Johnny Gill is out to break perceptions with his new album, “Provocative,” set to drop next month on Motown.

“Just don’t lock me into being a balladeer,” says Gill. “The (new) album has uptempo cuts because I want to be perceived as an all-around entertainer.”

To underline that commitment, the new disc was launched last week with the decidedly up tempo single “The Floor.” Street date for “Provocative” is June 8. Gill’s single made headlines even before its release. A handful of radio stations obtained a copy of the song and were playing it without Motown’s permission.

Several cease and desist missives were sent out, but Motown devised a way of thwarting radio play from the advance cassette: Each song on the advance features a Don Cornelius sound-alike repeating the phrase “Motown Records” in the background several times throughout each of the disc’s 10 songs.

“It was a major leak, and it caused a lot of problems,” says Michael Mitchell , Motown’s VP of Communications.

“It held us up tremendously. I wanted to get this album out two months ago. But we had to devise a way to stop the leaks. The phrase makes the advance cassette useless to radio, which was our goal.”

Gill, who turns 27 on May 25, would also like to shed his image as the pubescent former front man for New Edition. “I’ve matured as a performer and I hope this album shows it. Although my days (with New Edition) were great learning experiences, I’m a different artist today.”

Although Gill is focused on kicking off the album, he admits that he’s also thinking about running his own label and taking on producer chores for other artists, as well as fielding acting offers.

Gill’s first outside producing project will be for Gasoline Alley/MCA Records trio II D Extreme, which was co-founded by his brother, Randy.

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