Life could have been very different for pop superstar Jason Derulo.
Growing up in Carol City, a rough Miami neighbourhood once dubbed the “hood hood” by the singer, Derulo used his aptitude for music and dancing to escape from an area where nearly a quarter of children live below the poverty line.
After he beat the odds to win a place at New York’s prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy, the performer’s success in his musical-theatre classes led to the ambitious youngster being offered a role in the Broadway show Rent.
It might sound like a dream come true—but Derulo turned it down. Having penned tracks for artists like P. Diddy, Lil Wayne, and Birdman throughout his college years, Derulo instead decided to try his luck in the music industry as a singer.
“It was a tough choice because I wasn’t making any money from the records I was writing at the time,” the “Talk Dirty” performer remembers, reached by phone in L.A. “I didn’t know that I would ever be successful in the music business. I was picking something intangible over a career that was right there in my face.
“So it was very hard to decide—but I don’t regret it. I felt like if I had gone the Broadway route, I would have been stuck there forever. I wanted to pursue the dream that I’ve always had since the beginning: to write my own music, and express the things that I want to really express.”
With the forthcoming launch of his new mixtape, Derulo has finally achieved that aim. Exploring a grittiness missing from more generic previous pop smashes like “Want to Want Me” and “Wiggle”, the singer’s latest single, “Naked”, sees Derulo embracing a new honesty.
Frustrated that he held back on past records, the performer is proud to have traded lines like “They can all call me crazy/I’m a fool for you baby” from 2014’s “Stupid Love” for “Naked”’s somewhat more resolute “Fuck with a nigga even if I ain’t had no bitch/She wanna take it slow, I told that bitch to go pop some xans.”
“I’m happy with ‘Naked’ because it’s completely uncut,” Derulo says. “When I tried to express myself in the past, it just got coded into the song and toned down.
“The tracks on this new mixtape are much more raw. I had a lot of truth serum—that’s alcohol to you and me—so the music is just more organic. ‘Naked’ is all about getting to that truth. It’s about stripping everything down and just saying exactly what you feel.
“This mixtape is going to be a new beginning for me,” he continues. “Any project is a fresh start of sorts, but this one feels really different. There’s a new sound and a new vibe that you’ve never heard me do yet.
“I’m still finding the right time to release it, but I really want to drop it as a free project as soon as I can. I feel it’s been as important for me to make as it is for people to finally hear it.”
Jason Derulo plays the KiSS RADiO WHAM BAM festival at the PNE Amphitheatre on Saturday (August 20).