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Marc Nelson Biography

Last updated: 04/18/2001 04:47:45 AM

It enjoys the rare distinction, amongst sweet-tooth connoisseurs, as the most addictive and highly-regarded of confections. Many have attested through the years to its uplifting qualities, while some have more soothing anecdotes to relay. Unlike its many, trendy-packaged contemporaries, it has unanimously pleased everyone, from lovers to family, in all its bittersweet to sugary-caramel glory, for generations. And yet it always seems to come back at us in some new incarnation. While those in the know would insist that the finest batch may be of the Belgian and Swiss kind, Philadelphia is responsible for this hot, new brew. Taste familiar? It's writer/producer/vocalist Marc Nelson's patented, spicy mixture of ingredients, which can only be described as dark, smooth, sizzling, yet with an edge. Call it Chocolate Mood.

"It exudes what the topics covered on the album are really about," the multi-talented Nelson says of his exciting label debut's mouth-watering title and concept. While he'll be the first to admit that the name of his first Columbia Records project was suggested by Columbia Black Music exec Poke, he obviously agreed with its relevance, disclosing that it was "a seductive, sensual concept I was going for on this album. Even though there are other topics on the album, I think that title covers the bulk of it."

Though earlier material recorded for Chocolate Mood had been described by those who'd heard it as "pretty," Marc felt he wanted to do something far removed from any music he had been associated with before. "I didn't want to be smooth and sophisticated," Nelson divulges, "and I didn't want to be too hard and thugged out. I wanted to be in between. I guess I wanted to be this cool, sexy, chocolate brother with an edge. That's the vibe I wanted to create." And he wastes no time setting such precedents, with the release of his first single, the forthright 'n' racy, midtempo grind of "15 Minutes," a song with unashamedly frisky intentions. "I love you, but I'm late for work -- and I want a quickie," is Marc's straightforward explication of the song's message.

He treads through similarly gritty love matters on the sly urban groove of "Too Friendly," a saucy tale of an in-demand brother whose love services seem to be well-known by the ladies. Co-written by Xscape's Kandi Burruss (co-writer of TLC's "No Scrubs" and Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills"), Marc confirms that the track is saying, "Sweetheart, you need to keep your business to yourself. because your girlfriends are coming on to me, and asking me to do the things that I do to you -- to them."

Produced by an exciting team of urban-savvy producers like Marc Kinchen, Chad Elliot, Tyrone Taylor, MichaelAngelo (of the R&B group Portrait), as well as Marc in association with his brother Kenya Nelson (under their Hey Lady Productions, Inc. banner), Chocolate Mood is instantly delightful to the taste, with simmering slow grooves, yet with enough streetwise tendencies to never bore. For every midtempo tune like the smoldering, hot-buttered "In the Dark" (Marc's personal favorite) and slinky, creepin' "Time To Pay," there's a sultry, soothing soul ballad like "Enemies In Love" or "Tonight," as well as the midnight-hour beat balladry of "Tell Me What's Up."

He even brings a brooding, bottom-heavy bounce to Michael Jackson's "Lady In My Life," a rendering he didn't think twice to embark upon. "I love it and always wanted to do it," he says of the King Of Pop's Quiet Storm classic. "My two favorite songs in the world are `Sailing' and `Lady In My Life.' When I was doing it, I wasn't sure what the outcome was going to be. And I didn't want to damage the greatness of the record in the minds of those who also love the record."

Just when we think we've got his number, Marc drops a bit of ghetto flavor on us, as he allows his soaring, pliable pipes to coast above the hip-hop/R&B beats of "Compass Love." He describes his desire to cover the sensual, as well as the more urban-oriented material, as merely "wanting to change my image from being so sensual and sophisticated. Because I have more energy than that. I have a lot of energy inside of me. It had to do with the collective of people around me, getting together and brainstorming. I think it's a great package that is well put together."

Perhaps his desire to cover more bases, while bringing more of his distinct flair across, has much to do with public familiarity of his musical past. Born and raised in the City Of Brotherly Love, Marc, whose mother, Phyllis Nelson, enjoyed international dance/R&B success with her '80s hit "I Like You," spearheaded the original line-up of Boyz II Men while still a student at Philadelphia's renowned High School of Performing Arts. It was his persistence that afforded the then quintet the opportunity to make the acquaintance of New Edition's Michael Bivins, who would later be responsible for their signing with Motown Records. Yet due to fate's interesting twists and turns, Marc, whose tireless, creative energies got them to such a point, would wind up bowing out of the line-up. After a brief solo stint, Nelson found himself dedicating more time to developing his craft as a songwriter.

After superstar writer-producer-artist Babyface caught wind of his flair for melodicism, Nelson found himself knee-deep in outside projects. He has since written material for the likes of Toni Braxton, Brandy, Jon B, Tyrese, Tamia, Keith Washington, Aaron Neville, as well as Babyface. "I did quite a few things," he casually mentions. "A lot of people don't even realize the work that I've done. I'm very blessed for all of that; thank God for it."

In fact, it was Babyface who introduced Marc to the other four vocalists that would soon comprise Az Yet. Signed to LaFace Records, the quintet would soon go on to score platinum-plus success with their self-titled debut disc, as well as garnering Grammy and Soul Train Award nominations on the strength of pop/R&B smashes like the harmony-driven "Last Night" and "Hard To Say I'm Sorry." Yet the business end of the music industry would soon cause Marc to walk away from that success story.

Undaunted, Nelson delved into another intensive period of songwriting, and has once again emerged with "the goods." As contemporary and youthful as it is romance-minded, Chocolate Mood promises to create yet another chapter in Nelson's treatise of accomplishments. "This album, in general, is really giving all of me," Marc humbly states. "Even though I come from groups, where there is more than one head thinking about direction and opinions on things, this was my opportunity to shine -- and do it my way. I wanted to speak on things that I've been wanting to talk about. I wanted to sing what I wanted -- the way I wanted to sing them."