New Edition fans screamed in anticipation when it was announced that they’d go head to head with fellow Boston natives, New Kids On the Block, in an epic performance showdown at this year’s American Music Awards.
Both groups are products of the same mentor, Maurice Starr, and have sold millions of records, garnering the hearts of teenage girls throughout the 80s and 90s.
But New Edition stands out. They have been able to capitalize off their group’s success, transitioning into solo superstars. They’ve survived personal turmoil, group changes, financial crisis, and everything else that creates the Hollywood rags to riches story. In the end, they always come out on top.
Though fans have already deemed New Edition the winners of Sunday’s highly anticipated battle, Brown insists it’s not a battle. Instead, he says it’s a celebration of two hometown groups and their success in the industry. “It’s not a battle, it's just us giving the fans what we think they deserve. This is purely just for entertainment,” he told Shadow and Act in a recent interview.
When we spoke with Brown and Gill, the longtime performers were in rehearsals for the big show, working hard on their set. They promise they will give fans what they expect and more.
“We just let Brooke Payne, [our manager] who does all these shows, and he's putting the pieces together for us to do what we do, I think that's what the most important thing for us is,” Gill said. “Our biggest challenge is making sure that we deliver what our fans are expecting from us. And that's what he's been here since the beginning of time to do for us to make sure that we got the right songs, the right stuff in there and everything transitions and everything working to perfection.”
The group has a nearly 40-year career, having begun as pre-teens in the Roxbury section of Boston. Their journey has been riddled with ups and downs, member changes, failed reunions, and more. But what they’ve mastered that other groups have yet to accomplish is the idea of creating subgroups. There’s New Edition as a five and six-member group, and sometimes fewer members depending on what each performer is doing at the time. Rickey Bell, Michael Bivens, and Ronnie DeVoe formed Bell Biv DeVoe in the early 90s with party anthems like “Poison.” And now, there’s RBRM, featuring DeVoe, Brown, Bell, and Bivens. Brown and Gill have experienced the most solo success.
But regardless of their individual success, they always come back together as a unit. Brown says it’s the brotherhood that keeps them coming back to one another.
“Lots of prayer and, you know, just having a mentality that the brotherhood is forever and we don't dwell on little things,” Brown said. “We try to keep it, you know, brotherly love. And it works for us."
They are excited to bring that brotherhood to the stage at the AMA’s this year in collaboration with another group of brothers in New Kids On the Block. The moment for them represents so much, including legacy and a merging of cultures. It will mark the first time the two groups share the stage, though they have collaborated the 2008 single "Full Service." Gill says it’s long overdue.
“New Kids are great friends of ours and come from Boston as well,” Gill noted. “And I just think that it was first and first and foremost, it was long overdue. Being able to collaborate and come together, and I think second, it's just that at this point in time when we look at where the music is and where the industry is, I think that we've now become the staple of what you know, what OG’s are. And so we set an example and set the stage for the generation that's behind us.”
With so much time and success in the business as a group and separately, Gill and Brown attribute their success to constantly adapting. “Never getting too comfortable and always being open and continuing to keep dreaming and having a vision and following those things [is the secret to our success],” Gill said. “That's what keeps us in the game, keeps us relevant. That's what keeps us pushing and moving forward.”
The legacy of New Edition is one that Brown says he’s most proud of. “We work really hard to entertain our fans, and we work really hard to be the best that we possibly can be in order for our fans to enjoy what we do,” he said. “We perform for our fans. That's why we're still around. We have some NE lifers that are just incredible. The NE lifers have stuck with us through thick and thin, and we're just proud to be able to do this on a regular basis.”
Catch New Edition on the AMA’s on Sunday, Nov. 21 on ABC at 8 pm EST.