Ten years ago, no one would have imagined this: Faith Evans and 112 have dropped albums within one week of each other, and neither LP is on Bad Boy. P. Diddy’s two main R&B attractions are all grown up and moved out of Daddy’s House. Like 112, Evans said she felt that the man who signed her to her first contract couldn’t take her career any further.
“The easiest way to put it is Puff had a lot going on,” she explained last week in New York. “He still does. I think it’s a beautiful thing. He’s like a conglomerate now. But there was such a change in circumstance from the time I signed. I can’t say I was able to fully benefit from the hype and popularity and success of Bad Boy. It certainly set me up well and I did achieve success. But everybody wants to get better. I want to sell more records. I want to reach more people.”
Evans said she was convinced that she had to leave Bad Boy after her last album, 2001′s Grammy-nominated Faithfully, received “minimum support” as the label transitioned from distributor Arista to Universal. She said she had to approach P. Diddy directly.
“My last album in particular got caught up in the transition of him leaving his parent company, Arista,” she said. “[My album] was sort of neglected. I don’t think that’s something [P. Diddy] intended on. I totally believe he wanted me to be as big as I possibly could. But you got 10 companies instead of one. … He realized he was at a point where he couldn’t focus on my project like I needed him to. He made it an easy transition for me. I’ll always respect him for not only giving me my first record deal, but not trying to hold me back.”
Since parting ways with Diddy and signing to Capitol Records, Evans has used a truncated version of the original nickname he dubbed her with, “The First Lady of Bad Boy.” She’s now simply “The First Lady,” which is also the title of her latest album, released Tuesday.
“[The nickname] did carry over, ’cause I’m the first artist in my genre at Capitol,” Evans said. “More so, I chose the title The First Lady because a lot of my personality reminds me of people like Jackie O. and Hillary Clinton. … Of course, they go through things, ’cause they’re human like all of us. But when you see the first lady, you regard her [as] being the first lady. … I’ve made it my business to try and handle certain turbulence in my life with a certain dignity and [remain] ladylike.”
The most publicized tumult in Evans’ life happened in January 2004 when she and her husband, Todd Russaw, were arrested on charges of drug possession in Atlanta. In February, she and her husband agreed to enter a 13-week pretrial drug-abuse intervention program. If they stay clear of similar charges, the case will not go to trial.
Faith addresses her problems on The First Lady’s first single, “Again”: “In ATL, I caught a case/ And the media tried to say, I had a habit/ I couldn’t manage, and I’m throwing my life away/ But everything ain’t what it seems, just because it’s on TV/ ‘Cause they speculate and exaggerate for a better story.”
“It was over a long time ago,” Evans said of her case. “Half of what was reported was not even the case. It’s been over for a long time. It’s not on my record. I didn’t go to rehab. I don’t recall seeing any evidence … or being tested for anything.
“I can’t reply to half of the things out there. We did get arrested. We did have to spend the night in jail. We did have to pay a lot of bond money.”
Evans said she chose to sing about problems in her life on “Again” because she wanted the public to hear it in her own words.
“Whether it’s your personal life or career, [people] feel they have carte blanche to everything that goes on in your life. I don’t agree with that, but I do feel I have to share my thoughts on those things with people instead of totally avoiding it. I want to put it out there the way I want to put it out there.”