A new generation rides the charts for Motown in the ’80s.
- First hit: “Dial My Heart”
- Biggest hit: “Dial My Heart”
- Top album: Messages From The Boys
- Career highlight: Three No. 1 hits on the Billboard R&B charts
- The young Abdul-Samad brothers from Carson, California – Khiry, Hakeem, Tajh and Bilal, all born in the 1970s – start putting on a show. Sometimes, that’s in gymnastics, as members of the Ebony Fliers troupe at Compton College, or performing at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Sometimes, it’s lip-syncing and dancing for dollars on Venice Beach, at weddings and private parties. Later, it’s in acting, as the boys make a split-second appearance in Stevie Wonder’s music video for “Skeletons.” In 1987, Hakeem earns roles in NBC-TV’s comedy series Amen and the movie Ernest Goes To Camp.
- The boys focus their ambitions towards music-making, and their father Jabari circulates a demo tape to various record labels, including MCA, where senior executive Jheryl Busby is impressed. He signs the siblings and, as MCA buys Motown Records in 1988, takes them to the “new” Motown upon becoming its president. The foursome work in the studio with various producers, including L.A. Reid & Babyface, who write (with Daryl Simmons) and produce the Boys’ first hit, “Dial My Heart.” The record tops the Billboard R&B best-sellers, and hits the Top 20 of the pop charts, too.
- Late ’88 sees the release of the group’s debut Motown album, Messages From The Boys, which includes “Dial My Heart” and their second No. 1, “Lucky Charm,” also produced by L.A. Reid & Babyface. Such success brings benefits. “We got to see the world,” Khiry told Billboard’s Fred Bronson. “We’re constantly traveling and we always meet new people. We get to see what’s out there…because if you don’t know what’s out there, then you won’t reach for anything.” The brothers reach for even more: “Crazy” from their second Motown album, The Boys, is another No. 1 on the R&B charts – and this time, it’s co-written and produced by Hakeem and Khiry. Motown’s belief in the band becomes even stronger. “Enough for us to produce just about everything on the second album,” said Tajh, “except for one song, which was done by L.A. and Babyface.” The success of “Crazy” also sees it adapted into a Pepsi commercial.
- The Saga Continues… is the Boys’ third Motown album, released in 1992, while later that year, they return to the small screen with a one-hour ABC-TV special, The Boys. The plot finds the brothers “adopted” by Ron (Superfly) O’Neal and Beverly (Lean On Me) Todd, while the show’s finale includes a performance by former Motown artist Thelma Houston. The following year, the Abdul-Samad brothers begin to step back from the limelight, trying their hands at writers and producers, and later relocate to Gambia in West Africa. Later still, they are reborn as the Suns, offering a blend of alternative hip-hop and traditional West African music known as mbalax, in albums such as Mission and Millennium Music. The Boys are now men, and Suns.