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Lathun | Features

RL SaveOurSoul artist of the Month June 2002




The best musicians transport listeners into their world. These supremely talented artists have the rare ability to make listeners feel their emotions, whether it is joy or pain, love or hate.

With the release of FORTUNATE, elegant soul singer Lathun takes the first step toward legendary status. His Motown Records debut takes you on an emotionally charged ride through the life of the Detroit native, which is full of grand peaks and terribly low valleys. After just one listen, it's as if Lathun is a long-time friend, someone whose stories you identify with and whose challenges are very similar to your own.

"The songs lyrically and musically are very personal and most of them are true stories," explains Lathun, who wrote and produced the majority of FORTUNATE. "Being that the eyes are like the windows to the soul, to me the album is like looking into a part of me."

Much of Lathun's focus centers on women and his varied relationships with them. The beautiful "Official," for example, plays off the popular saying, "making it official," which refers to the transition from lover to spouse. While many people are unwilling to make that important step in their lives because of the huge emotional and spiritual commitment demanded by marriage, Lathun creates a story in which a man realizes that he's moved beyond a simple boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

The neo-soul artist continues to express how important it is to appreciate real love once you've obtained it as seen in the ballad "Fortunate." Written and produced by Lathun, "Fortunate" is so touching that many couples will certainly select it as a wedding song.

"The song is about a man who one day realizes how fortunate he is to have such a special lady in his life," describes Lathun. "To me, the lyrics are very poetic and the sound has kind of a Latin and Caribbean feel to it, with a hip-hop twist."

Lathun's musical diversity shines on the seductive, guitar-driven falling-in-love-anthem "Sweetest Thing," while the somber "Didn't I" explores the parts of love that aren't quite so utopian.

It is that very personal, painful exploration that Lathun writes about which makes FORTUNATE so compelling. One of the most powerful moments comes on the tense, "Would I Lie."

"This number is derived from a very truthful perspective. The song goes through a man's mind who just cheated on his mate," Lathun offers. "You hear all of the guilt that he feels and how he's trying to get out of it because he doesn't want to lose his girl."

By investing so much emotion and energy into his music, Lathun gets the maximum effect out of his work. A self-taught pianist, guitarist and drummer, Lathun also sings most of his own background vocals. Having such mastery over his material gives him a distinct advantage when heading into the studio.

"The best thing about it was, I was more of a master of my own fate," he speaks. "I didn't have to meet producers and have them guess at who I am musically. It was already there. That was definitely a plus. Also, it gave me more creative control. They trusted me to go in there and write songs and produce."

Although he's considered a new artist by music industry standards, Lathun's been putting in work for more than a decade. At the tender age of 8-years-old Lathun was a member of the family group The Dynamite Explosion. His mother managed the group, which evolved into the Valley Boys.

As Lathun grew older, he realized that the group needed its own songs, rather than continuing to cover music written and composed by others. Since no one would write songs for free, Lathun started writing his own cuts at age 15. Soon thereafter, he was also making homemade recordings with a Casio keyboard his mother bought him.

"I used to take two old raggedy tape recorders at the crib and overdub back and forth to make the songs," he laughingly reminisces.

A few short years later, Lathun entered the music industry as a producer, working with the male trio, Immature, Jermaine Dupri, Xscape and the Raphael Saadiq-backed Willie Max. While in the studio with these acts, many of them urged Lathun to pursue a singing career.

"Most of the time when I would work with people, I would sing the songs to them to show them how it went or I would help them with background vocals," he shares. "They'd be like, 'Man, you should be an artist. Why are you just producing?'"

Lathun finally returned to his roots and started recording what would eventually become FORTUNATE. The album marks the emergence of an amazingly self-contained, talented artist, whose relationship with the legendary Motown label has been developing since the time he was an infant.

"I'm from Detroit, where the foundation for a lot of our music today was built - Motown Records," Lathun says with pride. My mom auditioned for Motown and decided not to go with it because she wanted to raise a family. When she found out that we had talent, it started again and she sort of wanted to live her dream through us."

With FORTUNATE, Lathun lets you in...



Real name: Lathun Grady
Age: 25
Graduated: Redford High School
Resides: Detroit's northwest side
First group: Dynamic Explosion, which became the Valley Boys
First signed: Jermaine Dupri's So So Def label
Currently signed: Motown Records
New album: "Fortunate"


Detroit's Lathun rides the neo soul movement
By Wendy Case / The Detroit News

DETROIT--Detroit soul singer Lathun is watching the video for his song, "Fortunate." It's the first single from the 25-year-old's debut album of the same title, released Tuesday on Motown Records. The cocky, jovial singer jokes casually while the screen fills with color-drenched images of himself cavorting with a pretty woman and clutching an ornate mandolin, a prop for the romantic ballad.

"As you can see, I was working out when I did this video," he laughs, referring to his buff physique. "They were, like, 'If you break this (instrument), it's going to be $20,000.' "

These days, Lathun (real name Lathun Grady) finds himself among one of the fastest growing genres of popular music: the neo soul movement. Rooted in a stylistic affection for the vintage soul and funk of the '70s, it also incorporates elements of hip-hop. Neo soul artists include such heavy hitters as Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Glenn Lewis and those at the forefront like D'Angelo and Erykah Badu.

Lathun's smooth, romantic R&B-based style plays neatly into the wave of neo soul artists currently staking a claim in the industry. But he's not content to simply be lumped in with the latest trend.

"There are a lot of positive aspects to being put in that category, because there are a lot of great artists in that category," he says. "But, on the other hand, when you begin to categorize music, you begin to limit yourself as an artist. I like to think I have more to contribute than that."

Lathun's earliest singing experiences came when he tried singing with his older brothers' group, Dynamic Explosion.

"I looked up to them," he says. "I kept trying to sing with them, but they kept kicking me out of the way. Then one day they were like, Wow! He can sing.'"

By 19, the singer had inked with Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri's So So Def label, cutting a track for a So So Def compilation with rapper Lil' Jon titled "Freak It." According to Lathun, that song is a far cry from the vintage-inspired soul music he is making today.

"I was much younger and a little bit wilder," he says. "I was a little more immature and it definitely affected my writing. I've changed a lot since then."

Having worked as a songwriter with Raphael Saddiq and Immature, the singer has come into his own with "Fortunate." He penned 10 of the album's 13 tracks and recorded several in his home studio in Detroit. Label mate India.Arie guests on the track "When Love Came In." Lathun claims influences as vast as the Beatles, Prince, Joni Mitchell and Pastor Morgan of Faith Temple Baptist Church, where he attends regularly.

The singer says that growing up -- he was 5 feet 5 inches -- in a "bad neighborhood," he had to fight his way out of a cycle of schoolyard scraps and self-defeating behavior. "When you don't care about others, you don't care about yourself," he says. "I think I'd be a criminal if I hadn't discovered that I had some talent. I was very fortunate, very blessed."