Hall, Aaron

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Aaron Hall



Few modern performers can legitimately claim to have helped launch a musical genre. Aaron Hall is one such artist. As an original member of the band Guy, and later as a solo artist, Hall was one of the originators of the soulful R&B offshoot known as New Jack Swing. His career and personal life have seen some ups and downs since the heyday of New Jack in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but Hall's voice remains one of the signature sounds of the New Jack style.

Aaron Hall was born August 10, 1964, in the Bronx, New York. Growing up in the tough housing projects of New York, he both witnessed and experienced his share of violence. As a young man he was shot and stabbed. In the mid-1980s he saw his mother struck and killed by a drunk driver on Christmas Day.

Hall was working in a Brooklyn shoe store when another original Guy member, Tim Gatling, heard him singing in the stockroom and suggested that they connect with Teddy Riley, a neighborhood acquaintance who already had his foot in the door of the music industry, having produced songs for such well-known rappers as Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, and Heavy D. Together, Hall, Riley and Gatling formed the band Guy in 1987. Guy quickly signed with Uptown Records, the original label of such eventual stars as Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. Gatling soon left the band and was replaced by Hall's brother Damion.

Guy was an instant sensation among urban audiences, and is generally credited with being one of the driving forces behind the creation of the style known as New Jack Swing. The band's first two albums, Guy (1988) and The Future (1990), became classics of the new genre. The soundtrack to the 1989 Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing included a Guy song, "My Fantasy." Guy also appeared briefly in the 1991 movie New Jack City, as a band playing on New Year's Eve.

In Guy, Hall's role was to lay rough-edged vocal verses over a foundation of swing beats provided by bandmate and producer Teddy Riley. In the fall of 1991, at the height of their fame, Guy split up. The breakup of Guy was somewhat mysterious at the time, but years later members of the band explained that the split was their way of escaping from the restrictive and exploitative first contract they had signed as eager newcomers to the music industry. Following the breakup, MCA representative Louil Silas signed Hall as a solo artist. Silas brought Hall along when he started his own label, Silas, under the MCA umbrella.

Hall launched his solo career with the top-selling R&B single "Don't Be Afraid," which was featured on the soundtrack of the 1992 motion picture Juice. His first solo album, The Truth, was released the following year on the Silas/MCA label. The album's initial single, "Get a Little Freaky," represented an attempt "to resurrect the 'Nasty Man' persona from his tenure in … Guy," according to a November 1993 Billboard article. The single did not perform particularly well, and Silas conceded that it had been a mistake to release that track first. Another cut, however, "I Miss You," became a surprise hit, and the album was an overall success. Meanwhile, former bandmate Riley went on to form BLACKstreet, whose debut album was a big seller.

Despite the initial success of his solo career, the 1990s were a rocky decade for Hall, especially in his personal life. In 1994 his son, also named Aaron, died soon after birth. Not long after, Hall, already in his 30s, entered a relationship with model and dancer Gloria Velez, who was just 16 years old at the time. Velez, who has appeared in many hip-hop videos over the years, gave birth at age 17 to Aaron Hall IV. The couple went through a bitter and highly public breakup soon after, with Velez gaining full custody of Aaron IV. Velez has been quite vocal about Hall's shortcomings as a father, calling him a "deadbeat dad" and maintaining that he has not contributed financially or otherwise to Aaron IV's upbringing. She has also accused Hall of physically abusing her. Hall has always denied these allegations and argued that his attempts to contact Velez to arrange for child support have been rebuffed.

In 1996 Hall pleaded guilty to assault charges for hitting an ex-girlfriend, and was sentenced to five years of probation. A few years later he was ordered to undergo two years of anger management training. He ended up serving 11 months in Rikers Island when he failed to show up on time for one of the sessions. Despite all the trauma, Hall managed to turn out another strong solo album for MCA in 1998, Inside of You. Guy reunited briefly at the end of the decade to record the album Guy III, (MCA, 2000), but the reunion did not prove lasting, in part due to Hall's ongoing legal problems.

In the spring of 2004, Hall announced plans for a comeback on a new label of his own creation. The label was formed in partnership with entrepreneur Dwayne Corbitt, a former basketball player with business interests that included real estate and a children's programming/animation production company, Headstart/Legendary Entertainment. To Hall, establishing his own label represented a form of liberation. "I'm not a slave anymore …," he was quoted as saying in a May 2004 Billboard magazine article. "Ever since I got shafted in my MCA deal, I know I had to do my own thing or not at all." Hall also expressed his intention to sign other acts to the new label, including the urban rock rapper J. Naugh-T. Meanwhile, that summer Geffen records released The Best of Guy, part of its "20th Century Masters: Millennium Edition" series, in recognition of the band's crucial contribution to modern R & B.

Hall's new album, Adults Only, came out in 2005 on the Head Start Music Group label. On the disc's first track, "Intro," the singer explains that Adults Only would be Aaron Hall's final project. Citing a lack of respect he had received from his peers and the media over the last several years, Hall announced that he was henceforth adopting a new persona, to be known as E. Kane. His next recording project, according to Hall, would be called E. Kane the O.G. As fans awaited the arrival of Mr. Kane, Mr. Hall did not disappear entirely. Guy, featuring its heyday lineup of Riley and the Hall brothers, reunited for a series of live performances from late 2005 through the first half of 2006 as part of a nationwide "New Jack Revival Tour" that drew enthusiastic audiences in several major cities. The reunion fueled rumors that a fourth Guy album was forthcoming. New Jack Swing may no longer be new, but plenty of listeners apparently still appreciate the swing.

Selected discography

Albums with Guy

Guy, MCA, 1988.
The Future, MCA, 1990.
Guy III, MCA, 2000.
The Best of Guy, MCA, 2004.

Solo Albums

The Truth, Silas/MCA, 1993.
Inside of You, Silas/MCA, 1998.
Adults Only: The Final Album, Head Start, 2005.

At a Glance …

Born Aaron Hall on August 10, 1964, New York 'City; children: Aaron IV (with model Gloria Velez).

Career: Member of New Jack Swing band Guy, 1987–1991, 1999–2000, 2005–; appeared in film New Jack City, 1991; launched solo career in 1993 with recording The Truth (Silas/MCA); co-founded Head Start Music Group label, 2005.

Addresses: Agent—Universal Attractions, 145 West 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.



Billboard, November 20, 1993; December 4, 1999, p. 80; May 1, 2004, p. 28.

Black Enterprise, July 27, 2004.

Jet, September 6, 1996, p. 59.


"Aaron Hall Working to Overcome Tough Times with Guy Reunion, New Persona," MTV News, www.mtv.com/news/articles/1508850/20050902/story.jhtml.

"Guy," Red Entertainment Agency, www.redenter-tainment.com/Guy/Guy.htm.