The-Dream is one of this era's most successful R&B songwriters, responsible for hits by Rihanna, Beyoncé and Justin Bieber, among others. But the man born Terius Nash became more famous in 2010 for his sensational divorce from Christina Milian after she’d just given birth to their daughter, Violet – not ideal for someone who writes songs aimed at women. Not long after, his third album Love King received a lukewarm reception on the R&B charts. Now The-Dream is prepping his fourth album The Love IV (Diary of a Mad Man), and deciding, with last week's release of his free album 1977, if being the bad guy suits him.
On the 1977 song "Used To Be" you compare a woman to a nagging "five-year-old in the backseat." Is it safe to assume you’re talking about Christina Milian – like many believed you wrote about your first ex-wife Nivea on your debut album Love Vs. Money?
I’m always talking about things that happen in relationships [Laughs] Some people are just too afraid to talk about them. You’re cool when your relationship starts and then shit changes. Most marriages end in divorce anyway.
So is the bitterness on 1977 from your public divorce from Christina?
I’m not bitter – I’m a crazy, hopeless romantic. I draw a lot from the a lot of my relationships, both Nivea and Christina, and three women no one talks about. People make too much of me and Christina anyway. We weren’t together that long, only like six months. I grew up with my mom and my grandfather – she died when I was 15 and he died when I was 19 – so I don’t believe that I have time to take in life. Certain people may date for three years, then be engaged for four but my mom passed away at 35 and I’ve seen my father twice in my life. Life could be over any minute.
Still, with the backlash of the urban female audience, do you need to repair your image?
No one’s cleaning up shit. If I’m so bad then I’m the baddest motherfucker on the planet. I know who I am. Christina and Nivea know who I am and one day they’ll look back and say, "You know who was a dope motherfucker? Dream. Other men played me but him? He set it straight down, like Patròn, no chaser." If I write a record like "Used To Be" and say you’re nagging me, that’s why I ain’t fucking with you no more. If I say I love you to death and I want to get married, then that’s what I do.
Even if you go from dating to marriage in six months?
Even if it’s six days! I’m looking right now! [Laughs]
How is your next album The Love IV (Diary of a Mad Man) coming?
Me and [producer] Tricky Stewart did one record and Carlos "LOS Da Maestro" McKinney and I did about four. Unlike Love King it won’t just come out because someone wants to meet some budget deadline.
Do you feel Def Jam rushed the release of Love King?
Of course! Nobody ain’t fucking with me like that.
So it was a Def Jam conspiracy?
It’s just how it is.
Will The Love IV hit shelves in 2011 or 2012?
It will come out when it’s ready.
What artists have you been working with lately?
I go into the studio with Fabolous on Friday and Pusha T soon. I’ve been doing stuff for Rihanna and Justin Bieber right now and I’m working on Roc Nation artists like Bridget Kelly. Whoever you can think of, I’m probably doing it. I love to see other artists go from being one hit away, like writing "Baby" for Justin Beiber, to making it and being a part of that. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the gift of songwriting. It’s one of the only things you can do without anyone else.
Were you excited that Beyoncé announced her pregnancy during the MTV VMA’s while performing "Love On Top," a song you wrote for her?
I was happy for her. It’s good to see someone who loves to do something like music learn to love doing something else. I can’t wait for her to see this thing that she can’t make in a studio. It’s a great feeling that I know she’ll have and I’ve already seen it in how she looks, which is why I knew she was pregnant earlier than I was told.
Well, you’ve got plenty experience with women and children, even if you don’t help with the babies.
[Laughs] You should interview Christina.
So she can say she wants to beat you up?
No, she would say, "I just love him to death."