice.

Parlé Mag:  Speaking of “Is It Good To You,” featuring Teddy and taken from the Juice soundtrack — Although the song was a hit no album followed suit, why is that?
Tammy Lucas:  Right after we did “Is It Good To You” for Juice, Teddy went to write for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album, and I was asked to join him. My song “Joy” didn’t make the album but I still share a writing split credit with MJ on the song “Joy,” and when I met Michael Jackson he was very cool!

Parlé Mag:  Around that time, did you even record a full length LP?
Tammy Lucas:  After that, I had signed to Future / Interscope with Teddy and began to write and record songs for my album project, but there wasn’t enough attention and focus from the Future label; Teddy was always preoccupied with other projects.

Parlé Mag:  What do you want people to get from your music?
Tammy Lucas:  When people hear my music, I want them to get a good feeling so much that it raises their vibration.

Parlé Mag:  On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of R&B?
Tammy Lucas:  Well my opinion of the current state of R’n’B is that I’m so glad I grew up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s because that was a truly rich era in R’n’B, and all the other genres of music in general but I do love Gwen Bunn, and Alex Isley is very dope.

Parlé Mag:  Do you have any other additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
Tammy Lucas:  Nothing outside of music for me; MUSIC is EVERYTHING to me! It’s all I plan to do
for the rest of my life.

Parlé Mag:  To date, what has been your greatest career moments, at least thus far anyway?
Tammy Lucas Q-TipTammy Lucas:  Greatest career moments thus far include performing my first song “Hey Boy” at The Paradise Garage with the legend, Larry Levan, watching from the DJ booth… contributing my musicianship for several years to the New Jack Swing sound; writing the song “Joy” with MJ and TR, and later BLACKstreet making it a hit single. Using my influence to help The Neptunes secure their first artist / production deal with TR’s Future label, and then taking them under my wings to help them create The Neptunes’ sound and writing songs with them exclusively for over six years until they had their first hit with “SuperThug” / NORE, featuring vocals by me… helping Pharrell to vet an 18 year old Kelis; KELIS
“1nce Again,” a song I wrote and recorded featured vocals on with A Tribe Called Quest…and in 1997, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

Parlé Mag:  One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
Tammy Lucas:  “Turn Out The Lights” / Tammy Lucas / produced by The Neptunes, is one of my songs that really defines me because I was just freely expressing what was in my heart and soul. It comes from a different place when my music contribution is helping to facilitate someone else’s vision. You can find it on YouTube.

Parlé Mag:  Finally, what’s next for you, Tammy?
Tammy Lucas:  Stay tuned…I plan to finally let the world hear how I’ve evolved, and the good music I’ve been working on.

Connect w/Tammy Lucas Online:

Instagram: @tammylucassound

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