Catching Up With The Boys
The Boys had us all going “Crazy” when they hit the scene in the late eighties and rocked with a new jack swing until the early 90s. Cute, charismatic, energetic and extremely talented, Khiry, Hakim, Tajh, and Bilal Abdulsamad delivered a string of hits as singers and dancers on Motown Records.
Entertainment came naturally, along with a prosperous mainstream career complete with various magazine covers, TV features and performances. However, despite the fame and wealth, the Carson, California- bred brothers decided to drop Hollywood and head to the homeland in search of deeper conscious, light and purpose.
But give up on music? No way. Since 2000, their journey has reflected a re-purposing of self knowledge and a tendency to dig deeper into the roots of their creativity. In their transition from The Boys to Suns of Light, their art demonstrates broadened perspective, West African-influenced sounds and a vibe so free and refreshing.
Get caught up with the Abdulsamad brothers in this exclusive interview where the fellas talk exclusively to JET about musical influence and of course the future of ‘The Boys’!
JET: What sparked the name change and how does it reflect your individual growth as men and artist?
Hakim: Around the time we decided we were done doing ‘The Boys’ albums, we started to get some cultural inspiration from Southwest Atlanta and one of the first moves was transitioning to vegetarian and from that to vegan. So it started with a lifestyle change and then we started to meet a lot of like minds and from there the music just flowed out of that. In Southwest Atlanta, there’s a big Afrocentric cultural community. My mother and father were always on that vibe, but this just kind of resparked it and inspired us to embrace more of the African-ness, more of the naturalness. And that’s where the whole ‘Back To Africa’ thing started brewing and where the music naturally came out of. We’re not doing it for platinum albums. We’re doing it because we have something to share.
JET: How has living in Africa shaped your perspective of life and the importance of the arts and music?
Khiry: When you have a chance to travel this world, it’s a priceless education. Your whole paradigm, structure and everything you know can sometimes be turned upside down – from the food you eat through the [religious and spiritual] beliefs, the way of life. Things take on a different perspective. You notice that with a lot of artists – not just in the entertainment industry but from architects to chefs – you’re open to endless possibilities, if you’re open-minded, even if not, it challenges your way of being and thinking. With the music, there are so many different vibes that Hakim can play you from rap to the roots and culture of Africa, reggae and then Bilal can get off into BossaNova and Tajh can get off into experimental. It’s endless.
Tajh: It all boils down to inspiration. With our personal repurposing of our lives and awakening, one of the most valuable things I can say it did for us was increase our capacity in being grateful and understanding the value of the things. That’s what we have to share in our music.
Bilal: It opened us up to different styles of music. We got into Mbalax music, which is big in West Africa and it has a whole different rhythm to it than what the western mind is use to. We dove in and have been producing some of the biggest Mbalax artist in West Africa and ended up making our own style and branch of it called Boombalax – mixing it with the hip-hop and innovating a whole new style out there. Now we’re reaching out to do Naija music as well. We also got into some of the West African dances. So, this is all stuff that we wouldn’t have known anything about. We’re now able to fuse it with our sound. I think that’s where art has to go and where we need to take it. We plan on bringing all that together and making it hit while still offering something new and different.
JET: No doubt. Respect. I fell in love with you guys when ‘Dial My Heart’ and ‘Crazy’ came out. With the material you’re delivering now and conscious growth, do you view the body of work you all have done as The Boys, differently?
Tajh: We still do that stuff. But it’s so much more now because we’ve grown. There’s a whole other dimension to the expression that wasn’t present then that’s intriguing and our fans have not really gotten a chance to see yet. We’re also really anxious to share some of those things with the people who have been really rolling with us all these years and showing us love.
Khiry: With the advance of technology now, it’s a lot easier to service the fans of The Boys and also service the other creative sides and aspirations we have as well and invite people to experience that. Whether it’s the Suns of Light, a book of poetry that Hakim may have, some instinct social ideas that Bilal may have. It’s a good thing with the technology now to accomplish all of that.
JET: Describe the brotherhood and bond.
Khiry: When we all get together the vibe is like a family reunion. Non-stop laughter and jokes. (laughs), a bunch of inside jokes. We have that type of relationship where we know each other’s humor. It’s just fun and a lot of creativity at the same time!
Hakim: We’re like-minded individuals, so that actually forces us to go harder in whatever we do. For instance, we fell in love with this Meringe Tree, Bilal was here [in Africa] with me, it’s rare that you find a field of trees and we came across a guy who was having trouble with his land and he asked ‘ aren’t you going to leave us anything to eat?” And I ended up planting so many trees on my Compound. It’s like when you have people around you that’s pushing you saying ‘yeah, go for it!’, you go harder. My brothers make me more extreme than I already am.
Khiry: That’s why it’s so great because growing up in the industry with your brothers, a lot of groups are random people put together, but we’re brothers. We grew up together, slept in the same rooms, bunk beds, late-night talks when we were supposed to be sleep – all of that stuff bonds you. It’s such a beautiful thing that we’re all in this together and have the same kind or coordinance – spiritually and mentally.
JET: Your music is very healing, conscious and sounds really good. Can you talk about the projects you all have been working on over the years or upcoming projects?
Tajh: Yes! We have a label called Sun Light Music and we produce a lot of music for some of the artists we have in Africa as well as our own music. Individually, Bilal, Hakim and myself, we have solo albums we’ve produced over the years and they’re available on iTunes, soundcloud, spotify and major distribution sites. I just finished writing my first book. It’s being edited right now. Young, Adult fiction along the lines of Harry Potter/Hunger Games but it focuses on African spirituality, metaphysics and those subjects. It’s called Rites of Passage about a young man going from childhood and being raised by elders into adulthood and the experiences and adventures he encounters along the way. It’s really to help young people transition from childhood into adulthood and some of the major key lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
Hakim: We’re also into health lifestyle products. I’m launching some things like that now.
Khiry: We’ve definitely been talking about getting back into acting and on the screen. That’s really one of the first places that we started. A lot of people don’t know that. Especially Hakim, he was on Ernest Goes to Camp, Webster, Diff’rent Strokes. We had our own show called ‘The Boys’! We just really encourage our fans to follow the journey because it’s about so much more than music. It’s about the evolution and the lifestyle of really being able to access purpose and the joy of living.
Bilal: We’re also vibing on a book just to document all of our experiences. We have so many interesting stories with different celebrities, Michael Jackson. Tajh, when we were on tour he used to talk to Lauryn Hill like every night. Khi’s friendship with Tammi, a long time ago. So many stories we have to show.
JET: Will there be another collaborative project with The Boys?
Tajh: Recently, we’ve been planning to produce a new album. Collectively, all together. I know that is something that our fans have really been wanting over the years. I think it’s about that time, you know! We’ve all grown. Individually we’ve done music and I think now it’s time for us to come back together. We’re brothers and we have to put our heads together and create something really wonderful for our fans and share our love of music and art with the world. It’s been a lot of growth since 1993, when our last album dropped.
*Photo: Phillip Woods