R&B/soul/pop vocal trio After 7 has reemerged onto the music scene with the same passion and integrity that made them household names over 25 years ago. The Grammy-nominated group, consisting of original members, brothers Kevon and Melvin Edmonds and Keith Mitchell, has just released a new single, I Want You, written and produced by Kenneth Babyface Edmonds and Daryl Simmons.
Easygoing and still full of interpersonal savvy between them, the talented trio known for their smooth harmonies and emotion-drenched delivery went into the studio last summer with a clear palette but no direction. There was no potential plan to reunite, says Kevon, the groups more vocal, velvet-toned member. We thought we would test our hands and see what it was like to get back in the studio and do some recording.
The threesomes long-term influence was recently solidified when Grammy-nominated vocalist Jazmine Sullivan sampled their gold-selling, Top 10 ballad Ready or Not on her song Let it Burn from her 2015 album Reality Show. In no way did the singers newfound interest in After 7 spearhead the groups reunion. It put a little more relevance about After 7 back into the marketplace, adds Kevon. The two had nothing to do with each other. It was coincidental.
The NAACP Image award-winning act followed the breakout success of their platinum-selling 1989 self-titled debut LP After 7 with two gold-certified albums, 1992s Take My Time and 1995s Reflections. They cranked out a slew of memorable singles like Heat of the Moment, Cant Stop, Nights Like This from The Five Heartbeats, Gonna Love You Right from Sugar Hill, I Care About You as part of the male ensemble group Milestone, Kickin It, Can He Love U Like This, Till You Do Me Right and two covers, The Originals Baby, Im For Real (Natural High) and Hall & Oates Sara Smile.
At the height of After 7s success, they toured with performers such as Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston, The Whispers, and Hammer. When youre in the studio layering and stacking vocals, says Kevon, its all about creating that final product that feels good and sounds good sonically. Our music speaks about relationships. It speaks about love and how we relate to one another: the ups-and-downs and ins-and-outs
There was never any particular formula in place to create the groups sound, showmanship or image. Inspired in part by The OJays, After 7 prides itself on being consistent. We feel out what the song is saying, states Kevon. Its all about presentation for us. Our choreography is reflective of the lyrical content that we share. Were not doing it because of the beat. We build our choreography around what the song is about.
Originally from Indianapolis, After 7 was formed by each member performing together in local talent shows. Babyface, also Kevon and Melvins brother, used the three singers to demo some of his songs to be placed on other artists records following his departure from R&B band The Deele. Babyfaces innate ability to know After 7s capabilities proved to be what spearheaded the groups success.
Mitchell explains Babyfaces songwriting process in detail as it relates to After 7s grown-and-sexy musical persona. Hes able to take his knowledge from the past and his experiences from the current, says Mitchell. The music is relatable because of its content. It was natural to blend the two worlds together. That complement and that character created songs that are unique.
Mitchell adds that listeners often cant distinguish between all three of the Edmonds brothers similar vocal tones. The concept of what we were and what we possibly could be started from that, says Mitchell periodically joking with his group mates. There was always that presence of their talent. Over the years as doors opened up, it was natural that [Babyface] knew what our skill sets were.
Releasing new music to audiences after a 20-year hiatus, After 7 is working to adapt to a new musical climate. The group was originally signed to Virgin Records at a time when lots of money and strategic planning were being invested in the artist roster. They recorded I Want You this past July and released the single in October, the speed of which represented somewhat of a culture shock, especially to Kevon. Thats just not heard of from our past experiences with three albums, he says.
We would record a record six, eight, nine months, and the setup might take three or four months. We turn around a single, and were in the Top 20 less than five or six weeks. It used to be if you didnt have a video with the single, you wasnt gonna sell any records. If you didnt make MTV, you werent gonna crossover. Today, R&B artists that cant get into the Top 40 are finding success.
Kevon enjoyed some solo success with the 1999 release of his Grammy-nominated, gold-certified major label debut 24/7 and his independently released 2009 sophomore effort Who Knew. He says After 7 is grateful for radio giving I Want You a chance but are working to become acclimated to developing their digital presence.
Were trying to catch up with that curve, continues Kevon. Were behind the eight ball with that. The industry is a different beast than what it used to be. We managed to cut through that, still maintain ourselves and hopefully still be well as we move forward.
After 7s latest addition is Melvins son, Jason Edmonds. Jason first toured with After 7 when he was 13 years old. He also sang background for both Babyface and Kevon, insisting that those experiences prepared him for group membership. Joking that he had been secretly practicing throughout his life, he proclaims that he is not replacing his dad. Im not filling his shoes, warns Jason. Im just there being a family representative, hopefully still reminding you of the familys sound and the vibe that my dad created.
After 7 is slated to release its fourth studio album sometime in 2016 with Babyface at the helm of the writing and production. Blessed is a recurring term each member uses to suggest how fortunate they are to perform and make timeless music for their adoring fans. We just want to continue to represent the way we were in the past, says Mitchell. We appreciate our fan base.
Kevon concurs. Its been a wonderful journey, he says. Were still here because its part of Gods plan. Were handed a tremendous opportunity that is perceived to be creating some great music. We feel secure and blessed to be able to reemerge into the marketplace with this record.
BUY After 7s new single I Want You via iTunes