In 1986 some of the biggest names in Black Music united to help in the effort to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s. birthday declared a national holiday. King’s youngest son Dexter Scott King spearheaded the assemblage of what would become The King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew.
Vocalists El DeBarge, Whitney Houston, Stacy Lattisaw, Lisa Lisa with Full Force, Teena Marie, Menudo, New Edition and James “J.T.” Taylor were joined by some of rap’s finest, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Run–D.M.C. and Whodini.
The resulting song, “King Holiday” was composed by Phillip Jones, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Bill Adler. The song peeked a # 30 on Billboard Hot Black Singles chart and all proceeds went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
A lot has happened in the twenty-seven years since “King Holiday” was recorded. Dr. King now has a monument on the National Mall in D.C. and America has elected its first African-American President. But what of the people who participated in the “King Holiday” movement ? Where are they now?
On the strength of his success with the group Debarge, El struck out on his solo career in 1986, releasing his self-titled debut. The single “Who’s Johnny” was featured in the movie Short Circuits, but that was where the album peaked. El released another album in 1989 but it wasn’t until Quincy Jones’s “Secret Garden” in 1990 that El began to feel the love again. Unfortunately, a battle with drugs derailed his career and led to time in prison. However, upon his release in 2009 El saw a resurgence in popularity thanks to public appearances like the BET Awards. His album Second Chance was released in November of 2010 and was nominated for two Grammys.
Darren “The Human Beat Box” Robinson, also known as “Buffy,” died on December 10, 1995 at the age of 28 from a heart attack. While many blamed his weight of 450lbs, it wasn’t the DIRECT cause of death. Prince Markie Dee told TheUrbandaily in 2010: “Buff died on accident. His heart did not just give out on him, he fell. Buff was so big that he couldn’t lie down. His weight would close his windpipe and he couldn’t breathe. He had to sleep sitting up. His heart went into overdrive and he suffered a massive heart attack because he fell. If he wouldn’t have fallen, he would be alive right now.”
Markie Dee is a radio host in Florida and Vice-President of Uncle Louie Music Group. Kool Rock Ski dropped most of his weight after seeing himself in Disorderlies. Both have toured with Doug E. Fresh filling in for the Human Beat Box.
The super group produced and wrote music for UTFO, Doctor Ice, Samantha Fox, Patti LaBelle, Jasmine Guy, The Force M.D.s, and even more recently Britney Spears and Rihanna. They also appeared on Lil Kim’s 2002 album La Bella Mafia on the track “You Can’t Fuck With The Queen Bee.”
But most of their fans still remember them for their hilarious turn in the classic House Party where they repeatedly told Kid “Chris” Martin, “We’ll kick your f*ckin aaaaas”
Grandmaster Melle Mel
This hip-hop pioneer and founding member of the Furious Five was the first rapper to call himself “Master of Ceremonies.” On March 12, 2007, Melle Mel and The Furious Five (joined by DJ Grandmaster Flash) became the first rap group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010 Melle Mel joined forces with Grandmaster Caz, Grandwizzard Theodore to help relaunch the Sedgwick and Cedar clothing line dedicated to hip-hop’s pioneers.
In ’86 Whitney Houston was a media darling. Her debut album was called Rolling Stone’s best album of 1986 and she made her acting debut in 1992 in The Bodyguard. In that same year she married founding member of New Edition, Bobby Brown and they eventually had one child together, Bobby Kristina. The couple’s unlikely union was wrought with drug use rumors and was chronicled in the 2004 reality show “Being Bobby brown.” They filed for divorce in 2006.
Whitney Houston died tragically on February 11, 2012. She was found dead in a bathtub in a Beverly Hills Hotel the night before The Grammys. She made her final film appearance in the remake of “Sparkle,” released later that year.
After co-producing “King Holiday”, this living hip-hop legend went on to perform and act in movies like Krush Groove and founded The Hip Hop Church serving as rapper, DJ, worship leader and licensed minister. He became an ordained minister on August 16, 2009. His song “Daydreamin” was recently interpolated by Rick Ross for his song “Stay Schemin.”
She scored her only #1 R&B hit with frequent duet partner Johnny Gill entitled “Where Do We Go from Here” in 1989 and was sampled by Mariah Carey in her hit “Heartbreaker.”
In 1987 the trio of Jalil, Ecstasy and Grandmaster Dee were already on their fourth album, Open Sesame. While it was certified Gold by the RIAA it didn’t pack the same punch as their previous hits like Whodini and Escape. They released their final album Six in 1996 on Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label. Dupri was a dancer for the group when he was a young man on the Fresh Fest tour. Whodini was recognized at the 4th VH1 Hip-Hop Honors show in 2007.
After performing in the Dream Chorus Lisa Lisa followed up her 1985 debut with the album, Spanish Fly, a huge success in 1987. It spawned two #1 pop hits, “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion”. The hip-hop duo Nina Sky sampled her song “Can You Feel The Beat” in their 2004 hit single “Move Ya Body”. 2009, Lisa Lisa released “Life N Love”, a full length album of new material on Mass Appeal Entertainment featuring the single “Can’t Wait” with guest rapper Pitbull.
The Ivory Queen Of Soul was already four albums deep by the time ” this song was recorded. But in 1988 she released the critically acclaimed album Naked to the World. That album contained the hit “Ooo La La La”, which reached the top of Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and was her only #1 single on that chart. After a hiatus She signed to Cash Money REcords and released two albums La Dona in 2004. Sapphire in 2006. Around 2004, Teena Marie lay sleeping in a hotel room when a large picture frame fell and struck her in the head. The blow caused a serious concussion that would result in momentary seizures for the rest of her life. She had suffered a Grand mal seizure just one month before her death. She died of natural causes on December 26, 2010.
Menudo (with Ricky Martin),
This was the version of Menudo, a band that constantly shifted out members once they reached a certain age, that featured Ricky Martin. after five years with the group, he released his Spanish-language solo album, Ricky Martin, in 1991. In 1999, after several albums in Spanish, he released his first English-language album (also titled Ricky Martin), which included the salsa-style “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. Martin’s twin sons, Matteo and Valentino, were born via a surrogate mother in 2008. On March 29, 2010, Martin publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in a post on his official web site and has been a vocal advocated of same sex marriage.
With Bobby Brown’s departure in this same year, New Edition went on to record two more albums as a group, even adding Johnny Gill to the mix, before splintering off like robot lions to pursue separate careers. Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johny Gill all achieved great success on their own, but the band united in 1996 for the reunion album Home Again. Almost a decade later they released another album for Bad Boy Records, One Love. On May 3, 2011 New Edition issued a press release on their official website announcing that all six members were reuniting as New Edition to kick off the 30th anniversary celebration of “Candy Girl” with their fans.
James “J.T.” Taylor
The former lead singer of Kool & The Gang released his fist solo album in 1989, Master Of The Game. He released three more albums over the next decade and in August 2011 JT released his long awaited single titled “SHOWDOWN”!
The tiny power house of a woman released two platinum albums that many would consider classics, 1987′s If I Were Your Woman and 1989′s Home. She has been performing in musical theater and is planning a new album. She released the single “Yesterday” on iTunes.
After lending their voices to the King Holiday Crew MTV’s “Greatest Hip-Hop Group Of All Time” released four more albums; Tougher Than Leather (1988) Back from Hell (1990) Down with the King (1993) Crown Royal (2001). Run became an ordained minister and joined in business ventures like Phat Farm with his brother Russell. He also had a successful reality show, “Run’s House” featuring his family. DMC released a solo album, a book and appeared on VH1′s My Adoption Journey. On October 30, 2002, Jam-Master Jay was shot and killed at his recording studio in Queens. His murder remains unsolved. While RUN DMC disbanded after Jay’s death they group was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2009.