Nicci Gilbert stands as one of the most accomplished artists of her generation. Along with releasing chart-topping hits such as “If You Love Me” with her group Brownstone, the Detroit native has also worked with Michael Jackson, Queen Latifah, and Tyler Perry, to name a few.
Gilbert’s work in music and TV reached a new generation with the production of the hit reality show “R&B Divas.” She’s currently creating a streaming service called WIRF (Women In Reality Film & TV) Media and will relaunch “R&B Divas.”
Gilbert recently spoke with RTM to discuss new Brownstone music, launching a streaming service, and her lawsuit for copyright infringement against the creators of “P-Valley.”
What you’re doing with WIRF is groundbreaking for an artist. How did you come up with the idea to launch your own streaming service?
There was a void in representation or women of color in terms of entertainment and media. We get pigeonholed into stereotypes, soI think it’s important for platforms to share images that are more authentic and three dimensional. I grew up at a time when entertainers and creatives were seen as gifted people who could share stories and share parts of who we are, that made us proud. And now it’s just really become more damaging to our community than anything. So the point of WIRF was to give light to to great stories that deserve it. Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that it is not what people want to see. And I don’t believe that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Although you started as an artist, what inspired you to delve into the business side of entertainment?
When I signed a record contract at 23 years old someone told me, ‘Hey, once you recoup this investment we’ve made you’re gonna start making money.’ Decades later, we’re still ‘unrecouped.’ And then I do the math of it all and I say well, ‘I’ve sold, 2.5 million records at $10 a pop so I’ve made another company $25 million. But I signed the contract. When I created ‘R&B Divas,’ I wasn’t aware of the importance of ownership. That was probably the thing that triggered my desire to create this platform. Because I created a series that made a ton of money just like the songs that I created made a ton of money for a record label. So when you start realizing how impactful you could be by connecting with your peers in the industry, coming together and coming up with concepts that we could gain an equitable share in, it was a no brainer,
So let’s talk about the new Brownstone project ‘Ain’t No Mountain High.’ What can fans expect?
So we’re releasing it through my media platform. And I’m super excited about it. Brownstone has been around for 30 years. The good thing about Spotify and Apple Music is that people are still streaming our music. I was looking at our audience, we get over 500,000 listeners per month. So the beautiful thing is as long as we keep giving great music, the audience is there. And we’re super excited because it’s just been kind of blowing up on the charts. I’m just a girl group fanatic. So thank God I’m in a group with two sisters who are grateful for that and so I feel like we’re good now…We’re on the road. In February, we’ll be celebrating the Grammy festivities in L.A. And we’re actually working on a tour opportunity, which we’re super excited about today.
You filed a lawsuit against the creators of “P-Valley” over copyright infringement. What is the latest on the case?
Due to COVID, the courts are backed up. What I’m sharing with you are on public records. There’s a comparison video where there are 47 comparisons between ‘P-Valley’ [and my play Soul Kittens Cabaret]. Starz has asked the court to dismiss the case. But there is so much evidence and we’re confident. I like to be really transparent about that. Because I don’t want anybody who feels like they ever have to fight for their intellectual property rights to feel like this. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. And I did not want to pursue this, but when you look at the obvious I deserve a day in court. So where we are is waiting on the judge to make a ruling on a dismissal. We’ll be very respectful of the judge who needs time to explore the case. We’re being very prayerful and confident that we’ll have an opportunity to have this day in court with this high profile case.