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Members include TimothyCameron (Timzo), vocalist; JimmyGates Jr. (Jimmy), vocalist; GaryGlenn(Big G), vocalist; GaryJenkins(Lil' G), vocalist; JohnathenRasboro(John John), vocalist. Addresses: Record company-- Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
The five-member male R&B vocal group Silk hit the music scene in 1992 with the single "Freak Me" from their first album, Lose Control. Produced by R&B legend Keith Sweat, the record achieved multi-platinum status. Though "Freak Me" was a hit, the group had to virtually reintroduce itself to the R&B market when it released its third album, Tonight, in 1999.
Silk formed in the early 1990s in Atlanta, Georgia, although the five members of the group essentially grew up together. Several members of the team Timothy Cameron (Timzo), Jimmy Gates Jr. (Jimmy), Gary Glenn (Big G), Gary Jenkins ( Lil' G), and Johnathen Rasboro (John John) actually went to high school together. The five friends were influenced by such acts as gospel's Kirk Franklin, pop stars Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, rocker Prince and controversial rapper Tupac. Silk made a name for itself on its first outing for its catchy five-way harmonies and sexually suggestive material. They earned an ardent following in the R&B/Urban Contemporary market, particularly among women. "They fit nicely into what I call the 'lover man' category of artists like Usher, Tyrese, and Ginuwine," HMV media store urban music buyer Roberto Gooden told Billboard in 1999.
Being discovered by producer Keith Sweat was a coup for Silk. Sweat initially signed them to his own Keia record label, a subsidiary of Elektra Records, and released Silk's debut album Lose Control in1992. Sweat's title of producer gave the unknown group an advance in credibility. Silk earned fans and sold records with its overt and aggressive sexuality. The record rose to number one quickly on the Billboard top R&B albums chart. The album sold 1.8 million copies and produced three R&B top ten hits in the United States, including "Freak Me," which spent eight weeks at number one in 1993. Before its second release, Silk, in 1995, the group made the switch to Elektra, where they thought they could reach beyond such overtly sexual material as "Freak Me," and ultimately reach a bigger audience.
On Silk, the group made a departure from its libido-based songs. But, among fans of the group's first record, the release didn't fare well. Although it did achieve gold status in sales, even Silk's Gary Jenkins knew, "the public may not have been ready for the change in our approach," he told Billboard in 1999. So after touring and taking some time off to "regroup," Silk pulled together again to record its third release, Tonight.
Because of the different responses they received to Lose Control and Silk, the group knew they would have to consciously push their third record in the direction they wanted it to go. "We felt like we needed to go back to the mind frame we had on our first record," Gary Jenkins told Billboard. The group "went back to the more sexual, sensual kind of entity our fans want from us." But they felt, too, that their third while bringing back the sexual overtones was still a well-balanced album. "Even though we're know for our sexual and sensual themes, we want to show people that there are different aspects to us beyond the 'Freak Me'[theme]," Jenkins said. Gary Glenn felt the group was ready to keep working on Tonight until it felt right to them and had the makings of a strong R&B release. "R&B has gone through so many different modes in the past few years," Gary Glenn said in the group's Elektra publicity material. "We wanted to come out with guns blazing. We have a rear sound. Innocent in a way, but we still can make the kind of record people will be making babies to, if you know what I mean."
All the members of Silk have cited gospel and strong family and moral values as driving forces in their lives. "Family is important to us," Johnathen Rasboro said in the Elektra publicity material. "Family and the importance of getting an education, we try to instill that in our fans wherever we go." The paradox of religion and the sexual content of their music was clear, but Jimmy Gates Jr. tried to address it. "Everything has its place," he said. "We sing about love and relationships. I don't think you'd want to hear a Silk record if we strayed too far from what has always given R&B its strength."
To compete well in the R&B arena, Silk had to be very aware of marketing, or at least hire someone to be aware of it for them. They met Sonja Norwood, of Norwood & Norwood Management, Inc., in 1996 while on tour with Keith Sweat and Norwood's daughter, teen pop sensation Brandy. Norwood took them on before the release of Tonight in 1999. The group sought longevity in a constantly changing industry and a market that is flooded with new groups. Jenkins had a vision of how Silk wanted to model its career, he told Billboard, "We look at a group like the Temptations as an example of how a group can find a niche and stick to it."
After its third release, and a conscious effort to create a sound that would fit into the sexy R&B genre and fare well with fans, the group's future looked strong. "The group is coming back with a bang," Niecy Davis, operations manager at WBLX, a Mobile, Alabama, radio station told Billboard. "The new single is getting a great response from our listeners because it's really a 'chick' song and their audience is mostly female, 18-34."
by Brenna Sanchez
Group formed in Atlanta, GA, c. 1990; released debut album, Lose Control, 1992; single "Freak Me" was number one on the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks in 1993; released Silk, 1995; released Tonight, 1999.
Lose Control achieved multi-platinum status; Silk achieved gold status.
- Billboard, February 27, 1999; March 13, 1999.
- "Silk," Elektra Records, http://www.webobjects.elektra.com (May 13, 1999).
- "Silk," CD Now, http://www.cdnow.com (April 29, 1999).
- Additional information was provided by Elektra Records publicity materials, 1999.
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