Thursday, March 28, 2013

To Me, R&B Ended When Sexy Leroy & The Chocolate Lovelites Broke Up

Tragically, Sexy Leroy and the Chocolate Lovelites never had a music video, so we were forced to just imagine how they would've looked on stage. I always pictured them outfitted like Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate, the outrageous band that played the church in Coming To America, with Eddie Murphy playing one of his many roles as the lead vocalist. Not that they sound alike (which is a good thing, because Eddie succeeded in making his rendition of "Greatest Love Of All" as truly terrible as it was hilarious); maybe it's just the similar band names. But that's who I picture whenever I hear the Lovelites.

Of course, like Randy Watson and his band, Sexy Leroy and the Chocolate Lovelites were just silly aliases for DJ Quik (who had the curls to play Watson... see, it's not that unfounded) and his boys, 2nd II None. The world was introduced to them on DJ Quik's second album, Way 2 Fonky on Profile Records in 1992. The last thing we expected to hear was a crazy, funky throwback (way, way back) R&B group sing sing a number by themselves at the end of Quik's album. It was funny, but it was more than a skit that just ran four plus minutes. The doo-wop style back-up vocals, catchy harmonized hook and casual lounge instrumentation were surprisingly funky. It may've been a parody, but "Let Me Rip Tonite" by Sexy Leroy and the Chocolate Lovelitez (as it was spelled in the original tape's liner notes) featuring Darreyn Johnson was a surprise hit; Quik really utilized his musical talents to create a good song, disguised as a joke.

It's not exactly a complex or brilliantly clever joke... sexism in hip-hop isn't funny because it's, unfortunately, kinda the norm. But all that wildly inappropriate talk ("what you mean rape? Bitch, I been knowing you for two years and you're gonna call it rape?") coming out of the mouth of this singer who should be shouting out at your grandfather as he plays at their 50th wedding anniversary? It worked. But what really sold it was how much they committed to it. Again, it's a full, robust song that, while on some levels perfectly captures the chintzy sounds of a sad, small time band, also slyly showcases Quik's musical abilities (and his guitarist's) beyond simple beat making and becomes endlessly relistenable. And showing off his versatility is what Quik's albums were all about in this era. Tough tracks, slow g-funky tracks, purely instrumental tracks, reggae tracks, tracks with cuts and samples that could play in New York, to classic, laid back Cali party songs. So R&B was a natural inclusion. And Sexy Leroy was an infinitely preferable choice to showcasing another generic Shatasha Williams knock-off.

In 1995, Quik's next album was a real crowd pleaser, delivering full-on disses to MC Eiht and AMG while bringing back the rest of his crew. There was another "Quik's Groove" and ever-expanding jazzy instrumentation, and yes, the Lovelites returned. This time it was a real, hip-hop track showcasing everything the crew did best... tight production, fun sex verses (including Hi-C, who was born to appear on tracks like this), but with that funky lounge vibe and Lovelites on the hook. There's a little bit of humor, of course - if you've got Hi-C talking about orgies, Leroy talking out the track and the guys earnestly singing a hook that goes, "this is for the ho in you, the ho in youuuuu," it's definitely designed to have you smiling - but any pretext the last song may've had of just being an extended joke is gone. It's a full song, this time with integrated hip-hop production, and plays right alongside any of the more serious songs on the album. In fact, it's easily one of the best tracks on an album that's already set a very high standard.

And that's the last most of us heard of Sexy Leroy and the Chocolate Lovelites for... pretty much ever. But that isn't the whole story. See, before Quik signed to Profile Records and started making hits, he was making a name for himself creating underground tapes... demos, essentially. He created an one known as The Red Tape, which is basically what got him signed. It features a ton of songs which were later remastered and featured on his and 2nd II None's major label debuts. Online sites all claim this is from 1987 (most are just citing each other, I'm sure), but based on the production styles and everything, that seems pretty unlikely to me. I'd guess 1989-1990. Anyway, yes, it also features a prototypical Sexy Leroy song.

And no, this isn't a raw mix of "Let Me Rip Tonite;" it's a whole new/old song! It's called "Chocolate Lover" and it's everything a "Let Me Rip" fan could want. It's pure Lovelites style all the way, with Leroy talking to the girls in the audience ("you know, I first seen you at the Alpine swap meet. You was over there just looking so pretty, buying you some hair") as the boys "Shoo-doop, shoop, shoo-doop, wowww" in the background, and they all come together for the hook to serenade the "sweet chocolate mama."  In fact, that's the title it was released as in 2012 when a portion(?!) of the song turned up on 2nd II None's greatest hits compilation album (mp3 only), Infinite.

And that still isn't the whole story. Remember in 2007(ish), when 2nd II None's lost second album leaked? No, I'm not talking about Classic 220... They recorded an album's worth of material (at least) before that, for Profile and/ or Death Row, that never got released. Well, somebody came up with a cover for it, dubbed it The Shit, and leaked it online. “We didn’t even name the album yet,” D said in an interview with HipHopDX. “It’s shit we recorded. The shit surfaced. How, we don’t know. Ain’t no telling. The shit was hot. People wanted it and I’m glad they did put it out there. I still like some of The Shit, it’s timeless.” It also featured a fourth chapter in the Sexy Leroy saga!

It's called "If U Ain't Fuckin' (How You Gonna Get Home?)" That title should tell you all you need to know. It's more of Quik's melodic production, this time driven by a flute; and it's the first song that lets one of the other Lovelites take the lead role for a verse, besides just singing the background and chorus. That's probably because it was the first Lovelites album recorded for a 2nd II None album instead of a Quik album, so they had to get a little more of an active role. But apart from that, it's completely in line with what you'd want and expect from them.

And they might still come back again. I remember an interview a long time ago (like, ten years old) where KK was talking about he and D both putting out solo albums. He was then asked if The Lovelites might return. He said they were would be appearing on both of those solo albums, plus 2nd II None's next group album, Compton Blockz... and the Lovelites would actually get their own album "next year!"  Well, none of those projects seem to have happened; but 2nd II None are still around - they dropped a song called "New Shyt" online last year. And since they used their vocals on the "Chocolate Love Outro" to Infinite just last year, I have a feeling that as long as D and KK are still doing it, there's always a good chance they'll bring out that Lovelite magic one more time.

So Sexy Leroy, Sweet Johnny Ray, Bobby Bit-O-Honey, Carmel Williams, Cinnamon Jackson... this post is dedicated to you guys.

1 comment:

  1. At the end of "Dollars and Sense" Quik refers to his "1987 underground tapes", that might be what the blogs refer to.

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