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JumpinJack AJ

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  1. https://www.vibe.com/features/editorial/ode-to-biz-markie-by-cormega-1234623556/?fbclid=IwAR3M836-KSkzkxizF0FjiVtU0ZWQAEktPuf3AS9NjM7-02w5KEh1qEDQWCo Essay: Cormega Shares His Thoughts On The Wonderful Life Of Biz Markie "How does someone define Biz Markie? I define him as one of the coolest rappers you could ever meet..." BY CORMEGA JULY 21, 2021 4:00PM Biz Markie performs at Chene Park on September 3, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Monica Morgan/WireImage One must weigh a person’s character, actions, and individual ways to truly define who they are. The things that define a person are the things that a person is remembered by. How does someone define Biz Markie? I define him as one of the coolest rappers you could ever meet, with a sense of humor and warmth that is hard to forget or replicate. My first encounter with Biz was one a true hip-hop fan would consider mythical. It was at a park jam in Queens Bridge Houses Park, with the Juice Crew performing and Marley Marl as the DJ and orchestrator of everything. At that moment, I was happy for Juice Crew member Craig-G, as he just released a song called “Shout Rap” and performed it as well as a song called “Transformer.” Roxanne Shante, as usual, commanded respect with her skills. The surprise that night was someone nobody knew. My initial reaction was, “Who is this?” And it was answered when Biz Markie told the crowd that he’s not the Human Beat Box from The Fat Boys and did a perfect impression of the group’s sonic supplier, Buffie The Human Beat Box. He then said he’s not Doug E. Fresh and did a perfect impression of Doug E. Finally, he said he’s “The Human Orchestra” Biz Markie and beat boxed while harmonizing a rhythm. I never saw anything like that at that time. I don’t think anyone in the audience had. Suffice to say, he caught the attention of everyone. After that set, MC Shan gave an electrifying performance that is still one of the greatest I’ve ever seen…and then the jam was over. On the way out of the park, those in attendance had a lot to talk about and Biz Markie was part of the conversation. The next day Biz was still in the projects, chilling and socializing and it got to a point where seeing him in Queens Bridge was not a surprise. RELATED STORY KRS-One And Big Daddy Kane's 'Verzuz' Battle Channeled Rap's Golden Era He once said on a song, “Wherever I lay my hat is my home.” He laid his hat in Queens Bridge, Long Island, Harlem, New Jersey, Brooklyn to name a few. In the late ’80s/early ’90s, people stayed in their native neighborhoods in New York City. It was dangerous in the streets, but Biz Markie was different. People who weren’t from Brooklyn didn’t necessarily want to go to Brooklyn, because Brooklyn was the stickup kid Mecca of the five boroughs. But on any given day at Albee Square Mall, you could see Biz Markie chillin’ like he’s from Brooklyn. On any given day you could go to Harlem and see Biz near Mart 125 chilling like he was from Harlem. And on any given day you could see Biz at the Coliseum in Jamaica, Queens (especially at Shirt Kings). He was down to earth in every sense of the word and had a personality people gravitated toward, which helped him transition into film as well. But what really impressed me about Biz was his knowledge of hip-hop and respect for the culture, and of course, his talent, which went beyond performing. Biz had a sharp ear for beats and production, which many people didn’t know. He was also a great DJ. When someone has a skill, sometimes the skill is greater than the person. This is not one of those cases. (Did I mention his sneaker collection would tame a hype beast?) Some aspire to be a great person in their field, but to aspire to be loved like he was outside of his field would be a true achievement. I’ve never heard any rapper have something bad to say about Biz Markie. Ever. That alone makes him rare. We will miss the stage presence, the wit, the precision, but we are blessed to be able to listen to music and see videos with him in it. His family and close friends are the ones I sympathize with the most because his presence in their lives will forever be missed, so to them, we must give sincere condolences and respect. Remember life is a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of time and inevitably all will turn to vapors, but nobody beats the Biz. Biz Markie attends the induction of Hip-Hop DJ Icons Grandwizzard Theodore, Grandmixer DXT and Grandmaster Flash into Guitar Center’s Hollywood RockWalk at Guitar Center on March 6, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage Cory “Cormega” McKay is an accomplished rapper and original member of Nas’ The Firm super group. Cormega helped blaze a trail for others in the independent production market after being signed to Def Jam Records in the ’90s.
  2. Now that Barry Hankerson has finally gotten some things together with Blackground, all of the 90's/00's music from Aaliyah, Tank, JoJo, Ashley Parker Angel, etc is finally available to be streamed. It looks like he's moving forward with a new Aaliyah album. I think most Aaliyah supports will agree that it's great to hear unreleased music, but it's annoying that they are doctoring it. Here's the first single with the unnecessary doctored collaboration with The Weeknd. Here's an interview with Barry Hankerson... https://www.vibe.com/music/music-news/barry-hankerson-aaliyah-posthumous-album-unstoppable-details-1234641117/?fbclid=IwAR24MS_zeI-NIgZ-NsbrbaEOXWSWycgpzMtUxChJutaR5jQJT4PVPNgLHnk Barry Hankerson Details Aaliyah’s Posthumous Album, ‘Unstoppable’ The Blackground Records founder reveals he hasn't been in touch with the late singer's estate regarding her next LP. BY MYA ABRAHAM DECEMBER 17, 2021 4:04PM RJ Capak/WireImage On Friday (Dec. 17), the lead single to Aaliyah Haughton’s posthumous and fourth studio album, Unstoppable, was released. The late singer’s new song, “Poison,” featuring The Weeknd has some leery and others excited for the upcoming full-length LP. Haughton’s uncle, Barry Hankerson—Blackground Records founder and sole owner of her entire catalog—spoke with Billboard about the new Static Major-written song. “When you put a record out, you try to start off with something that gets everybody’s attention,” he said about the DANNYBOYSTYLES and Nick Lamb co-produced record. Hankerson shared how the Canadian singer wanted to obtain some unreleased Aaliyah vocals years ago, but that wasn’t able to come to fruition until now. He also explained what to expect from the Unstoppable album in 2022. The project is set to include a plethora of male artists including features from Drake, Future, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, and Snoop Dogg. “The body of work is pure hip-hop and R&B […] Some of the people that Aaliyah liked are on the album,” Hankerson explained. “She loved Snoop Dogg, who’s done a great record in collaboration with Future. Ne-Yo gave us an excellent song; also Drake. Timbaland produced the track that Chris Brown did. It’s vintage R&B with strong vocals.” Later in the interview, Hankerson admitted that he hasn’t been in contact with Aaliyah’s estate. “We hope they’re happy. Our door and our phone is always available if there are any comments they’d like to make about anything. We’re open to that. I don’t really know who runs that entity, but I’m not hostile at all. Anything that’s connected to Aaliyah in a positive way, we are open to be involved with and do whatever we can do.” He continued, “We hope it’s profitable for them. We hope that the public enjoys what we’ve done so that the estate can accomplish whatever their goals are. I just hope that out of the very terrible thing that happened to my niece that people can heal. That people can look at all the good things and not just the controversial things that may encompass their thinking. I’m not angry with anybody.” Another single is rumored to be released before the album’s arrival in 2022.
  3. We lost another legend. The best smile in Hip-Hop. https://www.npr.org/2021/12/18/1065534280/kangol-kid-hip-hop-pioneer-has-died-at-55 Kangol Kid, hip-hop pioneer, has died at 55 December 18, 20216:47 PM ET Kangol Kid, pictured in 2017 in New York City, has died at age 55 after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET The influential rapper and UTFO member Shaun Shiller Fequiere, known by his stage name Kangol Kid, has died at the age of 55. "I just wanna hear you again, another hug, another embarrassing kiss," the rapper's son T.Shaun Fequiere wrote in a Dec. 18 Instagram post confirming his death. The rapper's death comes after he announced he had been diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2021. As a member of the hip-hop group UTFO, which stood for "UnTouchable Force Organization," Fequiere was part of a pioneering era of New York City rap in the early 1980s. Along with members Doctor Ice, Mix Master Ice, and Educated Rapper, who died in 2017, the Brooklyn group was best known for their 1984 hit song "Roxanne, Roxanne." The track ignited what was later known as the "Roxanne Wars" after rapper Roxanne Shante responded with her diss track "Roxanne's Revenge," which in turn led to dozens of other groups creating their own records responding to the song. "When you think of hip-hop, hip-hop is a sport," Fequiere told AllHipHopTV in 2017 of the infamous rap beef. "A lot of breakdance is battle, rap is battle, DJs battle, but we were the first to battle on wax." Before becoming a rapper, Fequiere began his career as a breakdancer working with fellow UTFO member Doctor Ice. The two performed as the Keystone Dancers and then danced for the hip-hop group Whodini before forming UTFO. "We don't want to be labeled as a rap group," Fequiere told The Washington Post in 1985. "We want to be labeled as a group that can rap. We want to do everything. We may come out with a country tune." UTFO even landed a performance on The Phil Donahue show in 1984, bringing breakdancing to a wider audience. The rapper earned his name for wearing Kangol hats, a defining accessory in 1980s hip-hop, and ended up earning an endorsement deal with the brand. "It was my thing," Fequiere said in an interview with Hot 97. "The name just stuck. ... It was the hat the cool kids wore, and I deemed myself a cool kid by crowning myself with such a hat." One of Fequiere's Kangol hats would later become part of the collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. In the months leading up to his death, Fequiere spoke openly about his experience with cancer, urging fans to get screened. He frequently shared updates about his health on Instagram and photos from his hospital bed with visitors from the hip-hop community, including rappers LL Cool J and fellow UTFO member Doctor Ice. In an interview earlier this year with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, he said: "The new look for hip-hop and cancer is to go get yourself checked out before it happens."
  4. Normally I see Will's movies when they first come out, but with the pandemic and how busy life has been, I hadn't made it out. When I checked movie times and saw that it was leaving the theaters in my area, I went out to see the only showing, which was at 11:20 at night, even though I had to get up at 6 a.m. the next day. I loved the film. It's literally perfect. The tone, the costumes, the acting, the casting, the story they choose to tell. I hate that it was released at a weird time when people are selective about going to the movies. I hope this wins big. It's a special project.
  5. https://www.vibe.com/music/music-news/jodeci-reunites-new-management-p-music-group-1234639168/?fbclid=IwAR2q8cR5aEoAZGHlrvyEnr2eCEnU_1TrIqSqcfASPWDpiEwb4BttlPtNrEE Jodeci Reunites Under New Management Deal With P Music Group "We've come a long way," said group member K-Ci Hailey. "It's a blessing to be back together and give our fans what they've been asking for." BY PREEZY BROWN DECEMBER 10, 2021 5:10PM L–R: Mr. Dalvin, JoJo, DeVanté, and K-Ci of Jodeci perform at the Fillmore Silver Spring in Silver Spring, Md. Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images One of R&B’s most popular and iconic groups are officially reuniting as a full unit as legendary quartet Jodeci have announced their return to the music scene under a new management deal with P Music Group. The group, which consists of members Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey, Joel “JoJo” Hailey, Donald “DeVanté” DeGrate, and Dalvin “Mr. Dalvin” DeGrate, plans to build upon their legacy with the possibility of releasing new music under their partnership. P Music Group founder/CEO Michael Paran, who also reps R&B legends Charlie Wilson and Johnny Gill, shared the backstory of how the Jodeci reunion came to be. “During the pandemic, the guys started reaching out to each other and began talking about reuniting,” Paran told Billboard. “They’re ready to build something new, done the right way without continuing the missteps of the past. I want to be long-term with them and help them show the world that they’re back to begin a whole new era.” K-Ci, who inked a solo deal with P Music Group in 2019 and is currently at work on a new solo album, also spoke on his and his groupmates’ new endeavor. “I’m excited for Jodeci to join P Music Group with Michael managing us,” shared K-Ci in a statement announcing the news. “We’ve come a long way. It’s a blessing to be back together and give our fans what they’ve been asking for.” Mr. Dalvin also spoke glowingly of the opportunity to work with Paran and P Music Group. “Michael is a a man with a plan, a vision and a mission,” he said, adding, “We’re looking forward to a great partnership.” Hailing from North Carolina, Jodeci inked their first record deal with Uptown Records, releasing their debut album, Forever My Lady, in 1991. Spawning the runaway hits “Come and Talk to Me” and its titular track, Forever My Lady yielded the group their first platinum plaque and was followed by the equally successful releases Diary of a Mad Band (1993) and The Show, the After Party, the Hotel (1995). Announcing a hiatus in 1996 and pursuing individual solo efforts, Jodeci resurfaced in 2015 with their fourth studio album, The Past, the Present, the Future, the quartet’s first in 25 years. Having sold over 20 million records worldwide and still regarded as cultural icons, Jodeci’s comeback is sure to give fans of their raunchy, yet melodic style of bedroom ballads something to look forward to heading into the new year.
  6. It's out! https://officialarresteddevelopment.bandcamp.com/album/for-the-fkn-love?from=fanpub_fb_pr&utm_source=album_release&utm_medium=email&utm_content=fanpub_fb_pr&utm_campaign=officialarresteddevelopment%2Balbum%2Bfor-the-fkn-love
  7. Yes, I never thought that moment on the reunion was fake or forced, but it's great to see the reunion continue with her showing up to support him and him acknowledging her.
  8. I figured it would be cool to have a post where those in this group leave their review of the book, explaining what they like about it and where they feel there was room for improvement. What parts are you most entertained by?
  9. https://www.bet.com/article/hbtthx/janet-hubert-standing-ovation-brooklyn-event-will-smith?cid=BET__FBPAGE___5900815677&linkId=139639711&fbclid=IwAR3I6WgXo84qaZPK95bVsCGHSehQqDtAf-YyEEuaY3mCdNOQXACFjik9HvQ ‘Aunt Viv’ Janet Hubert Gets Standing Ovation At Brooklyn Event Held By Will Smith He says their reconciliation was “healing.” By Paul Meara November 10, 2021 ‘Aunt Viv’ Janet Hubert Gets Standing Ovation At Brooklyn Event Held By Will Smith Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, reconnected with Will Smith last year after years of being estranged. Now she is continuing to receive love, which happened last night in Brooklyn at Will Smith: An Evening of Stories with Friends. According to PEOPLE, Hubert and his other Fresh Prince cast member, Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary, were in the building. When Will Smith told the crowd Hubert was there, she received a standing ovation. "Stand up, Janet. Get your flowers!" Smith said. "Take it in! Take that in!" Hosted at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, Smith recalled memorable life lessons while discussing his new memoir, Will. The standing ovation comes a year after the Fresh Prince HBO Max reunion special aired, during which Hubert and Smith sat down for the first time in 27 years to sort out the issues that led to a contentious media blow up over Hubert’s exit from the sitcom in 1993. Smith told attendees at Tuesday’s event: "That is such a beautiful thing. Thank you all. You know, Janet and I — I'm assuming you all saw Janet and I a few months ago on the 30th anniversary of Fresh Prince, for the first time talked out the issues that we had had." He continued: "It was one of the most healing experiences of my life, and it was a big part of the place that working on this memoir got me into. I just wanna thank you, Janet, for being open. That's a big part of the exploration that I wanted to do in this book." Hubert recently told PEOPLE that while the two were close to tears during the TV reunion special, she felt a sense of peace since they talked out their differences. "If there are tree roots in the drain, the water doesn't flow," she said, adding: "The drain has been snaked." The reunion and Tuesday’s event came after years of Janet Hubert slamming Will Smith in the press. In 2018, she blamed the actor for her son’s suicide attempt. Her long standing disdain for Smith stemmed from her claims that the actor labeled her “hard to work with” and ultimately played a role in her having a difficult time booking acting gigs throughout her career.
  10. I have a lot of his albums, and I love them, but never dive that deep into them. This is sad news, though. Between Geto Boys being different without Bushwick Bill and the current state of mainstream rap music, I suppose this shouldn't much of a surprise. It's hard to imagine him continuing music in another genre.
  11. https://www.vibe.com/music/music-news/scarface-announces-retirement-from-rap-1234636171/?fbclid=IwAR2Kt9-jdIgvSUARKFaE4_cyCA8HwF0bk3vkXF7zfQL3pdMXAjyR4126TQU Scarface Announces His Retirement From Rap "I'm done with the rap," declared the 50-year-old artist. BY PREEZY BROWN Paras Griffin/Getty Images After years of considering retirement from the rap game, Scarface has officially called it quits, making the announcement that he no longer plans to release any more rap albums moving forward. The announcement was made during a recent episode of the Geto Boys Reloaded podcast with Geto Boys member and cohost Willie D with Face revealing that we may be able to look forward to more music from him in the future, albeit in another genre. “I’m done with the rap,” he said while discussing his future career plans. “If I could, man, I would love to fu*king go into a different lane of music. Like another genre. Maybe, like, blues or maybe, like, rock. Or maybe, like, alternative. I want to do something different now. You know how you burn the lane? I burned the lane?” However, the Houston rep confirmed that he’ll be putting together a farewell concert to show his gratitude to his legion of fans while giving them another opportunity to see him perform his classic hits, possibly for the last time. “The cool part about it is, I get to say farewell twice,” he said, alluding to a future Geto Boys send-off alongside Willie D. “‘Cause I can go out there and say farewell by myself, and then I gotta go out with you and say farewell, too.”
  12. I'm getting pretty excited. My favorite emcee is releasing a book! I think he's done a great job of controlling little bit of information we've got from it so far. I feel like everything he put in this book will be calculated to make it a great read. I'm sure he's going to go places none of us really expect. I'm really surprised he fell for Stockard Channing, only because at that time is was an emcee who was new to acting and she just doesn't seem his type. At the same time, it's not at all uncommon for actors to deal with certain emotions and feelings. Actors are constantly meeting new people, often times people that are quite different from themselves. There's a certain mania felt when performing that makes those feeling come easy. In that aspect, it's NOT that surprising. I always felt that his marriage to Sheree was rushed. Obviously none of us know what the relationship was like, but I remember being 11 years old and watching him say he was getting married during and interview on MTV and thinking it seemed surprising, like he was too young for marriage.
  13. https://thesource.com/2021/11/02/brand-nubian-dj-stud-doogie-has-died/ BRAND NUBIAN DJ STUD DOOGIE HAS DIED SHAWN GRANT NOVEMBER 2, 2021 Rest in peace to Brand Nubian’s DJ Stud Doogie. Lord Jamar of the group has confirmed he has passed away. No cause of death was provided; however, Jamar did acknowledge his battle with diabetes. “It is with great sadness that I announce, our Brand Nubian Brother, Stud Doogie, has transitioned,” Jamar wrote. “He had a long bout with diabetes & fought like a soldier…we thank you for your service. R.I.P. Stud Doogie…Ayo Mike! Look out for the brother.” Brand Nubian was composed of Grand Puba, Sadat X, and Lord Jamar. They were signed by Dante Ross to Elektra Records for their 1990 debut album, One For All.
  14. I dig this. I'm not familiar with these guys, but I especially like the second emcee. The horns on this are perfect.
  15. Incase someone still needs to get this, this two-CD set is on sale through this Sunday on Real Gone Music. https://realgonemusic.com/collections/sale/products/d-j-jazzy-jeff-the-fresh-prince-cd
  16. Arrested Development is prepping their a new album release, just a year after putting out their album Don't Fight Your Demons. Their overseas tour was cut short due to COVID guidelines. The album title seems ill-fitting for the group, so I'm curious what inspired it. They just released the first single, "Vibe", featuring Big Daddy Kane. You can listen to it or buy it here: https://officialarresteddevelopment.bandcamp.com/
  17. There is a video LL did a year ago, on his Facebook or the Rock The Bells Facebook, where he was asked about doing a Versuz and who it would be with. Someone suggested Will. LL asked "does Will have the hits?" He didn't ask it in an insulting way. I think he was really referring to content, in the sense that LL has been more consistent with releasing music throughout his career. I think they would be the best mix. Jeff would have to be there.
  18. I gotta be honest. I'll likely not give it a listen. Kanye is too much of a clown for me to really accept his music. I haven't liked a Kanye album since about 2008-ish. It would be like buying a new sexed out R. Kelly album. The character of the artist just ruins the art. I just don't care about anything Kanye West. A Hip-Hop producer I kind of follow put it this way, and I have no doubt I'd agree. I listened to one song that a friend suggested, which I didn't really like, and felt a lot of what this artist said about it just based on that one song....
  19. I feel like I might have seen this back in the day. There's a certain feeling of deja vu when I watch it.
  20. If you love Boyz II Men, this is a great interview/article on them. https://www.phillymag.com/news/2021/08/28/boyz-ii-men/ Why, 30 Years Later, the World Still Loves Boyz II Men In 1991, Cooleyhighharmony, the debut from four sweet-voiced Philly singers, took the pop world by storm. Here’s how the group became — and remained — cultural icons while many of their peers have faded. by PATRICK RAPA· 8/28/2021, 9:00 p.m. Get a compelling long read and must-have lifestyle tips in your inbox every Sunday morning — great with coffee! Boyz II Men’s Wanyá Morris, Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman photographed in 2020. Photograph by Chris Martin The music business was an entirely different monster when Boyz II Men dropped their first record back in 1991. It was a time of giant, lumbering record labels, inescapable pop stars, and enormous record sales that seem utterly impossible today. Once that all came tumbling down, the Philly-born phenoms could have lived off their hits, put their feet up on their Grammys, and retired early. That’s what most of their ’90s peers have done. But as the band’s Nathan Morris explains, the group chose to keep making music. This playlist tells the story of Boyz II Men and how they survived. >>> Track 01 >>> “Motownphilly” | 1991 The Boyz II Men origin story is the stuff of legend. Put another way: It’s a little bit different each time you hear it. But the boiled-down Cliffs Notes version is right there in the first single: The story starts with a small group of kids from different neighborhoods meeting up at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. This was the late ’80s, back when CAPA was at 11th and Catharine. Now, you’ll find it at Broad and Christian, between the street signs that say “Boyz II Men Blvd.” The group went on to sell more than 60 million records, but in the beginning, they were just art-school kids with a dream. Because of CAPA’s reputation — and its alumni mailing list that includes Questlove and Black Thought of the Roots, Jazmine Sullivan, Leslie Odom Jr. and, uh, Tony Luke Jr., among many others — people like to compare it to Fame, the early-’80s movie/TV franchise about kids in leg warmers who twirled in the streets and danced on top of New York City cabs. “It was nothing like that at all,” laughs Nathan Morris, the eldest member of Boyz II Men and therefore its de facto leader to this day. The way he tells it, CAPA is a real high school, only with more music classes and better talent shows. He was accepted after an audition in which he sang in German and Italian. Morris doesn’t remember which songs, and he doesn’t actually speak those languages. He made up for that with practice: “I’ve been a preparation guy all my life.” As a vocal major, he learned about classical and jazz, but also lyrical metaphors, cadences and harmony structures, all of which would form the foundation for his career. “They wanted to make sure that we were well-rounded when we left school,” he says. “It was definitely not a school where you just show up with the latest songs and all of a sudden you’re a superstar.” From left: Shawn Stockman, Wanyá Morris, Michael McCary and Nathan Morris in 1990. Photograph by Al Pereira/Getty Images A few years in, Morris teamed up with some like-minded vocal majors, and they began singing together. The group was sometimes five or six strong and at least in the beginning called itself Unique Attraction. They bought cheap suits at a two-for-one place and made the girls scream at a Valentine’s Day concert with their pitch-perfect harmonies and synchronized dance moves. By 1989, they’d whittled themselves down to a quintet (on their way to becoming a quartet) and changed their moniker to Boyz II Men, after a favorite New Edition song. That’s when things started getting serious … and a little bit apocryphal. Like a lot of Philly kids with musical aspirations, the group met up with Charlie Mack — the longtime local music promoter immortalized in the DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince song “Charlie Mack (The First Out the Limo)” — who invited them to a concert. Was it the New Edition show at the Spectrum in January of ’89? Or Power 99’s “Powerhouse II” festival at the Civic Center in May? Some other show entirely? The details get hazy and harder to confirm with each passing year, each sepia-toned retelling. Nathan Morris says it was the Civic Center and that Michael Bivins of New Edition was there. When the CAPA crew got there, they couldn’t find Mack. He was running late, maybe. Back then, the only people who had cell phones were spies and Bayside High’s Zack Morris. Desperate to get inside and meet their idols, the CAPA crew did a little singing, a little sweet-talking, and voilà, some kind soul donated a backstage pass to their cause. Of course, one pass doesn’t really cut it for a party of five, so the first guy in had to slip it back out a window to the next guy, and so on. And it was backstage that they tracked down Bivins. According to Morris, they sang for him in the wings, surrounded by famous artists on the bill that night: Cherrelle, Kid ’N Play, Patti LaBelle, etc. (Some versions of the story have Paula Abdul and Keith Sweat there, too, for some reason.) Boyz II Men announce the 1991 winner of the Hal Jackson Talented Teens International pageant at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Photograph by Afro Newspaper/Gado/Getty Images The 2017 TV miniseries The New Edition Story sets up a more dramatic scene: a dark parking lot behind the venue. The Boyz II Men kids stop Bivins just as he’s stepping up into his tour bus. They sing him a few bars of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.” Impressed, or intrigued, or maybe just flattered, Biv gives the kids his phone number. That was the moment that changed everything. Fast-forward to 1991 and “Motownphilly,” a jazzy New Jack Swing banger with sweet vocal harmonies and a hip-hop sheen. It’s a runaway hit. MTV plays the hell out of the video, introducing the world to these four smartly dressed young men from Philly who can harmonize like nobody’s business: Nathan Morris from South Philly, Wanyá Morris (no relation) from North Philly, Shawn Stockman from Southwest Philly, and Michael McCary from Logan. In the background of several shots are fellow CAPA kids, including Ahmir ”Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, back when the Roots were called the Square Roots. Bivins, now Boyz II Men’s producer, manager and collaborator, raps their origin story: The lyrics don’t mention the two years between that impromptu backstage audition and the eventual release of their first record, Cooleyhighharmony, probably because big-break diamond-in-the-rough, plucked-from-obscurity success stories rarely include the part where the wunderkinds pester their heroes. But that’s what happened. Nathan Morris took that number and called Bivins every day. For weeks. “I hounded him,” Morris recalls. They talked about music and business, but mainly those calls were about Morris convincing Bivins to take Boyz II Men under his wing on a professional level. In the R&B and pop world, New Edition was the closest thing Boyz II Men had to a blueprint. (Michael Bivins could not be reached to comment for this article. At press time, he and the rest of New Edition were preparing for a just-announced reunion tour and a residency in Las Vegas.) “It’s not something that he really thought about doing,” says Morris. “I believed that he could do it. I mean, I followed his career, and I saw the role that he played in his group.” “He saw something in me I didn’t even see in myself,” Bivins recalls in the Netflix documentary series This Is Pop. Eventually, he agreed. “If it wasn’t for Nate Morris,” he says, “I would’ve never been a music executive.” In the midst of launching his career as an executive and his post-New Edition act Bell Biv Devoe, Bivins helped get Boyz II Men signed to Motown, co-wrote several songs with them, and executive-produced Cooleyhighharmony. He also came up with their preppy style. So it makes perfect sense that he shows up in “Motownphilly.” For that brief period, his story was completely intertwined with theirs. >>> Track 02 >>> “End of the Road” | 1992 “Motownphilly” went to number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The next single, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” peaked at number two. “End of the Road” finally took Boyz II Men to the top. Written by hitmakers Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Daryl Simmons, the song is a genuine heartbreaker, the kind you belt out in the mirror when you have the house to yourself. After a slow buildup, “End of the Road” becomes a tidal wave of emotional vocals, with three guys holding down the chorus so Wanyá can go crazy coloring outside the lines. At the end, the music fades, and all we hear is hands clapping, voices soaring. Originally, you could only find the song as a single and on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy comedy Boomerang, but that was before Motown realized what a gigantic hit it had on its hands. Soon, the label rereleased Cooleyhighharmony with “End of the Road” tacked on as a bonus track. All told, the record reached nine million copies sold, making it certified platinum nine times over. The songs dominated proms and weddings everywhere — the slow dances, the dancey dances, all of it. Even a song called “Uhh Ahh” went to number 16. It all added up to Boyz II Men landing an opening slot on MC Hammer’s Too Legit to Quit tour and taking home the first of four Grammys they’d collect over the course of their career. >>> Track 03 >>> “1-4-ALL-4-1” | 1992 Were it not for YouTube, nobody would remember “1-4-ALL-4-1.” Unlike other songs touched by Boyz II Men in that era, this one didn’t turn to gold. It probably never had a chance up against “Under the Bridge,” “November Rain,” and Whitney Houston belting out “I Will Always Love You.” Its vague pro-unity message is admirable, albeit hokey. Its energy is high, but its budget is low. Credited to the East Coast Family, “1-4-ALL-4-1” incorporates the work of some 16 different acts — rappers and singers, solo artists and vocal groups — giving each one a turn at the mic for a few seconds. Crooked hats and oversize sweatshirts abound. The song is somehow utterly of its time and oddly out of step with it. This was a golden age of child rappers, so the video opens with a kid popping up out of a manhole to tell us, “My name is Fruit Punch, but I don’t get out much.” It’s a little hilarious, a bit heartbreaking. A chyron informs us that Fruit Punch is Biv’s cousin. Rap-star tweens Another Bad Creation show up a little later, their hair still bleached blond from their part in the Robert Townsend superhero comedy The Meteor Man. A gospel-ish singer named Yvette belts out only one line in “1-4-ALL-4-1,” but she goes on to star in sitcoms like Community and The Odd Couple reboot a couple decades later under her full name, Yvette Nicole Brown. But mostly, these are acts we’ll never hear from again: a group of women rappers called Tom Boyy, a jazzy piano player named Rico, a gaggle of smooth-singing white guys who call themselves Whytgize. And on and on. Boyz II Men get the most screen time, leading the video to its jubilant final chorus. “1-4-ALL-4-1” was a showcase for Biv 10 Records, then a newly sprouted wing of Motown Records led by Michael Bivins. In 2021, it feels like an infomercial for a product that didn’t sell. Best-laid plans. Patrick Swayze (center) presents Boyz II Men with a 1993 World Music Award in Monte Carlo. Photograph by Eric Robert/Getty Images “There were artists that were successful, and then there were some that were trying to get off the ground and see how their career would go,” Morris says. “Some did well and some didn’t. I guess that’s sorta life.” Not long after “1-4-ALL-4-1,” Boyz II Men parted ways with Michael Bivins; his name is noticeably absent from their next album’s liner notes. The song wasn’t the cause, but it’s not easy to pin down a reason beyond “personality conflicts.” In the past, Nathan Morris has chalked up the split to how young and inexperienced everybody was in their roles in the early days. When Cooleyhighharmony dropped, Michael Bivins, aspiring mogul, was 22. Morris was 20. Wanyá, the group’s youngest member, was 17 and still enrolled at CAPA. In 2012, the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and several key figures in the Boyz II Men story showed up to sing their praises, including superstar record producers and songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. When Michael Bivins took the mic, he praised the group’s talent and perseverance. After the speech, it was hugs all around. >>> Track 04 >>> “I’ll Make Love to You”/ “On Bended Knee” | 1994 Boyz II Men continued to work with Motown, and 1994’s II (sans Bivins) became an even bigger record than Cooleyhighharmony. That year, the only song that could knock the Babyface-penned “I’ll Make Love to You” out of the number one spot on the charts was “On Bended Knee,” written and produced by Jam and Lewis. Till then, only Elvis and the Beatles had achieved back-to-back number ones on the Billboard Hot 100 in the rock era. Total record sales can be difficult to confirm, but II has sold something like 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. The record ran away with the Best R&B Album Grammy, while Boyz II Men became, reputedly, the best-selling artist in the history of Motown records, whose artists include the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie. For a lot of young, world-conquering acts, this part of the story is where you find the wild years, full of youthful indiscretions, incidents and controversies. But Boyz II Men were a little too tightly managed and well-behaved for that sort of thing. Nobody tore up a hotel room. Nobody had a meltdown on an airplane. “No, nothing like that. I mean, we were just taught different, man. None of us are perfect, by any means, but we were just taught to just be different,” says Morris. Besides, that sort of stuff would clash with their image and their work ethic. The Boyz II Men kids always kept it classy. “That was by design,” says Morris. “That mattered to us. We always wanted to impress our parents. We were on Motown, so we knew the classic songs and the artists, where they come from and what they did. We just tried to emulate who they were. We didn’t want to go too far off the script.” Critics lauded Boyz II Men’s poise and their throwback Temptations style. Unlike other young R&B groups that scored hits around that time — En Vogue, SWV, Jodeci — Boyz II Men haven’t staged a late-career reunion, because they never broke up, never went on “extended hiatus.” Nobody split from the band to pursue a high-profile solo career. “The fact that we achieved success so young in our career, and so early, sometimes the music industry doesn’t really respect it,” Morris says. “Accolades come when you’re, you know, 60, 70 years old. We had done all we had done by the age of 25, 26. It was a good thing and a bad thing. We just wanted to be the best we could at what we did. Every day was about trying to better ourselves, and we kind of let the career fly by and really didn’t enjoy a lot of it.” >>> Track 05 >>> “Vibin’” | 1995 “Vibin’” started out as a laid-back jam on II. “We’re just vibin’, dancing the night away,” goes the peanut-butter-smooth chorus. Its video was all flashy moves and outdoor party scenes. The song enjoyed a brief if unspectacular life on the radio, then faded. A year later, it came lumbering back like Frankenstein’s monster with a thumping beat stitched onto the bottom and some decidedly not-laid-back rap verses welded to the top. This “Vibin’” video has a boxing theme, with Boyz II Men in the back of the ring, singing that same soft chorus while Treach, Busta Rhymes, Craig Mack and Method Man drop rhymes in the foreground. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly weird. From left, McCary, Stockman, Wanyá Morris and Nathan Morris in a 1997 photo shoot. Photograph by Aaron Rapoport/Getty Images Turns out you can blame Motown for this and the other musical chimeras on 1995’s The Remix Collection. Clearly a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot cash grab, the record takes tracks from Cooleyhighharmony and II and refurbishes them with hip-hop and New Jack Swing razzle-dazzle like horns and record scratches. The label released it despite Boyz II Men’s protests that it was, per Reuters, “unauthorized and sub-standard.” Critics agreed The Remix Collection was a strange artifact. “Boyz II Men almost seem like guests on their own song,” J.D. Considine wrote in the Baltimore Sun. Although the record “quickly disappeared from the shelves” (according to AllMusic.com), it somewhat soured Boyz II Men’s relationship with Motown and their opinions on major labels in general. After this, the group took a more hands-on approach to their creative output. Eventually they’d found the independent MSM Record label and release their own records when it suited them, relying on the majors mostly for distribution starting in 2004. >>> Track 06 >>> “4 Seasons of Loneliness” | 1997 This sultry Jam and Lewis ballad quickly became Boyz II Men’s fifth number one hit, but in the three years since they’d put out their last (non-remix) record, the pop music landscape had shifted dramatically. Suddenly, the group was battling for young hearts and minds against the likes of ’N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees, and it wasn’t a fair fight. Where Boyz II Men was dubbed a “crossover act” for their ability to appeal to audiences outside the R&B and urban genres, these new white acts landed on the pop charts from day one. They didn’t have to cross over. Shawn Stockman put it this way in This Is Pop: “We had to work twice as hard to get to what their birthright was.” Pop culture critic Jason King, also in This Is Pop, described these boy bands as “basically racial mirrors of what Boyz II Men [was] doing.” None of them quite had the singing chops, but the way they danced and dressed bore more than a passing resemblance. Several of these groups even cited Boyz II Men as an inspiration. “I mean, it’s typical in urban music, unfortunately,” says Nathan Morris. Occasionally, Boyz II Men found themselves lumped in under that “boy band” umbrella, but it wasn’t a comfortable fit. To Morris, it wasn’t just about race: “We created our own entity and our own image. We wanted to be together.” Boyz II Men wasn’t generated in a boardroom, he argues. There were no casting calls. They were forged in the hallways of a Philly high school. “Wherever we went,” Morris says, “we always wanted to make sure people knew where we were from. We wanted them to know what Philly was about and what it meant to us. It was like a badge of honor to us that we had to carry everywhere.” You could argue that this authenticity isn’t merely a moral victory, seeing as many of the boy bands from this era split up long ago. Still, 1997’s Evolution “only” sold three million copies. Not bad for most artists, but for Boyz II Men, it signaled a return to earth. The next one, 2000’s Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya — which they produced and wrote most of — continued the downward trend in sales. In 2002, they released Full Circle, which had high label expectations and lower listener interest. Soon after, Michael McCary left the group due to back pain brought on by multiple sclerosis. Later attempts to bring him back into the fold failed due to a mix of personality and revenue-sharing disagreements, according to some reports. Once Arista, which signed them in 2002, dropped them in the wake of disappointing record sales, Boyz II Men had to soldier on as a trio without the help of a major label. Only in their 30s, they were already transitioning from superstars to fairly young elder statesmen. >>> Track 07 >>> “Let It Whip” | 2004 Boyz II Men is best known for its heartbreakers, but “Motownphilly” wasn’t exactly an aberration. Their catalog has no shortage of up-tempo grooves and danceable beats. On 2004’s Throwback, Vol. 1, the group seemed to showcase their range with this cover of the Dazz Band’s funk favorite “Let It Whip,” Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” They also took on “Sara Smile” by Hall and Oates, the only Philly act to rack up more number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The trio was settling into a comfort zone, independent of major labels and in control of their own agenda. With their reputation sealed and money in the bank, the group no longer worried about hit songs and top-selling records. There was no Throwback Vol. 2, but the trio has continued to record covers in what has become an increasingly eclectic discography. See 2009’s Love, which includes their takes on songs by Bonnie Raitt, Cyndi Lauper and Journey, among others, or 2017’s Under the Streetlight, which is mostly doo-wop. Morris likes where the group is at now, in control of its destiny: “That’s our creative freedom. That gives us the ability to do whatever we want to do. Because for the last 15, 16, maybe 20 years now, we haven’t really had to depend on a record label for anything. The pressure of having to come up with a new hit and people telling you how you’ve got to make the record, I guess I’m too old for that.” >>> Track 08 >>> “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” | 2021 The pandemic has hit Nathan Morris hard. He’s lost a few loved ones to COVID. “It’s been rough,” he says when we talk on the phone in early July 2021. “You just do the best you can. I’m slowly realizing that it’s not ever gonna go away and it’s just a matter of how you adjust to it.” He means COVID, but he could also be talking about loss in general. The group has had to say goodbye to more than its share of friends, family and peers over the years. After the call, Morris is going to finish prepping his Florida home for a hurricane supposedly heading in his direction. He still has friends and family in Philly, but he and his bandmates left town a long time ago. Rolling Stone reported in 1992 that after some of the newly well-off kids found their newly purchased vehicles broken into in their old neighborhoods, they relocated. Moving on has always been a theme in the Boyz II Men story. Their version of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” written in the ’70s by esteemed Motown husband-and-wife duo Freddie Perren and Christine Yarian, has become something of a staple at memorial services. The group dedicated early performances of the song to their tour manager, Khalil Rountree, who was murdered on that first cross-country trip with Hammer back in 1992. At the Grammys in 2020, Alicia Keys joined the group in performing it following the news that Kobe Bryant had died earlier that day. There are always these moments that bring them back to the public consciousness, even when they’re not on the radio. A March 2020 billboard advertising the Boyz II Men residency at the Mirage in Las Vegas. That weekend’s shows were ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photograph by Ethan Miller/Getty Images They played a residency at the Mirage in Las Vegas. They toured with New Kids on the Block. Nathan Morris hosted a real estate rehab show on the DIY Network. Wanyá Morris did Dancing With the Stars. Shawn Stockman was a judge on NBC’s The Sing-Off. As a group, they’ve shown up on Black-ish, The Bachelorette, Carpool Karaoke and Psych. There’s a Boyz II Men wine and Boyz II Men Funko Pop figures. They’ve done commercials for Geico, Wendy’s and Old Navy. When COVID shut down SNL, they performed a split-screen at-home version of “A Song for Mama” with their frequent collaborator, Babyface. It’s a hustle. “These things take a lot of work to arrange,” Morris says of trying to turn one opportunity into the next and the next. “And we continue to keep doing that. They don’t always win, but some of them do.” The 2021 Black-ish appearance was filmed three years before it aired. Morris was the group’s leader in the beginning by virtue of being the oldest, and he still finds himself in that role today. He says his bandmate Wanyá is “one of the greatest singers in the history of the world” but not somebody who’s interested in making decisions for the group: “Wan’s told me many times, ‘You know, I’d rather you think about it, because I don’t want to.’” So he does. “I don’t know anything else. My goal is to serve and protect,” he says. “But we seem to make it work. And I think it started at an early age, understanding that nothing is going to be bigger than the whole when it comes to Boyz II Men and that Boyz II Men is the reason we’re allowed to do all the things that we do.” Somehow, this group of high-school friends has been singing, recording and performing for 30 years. They’ve outlasted most of their peers, their competition and all those boy bands. What keeps them going? A love of performing, says Morris: “No one can tell us how to do it. No one can control it.” They still dress to the nines. They still sing for the people. And they do it on their own terms — still kicking it just for you, but also for themselves. Published as “End of the Road? Not Even Close” in the September 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
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