For many music artists, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a hard blow to their careers, with being unable to tour and move around like their use to. However, some artists like Robert Lavelle “RL” Huggar, 43, were able to use their time to reconnect with themselves and their community.
Though Huggar, a Minneapolis, MN, native who’s lived in Atlanta since 2006 is mostly known as a member of R&B group Next, he’s also recognized as a solo artist, and a songwriter and producer for other acts such as Ginuwine, Keith Sweat, Jamie Foxx, Luther Vandross, and Mindless Behavior.
“I miss touring, the comradery of my brothers, and getting out in front of an audience and having fun,” Huggar said. “At the same time, you find ways to grow and enhance your skillset when you sit down.
“If you’re really a creative there’s no such thing as sitting down. You’re going to create whether it’s at home, on the road, or wherever. The advantage for me is that I grew up on an itinerary. I still get up at 4:30 in the morning and have all these things that I have to set for my day.
Towards the end of last, Huggar was able to release a four-track EP called “The Letter J,” a project that combines all of his talents as a singer, songwriter, and producer, and allowed him to showcase his love of R&B.
“We put together ‘The Letter J’ which is really paying homage to artists that I really respect,” Huggar said. “We called it ‘The Letter J’because we sampled two Jodeci records, Jon B., and Janet Jackson.”
“I wanted to give a taste. It’s like trying to impress a girl with some flowers on the first date. I’m not going to show up with the whole garden. Maybe just a couple dozen to impress you, to make you want to call me and see me again.”
Huggar says that while releasing the EP during the pandemic allowed him to reconnect with his identity as a solo artist, he was also able to reconnect with his community after the death of George Floyd and the racial uprisings that took place nationwide during the summer.
Floyd’s murder took place in Huggar’s hometown while in the custody of three Minneapolis police officers. He was able to travel home meet with Minneapolis Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo and discuss how to improve police relations within the community.
“I went out there and I met with the chief of police,” Huggar said. We talked about quite a few things. He said he was going to put in place certain things to change the image of police officers.”
“We need a new generation of police officers to kick this ‘good-ole-boy’ network out so that we can police our own communities. Because no one is going to love our communities and want to keep them safe like we do. “He was totally receptive and loved my ideas.”
According to Huggar, the trip provided him with a revelation, allowing him to see himself as more than an artist but an actual member of the community.
“I’m proud of the fact Minnesota figuratively lit the match that started a whole new evolution. I don’t want to say revolution because it cant come back around again we have to find a way to break the cycle,” Huggar said.
He continued, “Being that I’m an OG now, I can’t be out in the streets. I have to come home to my baby girl, but I can find ways that I can help resolve certain tensions and bring up issues.
“A lot of our people feel like we’re on separate sides and the truth is criminals and officers have the same thing that they want to get accomplished at the end of the day and that’s getting home to their families safely.
“Whether you’re out protecting the streets or you’re out trying to make ends meet for your family, the bottom line is that you want to make it home to your family.