By Alex McCann
After working with Jazze Pha, Ciara was signed to the legendary producer’s Sho’ Nuff label. It seems that everyone who meets her is blown away, not just by her beautiful looks, but also by a wealth of talent that have seen people tag her as the new Aaliyah. Her debut album Goodies is testament to that, with guest spots from R. Kelly, Missy Elliot and Lil Jon amongst others.
With just three singles, the number 1 smash “Goodies”, the follow-ups, "1 2 Step" and “Ooh (featuring Ludacris)” behind her, it seems like Ciara has already entered the surreal world of tabloid gossip. "Ciara's a hermaphrodite! Ciara's Pregnant! Ciara's going out with Bow Wow (the former teen hip hop artist known as Lil' Bow Wow, which we're presuming entitles us to call him Big Wow Wow next time we see him)!" scream the gossip columns across the web.
As Alex McCann met Ciara in a plush hotel, it was clear that she wasn’t pregnant and definitely all woman, so SOAK side-stepped the gossip and talked to Ciara about being an army brat, getting crunked up, and how she's rapping on Missy Elliott’s new record.
SOAK: Your father was in the army and you spent the formative years of your life travelling from city to city and country to country as what you describe as an "army brat." How was that for the young Ciara?
Ciara: Up until the age of 8, I’d been travelling. I was 14 when I decided to do music. I'm definitely an independent person, and it opened up my mind so much as to the type of person I am. It made me want to try different things. It makes me want to explore more, and it informs me who I am as a person.
SOAK: Living over in Germany, did it make it more important for you as an artist to make your name over there as well as in the States?
Ciara: You know what? I think it's important, period. Even if I hadn’t lived there, it would still be important to me. You know, it's very meaningful to have fans all over the world. It means so much to me, you know? I think it's important regardless of whether I lived there or not.
SOAK: It’s become such an international bomb of a track with dance floor’s getting crunked up everywhere. Were you surprised at the success of “Goodies”?
Ciara: You know what? I definitely believed in the record when we were writing it, but I didn't know it would go to number 1 as fast as it did in America. I was definitely caught off guard with it being number 1 in the UK. That was just amazing to me, even though I believed it was a hit record.
SOAK: "Goodies" was the second ever Crunk'n'B song. For those people that haven't signed up for the crunk revolution, would you like to explain what it is?
Ciara: When I define Crunk Music, I define it as the heavy metal of hip-hop. It's high-energy music, and I think what makes a crunk record a genuine crunk record is like, for example, if Lil Jon produces it. Lil Jon is the King of Crunk, and he's known for making that crunk music, that crunk beat and that crunk sound. So when you add R&B to it, you make this high-energy Crunk'n'B.
SOAK: So that must make you the Queen of Crunk'n'B I guess?
Ciara: No. I don't like being called the Queen of Crunk'n'B, nor the Princess or the Lady of Crunk'n'B. I've only got one Crunk'n'B song on my album, but I guess people want to give me that title for some reason. I'm definitely not the queen of crunk.
SOAK: As you said earlier, you've been in the business since you were 14 (Ciara’s 19 now). It must have been a mad journey!
Ciara: It's been crazy. I've had my bad experiences and good ones. All of them have made me a much stronger and wiser person. It's made me who I am today and there's so much more that I have to learn, but it's definitely been a journey for me. At the end of the day, I’ve enjoyed it and look what's happening to me now! It's been a great journey. It's a blessing.
SOAK: Before you went solo, you were actually in a girl group. What happened and why did you leave the group?
Ciara: I went to audition for the group, and there was actually a girl who went for the same spot who'd been in a professional recording group before. It was a funny thing, because I got the position over her and I’d never had vocal training. I was just singing off natural talent. We were together for a little bit and we started to have differences. I just decided that going solo was what I wanted to do and what would be best for me. At first, I was interested in doing the group situation, but then eventually I realized that being solo was what I really wanted to do. It's just easier when it's one.
SOAK: At the time you started singing, were you rapping as well?
Ciara: Well, I used to rap around and play around outside in the neighbourhood with my friends, but I never went and recorded rap records or anything like that. I used to do a bit of freestyling, which was fun. It was crazy. Missy made me rap on this song. It's crazy, because I'm so shy when it comes to that, but she got me to do it and if you've got Missy digging what you do, it must be good. She's incredible. I can't even remember the freakin’ song title at the moment, but it's gonna be her first single back, and it's about how music makes you lose control.
SOAK: Some of the people you've worked with on the album – R. Kelly, Ludacris, etc…
Ciara: Missy, Lil Jon, Jazzy…it's been crazy. It's been a blessing, you know? All the people are so talented and they've been around for so long, and to know that they believe in me as an artist, and to know that they were interested in working with me means so much to me.
SOAK: When you sit down on a day off and look back you must think, "19, and I’ve done all this?"
Ciara: I definitely think about how blessed I am. I appreciate everything that has happened to me and that is happening to me, especially at this age. I do realize that a lot of people don't even get half as much as what I’ve had happen to me for almost their whole lives. I just pray for a long career and keep striving for longevity.
SOAK: And that's why you've co-written most of the songs on the album. Do you think it's important for an artist to write their own songs?
Ciara: For me, I like to be involved in my record, just because I want my music to reflect who I am as a person as much as possible. I think it's very important that I give people the real me. And because I love writing, writing is something I’ve been blessed with. It's great to have that talent under your belt, but I don't think that everybody has to be a writer though.
SOAK: Would you consider writing for other artists?
Ciara: For sure, I've actually done it before. There was a song that I wrote when I was 15 that Mya loved, so she used it for her album. And I also had a song on The Proud Family Soundtrack; I was on the America Idol featuring Alicia Keys (but Alicia Keys wasn't on the record). I've also done a song for Fantasia's album called “Keep Me Waiting”, a song I wrote with Jermaine Dupri.
SOAK: You sing, you write, you dance, you rap - is there anything you can't do?
Ciara: Oh my goodness. There are some things I can't do, but I’m working on the things you wouldn't expect. I'm working on a clothing line at the moment, but I don't wanna tell you much ‘cos someone will then go and get that idea. It's gonna be hot though.