“One of the main things that attracted 50 to my project was my singing ability,” says sexy, R&B singer Olivia, the first lady of 50 Cent's G-Unit empire. “He wanted a girl who was really hot who could represent the crew.”
Olivia, 23, more than fits the bill. The petite, vocalist who sings soprano, tenor and alto is the quintessential ride or die chick who boasts beauty, brawn and ample confidence to assure her voice is heard amongst the industry's hardest rappers.
Her G-Unit set, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, captures her street savvy wit on hip-hop tracks featuring her brethren 50, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and Tony Yayo, as well as her more vulnerable disposition on honest ballads. The diverse assortment of beats are delivered by a variety of respected producers including Dr. Dre, resident G-Unit producer Sha Money XL, Robert Smith, and the Movement, among others.
Prior to joining the G-Unit ranks in July 2004, Olivia was the first artist signed to music mogul Clive Davis' J Records. In 2001, Olivia released her self-titled debut that included the hits, “Biz-ounce,” and “Are You Capable.” Despite the record's growing momentum, the album got lost in the label shuffle, resulting in Olivia's departure from the company the following year.
“Having the opportunity to work with Clive was incredible,” Olivia says of her tenure on J. “I learned so much.” After splitting with J, Olivia continued to record new songs and tour, receiving lucrative offers from numerous record labels. When a former J Records executive took a position and Interscope and promised Olivia a meeting with Jimmy Iovine, the label head who has executed multi-million dollar deals with Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent, she jumped at the opportunity and was signed on the spot. Within a few months, 50 Cent called her, offering her the position as the first lady of G-Unit. To help make her presence, Olivia made a string of cameo appearances in G-Unit videos, beginning with Lloyd Banks' solo shot “Smile” and subsequent videos from his songs “I'm So Fly” and “Karma.” In February 2005, she was featured on 50 Cent's “Candy Shop,” the first single from his sophomore album, THE MASSACRE.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS gives Olivia more creative freedom than she experienced on her first album, which she considers a bit brasher than she wanted. “BEHIND CLOSED DOORS really is a totally different transition from what you heard from J,” Olivia explains. “I'm still street. I'm still doing the sexy stuff, and I'm still straight forward, but I'm doing it in a subtler way.”
Olivia's pristine vocals pierce though the bubbling party-track “Twisted” featuring 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks. She goes crunk with Young Buck on “Whatever.” MENTION SONG WITH TONY YAYO. Then, she teams up with 50 again on the super sexy “In My Bedroom” where they trade racy pillow talk without getting explicit. Olivia and 50 recorded “In My Bedroom” right after they made “Candy Shop,” the lead track from 50's sophomore album, THE MASSACRE. “Once 50 heard ‘In My Bedroom', he wanted to put a verse on it because he liked the record so much,” Olivia says.
Elsewhere, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS illustrates Olivia's musical dexterity. Her love for her reggae roots—she's part Jamaican, Indian and Cuban--is apparent on the pulsating “Wild Tonight” featuring Shaggy and grinding “Wind Pon Me” with popular Jamaican artist Cecile. Olivia's love for her dad's favorites Tito Puentes and Gloria Estefan shines on the conga-drum enhanced “Closer.”
While connecting with the music is important to Olivia, she also insists that the lyrical content offers substance. On the sizzling “Ex Girl,” she is not afraid to confess, “Let me show you how your ex girl should've been loving you.” Over an old school ‘70s track, “Pick Up The Pieces,” she wonders who will be able to heal her heartache. She vows her commitment to a down and out brother on “Count On Me,” unconditional love on “Earth, Fire And Wind,” and admits emotional confusion on “Stuck,” which samples Barry White's “TKTKSONGTITLE.”
The artist who lists Brandy, Anita Baker, Maroon 5 and Garbage among her favorite acts is sure to connect with listeners on the introspective “Lonely Girl” where she conveys feelings few are willing to reveal. “I want this to be a single,” Olivia says. “It's basically about being jealous of all my friends because they have men and I don't. You know how you always have one girl out of the group who always talks about the other girls, but she's really jealous because she wants to be that girl? I couldn't turn this song down because I know that many people actually feel like that and no one talks about that.” Olivia's also has a Grammy award contender, “Never Too Far,” a Luther Vandross styled ballad produced by Robert Smith. “When I went into the studio with Robert, he actually had another song,” Olivia explains. “But he just sat at the piano and started playing and I started singing a melody. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is hot.' When I wrote it, I was missing the dude I was seeing. I was trying to tell him, ‘never too far, you can pick up the phone and reach me.'”
Olivia wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on the album and titled it BEHIND CLOSED DOORS to explain the album's personal lyrics. “I want people to be able to know me behind closed doors,” Olivia says. “They'll see a glimpse into my life.”
Though Olivia was born in Flatbush Brooklyn, she spent her early childhood years in Jamaica with her grandmother while her parents got settled in New York. She joined them in the States when she was 8.
The self-proclaimed tomboy who grew up studying karate, running track and playing basketball and baseball with her two brothers, grew up singing in the church. Watching the elder women belt out such moving, gospel songs each week helped her develop her vocal tone. (When Olivia later received vocal training from Whitney Houston's first vocal coach, she was told that she did not need the assistance, but just help with her “breathing techniques” so that she could learn to hold notes longer.)
When Olivia was 14, she realized how much her voice had developed. Her older brother was a budding rapper, who would take her along when he went to his DJ's house to record demos. Olivia sang choruses for their songs and even sang some of her poems.
Impressed with what he had heard, one of Olivia's cousins, who had established music business connections via his security company, began to take her to a recording studio and helped her find a producer. She began writing everyday and going to the studio several times a week. After completing high school, Olivia attended two Long Island colleges. She took music business courses during the day at Hofstra University and music engineering and opera classes in the evening at Five Towns College. “I went to Hofstra to make my mom happy,” says Olivia, who considered becoming a pediatrician when she was younger. “But I knew I wanted to sing, so that's why I also took classes at Five Towns, a music school.”
Just as Olivia began college, her producer landed a meeting with Arista Records. And a year later, she was putting school on hold to join Clive at J Records. Even though the J Records deal did not pan out as planned, Olivia believes that everything happens for a reason, and she credits her patience.
“Look at me know,” Olivia says. “I would have never thought I would be at G-Unit. I would have never thought that I would have been at Interscope. I never would have thought I would have met Dre. I feel important now. I know that I'm not gonna get lost in the shuffle.”
Now that Olivia's the first lady of G-Unit, it would be impossible for her to get lost in the shuffle. Those exposed to her debut already knew she had the talent, looks and persona necessary to succeed in the music business. And now those attributes are complimented by the support of hip-hop's most fierce team.