A popular in-joke among hip-hop fans is that John Mayer, sensitive singer/songwriter and would-be guitar hero, is every rapper's favorite white musician. Lloyd Petite, who performs under his first name Lloyd, isn't a rapper, but you can add him to that list, too.
"I think John Mayer is – excuse me if this is a bold statement – but one of the greatest entertainers of my generation," Lloyd says without irony. "I blame Dallas Austin for the rock music. As a kid, I'd go work at Dallas Austin's studio. I'd look on the wall, and he has ABC, TLC, Boyz II Men. And then right next to it, he has Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Björk."
Lloyd was introduced to Austin, whom he calls "my big brother," by R&B singer Joyce "Fenderella" Irby, who discovered Lloyd at Avondale Elementary School. He says music is a part of his life. Even before Irby plucked him out of school for N-Toon, a teen group briefly signed with Dreamworks Records, he watched his parents sing in a church choir. "The great thing about [entering the music industry early] is that you have time to soak up everything and grow and develop," he says.
Now 20 years old, Lloyd finally brings his experience to bear on Street Love. Released on the Inc in 2004, his major-label debut Southside was hobbled by label owner Irv Gotti's legal troubles. So Street Love, which hits stores via Universal Motown March 13, marks Lloyd's true arrival. A sensuous lead single with hot boy Lil Wayne, "You," builds around an interpolation of Spandau Ballet's '80s chestnut "True." In terms of genre-smashing, it can't compare to "When Will I See You Again," to name a classic moment when Babyface appropriated acoustic rock. But the freshness of mixing an Old-Wave inspiration such as Spandau Ballet with Lloyd's teen-idol crooning is undeniable.
"You's" artistic and commercial success sets the stage for Street Love, which offers classy and coolly insistent R&B pop such as "I Don't Mind" and "Incredible." "Street Love is, like, icy hot," Lloyd says. "When you go through a lot to get a little, you appreciate the progress that you make."