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YRB Interview: Boyz II Men

by Griselle Rodriguez
Photography by Randee St. Nicholas

Boyz II Men are synonymous with hip-hop soul and are considered the pioneers of the New Jack Swing era of the early ’90s. To jump-start the celebration of their 20th anniversary in February, BIIM, composed of Nate Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman, invited their fans on an intimate cruise to the Bahamas and are slated to drop a 20th anniversary album later this year. Forever young and everlasting, Boyz II Men is working to only further solidify their legendary status.

YRB: How does it feel to be celebrating your 20th anniversary as a group?
It feels really good! The success that Boyz II Men has had over the past 20 years—even with the downs—we still take pride in being able to play one of our songs and make [our fans] feel the same way they’ve felt all over again is a huge blessing. It’s the [quality of] our music that has kept us around for so long. It touches us to know that we can tug at the same heartstrings with our songs that sometimes make grown men cry [Laughs]. We’re not offensive and we pride on the integrity of our music, which plays a huge part in our longevity.

YRB: When you first started, did you ever imagine making it to this level of legendary status?
Not at all, not at all—all we could do and imagine as a group back then was singing. We all met at [Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts], that’s all we knew. We sang in the subway and kept singing until we were finally discovered. And it’s not like we were even looking to become famous; we just loved the way we sounded together.

YRB: How do you feel about where music is at now compared to when Boyz II Men first started?
It is definitely different. There isn’t much of the same integrity or quality of content left anymore; it’s mostly about the fame and the money with a lot of artists. Love songs aren’t about the “love” anymore, but about the “doing” of one another without the being in love part. Creativity has disappeared and all energy is put into making a fast [buck]. It doesn’t make for legendary artists anymore.

YRB: Do you think legendary artists still exist at all?
There are some who still uphold that level of integrity and will be around for a very long time. Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Usher, even Chris Brown despite his past troubles, Ne-Yo and Cee Lo Green, simply because he likes to change it up!

YRB: What made you decide on a cruise to kick-start the celebration of your anniversary?
We wanted to give the fans a chance to hang out with us. You usually see your favorite artist on stage and on screen but never get to really meet them or get to know the real them, so we wanted to give them that chance. I mean, [they’re] out in the middle of the water on a boat with us—you can’t get anymore personal than that! [Laughs]

YRB: You’re due back in the studio to record a new album. Will we hear a new Boyz II Men sound or will it be reminiscent of your past albums?
While we want to maintain the integrity of the Boyz II Men sound, we are also exploring other avenues for our sound as well. It’s all about trying new things, and if the songs we decide to take that [different] route with do not become popular songs, we are still creating and expressing the creativity. There is no such thing as a “bad” song to us.

YRB: Japan is home to a lot of your fans. With the recent tragedies that have happened, do you have anything in the works for relief?
Japan is where we’re always at, and we were actually one of the first [musicians] to spearhead a relief effort. On our website we raised over $30,000 for relief, selling iPad cases and holding numerous fundraisers. We plan to do so much more and feel truly blessed to be considered a part of the Japanese community.

YRB: The group has had a lot of accomplishments over the years. What would you say has been the biggest?
Being together 20 years! It’s a feat in itself.

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