When film/television star, hip hop icon and successful industry entrepreneur LL Cool J was recently asked how he would describe the quartet AMYTH, four immensely talented young men whose debut THE WORLD IS OURS is set for release on September 14, he simply stated: “AMYTH is unlike any group heard before. They are the future of R&B and hip hop.” THE WORLD IS OURS will inaugurate LL Cool J’s new label imprint, Rock The Bells, and his production deal with Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
THE WORLD IS OURS is an apt title for the impressive debut by Wayne Spears, Otis “Labo” Jupiter, Jelani Phillips and Stephen Joyce. The release is a balanced mixture of strong, edgy grooves and heartfelt ballads, displaying the group’s range, power and rich harmonies. The album is an artistically confident, stylish work that showcases the formidable vocal skills of a quartet ready to make its mark in the worlds of hip hop and pop music. And LL has every reason to be proud.
From the awesomely funky first single, “1,2,3” (a collaboration between members of the group and others) to the haunting and memorable remake of The Force MDs’ classic “Tender Love,” the album is a dynamic showcase for AMYTH’S considerable vocal talents. As Wayne Spears explains, “We’re very proud of our first record because we feel it is a good representation of us and what we feel the public wants to hear.” “This album represents who we are as a group, and reflects our experiences. I think the album looks at relationships in all dimensions—emotional, sexual, and even spiritual,” adds Labo.
Standouts include the hard-driving tracks “Who Shot Your Heart” (featuring Rock The Bells labelmates Smokeman and Simone Starks) and “Sex ‘n Your Ex,” two tunes co-written by LL, who also served as executive producer for the project. Slow jam favorites “In The Rain” (an original tune written by Wayne and producers Alex Morris & Ollie Harris of The Collab Unit) and “Never Let You Go”, give AMYTH an opportunity to express their vocal passion and range. “We all have different vocal strengths and the blend we have, the harmonies we create, that’s what we feel distinguishes us from other groups out there,” notes Jelani.
AMYTH’S origins go back to their college days: Wayne Spears and Labo Jupiter, both natives of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, met at a local hot spot when they were attending Southern University. “I wanted to start a group,” says Wayne, “and I heard Labo singing. We hooked up and, through a mutual friend, Jelani came on board.” St. Louis native Jelani Phillips adds, “Labo inspired me and invited me to be part of the group. I feel we shared a common vision and goal. I felt a good vibe from him and Wayne. There’s a real respect there.” After about nine months of singing together, the trio felt that they needed a fourth voice to complete their sound. “I knew Stephen because we’ve been friends from childhood,” Jelani recalls. “When I got the call from Jelani, I met Labo and Wayne and that was it. We clicked,” says Joyce, who also hails from St. Louis.
Prior to coming together, each member of the group had been developing their individual musical skills. “I was inspired by my mother and my grandmother who had me singing in church at a young age,” says Labo, whose gospel-influenced style is in effect throughout AMYTH’S album debut. “I guess music was in my blood because my father was also a musician. I listened a lot to guys like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and (gospel great) Daryl Coley.” Wayne, who also cites Hathaway, Wonder and Aretha Franklin as early influences, remembers having “a fascination with playing instruments, especially the piano. I was singing in church when I was seven so I knew way back that I wanted to be involved with music as a career.”
Jelani’s musical roots go back to fourth grade. “I was very active with the saxophone and I guess you could say I was a ‘radiohead’ during my teens. I used to listen to Jodeci, Boyz II Men, you know, singing along as if I were a ‘fifth’ member!” Since his mother was a local radio DJ, Stephen was surrounded by music from an early age. “Michael Jackson was my first inspiration. I used to try and emulate him, singing the songs from Off The Wall until,” he says in his trademark bass tones, “my voice changed! Once that happened, I got off into computers for a while but once I got into college, I was back into music all the way.”
Once the four talented vocalists began working together around 1995, they came up with a strategy to turn their collective dream of securing a recording contract into a reality. “We decided to move to New York to make contacts and network with people,” says Stephen. After working on some demos to showcase their obvious vocal talents, the quartet began looking for an industry attorney for representation. “It just so happened that the attorney we got worked for the same law firm that represented LL Cool J at the time,” says Jelani. “He got a hold of the tape and next thing, we were sitting there with him, talking about recording for his label.” “Meeting LL was a day we’ll never forget,” says Labo. “When he made the decision to make us the first act on his new label, we felt a new surge of confidence and a sense of responsibility to let him know he made the right choice.”
No sooner was the ink dry on LL’s deal with Warner Bros. Records for his Rock The Bells label than AMYTH was in the studio working with a variety of hot producers, including Rashad Smith, who has worked with such luminaries as Seal, Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J, and Big Jazz, whose production expertise is displayed on recent releases from Jay-Z and Foxy Brown. Other producers featured on THE WORLD IS OURS include: ‘The Collab Unit’ (Alex Morris and Ollie Harris), “Bassy” Bob Brockmann, Ralph Roundtree, Timothy Hom, Bob Arrington & Dave Cintron, Brandon Holland\ and Joe Smith.
AMYTH member Wayne co-wrote several songs for the THE WORLD IS OURS, with all four members contributing to two tunes, the single “1,2,3” and “Come Home With Me” (which is also featured on the soundtrack for Deep Blue Sea, the recently released Warner Bros. Pictures film starring Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J, directed by Renny Harlin).
Whether it’s the sexually-charged “Tell Me How Ya Like It,” the Latin-tinged “Mamacita,” the sensual “My Body” or the strong inspirational ballad “You” (which Labo notes “takes me back to my foundation, singing in church with real feeling”), AMYTH delivers an album that is sure to find favor with today’s music buyers. “The songs on our record are based on everyday, real life situations,” says Wayne. “We’re four young men who have had our share of experiences and we’re singing about what we know.”
With an album entitled THE WORLD IS OURS, AMYTH exhibits obvious confidence: “LL has really been a mentor for us,” says Jelani, “and he’s the one who came up with the title for the album. He had a lot of influence over the creative direction of the album and would come and check on us in the studio. He’s told us that he feels we can have it all, we don’t have to have any limitations when it comes to our music and our careers.” With that kind of seasoned wisdom and guidance from a contemporary musical legend and with their own natural musical skills, collectively, AMYTH is ready to make their mark.
Clearly, THE WORLD IS OURS is just the beginning for this talented quartet—a dynamic first record showcasing AMYTH’s vocal prowess on an album that promises to capture the attention of audiences the world over.