Groove Theory Biography
If your memories of Groove Theory date back to those blissful, chilled-out soulful anthems of 1995--"Tell Me" and "Baby Luv"--then be prepared for a shock. Returning after a lengthy absence the group now consists of original member beatmeister/producer Bryce Wilson along with vocalist 21-year old Charlotte, North Carolina, native Mekada Davis. With the duo's new Columbia Records album The Answer comes a groundbreaking, refurbished sound that redefines the very meaning of hip-hop soul.
Led by the infectious first single, "4 Shure," The Answer (titled in response to questions surrounding the group's long hiatus) delivers a succession of attitude-driven, bass-heavy soon-to-be club classics such as "II Da Club," "Goin' Together" and "Shy Type." They deftly mesh stark industrial samples and analog synth sounds with Mekada's sultry soprano, sensitive melodic phrasing and rich harmonic styling.
"I couldn't go back to do the same type of music as the first Groove Theory album," states the charismatic Wilson. "I never repeat myself and to me that sound has become too trendy and pretentious. I wanted to take it back to what I know is honest which is hip-hop but with a twist."
Aside from his cutting edge productions, that twist arrives with the recruitment of Mekada, a uniquely talented singer/songwriter (who has already penned material for Jay-Z and Mya). Formerly signed to Jodeci member/producer Devante Swing's camp (which at one time also housed Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot, Ginuwine and Timbaland), Mekada's eclectic musical tastes are reflected in the broad reach of material on The Answer. The melancholy lament "If I Knew So Damn Much" hints impressively at classic Prince balladry whilst the cover of Skunk Anansie's "Hedonism" is a surprising turnabout being a celebration of feel-good party rock.
"Working with Bryce, seeing how focussed he is on music really brought the best out of me," states Mekada. "I guess being from the south, I'm very real and down-to-earth and that's reflected in what I write. It's everyday living--things that have happened to me or that I see going on around me."
"When I say I think this album's ghetto, what I mean is that I think it's honest," Bryce. "That's what I think the definition of ghetto, musically is. Mekada is so honest lyrically and emotionally, it just stands out. To me she's like Eminem and Alanis Morissette because although they're white, they are some of the most ghetto-est muthaf***as out there because they say what they feel regardless. I think a lot of the lyrics in R&B have become very phony and manufactured and when you hear Mekada, she's a breath of fresh air."
Mekada was a mere eleven years old, fantasizing about being in her favorite group En Vogue when Bryce was making his name on the international stage, living out his MC dreams as the rapper in the innovative dance/hip-hop group Mantronix. (Bryce attended the same high school as LL Cool J and for a while provided his beats while the two battled neighborhood MC's). Realizing that a rapper's life is often short-lived, Bryce went about reinventing himself as a producer, mastering keyboard and drum programming and emerged, with vocalist Amel Larrieux to form the first incarnation of Groove Theory which promptly achieved platinum status with their debut album on Epic Records. The band toured relentlessly throughout '95 with the Fugees and Maxwell before disbanding to pursue different musical projects.
Bryce then went on to achieve acclaim as a producer, crafting hits for a Who's Who of pop and R&B superstars including Toni Braxton, George Michael, Mary J. Blige, Babyface, Salt 'n' Pepa, Az Yet and Changing Faces. Despite further lucrative offers for outside productions, Bryce knew where his heart lay and that it would inevitably take him back to Groove Theory.
"There are only so many risks you can take when you're producing other artists," Bryce notes. "But with your own project there are no rules. I didn't become a producer to sound the same as everyone else. I want to push the boundaries and make my statement. I intend Groove Theory to always feature different vocalists each time round. Working with Mekada took me to the left side of my influences and I think the sound we have is incredible."
As for those who saw Bryce's disappearance from the media spotlight in between Groove Theory albums as a sign that he'd fallen off, the producer has a quick retort.
"To me success is not about living that flashy, comfortable R&B producer lifestyle and being in the spotlight all the time. Success is remaining hungry and creating songs that when they're dropped in a club will have people just running to the dancefloor. I think we've got an album full of those type of joints."
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