The R&B boy quartet B2K took the teen music world by storm in early 2002 when it released the hit dance single “Uh Huh” and the eponymous album B2K. Mixing hip-hop, rap, and love ballads, the group’s urban music gained rapid appeal in the mainstream pop market. The group’s four handsome crooners—Omarion, J-Boog, Li’l Fizz, and Raz-B—quickly became teen heartthrobs. Leaving screaming fans in their wake, the singers gained a reputation for their hot onstage act and videos, where they showcased slick dance moves and a kinetic style.
Originally a trio comprised of J-Boog, Li’l Fizz, and Raz-B, the group formed in Los Angeles in 1998. Conflicts with the group’s first manager prompted the singers to sign with industry veterans Chris Stokes and Ketrina Askew of the Los Angeles-based Ultimate Group. Stokes, who is Raz-B’s cousin, also manages the group IMx, which includes J-Boog’s cousin Marques “Batman” Houston. One of Stokes’s first moves was to bring in Omarion as lead singer. Now a quartet, the singers recorded a demo and honed their dance moves with a choreographer.
The teens initially called themselves Y2K, a popular buzzword at the turn of the twenty-first century that
Members include Dreux “Li’l Fizz” Frederic, rapper; Omari “Omarion” Grandberry, lead vocals; Jarell “J-Boog” Houston, vocals; De’Mario “Raz-B” Thornton, vocals.
Group formed as a trio in Los Angeles, CA, 1998; became a quartet with addition of lead singer Omarion, 2000; signed with Epic Records, performed on Scream tour, 2001; released hit single “Uh Huh” and debut album, B2K, kicked off Scream 2 tour, released B2K-. The Remixes, Vol. 1, and the Christmas album Santa Hooked Me Up, released sophomore album, Pandemonium!, 2002.
Awards: Soul Train Awards, Best R&B/Soul Album, Best Single by a Group, Band, or Duo, 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Epic Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211. Website— B2K Official Website: http://www.B2Klovesyou.com.
soon became too limiting. “[Y2K] really didn’t mean anything, so we started going through the alphabet,” J-Boog told Nicole Walker of Jet. “Luckily, ‘b’ is the second letter in the alphabet, and we came up with B2K, which is Boys of the New Millennium.”
After recording with a few small labels, B2K signed with Epic Records in 2001, giving them access to the mainstream R&B music market. Paired with the teen rapper Lil’ Bow Wow, they joined 2001’s popular Scream tour, giving them exposure that generated publicity for the group even before it released any recordings.
B2K’s self-titled debut album was slated for release in March of 2002. By January of that year they had a hit single, the dance tune “Uh Huh,” written by J-Boog and Li’l Fizz, which spent five weeks at number one on the R&B charts. Before it became a radio hit, however, “Uh Huh” became a popular video on MTV and Black Entertainment Television (BET). Fans responded not only to the music but to the quartet’s dance moves and physical appeal. Describing the group’s first album, J-Boog told Toi Moore of Billboard: “It’s very energetic, because we like to dance. We like people to feel joyful and youthful—that they can do whatever they want to do if they put their minds to it.” In addition to dance tunes, the group included some love ballads, including the second hit single, “Gots ta Be.” Many R&B fans noticed such varied musical influences as Kris Kross, Boyz II Men, and Michael Jackson. B2K entered the Billboard album chart at the number two spot. Chuck Arnold of People said the album displayed “an innocent, youthful appeal.… Though not quite in the league of Boyz II Men, [B2K] show a surprising maturity in their tasteful vocal delivery and lush harmonies on tender ballads…”
The band was one of 2002’s musical success stories. Fan response was immediate and spirited, with adoring teenage girls making up the bulk of the base. After the album’s release, B2K spent the summer of 2002 on the Scream 2 tour and a European tour with Destiny’s Child. Wherever they performed, legions of screaming fans followed. At a record singing at a California mall in March of 2002, more than 1,000 girls mobbed a record store that was prepared to hold only 200 fans. In the wake of the chaos, the record store shut down.
It was this kind of commotion—common among the group’s fans—that led B2K to name their second album Pandemonium! The singers touted this December of 2002 release as “the real B2K,” since they had more control in the album’s production and most of the songs were written or cowritten by group members. One exception was the hit single “Bump, Bump, Bump,” which was produced, written, and arranged by R&B producer and vocalist R. Kelly. Other themes included young love on “One Kiss”, apology on “Sleepin”’, and celebrity on “Everything” and “Would You Be Here”. Though Arnold said in another People review that the album “has its share of filler,” he maintained that the group’s young fans wouldn’t be disappointed as “there are enough good moments here to keep B2K lining the lockers of young girls across America.”
During the same year B2K released B2K: The Remixes, Vol. 1 and the Christmas mix Santa Hooked Me Up. The group geared up to launch its Pandemonium tour in March of 2003, along with IMx singer Batman. Other projects included a soundtrack for the movie Barbershop and a film debut in Crazy House. In the latter, the boys portray high school freshman football players who get hazed when they attempt to join the Varsity Team.
Each of the singers’ nicknames tells a story: The “J” in J-Boog stands for Jarell Houston’s first initial, while “Boog” is short for Boogie, a moniker his grandmother gave him because he liked to dance. Rapper Dreux Fredric was dubbed Li’l Fizz for his effervescent rhymes; De’Mario Thornton earned his pet name Raz-B for his raspy voice. And to become Omarion, Omari Grandberry took his first name, which means African king, and added the suffix “eon,” which means forever. “We’re like brothers,” J-Boog told Walker. “We get along really, really well. A lot of that has to do with our living together. We’re together 24/7. For the last two years [since 2000] we haven’t been away from one another for more than two days, so we’re really, really close.”
Along with other urban bands like female teen trio 3LW and rapper Lil’ Bow Wow, B2K has replaced teen pop icons ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys. Just how long they will stay on top of the fickle market remains to be seen. In the meantime, B2K aims to become a band with timeless appeal. Omarion told USA Todays Steve Jones: “We are already gearing our stuff so we can keep reinventing ourselves and doing different things.”
B2K, Sony, 2002.
B2K: The Remixes, Vol. 1, Sony, 2002.
Santa Hooked Me Up, Sony, 2002.
Pandemonium!, Sony, 2002.
Billboard, February 23, 2002, p. 23.
Billboard Bulletin, March 4, 2003, p. 2.
Jet, October 21, 2002, p. 58.
People, May 6, 2002, p. 46; January 20, 2003, p. 39.
USA Today, April 16, 2002, p. 1D; June 7, 2002, p. 1E.
“B2K,” All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (February 8, 2002).
B2K Official Website, http://www.B2Klovesyou.com (February 9, 2003).