New Blair Waldorf -- uh, Leighton Meester -- Single is By Miami-Based Producer/Songwriter Rico Love

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The Miami-based, 26-year-old Rico Love is quietly becoming one of the industry's most sought-after R&B and pop arrangers and songwriters. Starting out in his early 20s as a rapper in Atlanta, he got his real boost when, as a performer, Usher signed him to his J Records imprint. And while working on his debut album, Rico penned a little tune for his mentor as an experiment. That song was Usher's "Throwback," one of the standout tunes on the singer's 2004 album Confessions.

After some time in Atlanta and L.A., Rico Love moved to Miami about a year and a half ago to work with locally born and bred hit-maker Jim Jonsin. And so I met him last night, at the studio he shares with Jonsin, to discuss the various projects he's got in the works. Rico Love is about to blow up -- last night he was awaiting the arrival of Kelly Rowland, so they could work on a number of vocals for her next solo album. Next week he'll be working on Nelly's comeback, he wrote about half of the next Usher album, and to name a random track, you can currently hear him on Fat Joe's "Aloha," which also features Pleasure P.

Check back on Crossfade over the next couple of weeks for a better introduction to Rico Love. But, OMG, what I want to talk about right now is that he's also responsible for the latest Leighton Meester single, "Somebody to Love," which features Robin Thicke, above. It's a sleazy-sexy, Madonna-style electro dance number.

"I was working with Mike Caren in L.A. We were just doing songs, listening to beats and writing lyrics. He actually had the concept; he said, 'Yo, I want to write a song called "Somebody to Love."' So I wrote the song, and two weeks later I got a call from my manager saying Leighton Meester wanted the song," Rico recalls. "But I was like, 'I don't know who that is, but let's do it!' Then I told my little sister, and she went nuts! So then I realized, apparently, this chick is big."

Sadly, though, there are no anecdotes about meeting with The Headbanded One -- the song was sent off and Meester recorded her vocals elsewhere.

Still, it's been a major career boost for Rico. "I thought the biggest thing I had done so far was [writing songs for Beyonce], but now the phone's been ringing off the hook," he says.

So, more on him later. As an extra, here's Fat Joe's "Aloha," featuring Rico Love and Pleasure P.



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