Playa, R&B really had us spoiled in the ’90s.
Yeah, I know, I’m TD Jakes lecturing the Mississippi Mass Choir right now. If you’re on this fantastic blog, it’s very likely that you too yearn for R&B’s glory days.
But we really didn’t know how good we had it.
For example – name the top five R&B groups in music today. Go ahead and try.
OK, then, name ONE top R&B group. And if any of you say Migos, I’m gonna kick in the door, wavin’ the 4-4.
My point is that groups, once a R&B standard, has gone the way of the saber-toothed tiger and Meek Mill’s career — extinction.
Back in the 90s, we had so many male R&B groups that you could divide them into categories:
THE KINGPINS: Groups that generated huge sales, critical acclaim and revolutionized the industry — names like Boyz II Men and Jodeci come to mind.
THE STALWARTS: Groups that enjoyed a fair share of crossover pop success but were mostly known as cornerstones of R&B genre — Blackstreet, Dru Hill, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Jagged Edge, 112, Silk, and a ton more.
And then, THE UNDERDOGS: The groups that may have only enjoyed fleeting success — usually just one or two hit songs here or there — but their work is fondly remembered. And in the 90s, there were well over a dozen of these hitmakers.
Among those underdogs are most certainly the brothers from Men of Vizion. Bet you wondered what happened to them, huh? You came to the right place.
The Brooklyn-based quintet’s roots trace back to La Guardia High School of Music and Art, where George Spencer III (aka G-Fly), Corley Randolph, Desmond Greggs, Brian Deramus and Courtney Bradley connected. The group began as gospel artists before drifting over to R&B — performing at parties, talent shows, anything that would get them noticed.
Bradley soon bowed out of the group but that brother’s timing was bad — now a quartet, the group known as Vizion finally got a bit of a break by performing background vocals and dance numbers for hip-hop megastar Queen Latifah. Prathan Williams, better known as Spanky, came in to replace Bradley and soon the stars began to align.
Vizion then gained a powerful ally in New Jack Swing pioneer Teddy Riley, who helped the group gain a recording deal with MJJ Music. Oh and if you didn’t know, MJJ stands for Michael Joseph Jackson — Vizion was signed to the label owned by greatest entertainer of all time. Now known as Men of Vizion, they had the King of Pop’s support and the King of New Jack Swing’s guidance.
Dem boys were bout to blow.
Men of Vizion’s debut, Personal, dropped in 1996. I was never a fan of that album cover, though — it looked like an emo game of Guess Who.
I do have to show love to the first single, “House Keeper.” It’s one of those joints where the title might not ring a bell but the second those notes hit, the memories come flooding back.
And they don’t make songs like this anymore:
In the morning I can fix you breakfast baby get you ready for work
Let me be your housekeeper girl
In the evening I can get your bath water ready show you what your worth
Let me be your housekeeper girl
Apparently this woman is so fine that Men of Vizion is scrubbing floors and frying chicken to keep HER happy. You think these lazy R&B children in 2015 are gonna sing about doing housework? Let Aubrey Drake keep conning you ladies into thinking he’ll move heaven and Earth for y’all. You really believe that guy’s gonna mow your lawn and wash your car? Men of Vizion has no problem doing dishes for dem draws.
MOV holdin’ it down for the blue-collar brothers. I feel that.
Obviously many people were feeling them – “House Keeper” became their biggest hit, reaching No. 13 on the R&B charts. Follow-up single “Do Thangz” was a solid (shout out to my hometown boo Missy Elliott!) but largely unspectacular follow-up despite decent airplay. More impressive was the group’s cover of The Jacksons’ “Show You The Way To Go” — that should have been a single. Personal was a decent debut, a nice departure from an R&B sound that was drifting more toward sexual braggadocio. MOV always sounded really genuine, which can be appreciated even today.
Following the release of their debut, Men of Vizion faced drastic changes internally. Randolph, Greggs and Deramus bounced, eventually forming their own group, The Kraft. Poor G-Fly and Spanky were just left holding their silly nicknames.
BUT WAIT. They’d soon find salvation in their competition.
Remember the early ’90s group Riff? They had a track called “Family” on the Ninja Turtles soundtrack, were featured singers in the classic “Lean on Me” film, and had released two albums of their own. Three members of Riff — Anthony “Chill” Fuller, Dwayne “Stylz” Jones, and Michael “Nitty Green” Best — came through like the New World Order, joining forces with the remaining members of MOV.
They didn’t look that old though.
This new incarnation of MOV released, um, MOV in 1999. This time, instead of floating heads, the album cover featured floating hands. You better be glad they didn’t drop a third album, I don’t even wanna know what floating body parts they planned next.
First single “Do You Feel Me (…Freak You)” was produced by Rodney Jerkins’ brother Fred III and sounds as 1999-ish as anything you can imagine. It definitely has a bounce to it but, man, does it sound dated now. The second single, “Break Me Off,” was featured in the film “Trippin,” a movie that I can’t remember AT ALL. The film apparently stars Maia Campbell, Bud from the Cosby Show and, judging from the clips in “Break Me Off,” looks like an old WB show sandwiched between The Jamie Foxx Show and Unhappily Ever After. Doesn’t look like I missed much.
You’ve probably already guessed this, but MOV didn’t mov many units, serving as the group’s final album.
I couldn’t find much on Men of Vizion’s whereabouts following their final album, besides Corley Randolph, who according to the always-accurate Wikipedia, is still writing and producing and even opened The Vocal School of Texas in 2007. There have also been rumblings that the former members of the Riff World Order planned to reunite, but I haven’t seen any new music on the horizon.
Should They Come Back?: Eh, I think we’re good. Men of Vizion was great for their time, bringing a wholesome sincerity back to R&B, but I worry it would be tough for them to find a home on today’s playlists — even the adult contemporary charts.
Sigh, they just don’t make groups like Men of Vizion anymore. Literally.