We really didn’t know how good we had it in 1996.
Boyz II Men. 112. New Edition. Dru Hill. Jodeci. Mint Condition. Tony Toni Tone.
That’s an all-star list of R&B royalty.
Now, how many active male groups do you hear on the airwaves in 2016?
Times are hard.
But back in 96, there was such a plethora of superstar male groups that some great groups often went unappreciated.
It’s time we show Az Yet some long-deserved love. Don’t remember them? Allow your boy to jog your memory.
When Az Yet released their solo debut album in 1996, they were comprised five members.
But they didn’t start out that way. Not by a long shot. Az Yet cycled through members like Beyonce changing outfits at the VMAs before the nailed the perfect union.
Sit back y’all. Soul In Stereo is about to turn into the math portion of the SATs. Pray for your boy.
The group’s origins began with Shawn Rivera and Dion Allen. They would later be joined by Kenny Terry to form a trio.
Later the group would add Ali Hyman, Claude Thomas, Dyshon Benson and Damon Core.
Hyman and Core would soon bounce. Then Thomas and Benson dipped.
Never fear, the group would later add Darryl Anthony.
This group switches brothers more than Taylor Swift.
Anyway, the group finally caught a break during the roster rotations when Jacqueline McQuam got hold of the group’s demo. Her name might not ring a bell, but I bet her son-in-law’s name does: Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Face became the group’s mentor – and with him in your corner, success is certain.
It was around this time the group got arguably their biggest acquisition – former Boyz II Men member Marc Nelson.
That’s five. And the Az Yet was ready for primetime.
Their stardom occurred seemingly overnight – “Last Night,” to be exact. The sultry single, originally featured on the renowned Nutty Professor soundtrack, flew up the charts, peaking at No. 1 on R&B charts and No. 9 on pop.
But let’s talk about that video for one minute.
Now earlier, I was waxing nostalgic about the grand days of 1996 but let’s be real – when you take off the rose-colored Aviators everything that was great in 1996 wasn’t THAT great.
I mean, have you tried watching reruns of Family Matters? Ugh.
And as great as the song “Last Night” was, the video was, um, well, y’all watch for yourself:
These playas are really dancing in front of Windows 95 screen savers.
Thankfully their second video didn’t look like they were stuck in the lost levels of Super Mario 64. Their soulful cover of Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” was a top 10 Billboard hit, went platinum and landed them a Grammy nomination. It was the perfect record to solidify their self-titled debut album as a success.
But success is fleeting.
Marc Nelson left the group in 1997 due to what the always-reliable Wikipedia called “personal differences.”
And the door begins to revolve again.
Nelson was replaced by Tony Grant.
Then Grant was replaced by LeDon Bishop.
After Az Yet departed from DreamWorks Records, the group petered out.
Darryl Anthony later resusitated the group with LeDon Bishop and two new members, Kris Gilder and Dante Harper.
The New And Improved Az Yet dropped an EP, That B U, in 2004 but disbanded soon after.
Marc Nelson resurfaced and reunited with the original Az Yet trio – Kenny Terry, Shawn Rivera and Dion Allen – in 2008 and began working on an album.
Remember Tony Grant? He soon rejoined the party too.
Finally back to being a quintet, the group dropped the first single of their new project, “Share Life.” It was technically fine but way too safe – it really needed an injection of the passion that made “Last Night” so memorable.
But don’t get too comfortable. Marc and Tony soon bowed out and were replaced by Claude Thomas, who was part of the group WAY back in the day.
Y’all still with me? Cuz all these calculations got me like
A few years ago, Marc rejoined the group, vowing again to work on new material.
But Rivera moved on last year to pursue other projects.
And that FINALLY brings us to today, where Marc Nelson, Claude Thomas, Kenny Terry and Dion Allen are keeping Az Yet’s legacy of great music and weird music videos alive.
Y’all don’t pay me enough to do all this math.
Should They Come Back?: FUNNY YOU ASK!
Az Yet is planning to drop their new album, She’s Magic, Sept. 16! Check out “One Last Cry” and “Love Her Mind” – the brothers sound pretty great! They may have lost (many, many) members since 1996, but they haven’t lost their sound.
Hopefully, the NEW NEW NEW NEW version of Az Yet is here to stay.
Mainly because I can’t bear making another Az Yet member flow chart.