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Boyz II Men: Doin’ Just Fine, Pt 3

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AHHA: Have you considered covering any songs outside of classic R&B – rock songs or any other genre?

Nathan: We’ve considered creating some rock songs and different things like that. As far as covers, there are so many songs that we’d love to do. This Throwback album that we have now is not even the [tip of the] iceberg of what we’d love to do as far as recording other records. One of the reasons we did Throwback was because we knew that it was something that would have never went across on a major record label, because it just wouldn’t be commercially viable. That’s not the genre of music that they’re focusing on, and that’s not where they’re making the bulk of their money. They get the Hip Hop stuff going and they may get a lot of low budgets and [lesser known] producers and they have a big [profit margin] on what they make. In an R&B case they have to bring in the big guys who want a hundred thousand and some odd dollars to make a song, and the budgets get astronomical, and it takes all day to make your money back. R&B is really not moving right now – it’s a bad investment. We did this on our label with the Throwback songs, because it’s something that we thought it was good for not just us, but for the industry.

AHHA: Are you going to keep producing yourselves, or are you going to be reaching out to other producers? Even your hometown producers like James Poyser or others from Philly?

Nathan: We’d like to work with a lot of producers, and to be honest with you, between this album, the last album we did on Arista, and the other album we did on Universal, we’ve reached out for a lot of producers. I don’t even think it was really so much us, a lot of those producers either were busy or kinda didn’t want to work with us. It’s not really us per se. Obviously we’ve worked with [Babyface] before – he’s one of the people we reached out to for this Throwback album and was not quite able to hook up with. One thing we’ve grown accustomed to now is that we can’t sit around and wait for producers – we’re gonna keep it moving. Even James Poyser we reached out for – I personally talked to him a couple of times about doing some Boyz II Men stuff. But, you know, sometimes we get caught up in, I guess you’d say ‘the industry’ of things – ‘Yeah man, Ima hit you up’ and then you never see them again for two or three months. Nobody reaches out or whatever… so at the end of the day we’ve gotta keep it moving. That’s pretty much what we did. We’d love to work with other producers, but if not, we’ve got to make it happen regardless.

AHHA: How do you feel about the trends of artists singing over Hip Hop beats?

Wanya: Music is music – it’s not rocket science. You’ve got a nice track, incredible lyrics, a good vibe, and a beautiful melody. Those things coincide to make a great song. In this day and age, people aren’t looking at [any of that], but that’s all Boyz II Men knows how to do. Whatever it’s over, whether it’s over a Hip Hop beat, we’re still going to try and give it that Boyz II Men flavor – but definitely try to stay as current as possible. Nobody wants to be drug through the mud and have a situation where it’s not stimulating you. You do good music. That’s all we know how to do, music that makes us feel good, and at the end of the day hopefully it makes the people feel good. It’s about the love for it, that’s all. The love won’t let you do nothing bad to it.

AHHA: Are there any artists that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to work with?

Nathan: We’ve been dying to work with Prince for quite sometime. We reached out for him when we were doing one of our albums and he was an independent artist. We asked him could he write or produce a song for us, and he asked us did we own our own masters, and we said no. He was like, ‘Well I only work with artists who own their own masters’. It’s weird now because he’s signed back to a major label and we own our own masters, so he might say no again. [laughs]

Shawn: He owns his own masters.

Nathan: Well, we don’t know what the situation is now, but we’d definitely love to work with Prince. We’d love to get in there as soon as possible.

Wanya: There’s numerous artists, it’s all about making it happen… D’Angelo…

Shawn: An artist that might not necessarily take us into an element that we don’t know is Pete Rock. I like that cat. He makes classic joints, and joints that you can vibe with and sing over and it still sounds hard. I love his production. I bought his last two albums on BBE. Those joints you could actually write melodies over. We’re all Hip Hop heads. We talk about R. Kelly too. He’s a premier songwriter right now – he’s the Gamble & Huff of our time, so to speak. There are songs he’s written that are timeless.

AHHA: What about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis?

Nathan: Oh yeah, we love Jam and Lewis. We talk about them as the chameleons of the industry – they always seem to find a way to adapt to a time or an artist. There’s nothing they do that we don’t like.

AHHA: Would you guys ever consider doing an album of all acapella songs?

Nathan: It would take a long time. A whole acapella album would be tough. We’re big fans of Take 6, and we listen to their albums constantly. We’re still amazed at a lot of the things they’re able to do. If we did it, it would be similar to what the Throwback album is, because we’d want to do it for people who want to listen to it, because it definitely wouldn’t be commercially viable.

AHHA: What do you want people to know about your reasons for doing the Throwback album? How do you want your fans to accept or relate to it?

Shawn: It was an album that was just strictly inspired by making music for a change. Every album has a gimmick or an image or a story that’s kind of melodramatic and has nothing to do with the songs. It’s like everything is so sensationalized. We actually just wanted to come out with a record because we felt this, period.

Nathan: We talk about it constantly when it comes to radio, and younger kids not really being exposed to true R&B music. Radio programmers have put them in the state of mind that Hip Hop is all you get. They’ll throw a little splash of R&B in between, but for the most part these kids have never heard Marvin Gaye, they’ve never heard Teddy Pendergrass – all they’ve really heard was some samples from rap records and don’t really know where it’s come from. We felt that it was important for us to do – not just for Boyz II Men, but just to do everything in our power to keep the R&B movement alive.

We’re told constantly by program directors, ‘Yeah, I like the record but I can’t play it because it doesn’t fit my format’, and at the end of the day you have those kids that… you can’t be mad at them because they never heard it before. If you don’t give it to them, you don’t give them the opportunity to pick. It is literally programming. If you program a kid that this is all you can hear, then they’re not going to know anything else. They’re not going to turn to the [station that plays older songs] because kids have never wanted to always sit and listen to what they’re parents listen to. So, they’re going to keep it on that rap channel, and they’re never going to hear what the R&B audience has to offer.

Wanya: The Throwback album was dreamed up over a couple of years. Throughout our careers, we always did old school records, like we did ‘It’s Hard To Say Goodbye’ on Cooley High Harmony, then we did ‘Yesterday on the II album, then we redid ‘Can you Stand The Rain’, and we did a remake of ‘In The Still Of The Night’. People would come up to us over the course of our career and say, ‘You should do this song and that song’. Seeing as we have our own label now, we felt like this is an opportune time to do it. We’ve always wanted to, but we recognized that a major label wouldn’t allow us to put something out like that, because they would say that it has no place in the market. What we want our fans to get out of it is just to get that music history back – when it was all about the lyrics and how the music made you feel and the love of it – what it meant to you, and what it meant to your loved ones. We want them to get that same vibe.

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