New Edition Celebrates 40 Years Of Music Greatness…Together (Pt. 2)

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It’s finally showtime at Long Island NY’s UBS Arena. The crowd is on their feet in anticipation of the headliners, New Edition. The lights go low and the six legends rise from underneath the stage to the cheering audience’s eyesight. Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown, Ron DeVoe, Michael Bivins. Everything is in sync for the opening number, “Crucial.” After the applause, NE go into Bobby Brown’s “Prerogative.”

It’s high energy for the most part, but if you look close, you could see Bobby’s left hand shaking as he holds the mic up to mouth to sing. The rest of the New Edition back him up singing and dancing. Whatever physical difficulties Brown may be having, the ticket purchasers are audibly oblivious as they sing along as well. After the song is over, Bobby smoothly walks offstage with the group’s supporting dancers and the other five members get in formation for the next song.

As NE’s set continues, you can see a stage hand come out and whisper something in Mike Bivins’ ear. Later, NE literally huddles up onstage like a football team. The crowd knows something is afoot now.

Johnny Gill would make a reveal a little while later.

“We came out, we started with six,” Gill says. “If you notice we got five up here right now right. Mr. Brown is in the back right now. They’re working on him.”

Brown’s medical condition isn’t revealed disclosed, however Gill tells the audience that Brown wants to come back out and perform but the group has decided it’s best he gets whatever treatment he needs.

“His health is more important than anything,” Gill says. “I told him ‘no no.’ We’re gonna hold it down for Mr. Brown. So make some noise and send some prayers up for B. Brown right now. Y’all ready to get this party started? This is for you B!”

The music for a Bobby signature, “Roni” plays, with Ricky Bell taking over the lead singing duties for his friend while the other sing backup. New Edition are committed to holding each other down and lifting each other up at all times.

“That there, again shows you, when I talk about them being R&B superheroes and Black music’s Rolling Stones. That just shows you the muscle memory and the level ofprofessionalism,” says A. Troy Brown of the Black Promoter’s Collective, the consortium of independent Black promoters behind NE’s “Legacy Tour.” But then it also shows you who they are, like to wrap themselves around him. To say, ‘all right, guys. We got Bob. We got his songs. We’re gonna step in.’  But what you didn’t see is backstage, them loving on him, when they’re going back and forth doing their sets. Making sure that he’s good in the meantime. That was just amazing as well. Operating from a place of joy and blessing is just where they are in their lives.”

Before he had any health issues, Bobby was indeed in a place of ebullience as were his group mates. In part two of our discussion from The Mothership, New Edition tells us about when they started to blow up separately, why they’re stronger together and how the death of Tupac Shakur gave them a humbling moment during their first reunion almost 30 years ago.


VIBE: There’s never been group that has been able to separate and have the level of success New Edition has had individually. (Datwon Thomas) I just have one little interjection on that. Bobby, when did you realize, “Yo, BBD is coming?!” As New Edition, when did you addition realize Bobby was coming? 

Ronnie DeVoe: We knew Bob was coming when we came back from Minneapolis [recording with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis]. We’re up there for a month and a half, two months, whatever it is. We were on our way up to MCA to be able to listen to the mix of our album, the song placement, all the above. Bob wasn’t there of course, but we walk into Lou Silas’s office, rest in peace. He’s not here anymore, but he was the A&R director for both entities.

So we see a DAT player and there’s [a] DAT [tape] right there. We see “Bobby Brown” on one of the DATs.  “Yo, yo, Rick, close the door!” We popped the DAT in and we hear “Prerogative,” we hear the other joint that Teddy did [“I’ll Be Good To You”] as well. And we hear four joints from LA and Face; “Roni,” “Rock Wit’cha,’ “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Every Little Step.”

For me, at that point, I felt like I wanted to go back to the drawing board. I knew my guy had some shit that was outta this world. I knew from that point on. “Girlfriend,” everything else [on his first album], you know, it was like, “Okay, Bob’s sitting in that same kind of lane that we’re sitting in, with a slight difference.” But when he went there [on Don’t Be Cruel], I just knew, wow, superstar stardom was definitely on the horizon.

VIBE: What about you Biv?

Michael Bivins: I didn’t have an ear for it back then. So when I knew niggas was hot is when I saw videos. When I saw Ralph with his shirt off and wind blowing his shit, I was like, “I could  never do that.

New Edition: Laughter!

Johnny Gill: When I saw BBD come out with the one sneaker and one boot, the hat turned backwards, the clothes on all crazy. I was like, “These niggas is up to something different.” Then I heard “Poison” and it was just, “Okay. Alright. It’s a wrap.

Michael Bivins: [Pointing to Ralph] Ask him what he remembers.

VIBE: Ralph, what’s your recollection of “Poison?”

Ralph Tresavant: I think we were on the tour bus.

Michael Bivens: No, we were at your house.

Ralph Tresvant: When you played “Poison”? You was at the crib?

Michael Bivins: Yeah. Ron was with you.

Ronnie DeVoe: We were hanging out and Mike hit me. We told you we got a couple of things for you to hear. We came out [of your house]. Mike was there in the Benz. We were in the cul de sac listening and the snares came on. It was exciting. And Riz was like, “I gotta have a verse on there.”

VIBE: What about “My, My, My”? 

Bobby Brown: “My, My, My,” you gotta put that in the category of top five love songs of all time. The voice, the precision he delivered the song with. Its just impeccable.

Michael Bivins: With me, with Johnny… Because you know, back then we were having our cocktails and getting lifted, quietly. When I seen him jump from over there, to over there, to over there in the “Rub You The Right Way” I was like this nigga’s crazy [laughing]. But what I think flipped it all D, was when he flipped [the remix] with CL Smooth. I thought that was the most genius thing. Because not only did he extend the record, but it also gave him his connection with hip-hop. Back then, CL was a whole different melody. We were all moving in the right direction. I was like, ‘Oh shit. We are really leveling up. Everybody is really poppin’.’ At one point, it was all about us.

Johnny Gill: I don’t even know if we even really understood the impact of what we were doing at that time. It’s so funny. We are all competitive. And we are always trying to bring our A game and making sure nobody one ups each other. But it was always a healthy competitive thing that you have with each other.

But ironically, I was just telling Mike this not too long ago. I think it even started before we signed the deal with Bad Boy.  We were sitting for a long time and I remember we had gotten an offer from [Concert promoter] Al Haymon to go out on the road.  We’d hadn’t been out for a while. People were like, “you know, they’ve been quiet. Ain’t nobody really checking for them.” And a dear friend, my brother Eddie Murphy, I remember him telling me, “y’all keep turning it out and you can’t be denied.”

And I remember Puffy coming to the show and we didn’t have no new record, nothing going. He was in awe, sitting there and watching. And we started seeing and hearing people talk about how incredible we are and how we were just really killing it. And I began to recognize and realize something as we continued to work together, especially in these last couple years. Watching us all on the same page, pulling and rooting for each other versus just sitting there thinking about what we’re doing individually has elevated our whole thing to a complete different level.  Coming on that stage and coming together, when you build this energy, like you mentioned you earlier, we’re sitting there rooting, go to go to work on em.  It’s a whole different type of level that you can see our performance has elevated to. No new records, no new nothing. It’s just us coming together.

VIBE: New Edition, [has] so many hits that mean different things to different people. I can’t pinpoint just one signature song. But going to these shows on The Legacy Tour, we have a great time singing and dancing along with you all. But the one song that does have people getting emotional as they sing along is “Can You Stand The Rain.” That’s a record that touches your heart and soul. What does that song mean to you guys now, having withstood the rain for 40 years? 

Ralph Tresvant: I think “Can You Stand the Rain” sums up the longevity and the reason why New Edition is still around. We’ve been able to stand the rain. We’ve been able to go through the ups and downs, the ins and outs. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis found a way to sum it up for us [in a song] and then actually make it relatable to the public so that they can see what it was about an and utilize those things in their own lives. I hear people talk about “‘Can You Stand The Rain’ lifts me up. It makes me feel like I can do what I saw you guys do.”

It’s been like a summary of why we’re still around, why we’re still together. Be able to go through all the bull, bounce back and make it happen.

Michael Bivins: Can I say this? This is a full circle moment for us. D, I don’t know you was on board back then. In 1996, we were releasing the Home Again album, we did a photo shoot with Vibe. And we were scheduled to get the front cover because our album was coming out. We knew, that was our big moment. And unfortunately Tupac got killed that September.

We went to the record label and they told us something we didn’t know how to handle back then. They told us that the cover was not gonna be us no more because of the passing of Tupac. So [Vibe] put Tupac on the cover, but when you open the insert, we was there. And we said to ourselves that, we really needed that but sometimes things happen. If we was going to lose a cover, why not lose it to someone as iconic as a Tupac? That was one of the most humbling moments for us. Because it was a big thing for us and we were excited, but we realized that in death [life] is something that needs to be celebrated. So to be here today and to still see y’all and to talk to y’all to say that we are getting the cover… It’s almost like we’re getting the cover 30 years later.

Johnny Gill: I feel like Little Richard, “y’all ain’t never gave me nothin’!”

New Edition: Laughing!

Michael Bivins: To get it now it just lets you know, when it’s right, it’s right.

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