Olivia is Patiently Waiting

Olivia is Patiently Waiting

Five years ago, Olivia was just another R&B singer trying to catch a break on Clive Davis’ new label. Now she’s the first lady of the most dominant crew in hio-hop. Bow down to Lady O.

“What is the question you get asked the most?”
“That’s easy,” Olivia smirks. “They all wanna know, ‘What’s it like working with 50′”?
“And…”
“I’m polite, but most times I wanna scream, ‘How the hell do you think it is?’”

Five years ago, Olivia was just another R&B singer trying to catch a break on Clive Davis’ new label. Now she’s the first lady of the most dominant crew in hio-hop. Bow down to Lady O.

“What is the question you get asked the most?”
“That’s easy,” Olivia smirks. “They all wanna know, ‘What’s it like working with 50′”?
“And…”
“I’m polite, but most times I wanna scream, ‘How the hell do you think it is?’”

One glance at the vamp appeal that bi-racial sister-girl Olivia projects in the enticing 50 Cent video “Candy Shop,” and it’s obvious the first lady of G-Unit has what it takes to be a sex symbol. Still, while coach-potato dudes might drool over her videogenic feline eyes, shapely thighs and sweetback voice, there are layers of fem complexity that, as El DeBarge once sang, “In Time, it will reveal.”

Lady O’s aptly titled sophomore disc, Behind Closed Doors, proves there is much more to this mocha-hued R&B darling than Manolo Blahniks strutting down some red carpet, glimmering MAC make-up glowing under harsh lights, and a shimmering give-it-to-me-baby facade. A musical mixture of b-girl boogie, teary-eyed siren and lovey-dovey cooling, Olivia wears her various personas proudly.

Lounging in the darkened meeting room inside the Fort Knox-like offices of Violator Management, the 24-year-old New York native is dressed in faded jeans, a simple top and vintage sneakers. Summer storm clouds simmer outside the 11th floor windows overlooking the rooftops of midtown Manhattan. With a smile that would make Kool-Aid proud, Olivia sits at the head of the massive conference table, and class is in session.

“I don’t act like normal girls,” says the cute tomboy who enjoys spending time with her long-married parents, singing in the church, and blasting the moody music of trip-hop chick Esthero on her iPod. “I’d rather be in the studio or watching a Pistons’ game than on the phone. Man, when the Pistons lost, that hurt me so much,” she says. “But it’s cool. I know they’ll be back.”

If anybody understands the art of the comeback, it’s Olivia Longott. First signed to Clive Davis’ J Records in 2000, Olivia shared the roster with now forgotten vocalist Jimmy Cozier and then-breakout diva Alicia Keys. “[We] could all play instruments, but all three of us playing piano wasn’t going to sell,” informs Olivia, who has been playing keyboards since she was 12. “Instead, J wanted me to play the bad-girl singer role.” Styled in her around-the0way girl gear, Olivia released her self-titled debut disc in May 2001, which included her most well known tracks, “Bizounce” and “Are U Capable.”

Despite the record’s growing momentum, the album was shrounded in Alicia Keys’ shadow, which led to Olivia’s breaking from the company the following year. Reflecting on those tarnished yesterdays, Olivia proclaims, “That so-called bad-girl image just wasn’t me. Clive is a very smart guy, but not everybody is right all of the time.” Though CLive is known for his total control at J, things have been different at G-Unit. “50 respects my decisions when it comes time to picking tracks, which is something that never happened at J. With G-Unit, I have a sense of independence.

Introduced to 50 Cent by their mutual manager, Chris Lighty, president of Violator Management, the Jamaican, Indian and Cuban doll first appeared as a G-Unit member in Lloyd Bank’s video for “Smile” and subsequent vids “I’m So Fly” and “Karma.” In february 2005, she co-starred with her newly adopted big brother in the bulging muscles on “Candy Shop,” the first single from his sophomore LP, The Massacre.

“The first time we worked together was in 2003, when 50 asked me to sing the hook on the ‘Smile’ remix,” Olivia remembers. “We were at 50′s house, and 50 had gone upstairs for about 10 minutes. When he came back, I had written my part and was ready to record. Although he never said anything, I believe that was 50′s way of testing me before he asked me to join the crew.”

However, though Olivia obviously passed the test with flying colors, one has to wonder if the sole female artist on the label was converned with 5′s reputation for being trailed by trouble. “A lot of that stuff is just media nonsense,” Olivia replies. “There isn’t a shoot-out every second, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable being with him. We’ve toured all over the record and nothing has ever happened. The media has this way of over-hyping things.”

Recently, while on tour with the Unit in Europe, Olivia peeped the worldwide appeal of 50 and company. “We were in Milan, Paris and Berlin,” she says. “I would be onstage with 50 performing ‘Candy Shop’ and the crowd– many who didn’t even speak English– would know of our parts. I think it’s amazing the barriers that music can break down.”

Olivia has come a long way since the days when she silently stared at the posters of ‘Pac, Jodeci and Salt ‘N Pepa on her bedroom walls, praying that she, too, would be a star. Yet, from singing in the choir at her mama’s church to writing poems in high school, each small step has put Olivia closer to her goal as a world-renowned singer-songwriter.

“I wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on Behind Closed Doors,” she says proudly. Undeniably, it was her wordsmith skills as well as her voice that first impressed super producer Dr. Dre when the two first met. “I had gone to the studio with 50, and Dre said, ‘Well, since you’re here, you might want to do some work, too.’ After finding the right track, I pulled out my two-way and started typing lyrics to the beat. At first Dre thought I was ignoring him, but 10 minutes later when I finished the song, he was impressed.” The track, “If I Don’t Work Out,” appears on her disc.

Other songs on the LP include “So Sexy,” which captures a Janet Jackson vibe, and “Never TOo Far,” which was produced by Robert Smith (a.k.a. Brandy’s baby daddy) and pays homage to her childhood dol and former J Records labelmate Luther Vandross (who sadly died one day after this interview).

Says G-Unit’s first lady, “The main goal with this project was to do records we could be proud of. I never want to be plain, boring or doing what everybody else in the world is doing.” Without a doubt, Olivia is one of a kind.

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