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Legendary

[LEGENDARY] Nu Shooz

[LEGENDARY] Nu Shooz

I'm honored to have had the opportunity to connect withValerie Day and John Smith of the group Nu Shooz! I believe they are perfect for this series. To say they're legendary does begin to speak to the impact they've made in music. For more nearly four decades, they have entertained the world with their authentic brand of soul and R&B and inspired many along the way. Starting in 1979, they've created some of the most timeless music that has crossed multiple genres and built a career that that has practically made them untouchable in the industry. While some may not immediately recognize the level of influence they've had, their history proves otherwise. Their smash single "I Can't Wait" was release 30 years ago, and to this day is still a fan favorite. The song was recently used in seasonal/holiday promotions for Target Stores, which undoubtedly opened the group to a brand new audience. Today's music fans can now see exactly what we loved so much about Nu Shooz when they first introduced us to their music. It was imperative for us to make them a part of our Legendary series. We're greatly honored they agreed. In our feature, they take us on a journey of what was going on for them at the time, and how they managed to inspire so many people with I Can't Wait. We also learn more about the new musical gems they are arranging as we speak. We're proud to present to you our latest legends: Nu Shooz!

 

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to speak with you two. I can say that I’ve followed you both for much of my life. I was nine years old when I Can’t Wait was released, so it was something that stood out for me in my childhood. My entire family is musically driven, and there's a few who have gone professional in music and entertainment, so music has always been our thing. I can remember being excited at the overall spirit and energy that the song provided. What made me really go ahead and reach out was the Target commercial. My son has been bitten by music at an early age, and he immediately took to the commercial. Initially, he would dance whenever it came on, but then I later realized that he downloaded your song through Apple Music to his phone. Surely, it made me remember how the song resonated with me, and I wanted to connect to talk with you about that type of impact you’ve made not just in music, but urban culture. It’s amazing that it’s been 30 years and the commercial has opened you up to an entirely new audience now. 

 

Valerie: Yes, it’s true. How old is your son?

 

UG Digital: He’s nine…

 

Valerie: Nine, what a great age. 

 

UG Digital: yes, and it's ironic that he’s nine and just hearing it, and I was nine when I was first introduced. 

 

Valerie: That’s awesome. 

 

UG Digital: It’s definitely something he loves. When you think back to that period, did you have an idea that it would not only be big at that time, but become iconic in the sense that 30 years later, it would resurface?

 

John: Absolutely not. You know, you can never know if a song will be a hit or not. It’s not just a good song, but does the song hit the singer? When you release it, is there an opening in the business? The business was very different then. There was federal grand jury investigation into Payola around the time that "I Can’t Wait" came out. All the payola money, all the mafia money was locked up, and it suspended the underground radio promotions. The independent promotion business was shut down for six weeks. We got through, but you just never know. I do know that out of the songs we recorded that fall, that was the best one. That one sounded the most like a record. 

 

UG Digital: I think it touched so many people, and one of the biggest things here with Legendary is we like to reach out to people who have been inspirational in their careers, and here, I look at the fact that you crossed many genres. It touched people even in urban culture and hip-hop. Many people sampled this song, including Vanessa Williams, and Naughty by Nature; who are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. You also have Doug E. Fresh, and Brian McKnight. A lot of people have taken from your creativity which is great. What was your thought and vision when you were putting it together. 

 

John: There were a bunch of guys in the band writing new wave stuff, and I just wanted to write the funkiest thing I could (laughing). We started as a soul band, doing a lot of tower of power and Earth, Wind & Fire and stuff. Then, gradually there was this mission drift as they call it. Everyone in the band was writing, and it was like that blue-haired, new wave stuff. "I Can’t Wait" was an attempt to take the band back in the direction I wanted it to go, and it worked. 

 

Valerie: At that time, we were playing 3-5 nights a week, and the nights we weren’t playing, we were rehearsing and trying to get new material into the band. John was writing like crazy, and trying to get new material in every week so we wouldn’t have to play the same tired stuff every week. We play 4 hours a night in most days. There were no openers in the clubs we played.

 

UG Digital: But that speaks volumes as to just how powerful and influential you were. 

 

John: It was a great music scene here in the early eighties. Within ten blocks of each other, there were all these clubs, and some would book you in for every Wednesday. There were clubs you could put your gear in and stay for four or five nights. It was a great time. There’s nothing like that now, as far as I can tell. It was an amazing scene. Seattle got all the press later in the nineties with the grunge era, but Portland was an amazing hidden gem.  

 

UG Digital: In terms of the music scene, I know so much has changed in the last thirty years, and not much is the same. What are your thoughts on the shifts of the industry, and who do you feel about being out there today?

 

Valerie: There’s positives and negatives to everything in life, right? The positive thing about this particular time period is we are hearing from people we never would have heard from back in the old days. They had to write a letter to us to communicate. We got all this fan mail back in the eighties and tried to reply to every single letter. Now, you can interact with people via social media, and that is a wonderful thing. You can develop a relationship with your audience that was not possible before. It’s fabulous. It comes in handy when you’re making a new record, like we are right now. We’re making a new record called Bagtown, and when we put pieces out there in the world and get positive feedback, it really spurs the song. We would make it anyway, even if no one cared or listened, because sometimes you just have to do things as an artist, but getting the instant feedback that they love it and want more, that helps a lot. 

 

UG Digital: So how did the Target commercial come about?

 

Valerie: You know, I don’t know how Target came across the song or who pitched it to them, but we got a call from the publishing company we work with for our catalog, and they said Target was interested. We said sure, and when they put it with Icona Pop recording it, and with Questlove producing, we knew it was a home run. We loved that they did such a good job with it, and It just looked amazing. 

 

UG Digital: I thought it was amazing. I enjoyed the fact that they had multiple spots, so one was maybe 20-30 seconds, and then they also had one that was perhaps a minute or more. I think it was good because it opened you up to a broader audience. There’s kids listening, and much like my son, they love the energy. 

 

Valerie: All these years later, I am so grateful that the song that hit it out of the ballpark was one that was fun, and positive to sing. What if your biggest hit is one that is a downer (laughing). You'd have to be down every time you sing it. I’m grateful that the song that hit it out of the ballpark is one that I love to sing. 

 

UG Digital: When I think of you two in terms of artistry, I think legendary, which is why I reached out. When you think of that term, what does it mean to you, and what does it mean to even be considered that?

 

Valerie: First of all, if you saw what we looked like in the morning, you’s think we were so not legendary. 

 

John: Legendary bed heads (laughing)

 

Valerie: I think it’s amazing that somehow the music has lasted this long that people think of us in that way. It’s hard for us to think of ourselves in that way because we’ve been hanging out on the planet for this long and are grateful for the opportunity. What do you think John?

 

John: I think that Nu Shooz is a thing, and it is because we recognized early on that we were unique in our sound. We had a sound, and the sound came from basically knowing that we were incapable of sounding like anything but us, and we got behind it. I think there is definitely a kind of Nu Shooz approach to music. I’m glad that this has lasted over time. 

 

UG Digital: I believe that it was your authenticity, and that resonates with people. Authenticity allows you to last. It stands out with audiences and music fans. I really wanted people to know how much you’ve inspired urban culture. When I first mentioned to someone that I would be connecting with you, they initially wondered why because it wasn’t traditional hip-hop or R&B, but I said to them that learning your history, they would understand. You kept me motivated and happy, even through music, at such a young age. It’s wonderful being able to sit with you and get a sense of what was going on at that point of your careers. That commercial gives people the opportunity to know you in this time frame. It also helps that you’re still working on new music. 

 

Valerie: That’s the other thing I believe is great about this time period. If I were a young musician now, oh my god. There are so many ways that you can research the people you believe are legends. All the video, and audio available. When we were working in the eighties, the only music we could find was on one radio show in Portland every Friday night on this little radio station…

 

John: …at 2 in the morning…

 

Valerie: They would play the latest funk and soul music. We would comb every song for inspiration. John would sometimes go to LA where he was from…he’s from Cleveland originally…

 

John: My mom was there

 

Valerie: He would visit his mom, and tape the radio station down there. The internet just was not happening yet (laughing). I think for people today, they don’t realize the amazing amount of music they have at their disposal. I taught voice for twenty years, and one of the things I always told my students was you learn from other people. That’s how we even learn to speak another language. We copy, and imitate. Then you let it go through who you are so that it becomes your authentic voice. Be yourself is basically what the message was, and it worked. 

 

UG Digital: If there was one thing you could say to your fans, new and old, what would it be?

 

Valerie: Thank you! Thank you for keeping the music alive so we could get to this period, and even make new music. Without the people listening, we would not be anywhere. 

[MEET THE MANAGER][LEGENDARY] Steve Lobel

[MEET THE MANAGER][LEGENDARY] Steve Lobel

I can’t begin to say how excited we were to secure Steve Lobel for a feature within Urban Grandstand. As someone who dreamed as a child of working in the entertainment industry, he’s someone I sure followed along the way. When many others were literally playing games, Steve was running things, making things happen not only for himself, but for so many others. Coming from Cleveland, I watched, almost first hand, as he helped create some of the biggest opportunities for Bone Thugs N Harmony as a group, as well as each member in their solo efforts. He’s worked with a wide variety of other artists in addition to them, but his history began well before that. Brought into the fold of entertainment by the legendary Jam Master Jay, the same love, respect, and admiration he shows for helping artists build their brands and careers was extended to him by one of the greatest. Actually growing up with Jam and Run DMC, he saw first hand from some of the best to ever do it just what it took to survive in this industry. Now, having been in this business for nearly three decades, he’s working to sharpen his brand even more, and not only continue offering greater opportunities, but show the younger generation just what the business of music is all about. The magic that he has brought to this industry is unparalleled. This article is a way for him to showcase his world, and it’s an opportunity for us to honor a man who anyone interested in any part of the music business should know.  It’s our chance to salute the incomparable Steve Lobel!

 

UG Digital Mag: This is an amazing opportunity connecting with someone like yourself. You’ve done so much here in this industry that we can’t help but learn from you. It’s a great opportunity to emphasize the things you’ve done for those who have followed, and it helps to continue to introduce you to those who have in a sense been under a rock. You go back a number of years, and the positivity from many artists comes from them having worked with you. What does it do for you to know that you have left that type of impact, when you’re still building?

 

Steve Lobel: To be honest with you, if people don’t who I am, it’s OK. I do have a resume in stripes, and that’s what I try to tell the younger generation. Hard work pays off, and you have to build a resume. You have to put that work in to become who you want to be. I’m just blessed. I’m a man of my word, and I’ve worked hard. I’ve done a lot and it’s a gift and a curse. I’m blessed, but humbled to work with so many different people from different eras, genres, and states so to speak, from Bone Thugs N Harmony in Cleveland, to Run DMC in New York, to Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles, to Sean Kingston in Miami. Three Six Mafia in Tennessee, Fat Joe in the Bronx, so on and so forth. 

 

UG Digital Mag: I’ve been one who has followed you all this time. I love the industry, have family who are in it, and it’s amazing, not to mention inspiring, for me to see what you’ve done. Being in Cleveland, I’ve followed Bone Thugs for example, and part of me gaining that stronger appreciation for you is the way you’ve worked with them and treated them. I’ve seen the people they’ve worked with otherwise, and I think you’ve been the strongest force for them, and simply put, the one person who hasn’t screwed them over or taken them in the wrong direction, and that also goes for other artists you’ve worked with. People have a tremendous amount of respect for you?

 

Steve Lobel: You give respect and you get respect. If people disrespect me, I’ll disrespect them harder. It took some time. I am a caucasian guy in an urban Afro-american business. I’ve dealt with a lot of people who maybe have never dealt with someone like me, or grew up and hung around with someone like me. It was all about building a relationship organically, and getting to know one another and building trust. My relationships are decades long because I’m a man of my word and integrity. I can still talk to Fat Joe 25 years later, and I’m still working with most members of Bone Thugs all these years later. We kick it like father and son. When you say Bone Thugs, and I call this 216 number, it’s weird because I used to deal with 216 numbers all day long with the members of Bone Thugs and the Mo Thugs artists. A lot of people came around Bone, and I’ll tell y’all the truth one day of what really goes on, but it’s not easy to manage a group. You have so may different emotions, feelings, and personalities in a group. It wasn’t easy. I’ve kept it more than 100 with Bone. I’m still down with most of them for so many years, over and over, through the trials and tribulations. I know more about that situation than a lot of people, and like I said, I’ve been through ups and downs with them and I’m still here. I was a part of putting the Bone and Biggie song [Notorious Thugs] together, Ridin’ Dirty with Chamillionaire, so on and so forth. I’ve been booking them with my partner Jamie for many years and making money with them. I’ve brought so much to the table for them, so you’re right. Some people come in and out of their world, and I’m still here standing, loyal, and doing great business. Time will tell, and the truth always comes out, but I’m still here standing. 

 

UG Digital Mag: Two things I want to hit on. Jam Master Jay, and Run DMC. I know you fully credit them for your success. How did you connect with them in the beginning?

 

Steve Lobel: You know, Jam Master Jay put me in the game. I grew up with Run DMC and Jam Master Jay. I definitely give credit where it’s due, and I’m a loyal dude with integrity, so I always give props to them, and I say Russell Simmons is my mentor. I don’t want to sound repetitive in the things I do, but a real brand stays consistent and doesn’t switch up. People who do hear interviews are saying this guy really stays true to the game and who he is. I’m from Queens, New York, and I don’t forget where I come from. I started with them and the sky was the limit. Rest in Peace to my mentor and my man, Jam Master Jay. 

 

UG Digital Mag: You spoke on the idea of managing groups, and dealing with trials and tribulations. How have you managed that through the years, given it goes through ups and downs from day to day. Some artists are difficult, obviously.

 

Steve Lobel: Managing artists can be difficult, but at the end of the day, I love what I do. Everything in life is difficult and nothing’s easy. You have to deal with a lot of bullshit. I don’t know how I’ve done it so long. I’ve been through a lot and have been stressed out, so on and so forth. Sometimes I have no patience and I want to throw it in, but the passion and drive keeps me going. Nothing in life is easy so you have to deal with the good, bad, ups, and downs. You have to laugh and cry, and put God first. 

 

UG Digital Mag: Where are things with A2Z Entertainment? It’s been 15 years now. 

 

Steve Lobel: I named it A2Z Entertainment because I do everything from A to Z. I know every part of the music industry. A lot of young people don’t know about the whole part of the industry from publishing to royalties, ancillaries and splits. Not many new artists have a team, lawyer, agent, and manager. A lot of these artists haven’t done a show. We’re more of a production company label. I do a lot of consulting, and not as much management. I have my whole brand reworking on Instagram and Snapchat. A2Z has been around, and it’s an LLC. It’s management, production, film, and a bunch of stuff. 

 

UG Digital Mag: Have you considered documenting or chronicling your day to day in general?

 

Steve Lobel: Well, I’m writing a book called The Coach Lasts Longer Than the Player, I just joined snapchat, and it’s documenting certain things with that. I want to do a documentary on my life. Have I done reality shows? Yes! I was on Millionaire Matchmaker, I was on Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott in 2004 when reality television wasn’t as big, and I did another one called Managers & Celebrities. I’m pitching different shows. What’s fucked up is everybody feels like nobody cares about what goes on behind the scenes in the music industry, and I tend to disagree because there’s so much great positive stuff in showing what goes on to be in the music business and be great. So many TV companies say it’s boring and they just want to show the finished product. To me, I’d rather see the behind the scenes and the making of it. I shot some sizzles and I’m pitching some stuff and trying to sell some stuff. I've got a thing called Beats & Bullshit, meaning show ‘em the music business and all the bullshit that goes with it. People don’t see that. They don’t know how to set up this and that. Most people are followers and not leaders. It took for Empire to come on TV and everybody feels it’s the business, but that’s not the music business. That’s what they want to show you as the music business. I want to show you the raw and uncut. To be honest with you, if someone doesn’t want to be a leader with me, then I might have to shoot it myself and put it out somewhere online. Online is very powerful, and content is key. I have my own talk show, Live with Steve Lobel, where I sit with artists and interview them. I interview everyone from J. Cole to Bizzy Bone to DJ Mustard to Logic to Focus the producer. The list goes on. I feel like I want to be the next Johnny Carson or Howard Stern. I just want to be innovative and creative, but I’m playing around with snapchat, documenting certain things in my life, and going from there. 

 

UG Digital Mag: I love and appreciate the fact that we’ve connected. I agree with all you’re saying, and a lot of what you’re doing and planning, I’ve personally looked for that, from the lawyers, to contracts, to everything else, so you know the things that are coming and what can happen. For those new managers coming into this, what advice do you offer?

 

Steve Lobel: I mean look... everybody is everybody these days. Everybody is the manager, rapper, singer, dancer,  andvideo director, but we’re all the same. We all bleed, shit, and we’re all going to die one day, or you’re not human. So I don’t judge people. Only God can judge, but the advice I give is make sure you want to do this. Work hard. My 5 or 6 keys to success were communication, organization, follow-up, never taking no for an answer, and common sense, which is not common. That’s the advice I give. Make sure you want to do this, love doing this, and know it’s a business. You need to know certain things. 

 

UG Digital Mag: I love it. Again, I appreciate you, and I’m grateful for this opportunity.  

 

Steve Lobel: I just want to tell every body that less is more, quality over quantity, money comes and goes but history stays. I’ve been blessed, but it’s a gift and a curse. You have to take the good and the bad. Love what you do, and work hard. The hard work pays off. Nothing happens overnight. Rest in Peace to Eazy E, Rest in Peace to B.I.G., Rest in Peace to Big Pun, Rest in Peace to Tupac, Rest in Peace to Jam Master Jay, Heavy D, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of those people. Sky is the limit. 

[LEGENDARY] Eddie Levert

[LEGENDARY] Eddie Levert

No one can question the impact Eddie Levert has made on the music industry. Fans have literally watched him entertain the masses for more than 50 years, showing those who aspired superstardom that anything was possible if the work was put in. They all watched as he raised a family of superstars, with two of his children, Sean & Gerald Levert, reaching amazing heights in the entertainment world. He truly laid the foundation, showing them what it was to work hard at what he loved. Indeed, he worked extremely hard. Eddie spent many years fronting the O’Jays, worked on several projects with Gerald Levert, and launched an uber-successful solo career that still carries on strong this very day. We’ve also seen him hit the big screen a few times in a way like no other. 

 

We had the distinct honor of catching up with Mr. Levert recently, and he slowed down, if only for a moment, to talk with us about what it meant for him to be considered a legend and what legendary means to him. He takes a brief moment to relive his recent appearance on The Soul Train Awards’ Soul Cypher, and what it meant to be a part. Finally, he gives us a glimpse into the new material he has been working on, as well as his new single, “Did I Make You Go Ooh”. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: I’m immensely grateful in being able to connect with you today Mr Levert. You've been so instrumental in the lives of my family alone with your music. Many of them come from Canton as well, so they've followed you for years, as I have. In addition, we've all followed your children and their legacy which continues to thrive in this industry. Anytime I've met you, you have always been extremely humble and encouraging. Your children were the same. I recall interviewing Gerald and he and I spoke for almost two hours for a 15-minute interview at 8am. He was always nice and welcoming. The fact that he and Sean were that way speaks volumes to upbringing and foundation. We're featuring you in a monthly series we title Legendary, and for all you've done in music, life, and the lives of so many others, that alone makes you legendary to us. I know that's not the first time you've heard your name associated with being legendary, so where does that title resonate with you when you hear yourself being considered as such? What does it mean to you, to be legendary? What do you define as legendary?

 

Eddie Levert: Thank you so much for that. That means a lot to me. For me, legendary means someone who has been here for some time. It's someone who has done things in their life to make changes for the world and other people's lives. I think of individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr. I think of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has brought me this far in life. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: I love the fact that you mention and speak of Jesus Christ

 

Eddie Levert: but you have to understand that I'm not heavily religious. I'm not in church every Sunday

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: Understood, mostly because I'm the same. I'm not there every Sunday, but that foundation is most certainly there for me. I see it as the same for you, that regardless of you not being there each week, that foundation is there. That foundation was instilled in both Sean and Gerald. I recall interviewing Gerald at 8am, and we spoke for two hours for what was supposed to be a 15 minute interview. 

 

Eddie Levert: Exactly (laughing). That sounds just like him. The foundation is definitely there. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: We've watched you for more than 50 years doing whAt you love. From the O'Jays to a tremendously successful solo career, along with things like The Fighting Temptations, you've done it all. What, in your mind, has been the key to your longevity?

 

Eddie Levert: In my time, I've worked to bring you real R&B. Whether it was with my solo material or with the O'Jays. I have Did I Make You Go Ooh and it's doing well. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: Recently, you were at the head of the soul cypher for the Soul Train Awards. Obviously, you're the favorite artist of many of our favorite artists. There was a clear connection with you and K-Ci at the close of the cypher and it was obviously how much he loves what you do and respects your craft. What was it like for you to connect with him, along with Lalah Hathaway, Chrisette Michelle, and Ms. Erykah Badu?

 

Eddie Levert: It was amazing to connect with each of them. I've had the pleasure of doing shows with them throughout my career. There is definitely a connection with K-Ci and I. The thing is, my son Gerald is responsible for bringing me into that circle. He connected me with people like Flavor Flav, and Heavy D, and so forth. I often do shows with LSG. I go out with them to make sure they're not getting all the money (laughing). I'm always grateful to Erykah Badu and I will forever be grateful to her. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: I don't think many people realize that you still have a child in adolescent years. What is the legacy that you strive to leave for your daughter?

 

Eddie Levert: Yes. But in her mind, she's not a child anymore (laughing). I want her to see that it's possible to do this. She wants to be a performer. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: the beauty is that she has seen everything though. 

 

Eddie Levert: Yes, she has. She always says that too. She'll say daddy, when I become a performer I'll do this, or I'm not going to do this. 

 

Urban Grandstand Digital: You have nothing to worry about. You've laid the foundation. She also learned the same lessons from both Sean and Gerald. She has no choice but to make it at this point. So, as someone who has experienced great success not only in career but in life, What has been your greatest accomplishment in your eyes?

 

Eddie Levert: There's been so much over the years. My greatest achievement has been my children. I've raised then to be respectful and treat people right. I'm still doing it. My children have been my greatest accomplishment. 

Check out our conversation with the legend himself!