Cheri Dennis – Bad Boy’s New “It” Girl
She brought a hip-hop god to his knees and ended up landing an on-the-spot record deal as a result of her unwavering self-belief. On a road paved by the likes of Bad Boy Cougars Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige, she is no stranger to divine intervention. Meet Cheri Dennis.
I was shopping at the iTunes store the other day and I saw your album cover under “What’s hot!” Congratulations! What else have you been up to?
Thank you so much, I appreciate it. I’m just happy that people are finally getting the chance to hear the music. I’m on a radio tour right now, so I’m just kinda in motion… promoting the album and everything. I’m excited. It’s been a long time coming.
About two years, right?
Yeah, yeah a long time. It’s just going to be exciting to see how people feel about the music. Up until now I’ve really just had a song here and there so I’m really curious to see how they like this album.
I love your “Portrait of Love” video. I actually know one of your dancers, Deja Riley. I got in touch with her yesterday and she had such sweet things to say about you.
Yep! Aw, yeah we had a lot of fun on the video shoot, it was really cool. All the girls were really nice and they did their thing. They came and they represented so it was really nice.
Have you always been a dancer?
I haven’t always been; I mean I’ve danced. I’m not afraid to dance, but in terms of being a choreographed dancer, I can but it’s been definitely more about the vocals. I can dance, and I would like to do more in the future.
I was curious about that because it’s one thing growing up as a singer and cultivating your gifts as a vocalist, and it’s quite another to be thrown in front of a camera having to be the leading lady in a video. Were you comfortable with all of that?
I was really comfortable actually. I’m not nervous at all. I just wish I had more time. All the dancing in “Portrait of Love” I learned the day before. I got one day to rehearse, and I learned it all that day. I think for the future I definitely will be doing more dancing, but I’ll have to have more days of rehearsal.
Who was the choreographer for the shoot?
His name is Sean. He’s phenomenal too; young boy, like 18. He’s really, really, really, really dope. He did his thing. When I tell you that he’s really good, he’s really good. And to be so young and to be so focused, I was just really happy they picked him. We got along well, and worked together well. It was really good.
So I know you’ve probably been asked this question 5 mil- lion times, and I’m sorry but I think it’s an important question with a (potentially – you can´t predict the future) inspiring answer. How did your record deal come to fruition?
Well, I’m actually signed to a production company called Cozy Music run by a guy named Jimmy Cozier. A friend of his actually worked at Bad Boy and invited Puffy and Kim Porter to a party. I just sat down next to Puffy at the party and started free-styling over the music that was playing; I can’t even remember what was playing. But that’s kinda how my deal got rolling. I love that! You know when the opportunity is there you have to take advantage of it!
No kidding. And then your song “Ooh La La” became the theme song for “Making the Band 3.” Was that good exposure for you?
I think it was great exposure, even though for a long time no one knew it was me. But once people realized, I think it was great exposure.
I guess it sort of planted the seed.
Yeah, Definitely. And the voice because that’s really what it’s about at the end of the day; it’s just the music and the voice. So just the fact that subconsciously they were planting that seed, that was cool.
So what have you been doing over the past two years? What was your process like?
A lot of it was recording. A lot of it was re-grouping. It wasn’t just about the recording process for me. I definitely had some other issues going on. You know, with management. It’s a business so I had to really get business-straight. Lately it’s just been promotion for this single, the iTunes release, and the in-store release. There’s a lot of promotion going on.
In between all of the promotion and travels, where is home for you?
Oh gosh, New York has been home for me for a while. I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and my family and my friends live in Cleveland. And then my mom lives in Tampa. I’m kinda back and forth between New York and Tampa because I visit my mom and my sister a lot. And then for work I’m in New York.
You have a sister? Is she younger or older?
I have three sisters! I’m 1 of 4. My sister in Tampa is younger.
One of your next stops is in your hometown. are you excited to get to play for old friends and family?
Dad’s one of my biggest sup- porters. He’s sort of been my best friend, so I know he’s been really excited. My friends are excited too but my dad most of all.
I read you grew up singing in church with your grandma. Is that where music first got under your skin?
Yeah, everybody sang in the church choir, and then I was in a singing group from 12 to 16. I’ve always been involved in music. When I was younger it wasn’t as professional as it is now, but I’ve definitely always been involved in music in some way.
So you always knew?
Always! It was a no-brainer for me. It’s my passion. I don’t think if I was doing something else I’d be truly fulfilled, so I think I’m in the right place.
It’s not always easy to follow your passion. Did you have any odd jobs to sustain you along the way?
I worked at T.J. Maxx when I was 18. That was pretty much the only job I ever really had. I got fired from that job, but that’s a whole other can of worms. I guess that was my cue; T.J. Maxx retail was not my forte!
Is fashion a forte of yours? I’m always curious about what goes into building an artist´s it difficult figuring out how you wanted to present yourself?
Definitely, I think when you’re dealing with a label (unless there’s just this clear-cut image of who you are), a lot of times there’s creative differences in terms of imaging and musical direction. But you know we´ve got it together, although it took a while for me. Because I’m kind of a carefree, have- tattoos-everywhere kind of girl, they definitely had to figure out what direction they wanted to take me. You know, it’s like a box that people want to put you into. I guess if you don’t fit into a box that people can figure out, it leaves room for confusion. But we got it; it finally came together and I’m pleased with the direction it’s going in. Of course it’s not to- tally 100 percent where I wanted to be creatively or where I wanted to be image-wise, but I think we have room to grow. And I’m looking forward to seeing just where it takes me.
Do you have any big plans for your release in February?
Aw, I’m not sure yet. I’m sure we’ll do something special. These are all new surprises for me, so I’m taking every day as it comes. Right now I’m just dealing with this iTunes release. Hopefully we’ll speak again and I’ll be on my second, or third video and we’ll be doing some more detailed dancing. I look forward to having even more to talk about!