Why Don't You Love Them?
Houston is synonymous with the name, Beyoncé. She and her dad, Mathew Knowles, have created a local music empire in Midtown. Fans stop in and take pictures of Music World Entertainment headquarters, where photos of the goddess line the walls inside and out.
This is where the House of Deréon, I am...Sasha Fierce, and "Crazy in Love" have brought good fortune to the Bayou City and the label.
Beyoncé and "Crazy in Love" helped turn The Bama Boyz (aka the Bamaz) from interns to record producers, songwriters and artists. Eddie "E-Trez" Smith III, Jesse J. Rankins and Jonathan D. Wells were recently honored in Billboard Magazine's Black Music Month profile of "10 Songwriters and Producers to Watch."
Walking into the recording studio, where I interviewed two of the three Bamaz , Jesse R. and Eddie S., I passed a group of aspiring young Beyonces in the dance studio for an after-school program and walked by dozens of platinum-selling records on the wall — the songs that got me through relationships and high school.
In this studio, the Bamaz created their Socially Awkward EP and "Why Don't You Love Me", a single from Beyoncé's I am...Sasha Fierce.
It all goes back to college life at Alabama A&M University, where the Bamaz constantly promoted clubs and organized parties. Mathew Knowles was impressed when he came to Montgomery to judge a talent showcase created and hosted by the young men and offered them an unpaid summer internship in Houston.
“Our intern experience was a very humbling one," Rankins says. "We came from a college were we made ourselves very important. We came here thinking, 'Aww man, we just hooked up with Mathew Knowles. We are going to be big.' I remember the day we were riding around TSU, where we were about to go to school, and thinking, 'This is going to be ours dude. They don't even know what's going to happen.' "
Instead, the internship wasn't a glamorous job. The Bama Boyz regularly cleaned the studio and nightclub, and did lots of street promotion, putting posters up all over town.
“I am going to toot-toot a little bit," Rankins says. "In the summer of 2003, that's when Houston found out where Music World was. If they knew, it was because of us. We were everywhere. We didn't come in feeling like we were owed something. We wanted to work for it; but at the same time, we did whatever had to be done.”
The next move was a bold one. One day they followed Mathew into his office with an a cappella version of "Crazy in Love", evading his assistant. "You should listen to this," Rankins said. After watching them move around to the music (which is a sight, I'm told), Mathew told the men to use the studio whenever they liked.
"That was the day he saw us differently," Eddie Smith says. "He gave us the best advice: Get in, learn, and don't be scared. Don't show it. Be bold, be courageous."
Eventually in a Sopranos-like trip to Clear Lake, on a boat in the middle of the water, Matthew Knowles signed them to a production deal.
Houston life and music
When they decided to put roots down in Houston, the Bamaz played the promotion game again.They see all types of local musical acts, but they still hold true to their Southern roots and the "Dirty South" movement that was emerging when they came here.
One of their biggest influences is Outkast. "Music on the radio right now is just catching up Outkast," Smith III says. One song off of the Bamaz EP "goes riverdance," Rankins says.
After six years of living in Houston, they believe the city has the potential to be a music capital because of the wealth of talent here. They say they have seen amazing acts at the Westheimer Block Party and they enjoy Boheme and Mango's. “Musicianship is just superb in Houston,” Smith says.
But they believe people need to switch the scene up a bit and elevate it. "Everybody's opinion is it has to evolve," Rankins says.
As in-house producers for Music World Entertainment, they have made some great remixes for Beyoncé, Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland, and artists who walk through the door. "(Mathew) makes everyone — even his daughters — work for everything," Rankins says. "They are workaholics."
Why don't you love them
For a song that almost didn't happen three times until an unexpected push by Beyoncé, the bonus track from Sasha Fierce,"Why Don't You Love Me," now has a video and is sold as a single. It came about after Beyoncé invited the Bama Boyz into the studio to listen to the early versions of Sasha Fierce and they were surprised to hear their track of "Why Don't You Love Me." But it wasn't available because a record label rep who didn't know the song was already recorded by Beyoncé was ready to shop the track around.
That got worked out, but the song was still almost removed at the last minute because some believed it was too different from the mainstream tracks on the CD.
“We are excited because it went from being a song that didn't make it to the album to a song that's now a bonus on the album, to a single, a video, and now we get to go overseas and be a part of the promotion," Smith III says. "It's a roller-coaster."
Even with the song's success, the Bamaz have made it a point not to follow the pack and lose their individuality just to become hit-makers. They are promoting "Why Don't You Love Me" in hopes that fans will download their Socially Awkward EP. It's free. (My favorite is "Her Inability to Focus.") They are also working on a full album to be released in 2011 and on some "real special things," Smith III says.
Socially awkward attempts ""
Socially Awkward is a good name for the EP because "all we do is stay in the studio and work on music," Smith III says. A friend recently told them they are "a bit off" because "you guys have been spending way too much time in the studio."
Their latest EP is a self-deprecating and humorous beat-filled-musical gumbo (credit Smith III for the musical gumbo reference). Like many artists, they have created a sound that is refreshing but not supported by the mainstream music industry. “People like us go through it extra hard because we don't fall into the right category,” Rankins says.
"When we tell people who ask us what our genre is, what are you trying to create? It's energy." The energy you might see at a rock, hip-hop, or electro show; all of which are embodied with the Bamaz's broad sound.
"Music is art. Music is expression," they say.
Watch the Beyoncé video of Why Don't You Love Me: