The Boys

Jheryl Busby signed the Abdulsamad Brothers, better known as the Boys, while employed at MCA Records. When Berry Gordy retired, Busby made an upward-lateral move (MCA purchased Motown) to Hitsville USA and brought the talented siblings along. Busby was shooting for Jackson Five type accomplishments, but would settle for New Edition figures. The talent was definitely there, but Motown soon discovered that trying to mold the brothers was exasperating. Khiry (born November 8, 1973), Tajh (born December 10, 1976), Hakim (born March 27, 1975), and Bilal Abdulsamad (born April 17, 1978) started singing in their hometown of Carson, CA, when Bilal was five and Khiry nine. Originally, it was Khiry and Hakim, then Tajh and Bilal joined when they started entertaining in public for tips. Showing tremendous promise and God-given talent, their parents, Jabari and Angela Abdulsamad, encouraged them to follow their dream, telling them: "This is America, you can be anything you want." The public singing started when they were strapped for cash and couldn't buy Jabari a Father's Day present. Angela suggested singing at the beach in Venice, CA. It was a good idea as they earned more than 50 dollars in just a few hours. Jabari took them to that beach every weekend that summer in 1984. They did eight shows Saturday and eight on Sunday, earning 12,000 dollars, more than enough to pay for their school clothes and books that fall. The following summer, they earned 22,000 dollars. They were only allowed to perform during summer break and Jabari and Angela's main goal was to shape them into productive adults. Jabari, an extremely positive, pleasant, and upbeat man, majored in early childhood education in college and implemented that knowledge in his children. He never pursued employment in that field because he knew it didn't pay much; instead, he toiled as an ironworker and ran a carpet cleaning business for extra income. In the summer of 1986, the siblings decided they didn't want to perform at the beach anymore, they wanted to make records. Jabari and Angela knew zilch about the record business, but like Richard Pryor once quipped, "they got schools for you to go to." So they enrolled in a four-week course called Entertaining Management at Los Angeles Trade Tech to learn the ropes; it was money well spent. According to Jabari, the course was invaluable and they learned everything they didn't know and then some. Having abandoning Venice Beach, they hit the local talent shows and worked the private party circuit. Calling their business the Boys Party Time Affair, they signed with a Beverly Hills agency that booked them at birthday parties for rich kids, including Rod Stewart's son. The youngsters created a strong buzz in Southern California and were one of the area's hottest acts. That's saying a mouthful since some of the most talented people in the world -- people who sing like birds and dance like Michael Jackson -- are either born there or migrate to the area. Jabari delivered a self-produced demo to three recording companies: MCA, Motown, and Solar Records. It was a hat trick as all three companies wanted them, but they chose MCA and ended up at Motown when Berry Gordy retired and Busby became the company's head honcho. The Boys were Busby's ace-in-the-hole; not only were they electrifying live, they wrote songs and could produce themselves -- Motown's youngest producers ever. Their first album, Messages From the Boys, was near completion when through a friend, Greg Scelsa, they befriended Babyface, who had relocated to L.A. in 1985 after scoring some sweet hits with his group the Deele. The Boys played at some of Scelsa's functions and Babyface would be there; so the Boys and 'Face weren't exactly strangers when he and collaborator L.A. Reid started crafting material for them. 'Face and Reid whipped up "Lucky Charm," "A Little Romance," then "Dial My Heart"; the Boys didn't like the songs initially, but recanted after a live presentation by Babyface at their house. "Dial My Heart" zoomed to number one R&B the winter of 1988 and "Lucky Charm" duplicated the feat on April 1, 1989, and each stayed on top one week before falling off. "Crazy" became their third R&B number one the fall of 1990. Written by Khiry, Hakim, and Ashley Feazell, it was their last R&B number one and significant record. Pepsi featured "Crazy" in a commercial and Jabari established a 900 number that for $2.50 a minute, you could chat with the Abdulsamad brothers in supposedly "real time," and it was very successful. Jabari did this without interference or compensation to Motown because he kept all of the Boys' ancillary rights. That four-week course taught him to hold on to things like merchandising rights, etc. Motown wanted to get a manager for the group, citing Jabari and Angela's inexperience as a weakness, but the couple stuck to their guns and never relinquished their managerial reins on their brood. After the initial contract ran out in 1993, Motown awarded them with a new six-year deal. They accepted, then decided that they didn't want to record for Motown anymore. Motown also gave them a label deal, HAK Records, but passed on the two acts they produced, Small Change and another act. Add treating their self-produced Saga Continues... as if it had leprosy into the mix and you can understand why they were sour enough to walk from the dream deal that had produced four albums, some hit singles, and nearly eight years of touring. Andre Harrell replaced Busby as Motown's president shortly after Polygram brought the company; but you have to ponder whether the Boys' debacle greased the skids for Busby. Though they had three R&B number ones, they never had a consecutive string, or even one, pop number one, like the Jackson Five and the Supremes. Motown knew the Boys were independent but no one thought they would leave, especially after signing a new deal that included a generous advance. Had they let Babyface and L.A. Reid produce them, we might be talking about them as future Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers. The two writers/producers went on to knockdown hit after hit for TLC, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Janet Jackson, and many others. But they have no regrets and Jabari never tried to talk them out of their decision to leave. Nobody but insiders knew what had happened to the Boys as they seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. Everybody assumed Motown dropped them, but instead, they dropped Motown. All the new artists that Busby signed to Motown were talented as all get-out, but had short careers. The Boys headlined a sizzling well-received tour of new Motown artists in the late '80s/early '90s that showcased Rich Nice, MC Trouble, Milira, the Good Girls, and Today, none of whom are viable recording artists anymore. MC Trouble died and the rest just fell off the map. The Boys were the most talented. They drove audiences crazy with tight dance routines, effortless back flips, and enthusiastic singing. They weren't rappers, but like the good rappers, you couldn't remain seated once they hit the stage with their bombastic routines. They received a standing ovation at the Image Awards, appeared in Michael Jackson's Moonwalk video, recorded a single with Earth, Wind & Fire, and had their own television show. But after eight years of touring, it was all over. They relocated to Gambia on the west coast of Africa after being inspired by Alex Haley's Roots. They had toured Africa before and received strong creative vibes while in the motherland. All four lived there initially, but only Hakim and Bilal make Gambia their home while keeping dual citizenship in the United States and Gambia. Along with Tajh, who still records with them, they record techno, world, and African music as Suns of Light. They have at least four albums on the market and cut new ones regularly. Fed up with the record business, Suns of Light sell their work via the MP3 website. The locals know of their previous career and refer to them as the "crazy boys." Their cutesy, bubblegum look is gone, and if you didn't know better, you'd think all four were native Gambians. Khiry, the oldest, lives in Los Angeles and works in film and video production; Tajh lives in the Atlanta, GA, area, as do his parents, and he works in merchandising. Collectively, they invested in real estate and own Grand Oak Villas, a retirement community in Pensacola, FL. Hakim and Bilal operate two recording studios in Gambia, where they produce themselves and locals. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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