Last updated: 07/11/2009 11:00:00 AM
Home-schooled in the art of performing by sexy superstar Teddy Pendergrass, it’s no wonder why Latif was unanimously voted to be the winner of the Teen People’s “Who’s Next?” nationwide talent contest.
Once you see his charming good looks, witness his fluid dance moves and hear his poetic lyrics flowing in his emotion-filled voice, you know Latif will be music’s newest heartthrob.
Talent and preparation paved the way for his sumptuous debut, Love In The First on Motown Records. Graced with an evocative voice, production by French (B2K) and Teddy Bishop (Aaliyah, Toni Braxton) and songs that are honest and emotional, Love In The First bears witness to R&B’s legacy while still shining a light for its future. Although he’s just 20, Latif performs with a seasoned maturity that belies his youth and constructs love songs that have wisdom, yet tinged with innocence.
You can hear what impressed the prestigious Teen People “Who’s Next?” talent contest judges on Latif’s first single “I Don’t Wanna Hurt You.” A shimmering slow jam that breaks down a man’s desire to break free without inflicting hurt feelings, “I Don’t Wanna Hurt You” was written by Shawn Garett, who Latif offers, “listened to what I was going through and translated it into this beautiful song.”
Another honest song is the swaying “Rain Will Go Away.” Written by Latif, it’s about the after effects of break up. “ It’s about my wish for an ex-girlfriend to also find love, because she’s beautiful and deserves it.”
Yet another relationship song is the percolating “It’s Alright.” Latif wrote the up tempo track as a way to let his girl know that if she wants to hang with him she better learn to hang with his peeps and if not, well then it’s alright it they eventually break up.
That ability to examine one’s heart and mind lies at the core of Latif’s appeal. “This album is about different things that I went through. I love making music, and I wanted to be as honest as possible.”
Latif was born and raised in Philadelphia. Although his parents weren’t musically inclined, they instilled in him an appreciation of all music: from country to classical and as a result both, Latif and his older brother developed an interest in singing. “I patterned myself after him,” Latif laughs. “I wanted to sing so I could get the girls like he did.”
Latif’s early influences included Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke, Richie Havens and Neil Diamond.
Latif attended a performing arts school and participated in its productions. Yet perhaps the best education he received was from family friend and former singer for the legendary Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy served as Latif’s mentor and showed the budding singer how to deliver songs. Latif recalls only vaguely being aware of Teddy’s stature in the industry, but now looks back in wonder at the training he received at the hands of a superstar. “He basically groomed me. It was a gift and I benefited so much, but at the time I didn’t understand the magnitude of what I was getting.”
Occasionally, Teddy would take Latif to his TV interviews and allow him to sing alongside him. It was at a taping for a BET show that the daughter of a label executive heard Latif and consequently let her mother know about the talented teen. While still in high school Latif scored a demo deal and used the opportunity to familiarize himself with the studio and the process of writing and recording. The next step was a commercial for a local bank that featured Latif’s vocals. The spot became hugely popular and the buzz about Latif began to spread.
He graduated high school and went to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where he studied music business. While there he entered “Who’s Next?. Latif sang on the stage of Harlem’s Apollo Theater and performed with Nelly, Lil Bow Wow and Destiny’s Child. The taste of the spotlight excited him and Latif informed his parents he didn’t want to go back to college - that he wanted to sing and write full time. “My mother knew I loved music. So she laid down the law. She said ‘make the music career happen this semester, or you go back to school.’”
The ultimatum motivated Latif and he concentrated on honing his songwriting skills. He made his rounds to labels and the execs instantly became interested. One of those executives was Motown's Kedar Massenburg.
Right at home on Motown Records, Latif proves when talent meets preparation on the stage of determination - big things happen. Love In The First, the debut album is only the first act in what promises to be an exciting career for this young heartthrob.