Last weekend, I reached out to my social media fam for suggestions for our latest “What Ever Happened to…” subject. Y’all delivered and dug up some great names from the past. (not literally – except in some cases.)
I threw all the suggestions together, fired up my trusty random number generator and let it rip. The winner: late ’80s heartthrobs The Boys.
If you were a pre-teen girl in 1988 I’m sure you just screamed at your computer.
Let’s relive the obsession.
The brothers Abdulsamad – Khiry, Tajh, Hakim and Bilal – have a back story so sugary sweet that it’s almost like superproducer Babyface penned it himself. But more on Face later.
Did you know:
– As an infant, Tajh played baby Kunta Kinte in the 1977 miniseries Roots.
– The brothers originally performed to raise money for a Father’s Day present.
– During a talent show, an announcer asked the mother of the then-nameless group for their stage name. She replied, “my boys.” They were later christened “The Boys.”
Eventually, The Boys’ were courted by MCA, Motown and Solar Records. Jheryl Busby signed the group while he was at MCA, but when MCA purchased Motown Records, Busby rocketed up the corporate ladder. The Boys, now under Motown, now had friends in high places.
Even more good fortune smiled upon them when they befriended Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and LA Reid. In 2013, that would be like four kids working with Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake right out of the gate. They must have had horseshoes and Lucky Charms floating through their bloodstream, they got all the breaks. Success was guaranteed.
The Boys’ debut, Messages From The Boys, dropped the day after my birthday, October 29, 1988. I remember it well because of the endless hype it received. The album was anchored by the first single, “Dial My Heart.”
***CUE OBNOXIOUS SCREAMING FROM PRETEEN GIRLS***
Take Bieber fever to the hood and you’ll understand just a fraction of the hysteria The Boys caused. And unlike Bieber, who is a line of coke away from becoming Jim Carrey’s version of The Riddler, they seemed to be genuinely nice guys.
“Dial My Heart” climbed to No. 1 on the R&B charts. Meanwhile, The Boys seemed to drop a new single every week: “Lucky Charm,” (another No. 1 R&B hit) “A Little Romance,” and “Happy” followed. Girls screamed and many eardrums bled.
Wasting no time, The Boys returned in 1990 with their self-titled sophomore set. Look at ’em trying to be all mature n’ stuff with their oversized, condiment-colored 90s suits! Awww.
America was so Boys crazy that they almost got their own sitcom! Here’s part one of the pilot. It’s like Full House and the Sinbad show had a bunch of New Jack Swing babies.
The Saga Continues… dropped in 1992, upgrading the brothers from oversized pastel suits to oversized mobster suits. Ah, life in the ’90s. But by ’92, their momentum began to sputter. The title track and “Doin It Wit the B” quickly got lost in the shuffle. The Boys blamed their label Motown for poor promotion and decided not to resign with them.
Now, this is usually the part of the column where I talk about how the artists descend into infighting, poverty and, eventually, obscurity. But fear not, there’s actually a happy ending for once.
The Boys moved to Gambia in West Africa, learned the native tongue, set up a studio and began recording under the new name The Suns of Light. The group dropped three albums, Hakim dropped a solo project and Tajh released two of his own. Here’s Tajh’s “How Far Will U Go?” which borrows Timbaland and Drake’s “Say Something.” Not bad at all.
Should They Come Back?: The era of The Boys and their bad suits is long gone but I wouldn’t mind hearing more from The Suns of Light. Their mature voices and positive lyrics are easy on the eardrums – much easier than the screams of crazed preteen girls.
For more on your favorite forgotten artists, visit our “What Ever Happened to…” archive.