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Where Are They Now: The Force MD’s

A slow jam compilation wouldn’t be complete without a cut from rap-meets-R&B crooners the Force MD’s.  Known for their untouched harmonies on classic cuts like “Love is a House” and “Tender Love,” the Force MD’s were one of the first groups to combine Hip- Hop and R&B.  After being discovered singing to commuters on the Staten Island Ferry and signing to Tommy Boy Records, T.C., Jesse, Stevie, Mercury and Trisco spread their sweet doo wop sounds to listeners all over the world.    Although the deaths of two members nearly brought the group to a halt, they reformed with original member Khalil.  Still touring and spreading love to their legions of fans, group member Stevie D kicks it with AllHipHop.com about being original, watching your paper, touring with The Material Girl, and how the group has contributed to increasing the population.  Love is a house.  AllHipHop.com:  How did the Force MD’s come together?Stevie D: Mr. Magic was a DJ on WBLS in New York.  He saw us singing on the Staten Island Ferry and brought us to Tom Silverman [Founder, Tommy Boy Records].  At the time, I rhymed with a group called the Force MC’s and I brought them with me on the audition.  I wanted to give the label the full arsenal of us singing and rhyming too.  So that’s how we came up with the name of the group—we blended the names and came up with the Force MD’s.  AllHipHop.com:  You used to rock the preppy look with the sweaters with the F’s on the front.  Who came up with your style? Stevie D: We actually got that from Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers.  Tom Silverman was a big fan, and he knew we liked Doo Wop.  My brother T.C. was a big fan.  He knew all the Frankie Lyman songs.  AllHipHop.com:  What was the first song that put you on the map?Stevie D: “Let Me Love You” was our first single, but “Tears” was our first Top Ten single.  We dropped our first album, Love Letters, in 1984.  AllHipHop.com:  You were one of the first groups to blend singing with Hip-Hop and you were also the main MC of the group. Back then, did you think back that the combination of both would be what it is today?Stevie D: I didn’t even know.  I wish I did!  I just thought it was different for the time.  When Mercury and I were in the Force MC’s and we would harmonize and rap.  So once we got with the group, it really worked for us.  AllHipHop.com:  How did the five of you get together?Stevie D: Mercury was a second cousin.  Trisco was in a group called Cook Corporation.  He got with us by accident.  When we told him we were going to Tommy Boy to audition, he came with us. And the rest is history. Everybody else is family.  AllHipHop.com:  Who did you think your audience was going to be with your style of dress combined with your sound?Stevie D: I’m going to be real with you.  We were experiments.  We were so happy that we got a record deal that we were really willing to do anything. We weren’t feeling the style we had at all.  But when you really think about it, concept and gimmicks were a big part of the music.  So we figured if we kept the concepts with the lettered F sweaters and F chains, people would remember us. I thought we should have stayed with it some type of way with the F’s, but you know how that goes.AllHipHop.com:  When you rhymed, you didn’t use profanity or raunchy lyrics. Were you always a “clean” MC?Stevie D: Well, we were a clean-cut group, so I figured it made sense to stay clean with the lyrics.  I knew little kids listened to us and I wanted to walk around with pride singing or rhyming our stuff.AllHipHop.com:  Were you encouraged to write your own lyrics back then?Stevie D: Yes.  My brother T.C. was an amazing writer and came up with a lot of our harmonies.  You’d be surprised to know a white woman, Tom Silverman’s wife, Robin, produced a lot of our songs.AllHipHop.com:  The Force MD’s were all about love and relationships.  Stevie D: We were so intrigued by the classic love songs.  We had a lot of influences like the Jackson 5, Stylistics, Smokey Robinson, and The Manhattans.  We were so into that and tried to stay in that vibe.  We used to have the lights out in the studio, light candles and just put our heart and souls into the music.  AllHipHop.com:  As the group saw music start to change and people weren’t singing anymore, did the group ever feel like you weren’t going to make it?Stevie D: Yeah.  It was like we had to do what they were doing in order to stay in the game, but we stuck with what we liked doing.  We felt like if our sound broke through the barriers for young and old, then we could make it.  We were pressured to sound like Guy and have that “New Jack Swing.”  AllHipHop.com:  A lot of people don’t know that The Force MD’s toured with Madonna.  How did you link up with her?Stevie D: Actually Madonna did that herself.  She was a fan of the group.  We went to a movie premier of hers when she was in Who’s That Girl? and then to the after-party.  She invited us to her VIP area and asked us to do some acappella.  We sang “Who’s That Girl” and she got a kick out of it and asked us to go on tour.  That was a pivotal moment in our career.  We went to France, Holland, London….all over.AllHipHop.com:  Did you notice a difference with the way foreign audiences responded to the group as opposed to your reception in America?    Stevie D: I’m being real.  Foreign audiences give it up a little more.  They just appreciate the music more.  They love American artists!  And we loved them back.   AllHipHop.com:  The Force MD’s are back on the road.  How have the audiences been responding?  Stevie D: It’s been all love.  People still confuse us with Full Force. [Laughs] We have been going through that all our lives.  We have people ask us, “How is Lisa Lisa doing?”    We say she is great, but we are the Force MD’s. [Laughs] But seriously we love performing and giving the people that music they are missing.  If Lionel Richie can do it, we can do it.AllHipHop.com:  Old school Hip-Hop acts always pop up on tour.  Why aren’t there any old school R&B tours?Stevie D: I don’t know!  It really hurts. I know there are some acts from the ‘80s that know we still get down.  People think all of us died, but we are still here.  I think its going to take us being out here on the road to let [people] know that we still sound the same. AllHipHop.com:  There was a block of time when the group wasn’t performing.Stevie D: First of all let me make this clear.  T.C. died of Lou Gehrig’s disease and Mercury died of a heart attack.  When that happened, that put us at a stand still.  I didn’t want to do it anymore.  But I know they would have wanted us to go on. It’s a blessing that my younger brother Khalil came back to the group eight years ago and he sounds just like T.C.  People can’t even tell the difference when we perform.  T.C. and Mercury are on the stage with us spiritually.AllHipHop.com:  T.C. was the voice on a lot of your biggest hits.  After he passed, were you worried about your sound changing?  Stevie D: Yeah, we were worried.  But having Khalil there, it’s just like yesterday without even thinking about it.  When people say we sound just like we did when we came out, I say of course we do!  We are real singers. We aren’t studio guys.  A lot of groups can’t even sing acappella.  I’m not going to name names, but they know who they are.  AllHipHop.com:  What groups are you feeling that remind you of that classic Force MD’s sound?Stevie D: Silk, Boys II Men, and Jagged Edge.  Silk reminds me of us a lot with that raw sound. Boys II Men have the harmony style down so lovely.  It’s like that Take 6 kind of vibe.AllHipHop.com:  One of the group’s best assets was its singing and harmonizing abilities.  Do you think because you were “real” singers, it hurt the group when the sound of music started to change?  Stevie D: Music is so filtered down. No one cares anymore if you can sing or not.  All it’s about [is] marketing.  If you gotta hot beat and hook, you are making money. I’m glad some people are being smart with the money, but music is so simple now.  It’s not even that hard anymore.AllHipHop.com:  What keeps you from being bitter about some of the success you see happening for today’s R&B artists?Stevie D: I ain’t gonna lie; I am bitter! [Laughs] These cats are making money!  They are splurging on chains that can buy houses.  When people don’t recognize what we contributed, it hurts.  People don’t appreciate what we did.  Right now real money is being made.  We made alright money, but now they are making real money.  Right now they are making triple what we made. Rap is so popular now.  Back in the day the Grammys tried to block it.  Now, it’s all on commercials.  It’s a billion dollar genre.  Rap is R&B, and R&B is rap.  You have the ringtones.  Big money can be made now and we just sit back and say, “Wow.”  We are trying to find a niche to find out a way to get a piece of what’s out here.  We make most of our money from shows singing all of [our] hits.  Now people are making money from only having two hit records.AllHipHop.com:  What kind of advice are you giving your family in the business that you wish you would have received?Stevie D: Watch your back.  A lot of people will be in your ear, but watch your back. Be patient and don’t rush. You will get your turn.  And when your turn comes, manage your money and stay humble.AllHipHop.com:  Were the Force MD’s involved in their business?Stevie D: We weren’t involved enough.  That’s why we got jerked out of a lot of money.  We learned our lessons.  People learned from us about how not to get jerked.  We didn’t really get royalties.  We really got jerked on publishing. We didn’t know all about points.  Tom Silverman already knows.  He gets a lot of flack about royalties, points, and publishing.  AllHipHop.com:  Later this year, the documentary The Force MD’s Relived will be released.  Who thought that would be a good story to tell the world?Stevie D: My brother Khalil thought we should tell the world about the history of the Force MD’s.  It’s going to tell people how we were one of the first to blend Hip-Hop and R&B.  We were one of the first to bring that sound out and a lot of people don’t know that.  We have a lot of unseen performances on there too. There was also a movie script written about our lives by Antoine Elliott.  It’s got that Five Heartbeats meets Menace II Society vibe. [Laughs]AllHipHop.com:  Being known for focusing on love, how many people come up to you and hold you responsible for the birth of their children?Stevie D: At least 5,000.  I always say we are happy we did that service for you. [Laughs]  I hear it all the time.  This child was made from “Tender Love.” This one was made off of “Tears.”  It’s crazy, but it’s all love. AllHipHop.com:  When the group heads back into the studio, what do you think your sound is going to be like right now?Stevie D: We know simple stuff works.  When people can sing along and feel the emotions

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