3rd Storee Biography
Last updated: 12/13/2008 11:00:00 AM
From the very first signature-style burst of self-confidence that heralds 3rd Storee's much anticipated arrival - the melodic funk of "Party Tonight" - to the melodic, chimes-like peal of the infectious "My Friend," you realize Yab Yum/Elektra artist 3rd Storee's history making debut album is about to change the landscape of urban teen music forever.
No manufactured "hook-ups."
No too-pat teen formula crafted in some sterile studio.
What you discover instead is the irresistible vocal presence of 12 year old Lil' Man, conjuring up such pop icons as The Jackson Five and New Edition without sacrificing the kind of 90's bravado and around-the-way streetsmarts that only 3rd Storee can deliver. Bolstered by the passionate, soulful stylings of 15 year olds - Jay-R, D-Smoove, and Kevonte', 3rd Storee's unique blend of pop magic and teen angst is superbly displayed on their self-titled debut release. The album comes complete with melodic harmonies and funky hip hop breakdowns, revealing various sides of this amazing foursome.
This awesome collection weaves heartwrenching stories of teen crushes one minute - like on the soulful gleam of "If Ever," - then flips the script - scoring from the more funk-drenched corners of the court, as on the moody but body-moving "If They Only Knew." The album is a virtual tour-de-force of cutting edged grooves and on-the-money vocal prowess. Listen to the angelic wail of the charismatic Lil' Man on the glistening "Tonight," or follow the classic sound of "Him Or Me" right into a D-Smoove rap. What soon becomes evident is that 3rd Storee is one of those rare groups whose individual talents are only surpassed by the overwhelming chemistry of the whole. And though comparisons to past groups surely abound, (Spin magazine recently called Lil' Man a "young Michael Jackson down to every last squeal, breath and reference to ABC,") 3rd Storee's amazing tale is unequivocally their own.
The boys, all Southern California natives, were brought together by their former manager only a few years ago. Jay-R, D-Smoove and Kevonte', attended Hollywood High, with Lil' Man attending Lobeer Middle School. But the magic of their union really began to take root when they started performing together. At first, the three boys would perform at various talent shows and contests. They even did a jump-up in front of classmates at Hollywood High, not an easy audience when you consider the High School is noted for it's drama and performing arts classes. Says Kevonte': "We did shows there. Even though we're young, we always wanted to have some kind of career in show business. But we knew it was going to be tough. When Lil' Man hooked up with us, it was just one of those incredible things where the vibe took over."
With the effusive front man in tow, the group embodied that rare combination of cool street sensibility and fierce dedication to their craft that belied their young ages. They began extensive rehearsals, working on complex choreographed routines, but never losing sight of the importance of their playful edge, part of their charm that comes easy to the always cutting-up Lil' Man. "It's just his nature to make us relax sometime," laughs D-Smoove. "I think one of the keys to our album is that we have a brotherly bond that comes through on the record. You can't fake that. We're all looking out for each other, and when you're working this close, you have to be able to enjoy it."
Their big break came when they got the opportunity to audition for groundbreaking L.A. label Yab Yum. The performance took place in the Yab Yum offices with the entire staff as audience. "We were nervous but we were so excited to sing live in front of them," remembers Lil' Man.
The group returned a couple more times, winning over all comers, and making the Yab Yum hot spot part of 3rd Storee lore on tracks such as the aforementioned "Party Tonight." The song features a rap by Treach from Naughty By Nature, and was produced by R.L. from Next and Jamie Hawkins.
It was exactly those kinds of associations that Yab Yum's CEO, Tracey Edmonds, was able to provide the group. Yab Yum's deal with Elektra, as well as Tracey's excellent relationship with EEG Chairman/CEO Sylvia Rhone, forged the team that would eventually help guide 3rd Storee through a pop and R&B maze they previously could only dream about.
None other than Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds himself stepped up, writing seven of the songs that would eventually shape the LP. "We were honored to have him involved," says Jay-R. Other star producers rallied around the group, including Vada Nobles (Lauryn Hill), Rashad Smith (Biggie Smalls and Busta Rhymes) and Jamie Hawkins (Next). 3rd Storee's debut also marks the introduction of Yab Yum records' own innovative production consortium, Y Corp.
It's the amazing versatility of 3rd Storee that makes this inaugural effort such a treat for teen music fans. One listen to the sophisticated vocal harmonizing on the mysterious "Senorita" (penned by Kelly Price, Marc Nelson, former member of AZ Yet, and Rashad Smith) proves that 3rd Storee has not just raised the bar on 90's teen groups, but demonstrates how they have completely transcended the genre, displaying the kind of poise and vocal confidence that can mesmerize fans of all ages.
It didn't come easy, however. Each member recalls the early jitters from their respective public debuts at much younger ages. D-Smoove remembers letting it all hang out at church at the grand old age of five. "But I remember really bringing the house down in 4th grade," he laughs. "I was in our elementary school's Christmas pageant. We sang 'Silent Night.' Afterwards people were coming up to me. It was then that my family started seeing my potential."
Jay-R recalls the special occasion that led him to an eventual singing career. "I first got noticed in the church choir. We were doing a Martin Luther King tribute for black history month. I got a lot of compliments, and suddenly I realized I liked that." Kevonte's stellar singing debut was at a 6th grade talent show with his mom in the audience.
And as for Lil' Man: "Believe it or not I was three years old. It was church, too." The precocious singer laughs at the irony of it all, a show business veteran at 12. But it has always been the live discipline, including recent showcases on both coasts, that impresses people the most about 3rd Storee. "It's part of why we're unique, with the choreography and all. It reminds people of the time when there were tighter groups," says Jay-R. The rigorous rehearsing and practicing schedules has caused the members to opt for tutors now, but Kevonte' says the lessons of Hollywood High will never be forgotten. "In a way, it's helped us evolve as total performers," he says. "We took piano lessons, tap dancing, drama lessons, you name it. I think that kind of well- roundness is missing in a lot of artists now."
Lil' Man also points out some of the other influences, besides music. "Our parents remind us how important an education is over everything," he says. "And being a good Christian." D-Smoove even hints of a 3rd Storee code. "In the environment I grew up in opportunities like this don't happen everyday. My friends and family are proud already because they see this as accomplishing something in life, not just the business. We're fortunate to do this. And if we get the chance to be known all over the world, we want to do something that gives the same opportunities to others who can only dream about it right now."
Kevonte' says the group has talked about participating in PSA announcements, as well as other charitable events to further inspire their potential fans.
It's that kind of optimism, combined with their tremendous singing and performing instincts, that has made 3rd Storee one of the most naturally gifted teen groups to come along in decades. "It's hard work," chimes up Lil' Man. "And it gets harder every minute. But we're ready. The whole thing is a blessing."
And maybe a primer. One that certainly confirms there are many more chapters of this incredible music story to come.