Don’t act like you forgot; 1998 wasn’t that long ago. Before “Survivor” was saturating radios and Jay-Z had the “hottest chick in the game wearing his chain,” Destiny’s Child was four young, beautiful girls by the names of Beyonce, Kelly, Letoya and LeTavia. Singles like “No, No, No Pt. 2” and “Bills, Bills, Bills” were topping the charts with their alluring beats and catchy hooks, while adepty-harmonized vocals from the quartet pushed earned them multi-platinum record sales and a stronghold as one of the premier female groups of the era. But behind the scenes, the group wasn’t so melodious—Letoya and Latavia had disagreements with manager Matthew Knowles, and the two were eventually ousted from the group.
But nowadays, Letoya Luckett isn’t sweating it. Her new single, “Torn” is hotter than the summers in her hometown of Houston, and she’s maintaining her multi-tasking hustle with her own boutique and an impending real estate license. “Everybody’s grown up and doing their own thing,” Letoya says, adorable southern drawl in tact. “I ain’t no hater, and I’m definitely over everything that happened (with Destiny’s Child).” In an interview with HipHopDX, Letoya talks about making her own mark, life post-Destiny’s Child, and good ol’ days with newfound H-Town superstars.
HipHopDX: What have you been up to since you left Destiny’s Child?
Letoya: Whoo! Workin, honey, nonstop. I’m going into my third year of a boutique that I opened, Lady Elle in Houston, Texas. Aside from that, I was getting together a little demo… Well immediately after Destiny’s Child, LeTavia and myself put together a four-girl group by the name of Angel. We were in the studio in Atlanta recording for a minute, but unfortunately, the production company we were with folded. That put an end to that, and I ended up moving to LA and getting with an agency, I was trying to dibble and dabble in modeling, acting, whatever I could get my hands on. I ended up meeting some guys from Atlanta with a production company, and I got in the studio with them and started grinding out and working. After we did that, we got five songs together and went around and shopped a deal, and landed at Capital. So when I wasn’t at my store, I was in the studio. Workin’, workin’, workin’.
HipHopDX: Before getting started recording your album, how long had it been since you were in the studio?
Letoya: My brother is a producer, so I’d just go across the hall, and if I had an idea I’d lay it down.
HipHopDX: So there wasn’t any difficulty getting back into the groove of recording?
Letoya: Nah, not really at all. Not really at all. It was just kind of, like…after the Angel situation, I was like, “Oh my God, I’m not in the group situation.” I wasn’t ever trying to really do a solo project at all, but once I got in the studio and started writing and stuff like that, I’m like, “Shoot, let’s try this right quick!”
HipHopDX: How different is it recording as a solo artist, as opposed to recording with a group?
Letoya: It’s different of course, because in the group, you just play your part. If you’re a soprano, you’re just going to sing the soprano part. If you’re an alto, you just make sure play your role. But as a solo artist, it’s all on you. You’re in there doing the also, the soprano, the bass, everything else, you’re writing. It’s all on you.
HipHopDX: So if you had your choice, what would you record now? Another solo album, or a group album?
Letoya: I’ve gotten used to recording as a solo artist. I would love to be in a group situation; not as much right now, because I’m doing my solo thing, but if someone wanted to do a collaboration, I would totally be down with that.
HipHopDX: Who would you like to collaborate with if you had a chance?
Letoya: I like Akon, I like Mary (J. Blige), Ciara, let me see…Musiq Soulchild.
HipHopDX: Yeah, Musiq is dope. In the process of you recording your solo music, how difficult was it for you to create your own sound and flavor?
Letoya: When I was in Atlanta, I started working with Jan Smith, who was referred to me by Usher. We started doing classes, rehearsals, and things like that with our conditioning. The more you sing, the more you go in the studio, and the more you do your thing, you kind of establish your own style.
HipHopDX: How would you describe that sound?
Letoya: Especially on the uptempos, because I’ve got my H-Town hard hitters on there: Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Bun B. Definitely repping the H, and giving y’all a taste of what we do in Houston. That separates me from other female artists who aren’t from Houston, and don’t know what we do from there. That’s one way of looking at it. Also, on my ballads, I’m kind of a soft, laid back kind of singer. Emotional, that whole thing.
HipHopDX: Like you said, you’re really representing Houston a lot on the album with Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Bun B and Slim Thug. Did you know them personally before doing the tracks with them?
Letoya: Because we’re from the same city, I would always see them in passing and stuff like that. I’ve been like the little sister for a minute [laughs], so once they found out I was doing an album, they were like, “Oh I gots to get on it!” And a lot of us came up together—same high school, or same side of town. In Houston, we had teen clubs, like from (ages) 14 to 17 or something like that. So everybody would be at the neighborhood clubs, kickin’ it and dancing and sweating their hair out. So we knew each other from then. Paul Wall used to be a DJ at a spot called Hip-Hop Comedy Shop, and Destiny’s Child, we’d come in there and perform all the time. Some little girls, we were not supposed to be in there, but we were getting our grind on. So I’ve been knowing Paul forever.
HipHopDX: So how crazy is it to see them doing their thing now, remembering where you were back then?
Letoya: Crazy ain’t the word! It’s just graceful to hear them getting their songs out. Whether y’all know it or not, these guys have been doing it since they’ve been 16 or 17 years old. These guys are the thang, they’ve been the thang in Houston. For them to finally get worldwide, I’m very proud of that movement. They used to sell their CDs out of the trunk.
HipHopDX: What did you think that you first heard that Destiny’s Child wasn’t recording anymore albums?
Letoya: It was sad, because I’m a fan of theirs, and it’s something that I was a part of coming to an end. It hit home. It’s crazy, because I was going to see their last show in Houston that they had, and I got into a car wreck. I was like, “Lord, c’mon, I just wanna see the show!” How crazy is that, right? Last show in Houston.
HipHopDX: Wow. Were you hurt?
Letoya: My car was hurt, I was a little bruised up. It was a head-on kind of a thing, ol’ dude ran a light and messed up my whole evening. And how about this? He was on his way to the concert, too.
HipHopDX: [laughs] That’s crazy.
Letoya: [laughs] Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I’m like, “See? You messed it up for the both of us.” [laughs]
HipHopDX: So do you still keep up with the group? Or are you a normal fan like anybody else?
Letoya: Actually, I sell Beyonce’s clothing line in my store, so we have a business relationship. We always see each other in passing, give each other hugs, congratulate each other, catch up and stuff like that. It’s cool. Everybody’s grown up and doing their own thing. I ain’t no hater, and I’m definitely over everything that happened.
HipHopDX: Now that you’re a solo artist, do you think you’ll have any trouble distinguishing yourself as Letoya, and not as the former member of the group?
Letoya: I know that that’s going to be somewhat of an issue, but it’s a blessing that I was even a part of that, so I don’t look at it as a downfall. People are going to be like, “Hey, that’s the girl that used to be in Destiny’s Child,” which is kind of a good thing, because right off the bat they know who I am. I don’t have to establish myself as an artist, but trying to differentiate the two is going to be a little different. But once they hear the album, they’ll be like, “Oh, OK! She’s doing her own thing, she’s got her own sound, she’s writing about her own situations.” So I think that’s when it’s going to happen, when people are going to be like, “OK, this is Letoya.”
HipHopDX: What kind of experiences had you had in hair and business before opening your store Lady Elle?
Letoya: I took it upon myself to make sure that I graduated from high school. My grandmother ain’t havin that droppin’ out stuff. So I graduated from my living room, I got home schooled. Soon after that, that’s when I opened up my store. I was also taking real estate classes, so I’m about to take my state exam, get into the real estate business real quick. And my mom is an accountant, so that’s really how we came up with the idea to do the store. With my fashion sense and her business sense, we put the two together, she’s runnin’ it.
HipHopDX: With your store and real estate, it seems that you find it really vital to do things outside of music. Other people, they just see music as—
Letoya: Their whole life? No, you always need something to fall back on.
HipHopDX: Which was the most difficult to do, between music, your store, modeling, and real estate?
Letoya: I think the store, keeping up with all the new trends and fighting with the other boutiques around me. Certain vendors, if they’ve already sold to someone in your area, or within a ten-mile radius of you, they won’t sell to your store. So it’s like, serious [laughs]. Everybody might think it’s cool, but that’s a whole different ballgame over there.
HipHopDX: Which do you like best?
Letoya: The thing that I like about the store is that I’m behind the scenes. I feel like I’m just being myself. I’m helping customers, picking up after customers, I’m doing my thing. I don’t want to say that I feel like I have a regular job, but that’s how I feel. And I love that feeling. At the same time, I like entertaining—it’s crazy, it’s a total contradiction—but I love entertaining, I love meeting new people, and I love being in the studio.
[tags]Letoya Luckett, Beyonce, Destiny’s Child[/tags]