By: Todd Davis
Formed in 1992 by fraternal twin brothers, Keven, a.k.a. “Dino” & Solomon or “Shazam” Conner, and their longtime friend, Darryl “G.I.” Jackson, H-Town emerged onto the music scene after an impromptu audition for 2 Live Crew alum/label CEO, Luther “Luke” Campbell.
The Houston, Texas, based trio’s auspicious debut, Fever for Da Flavor, followed roughly a year later, and, spawned their biggest hit-to-date, the sexed-up, “Knockin Da Boots,” which landed atop both the Billboard R&B and Hot 100 charts. Fever for Da Flavor eventually went platinum, earning H-Town a Soul Train Music Award for Best New Artist.
Beggin’ After Dark, the group’s sophomore effort, wasn’t quite as warmly received as that of H-Town’s premier outing. However, it still managed to go gold. But, more importantly, it pleased their still growing, largely female fan-base.
When it came time to re-converge in the lab to write and record album number three, the guys, who by that time were rather unhappy with the financial aspect of their contract with Luke Records, quickly severed ties with the imprint. They soon became embroiled in a legal battle between themselves and Luke, but somehow still got Ladies Edition, their third LP, finished, and ready for the public’s comsumption.
That particular CD was their socially conscious project, containing songs dealing with subjects ranging from the seriousness of domestic violence [“Julie Rain”], to the desperate lengths a woman may go in order to survive [“Jezebel”]. Ladies Edition was also dedicated to the memory of Nicole Brown Simpson.
In January ’03, tragedy struck H-Town. While coming home from a recording studio session, the vehicle Dino was traveling in was hit by an SUV that had run a red light. Dino and his girlfriend, who was driving at the time, were both killed. This was not only a huge professional loss, but, much more so, it was very personal. Not only had a group-mate been suddenly taken away, but both a friend and family member was now gone forever.
This life altering chain of events, obviously, knocked the wind completely out of H-Town, and despite a little heard solo entry from Shazam, Bringing the Heat, and Imitations of Life , which contained a hodge podge of previously recorded group and solo material, the collective sort of just altogether fell off the radar.
Now, H-Town have “officially” returned, and Rap Industry Dot Com, who sat down with one-half of the crew, G.I., has the complete 411 on it all.
“WE JUST WANT TO BRING BACK REAL R&B; THAT GROWN AND SEXXY! I THINK COMIN’ FROM THE ’90’S, WE CAME FROM AN ERA OF GREAT R&B GROUPS, AND EVERYONE DELIVERED AND STOOD ON THEIR OWN.….. ”
Please introduce for me the members of H-Town…
G.I. AND SHAZAM.
Let’s jump right into this brand new Jodeci & Pretty Ricky featured single & video “Knocking Your Heels Off” — How did this unique union even come to fruition?
IT CAME ABOUT BEING ON THE ROAD TOGETHER WITH K-CI AND JOJO, AND WE WERE ALWAYS PLAYIN’ SOME OF OUR NEW MATERIAL. SO, WE DECIDED TO JUMP ON A TRACK TOGETHER, AND THERE YOU HAVE IT! ANOTHER SMASH HIT, H-TOWN AND JODECI! PRETTY RICKY IS FEATURED ON THE REMIX FOR (THE) SAME SONG, “KNOCKIN YOUR HEELS (KINGS OF SLOWJAM REMIX).” THEY’RE LIKE OUR LIL BROTHERS, AND PEOPLE WOULD ALWAYS SAY THEIR ENERGY ON STAGE REMINDS THEM OF US. SO, WE DECIDED TO PUT THE OLD AND NEW SCHOOL TOGETHER FOR A HOT REMIX, AND THEY DID THEIR THING.
I Agree! So, was this record produced by B. Michael Cox?
NO, IT WAS PRODUCED BY OUR IN-HOUSE PRODUCER, AFLAT, AND THE REMIX WAS PRODUCED BY BLUE FROM PRETTY RICKY.
Coming off of your last group effort, 2004’s Imitations Of Life, were you all somewhat disappointed in the overall commercial success of that record? Since it was a solid album, where do you think things went awry?
WELL, WITHOUT MAJOR BACKING AND THE RIGHT TEAM BEHIND YOU, IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW GOOD THE RECORD IS. AND, WE KINDA KNEW, BUT WE WANTED TO GIVE IT TO THE FANS ANYWAY IN DINO’S MEMORY.
It was definitely a great tribute to him. Now with your return, after an over 5 year hiatus, what are you hoping to accomplish?
WE JUST WANT TO BRING BACK REAL R&B; THAT GROWN AND SEXXY! I THINK COMIN’ FROM THE ’90’S, WE CAME FROM AN ERA OF GREAT R&B GROUPS, AND EVERYONE DELIVERED AND STOOD ON THEIR OWN.
Very true! Speaking of the time-off, why did you all stay away so long?
WE MAY HAVE BEEN FLYING UNDER THE RADAR, BUT WE NEVER LEFT. WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN ON THE ROAD IN THE U.S. AND OVERSEAS, PERFORMING. I, WE, HAVE A LOT OF FOOTAGE UP ON OUR YOU TUBE: youtube.com/htown4lifetv
You all titled your new opus Child Support, how come?
BECAUSE IT’S BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC, AND PEOPLE WOULD COME UP TO US REPEATEDLY SAYIN’, “I HAD MY FIRST BABY TO YOUR SONGS, YOU OWE ME CHILD SUPPORT!” SO, IT STARTED OFF AS A JOKE, BUT ENDED UP BEIN’ THE TITLE OF OUR CD. THANX TO THE FANS!
How does Child Support differ and/or compare to previous H-Town releases?
THIS CD IS (A) COMBINATION OF ALL THREE CD’S, WITH A LITTLE DIVERSITY. WE DIBBLED AND DABBLED INTO SOME NEW AREAS, SO YOU WILL HEAR A NEW SIDE TO US, AS WELL AS THE FAMILIAR SOUND.
Are there any other special cameos/guest appearances that you all would like to point out at this point in time?
JODECI, PRETTY RICKY, AND LIL FLIP ARE FEATURED.
As songwriters, do you all usually write individually or collectively? And, what is the inspiration behind your lyrics?
INDIVIDUALLY. SOMETIMES WE’RE TOGETHER IN THE STUDIO, BUT WHEN WE’RE NOT, IT’S EVEN BETTER BECAUSE IT GIVES US MORE IDEAS TO PLAY WITH. CREATIVITY IS VERY IMPORTANT WHEN IT COMES TO WRITING.
Besides working on Child Support, I know over the course of the last couple of years there have been a solo offering or two — Are there still plans for some individual records once this album is released?
IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT, MAYBE. BUT, IT’S NOT IN THE CARDS AS OF NOW.
Take it back to the beginning…When did you all first become interested in music? And, how did it all begin for H-Town?
WE’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SING SINCE 5 AND 6 YEARS OLD LIVING IN THE PROJECTS. WE GOT TOGETHER OUR LAST YEAR IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, AND WE’VE BEEN TOGETHER EVER SINCE.
Growing up in Houston, TX, who all influenced both your sound and style?
A LOT OF OLD SCHOOL. LIKE; TEDDY PENDERGRASS, LUTHER (VANDROSS), MARVIN GAYE, (AND) DONNIE HATHAWAY.
With that being said, describe for me your overall musical vibe?
JUST GROWN AND SEXY.
Initially, what particular string of events led to you all hooking up with Luther Campbell, and later signing to his imprint?
WE MET LUKE THROUGH OUR FORMER MANAGER. HE MADE LUKE MISS HIS FLIGHT, AND BROUGHT HIM TO THE STUDIO TO HEAR US SING LIVE. THREE MONTHS LATER, WE WERE IN MIAMI SIGNING AND FINISHING UP OUR FIRST CD.
Speaking of that, did you all ever make amends with Luke?
YES, WE SPEAK TO LUKE WHEN WE SEE HIM. OR, IF WE’RE IN AN AREA WHERE HE’S PERFORMING, WE COME OUT AND SHOW LOVE. IT’S ALL GOOD!
To date, what has been the key to your success?
OUR FAMILY, FANS, AND ALWAYS BELIEVING IN GOD, AND THAT WE CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM. OUR FANS, THEY ARE THE BESTESS!
How do you view the current climate of today’s R&B artists — Are you content with it all?
I THINK THAT THE DIVERSITY IS MISSING. TOO MANY OF THEM SOUND ALIKE, WHERE YOU CAN’T TELL WHO IS WHO. WHEN A SONG CAME ON, YOU KNEW WHO H-TOWN, SILK, JODECI, AND SWV WERE. BUT TODAY, YOU CAN’T REALLY TELL.
You’re totally right! Well, everyone either knows your music already, or will become familiar with it soon, but, on a personal note, who exactly are Shazam & G.I.?
LOVING, CARING, AND HARD WORKIN’ PEOPLE. WE’VE BEEN IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY A LIL OVER 17 YEARS NOW.
Wow, has it already been that long? So, what do you all like to do in your spare time, completely away from this music?
JUST RELAX WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS, GO BOWLING, MOVIES, SKATING. JUST SIMPLE STUFF, NOTHING MAJOR.
What is your 5 to 10 year plan in entertainment?
WE’RE LIVING IT — H-TOWN 4 LIFE!
Your anticipated fifth group effort Child Support, is due out, when exactly? Is there a second single/video from it in the works? And, are there any current plans to tour behind it?
CD IS SLATED TO COME OUT IN JUNE, AND WE’RE TRYIN’ TO PICK THE NEXT SINGLE NOW. WE’RE ALSO GETTIN’ READY TO SHOOT THE REMIX VIDEO FOR “KNOCKIN’ YOUR HEELS,” WITH PRETTY RICKY. TOUR WILL START AFTER THE CD IS RELEASED.
Well, what’s that “live” show element (gonna be) like?
Unfortunately, H-Town member, and, literally, a part of the family, Keven “Dino” Conner, tragically passed away back in 2003 — How did you all find the strength to carry on following this devastating event? In addition to his physical absence, how did that loss affect the dynamic of H-Town? And, are you all doing anything in your own lives to carry on his legacy?
THAT’S A HARD ONE TO PUT INTO WORDS. BUT I WILL SAY, HE IS MISSED, AND WE ARE GOING TO CONTINUE THE H-TOWN LEGACY IN HIS MEMORY. THERE WERE TIMES WE WANTED TO JUST CALL IT QUITS, BUT WE KNEW THAT HE WOULDN’T HAVE WANTED THAT, AND THE FANS DIDN’T EITHER. WE WERE GETTIN’ A LOT OF EMAILS ON MYSPACE, YAHOO, AND FACEBOOK, TELLING US TO KEEP IT GOING, WE STILL LOVE YOU GUYS, AND WANT MORE H-TOWN. THANX AND MUCH LUV TO THE FANS.
* Sadly, Thursday June 25th 2009, the world also lost the greatest entertainer who ever lived — What was your first reaction upon hearing the devastating news? How does Michael Jackson’s untimely passing affect, not only you all, but, music in general? And, in the wake of his demise, what does this mean for the future of recorded music?
HE WAS ALSO ONE OF OUR BIGGEST INSPIRATIONS OF THEM ALL. HE WAS PART OF THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN GROUP TO CROSS OVER IN A MAJOR WAY TO THE MAINSTREAM IN OUR OPINION. HE WILL DEFINITELY BE MISSED. A REAL LEGEND.
Do you all have any parting words?
WE JUST WANT EVERYONE TO KEEP SUPPORTING US AND REQUESTING OUR NEW SINGLE ON THE RADIO, “KNOCKIN’ YOUR HEELS,” FEATURING JODECI AND PRETTY RICKY, AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: twitter.com/htown4life, YOU CAN ALSO DOWNLOAD OUR NEW SINGLE ON ITUNES. MUCH LUV TO THE FANS, RADIO, BLOGGERS, MEDIA, AND EVERYONE STILL SURVIVING IN THIS ENTERTAINMENT WORLD, BECAUSE IT’S A ROLLERCOASTER RIDE, AND YOU HAVE TO RESPECT A PERSON FOR NEVER GIVIN’ UP ON THEIR DREAMS