Loon Prepares To (Finally) Drop Debut, Rap And 'Ball' On Broadway

Rapper's self-titled debut features guest stars Missy Elliott, Aaron Hall, Kelis.

Loon should have lost his mind by now, considering all the prime opportunities he's missed out on. First he had a deal with Tommy Boy Records in the mid-'90s that disintegrated. Then, a couple of years later, he teamed with fellow Harlem knight Mase for the group Harlem World, but Mason went into retirement soon after and the group faded into oblivion.

Fast forward to the summer of 2002: Loon was finally able to shake off his bad luck to become one of the hottest cats in the game. Whether he was alongside P. Diddy and Usher for the "I Need a Girl" saga, lending a hand to 3LW on their hit tune "I Do," rocking with Foxy Brown on the remix for her mixtape favorite "Stylin' " or providing Toni Braxton with a smooth companion for "Hit the Freeway," the rapper just kept banging the fans with hits. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to capitalize on his momentum with a solo album because his label, Bad Boy, left Arista last June and didn't acquire a new distribution deal until a few months ago.

So, what kind of formula does Loon need to get his buzz back? He's just got to do the same thing he's been doing -- dropping hot music. Recently attempting to determine which song should be the first single for the mellow MC's self-titled solo LP, due out in July, Bad Boy decided to release a bevy of tunes to the streets and the clubs, allowing the public to decide which one to run with.

The label wound up dubbing the Kelis-featured "How You Want That" the people's champ, choosing that tune over such cuts as the introspective "Up in a Maze" and the stylistically flavorful "This Ain't Funny."

"The Kelis record grew legs and Puff loves the record a lot," Loon said last week. "That's enough to run with it. I'm excited. It has that dance, Bad Boy feel, so Puff is happy. It [has] that sexiness to it so Kelis is happy. It gives me that element to be my smooth self. The visuals should be ridiculous."

As for when we'll actually see the video, no one knows yet. It seems that P. Diddy has set some pretty strict standards for the clip.

"Puff is not playing with this record," Loon laughed. "We done turned down 16 treatments and five video directors. I'm really getting nervous. We gonna be behind the cameras ourselves in a minute if he keeps turning down these treatments. Something big is gonna happen because he's not going for just anything."

Puff's heavy hitter is already looking down the line toward another video he hopes will have major impact. In the distant future Loon predicts that everyone will marvel at a video for a yet-to-be-titled cut that features himself, Missy Elliott and Diddy.

"[Missy's] not out [of] her element -- it's a dance record, it's like lightning," he described of the supafly superstar's role in the song. "Me, Puff and Missy -- I do the first two verses, Missy is on the hook. Me and Puff share the last verse. That's another star-studded event. The song is pertaining to me and Missy is saying something like, 'Girl, that's Loon.' You'll have two generals in front of the cameras: Puff and Missy. That's gonna be hard for me.

"They thought it would be hard for me, rocking with Puff and Usher," he added, recalling his role on 2002's "I Need a Girl (Part 1)." "That's like Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson. Where does Dark Gable come in? But I pulled it off. I went and got the brightest jacket off the rack."

Loon also mentioned that we'll soon be hearing his collaboration with former Guy frontman Aaron Hall. He remade "I Like," which grew to be a timeless favorite when it was originally released in the '80s.

" 'I Like' is a classic Harlem record," said the MC, explaining why he chose to put his stamp on the song. "I don't know how it appealed to other people, [but] I know what it meant in Harlem. It's very appropriate because it has a vibe that accommodates the whole summer season. On top of that, it's just a crazy record. With Puff putting his two cents in it and Aaron coming in and blessing us, it should be bigger than it was when it came out. 'I Like' will be the second single."

Loon's involvement with R&B megastars from the '80s doesn't just pertain to his album. He's been helping his new labelmates, New Edition members Ronnie DeVoe and Michael Bivins, with their raps for the upcoming N.E. album. Outside the Bad Boy camp, he recently teamed up with Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill (who is also a member of New Edition) for LSG's first single, "Friends."

If that weren't enough, Loon also has a side project on the horizon: He'll soon step outside of the studio and on to Broadway. He's up for a part in the Broadway musical "Ball."

"I'm excited about the play; the Neptunes are doing the music," he explained. "[It's] a 'Hoop Dreams' type of thing. It's gonna have us playing basketball and rapping. Instead of dialogue, I'm gonna be rapping [and] dribbling the ball. I'm not familiar with the field, but I [am] definitely excited [about] getting involved. I want in."