Marques Houston has a résumé that spans 20-plus years, but success didn’t come easily or without a price. The singer/actor dedicates his latest project, Famous (released on Aug. 27), to fans who supported him through it all. After a three-year musical hiatus, Houston chats with VIBE about his new music, the new rules of R&B and his thoughts on Miley Cyrus twerking. —Terry Carter Jr. (@KINGBeysus)
VIBE: Famous is your first album in three years. How are you feeling about the response from fans so far?
Marques Houston: I’m very overwhelmed. I thank God first. And I have to say thank you to all my wonderful fans. The album came out at Number 2 on the iTunes R&B charts. I’m really excited. After three years, to be able to come back with an album and work so hard on it and all the fans appreciate it, it’s totally a great feeling.
Tell us why you chose the title Famous.
It started as an inside joke between me and my circle of friends and family members. I’ve been blessed with such a long career. Twenty-plus years. I’ve been known to do so many different things like Sister, Sister or You Got Served or Immature, and my solo career. So it’s one of those things where people are like, “You’re famous for so many things.” I would go places and people would know me from Sister, Sister and didn’t know that I sing or they would know me from Immature but didn’t know that I acted. They’ll just know my face and they’ll be like, “Excuse me, are you famous?” [Laughs]
This is your sixth album. How was the recording process different this time around?
With this album, it was more intimate because I had been away from the game for such a long time. The reason I decided to come back was because of my fans [were] hitting me up on Instagram and Twitter and saying, “Marques, we need a new album!” I had to give my fans what they were asking for. It was a lot more pressure knowing that I had the fans waiting on this one and wanting this one. I felt more attached because I wanted to make it great and I didn’t want to let my fans down.
What were some of your inspirations during those sessions?
A lot of my musical inspiration were the old school artists like Prince and Marvin Gaye. With this album I didn’t want to make it sound like anybody else album out there. I stopped listening to the radio, stopped watching videos. I didn’t watch TV for three months while I recorded the album. It’s blues, it’s rhythmic, it’s jazzy. I wanted to create what I call a masterpiece for my fans. I got involved with my fans on Twitter, asking, “What kind of music y/all want?” I really put my heart and my soul into this album. I want them to hear my passion and my love that bleeds through this album.
On the opening track, “Only You,” you sampled Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Why remake that record?
I’ve always been a huge Marvin Gaye fan. He was the original King of R&B. The ladies loved him. We all kinda patterned ourselves after Marvin Gaye as far as being a suave ladies man. I didn’t want to remix “Let’s Get It On” because it’s one of my favorite Marvin Gaye songs. I wanted to put my own style into it and give the new generation of music lovers a new twist on that record.
Have you learned anything new about yourself while recording?
I learned that music is definitely my first love. Sometimes when you go away from it you start doing other things. Like Justin Timberlake when he started acting, rumors were out there that he wasn’t gonna make another album, but when he came back he came so powerful. As an artist sometimes when you’re doing other things you can kinda forget where your passion lies, but when you get back in the studio it’s like, “Oh okay, now I see. This is what I was born to do.” And that’s what I felt recording this album.
You’ve always been an R&B artist, but the genre has crossed over into electronic dance music lately. Thoughts?
I felt like it was in a state of 911 before, but when you talk about artists like Miguel, Frank Ocean, TGT and myself included, we are not bringing back R&B but we are reminding you why you fell in love R&B. Reminding you why R&B made you wanna make love. Made you wanna be in love. Made you feel sexy. Made you wanna go to the concert and sing along like, “Ooh, that’s my my jam!” [Laughs]
How were able to escape the child star curse?
I didn’t get hooked on drugs or alcohol. I was blessed with a great team of people that were always around me and always taught us not to get into those things. Not to get too caught up into the lifestyle. You have to have discipline. I think having good guidance is really, really important. As a child star and just in life, period. I never felt pressured, but I did feel like I wanted to grow up. Once I turned 20, I was like, “I’m not a kid anymore.” When I recorded my Naked album, I felt pressure to grow out of that Roger stage. That’s why I did the “Naked” video. It was just something to show everybody that I’m grown now.
Speaking of child stars, what’s your take on the new twerking Miley Cyrus?
Miley Cyrus, she’s a young woman. She’s not Hannah Montana anymore, so you can’t look at her as Hannah Montana and put her in that space. If she wants to get on stage and twerk, twerk Miley Miley, twerk. It’s her business; it’s her prerogative. It’s not our place to judge her.
Would you feel comfortable if your kids wanted to get into show biz?
Fame is a drug. It’s addicting. I never allowed myself to get into that. I always kept it separate. I knew that the entertainment business was my job and what I did in my personal life was my personal. I was blessed enough and I thank God that I was strong enough to be in this industry to take the good and the bad. Everybody can hype you up and say how great you are but that doesn’t mean you’re great. You gotta be able to take the negativity, too. If my children were mature enough to understand that, then I would. If I feel like they would fall victim to the success, I wouldn’t.
This year was the year of reunions, from Destiny’s Child at the Superbowl to N*SYNC at the VMA’s. Would you ever consider an IMX reunion?
Just to be clear about our group Immature, we’ve never broken up. We just kinda went our separate ways and did other things. We’ll always be a group. So as long as we’re a group, there’s always a possibility that there could be a reunion. You never know.
As a veteran in the industry, how do you want to be remembered?
I’d rather be remembered as a great person. The music industry is so fickle. One minute you can be hot, and the next minute you can not be hot. You can be forgotten. Being a great person goes a longer way. The music industry has become like high school. Like a popularity contest. People are more drawn to who’s popular as opposed to who has great music. Nobody pays attention to the music anymore. It’s more about who has the biggest controversy.
Will you tour? And what other projects are in the works?
I just finished a movie project with the Up Network called The Love Letter with Romeo Miller, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Jackee Harry. During my three-year hiatus from the music industry, I started my own film and television production company. We shoot three independent films a year, which I produce. I think what’s next would be definitely another album after this one. More movies, more TV. Another TV show. I’m in the world of entertaining. I love to entertain people. As long as I can do that I’m gonna keep going with it.
Pick up a copy of Famous, available in stores and on iTunes now.