It has been more than 20 years since new jack swing act Bell Biv Devoe stepped out of the shadows of Bobby Brown’s New Edition to release their groundbreaking debut, ‘Poison’. But for Ronnie Devoe, the memories of those times seem just like yesterday.
“Man it was incredible,” Ronnie says. “We already had success with New Edition and we were thinking that since the other two guys were pursuing solo careers, myself, Rick (Bell) and Mike (Bivins) were thinking maybe we could just sit back and wait until they had their run and then we could get back together and keep pushing things up the freeway.”
But as history shows, fate had other ideas.
“We were lucky enough to be dealing with two producers at the time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who gave us the idea to form a group. Once they told us that, it was like a light went off in our heads and we just went with it. At the time we were dealing with a few people that wanted us to go in the same direction as New Edition but we were like ‘Nah. We got to do something different.’”
And different is certainly what they did. Although commonplace now, back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, the idea of an R&B group working with hip hop producers was almost nonexistent. But that’s what Bell Biv Devoe did, collaborating with The Bomb Squad, who were known for their work with conscious rappers like Public Enemy.
“Yeah, I mean one of the reasons we went with The Bomb Squad is that we really wanted to have an edge. We really wanted to be separate and far apart from what we established as New Edition and we knew that they (The Bomb Squad) were putting out acts like Public Enemy and Ice Cube, who they had just finished working with.”
While it might sound strange now, the group’s signature song, ‘Poison’, almost didn’t make the cut.
“I think Ricky and Michael will tell you that they weren’t really too keen on ‘Poison’, and they were kind of just riding off my passion at the time for it being our first single. I didn’t know it was going to be a classic, but I felt like it was a groundbreaking song.”
Following the release of ‘Poison’ and their sophomore album ‘Hootie Mack’, which was released in 1993, there has only been one further studio effort from the BBD camp, 2001’s ‘BBD’. But as Devoe explains, the group hasn’t been dormant.
“Touring, touring, touring man!” he laughs. “Our albums were always few and far between because we were on the road so long! We were lucky enough to come out when entertaining was such a big thing, and it’s what we grew up on. We were bred to be entertainers, and whether or not we had a record in the top 20 or the top 1000 when people came to our show they got every penny’s worth. So it didn’t matter if we had a song in the charts or not. When tickets went on sale people knew they were going to see a great show!”
After all this time, Australian fans will have to wait just a little longer to catch BBD after their May tour was rescheduled to August to allow the boys to tour the US with New Edition, an experience Devoe is very much looking forward too.
“Everything is really beautiful right now. This is the first thing we have done (as New Edition) since about 2007. We toured quite extensively before then from about 2003, so it was definitely a time for a break,” he says. “We did a couple of shows last year and now we are going to kill ‘em all the way up to July before we knock Australia out in August as BBD.”
And what can Australian BBD fans expect from the trio?
“All the dance moves, energy and classics. We are going to look like we stepped straight out of a time machine from 1990. I’m so looking forward to it, hopefully we can make it a yearly thing. I really want to apologise for taking so long to get down there, but this time we are definitely coming. August. Lock it in!”
Bell Biv Devoe play the Hi-Fi with Ginuwine August 12.