Remember last year this time when my girl Missy Elliott re-emerged out of thin air and blessed us with that blazing-hot “WTF (Where They From)” single?
Well, the Earth has flown ’round the entire sun since then and still no album. Sigh.
I know many fans get frustrated when their favorite artists slink away from the spotlight, but just because they aren’t up in our faces doesn’t mean they aren’t grinding away in the background. Many times, there’s more money to be made behind the scenes than in front of the cameras anyway. Just ask your man Chuckii Booker.
What, y’all don’t remember Chuckii? Well, friiend, ii’ll remiind you.
OK, I promise to chill on the double ‘I’ thing. Chuckii Booker is already spell-check’s least favorite R&B singer.
Chuckii is the product of a prolific musical family. His mother Selestine Booker has performed with many gospel heavyweights, his grandmother is a gospel pianist and his uncle is a jazz flautist. Oh, and you’ve probably heard of his godfather – Barry White.
How many R&B stars do you know who made The Simpsons?
Barry was instrumental into breaking Chuckii into the music business, signing him to his production company in 1984. By 1986, he was featured as a keyboard artist for the band Tease and contributed to their 1986 debut album.
But Chuckii wouldn’t be a piano man for long. He passed a demo tape to the manager of renowned saxophonist Gerald Albright to check out his work, forgetting that the demo also featured Chuckii singing original song with his own vocals. That oversight became his blessing – Chuckii was soon signed to Atlantic Records and he began work on his first album.
Chuckii’s debut album, entitled, um, Chuckii, dropped in 1989 and quickly made him a player in the New Jack Swing arena. While the album itself didn’t make much noise, the singles themselves were great performers. “Turned Away” hit No. 1 on the R&B charts, and “(Don’t U Know) I Love U” rose to No. 4. “Touch” got some radio play around my way as well.
Along with maintaining his own solo career, Chuckii was the go-to-guy for many R&B acts in the late 80s. He served as the musical director for Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour and produced tracks for artists from Vanessa Williams to Godfather Barry. Most notably, give Chuckii props for producing two of your favorite R&B joints EVER – Troop’s “Spread My Wings” and “All I Do Is Think of You.”
That alone is enough to land him in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1992, Chuckii dropped his sophomore effort, Niice n’ Wiild.
Chuckii, you’re killing my spell-check playa.
Niice n’ Wiild gave us “Games,” Chuckii’s signature hit and yet another No. 1 R&B hit.
THIS was a jam.
The follow-up, the smoky “I Should Have Loved You,” was very strong too. Niice n’ Wiild climbed to No. 13 on the R&B charts, but man, this album deserved more love. It’s truly one of the unsung albums of the ’90s.
Now if you only pay attention to music videos and album releases, Chuckii just vanished from R&B forever after Niice n’ Wiild, never to be heard from again.
But don’t worry, Chuckii never went anywhere, he was hiding in plain sight. Though he backed away from the solo spotlight, he was hustling even harder behind the scenes. Chuckii went on to head the tours of TLC, Faith Evans and New Edition in the 90s and Mary J. Blige and Keyshia Cole in more recent years.
And his production roster looks like a Vh1 Soul playlist – Lalah Hathaway, Kool and the Gang, En Vogue, Angela Winbush, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie and many, many more that I’m just too lazy to type.
Should He Come Back?: Chuckii never really “left” so I guess it’s more accurate to say…
Should He Record Another Album?: Chuckii has given so much to R&B behind the scenes that I don’t feel like he has anything to prove. The world isn’t aching for that third Chuckii album – I’d rather see him continue to pass on his gifts to a new generation of R&B artists. Lord knows many of ’em could use the insight.
There’s more to contributing to R&B than cranking out singles every six months, you know. Chuckii made your favorite artists better – give him is props.