Well, it looks like Silk is back and smoother than ever. The five member R&B group featuring Gary Glenn, Gary Jenkins, Timothy Cameron, Jimmy Gates Jr., and Johnathen Rasboro were determined to set it off like never before on their upcoming album, Tonight. This third album for the group, scheduled for release March 23rd 1999 on Elektra, takes them to another level while at the same time bringing back some of the elements from their first album, Lose Control, which contained the hit single, “Freak Me”, that made them superstars. I recently got the chance to talk to Jimmy Gates Jr. and found out everything that a Silk fan should know.
After listening to the new album, I see that it is definitely tight. You guys are going to be back on top. What have you been doing for the last few years?
After the second album, we sold like 784,000 copies and we totally regrouped. We broke our whole situation down; we looked at where we were and we looked at all our weaknesses as far as we didn’t have proper management and we didn’t have proper road management. We got with our accountant and we basically just restructured our whole agenda. It took the first year to get all that together and the second year we met Ms. Norwood, Sonya Norwood of Norwood & Norwood Entertainment Group. We went to her about management and after negotiating and talking to her, she came in and helped us. And when she came in she thoroughly helped us restructure our situation and basically planned for us to have individual careers as well as the group. That’s what the first two years took. And finally, the third year, we started the record in November of the year before last and didn’t finish it until this past November. So we took twelve months to do the album. And Elektra said we’re not going to put any time lines on you guys or even set a date. We won’t even let anyone know that you’re even in the studio, just go in, do records until we come up with the right album. With that blessing alone, that helped us to be more comfortable. We went in and got with producer Darryl Allamby, who worked with Gerald Levert, LSG, did the new Janet and Busta [Rhymes] tune, and the new Mystical and Busta tune. Then we got with his crew, which is the Millenium 2000 [Watts Production]. So, basically we sat in the studio until we had the proper songs that could represent us at this time and date. And that’s where all those three years went. And in between that, during the first two years, we started an umbrella of production companies and based it after the WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) concept. We took that concept and started our own concept of production companies. We stayed with Elektra; we love this label. We’ve been asked why we haven’t left the label. We never had a reason to leave the label. We just wanted to make sure that we had our careers in order with the label and now that we have that in order and the record is done, it seems like everything is O.K.
How do you feel your music now compares to the Lose Control album? I personally feel that in many ways it is similar.
I’m glad that you said that because it means that we’ve done what we set out to do. What we went into this record thinking is, Darryl “Delite” Allamby studied our first album along with the second album prior to getting with us. And when we actually got with him, we took the elements from the two and came up with the “Let’s Make Love”, which probably represents the Lose Control album. And we came up with Tonight, which represents the happy days and is what we open up the tour with. We basically just took the elements from the first and second records and bored ourselves into our vibe and we came up with what we did.
Do you all as a group do a lot of the co-writing for the album?
Actually we did. We wrote on the tunes “Love you Down”, “Superstar”, “Playa Road”, “I Wonder”, we did the “Interlude”, so we did about four or five on there. We really bored ourselves into it and came up with four or five good ones.
Silk’s music has always been very romantic, but yet very sexually explicit in the lyrics. How do you continue to walk that fine line time and time again?
It all started with Keith Sweat. I mean, when he signed us to Kia Records, he took us in the studio and we got on his vibe with him. He’s always been edgy like that, but his thing is he has an edge and begs a lot, which is his vibe. We also tend to beg a little bit too because of learning that from him, but when he labeled us with “Freak Me”, I mean that just labeled us. Each group might have a signature song or two like the Isley’s or Dru Hill or whatever. People have a song that might signature their act and I think that “Freak Me” did it for us. And we just make sure that we stay in the vein of that because on the second record, titled Silk, we didn’t do that and we realized the mistake that we made. We went away from that freaky stuff. I mean, we had good material, but we were missing that one element that people really, really want to hear no matter what we record. They want to hear something in that vein, so we went back to the drawing board and came up with these lyrics and we kept our edge, but we tried to be a little more tasteful about it.
What do you think about the quote that your music is innocent but “can still make the kind of record people will be making babies to.”
(Laughs) That’s basically true. Basically, we wanted to try and make the kind of album where you could go home yourself and whatever you do when you shut your door behind your back is what you do at home. You might put in a Silk record and take a shower, or you might be just kicking it, getting dressed to go out to a show or you might be home with your female or wife and in a romantic mood. We wanted to make a mood record, where you could just play it and kick it at the crib and you don’t have to go out to the club and party; you can just play your CD and relax. A lot of people like to sit at home and are home bodies, and they just do things at their house and when they go out, they come back home and relax. So, we tried to make an album that people could really just chill with.
So what do you listen to when you are just kicking back?
I am so into R. Kelly. That brother is amazing. I am just oozing R. Kelly right now; I’m really a big fan. Besides Kelly, I’ve been checking out the Backstreet Boys, and different groups like that just from study habits. Who I listen to the most is a lot of gospel, Keith Sweat, Dru Hill, Boyz II Men, Patti Labelle, Temptations, Kirk Franklin, Take 6, and a number of artists.
You guys have known each other for the most part since high school. How did everything come together?
Me and Johnathen Rasboro were working at McDonald’s and my cousin, whose nickname is Tiger, he introduced me to John, and I started working at McDonald’s with him and we started the group. And we used to practice there in downtown Atlanta. We used to close down the shop at like twelve at night and would practice until about two in the morning. They didn’t know it, they still don’t know it, well they know it now, but they can’t do anything about it. (laughs) And that was our thing. Gary Glenn used to work at Domino’s Pizza, so some nights we would practice at Domino’s and some nights it was McDonald’s. Then we met Gary Jenkins a year later. So about three years after we actually started the group, the core was finally together. Which is what you know now.
*After Jimmy began telling me about all of the projects that each member is involved with, I couldn’t help but to ask him about the controversial Lewis-Holyfield fight.*
Did you watch the fight the other night?
I didn’t have a chance to watch it because we were doing a show in North Carolina that night. When I got my page and realized that it was a draw, I honestly got on the phone as quick as I could and everyone that I talked to, which I hate to hear, said that my man Holyfield really lost the fight. And now I watched the news this morning and hear that a judge and a lot of different commissioners are really getting into it so I think that Holyfield got by on that one. So I hope when they rematch he can revive his respect because I think the audience really feels cheated right now. And I don’t think that it’s his fault because he doesn’t judge the fight, but he got his butt kicked and I’m just waiting to review the fight.
So your future plans include working with people on your label, doing videos, releasing singles, and touring. Anything else?
Without a doubt. We are releasing videos for ourselves along with the acts on our labels. I mean, my personal idols of this day and time are Master P. and Puffy Combs. To me, they are the new executives of this day and in ten years, they will be the brothers that are still hanging around and doing good business and I admire those guys because of their success. I know how much hard work it took them to do what they do and I pattern a lot of what I do and what we do with our companies after those guys. I mean, we are looking at the people that are making the right decisions for themselves.
Fans seem to mean the world to Silk. What would you say to all of them?
First of all, thank you for all of your patience over the last three years and the last year we worked very hard on this album for you. And we hope that you can appreciate the risqu lyrics that we came with this time and the whole R&B vibe we have going on this time. And we thank you for sticking with us and believing in us, and we will show you that appreciation on tour.
When might the tour be?
We are hoping that it will be in late May or early June. And we are hoping to go out with Brandi.
quotes of note:
“We decided that we want to be around and be like the Isley’s and the Temptations to where the name Silk will always be known and the only way to do that is to stay together and keep making great music.”
“We are lucky to be doing a job that we love to do.”
“We are trying to establish our relationship with the public again. And we are taking a first record attitude and we are open to whatever anyone needs.”
+ Sam Conjerti