Ladies Edition, including the sultry, intoxicating first single, "They Like It Slow," featuring funk legend Roger Troutman, is H-Town taking the proverbial step up. Written by the group and produced by Dino, Ladies Edition reveals a more mature side of the group that so eloquently crooned about "Knockin' Da Boots."
As the title asserts, Ladies Edition is a concept album of sorts. Indeed, tracks such as the hypnotic, sexy "I Sleep You" and the seamless hip hop/soul melange "Die 4 You," not to mention the testifying "Natural Woman" and "Woman's World" are virtual love letters to females the world over. Even more penetrating is "Shoot 'Em Up," a grim tale from the jail cell of a man who killed for his mate and "Julie Rain," a somber real-life story of spousal abuse. Meanwhile, the repentant "Woman's Anthem," not only issues a heartfelt apology for H-Town's former disrespectful ways with the ladies, but issues a soulful "I'm Sorry" on behalf of all discourteous men. Simply put, Ladies Edition is as introspective and revealing as it is soulful, no less than a bold move in these times when it seems the more provocative an artist's musical view toward the female species, the bigger the chances for success. H-Town doesn't preach, but the music tells it like it is. And, at the center of this production are the trademark, gospel-tinged, emotion-searing vocals of Dino, Shazam, and G.I.
"With this album, we wanted to show people another side," says G.I. "We've done the other stuff. We're not knocking other groups who still make songs that are insulting to some people, but our goal was to express ourselves on the other side of the fence.
Shazam agrees, "Ladies Edition is H-Town writing songs about subjects that we felt needed to be spoken on. We wanted to tell the truth. We don't pretend to be saints, but we felt that somebody needed to speak on respecting women's issues." Dino adds, "We're focusing on the beauty, inside and out, of women. Woman is mother earth, the foundation, the back bone. This album is about straight-up respecting your woman."
Ever the independent organization, the group manages itself and takes a hands-on approach in its overall career. The tracks that became Ladies Edition were recorded in H-Town's private studio. According to Dino, "Once in the studio, our mandate was clear. We want everybody to know that besides being able to write our own lyrics, we can also produce our music and show off our talents to our fans and critics. We're letting the audience hear the true H-Town sound which wasn't fully expressed on our previous records. We feel this album is the most complete because we did it ourselves. We reached and covered all bases and dealt with important issues, without forgetting our roots. This is a throwback to when the old R&B albums came out with something for everybody."
From the very beginning, it was clear that Dino, Shazam , and G.I. had a major shot at musical success. For one thing, the trio, born and raised in the projects of urban Houston, Texas, had been singing together since junior high. "Dino and Shazam came up in the church, so singing was natural to them," recalls G.I. "and I was a big R&B fan, I paid attention to all the hot groups, and the three of us were pretty serious about making it, even back then." The fellas did their share of singing for audiences, but for the most part, steered clear of the local talent show circuit, preferring to develop their craft in the studio making low-budget demos.
However, it wasn't a demo, but a '91 live impromptu vocal performance for controversial rapper Luther Campbell of Too Live Crew in search of new acts for his Miami based Luke Records label, that first got the group recorded professionally. Impressed, Luke signed the trio, now calling itself H-Town in honor of their home base. He featured the group singing a cover of Mtume's R&B classic, "You, Me and He" on his Luke In The Nude LP.
H-Town's '92 debut album, Fever For Da Flava, featuring the smash single "Knockin' Da Boots." (urban slang for doing the wild thang), struck an immediate chord with audiences. Both the album and the single sold 2.5 million copies each, officially making H-Town contenders in the competitive world of hip hop soul. The group went on to be nominated for many awards taking home Soul Train's Best New Artist Award. Their second album, Beggin' After Dark, easily went gold, as did the single, Emotions." In the meantime, H-Town was in demand on the soundtrack front; their hit single "Part Time Lover" helped propel Death Row's Above the Rim soundtrack beyond the four million mark.
H-Town's soulful remake of the Sly, Slick and The Wicked classic "Thin Line (Between Love and Hate)" which marked the groups first teaming with Roger Troutman, went gold, as did the soundtrack to the Martin Lawrence comedy film of the same name. H-Town had also parted ways with Luther Campbell's label and went on to form their own label, H-Town Music. Now with their relationship with Relativity Records, H-Town is about to explode on to record charts again.
H-Town's unqualified success in the past is what makes the release of Ladies Edition particularly exciting, although the group insists the project is not simply about sales. "It would be nice to sell millions of albums, no question," says G.I. "But this one is more about taking it to the next level with the message and the music."
Shazam concurs, "We just wanted to say some things that haven't really been said by many artists from our generation. A lot of artists say things like, 'This one is for the ladies.' Well, when H-Town says it, we really mean it." Indeed.