It is an understatement to say that the group of Hi-Five has been through a lot. Originally compiled of members Roderick Clark, Marcus Sanders, Russell Neal, Toriano Easly, and the late Tony Thompson, Hi-Five experienced the peak of their success in the early nineties, with their hit Number One single I Like The Way (The Kissing Game). Since then the group has received only moderate success and experienced many setbacks including the death of lead singer Tony Thompson and the most recent arrest of Russell Neal. Yet, now, Hi-Five is returning with Marcus Sanders and early replacement Treston Irby, along with new members Shannon Gill, Billy Convington, and Faruq Evans, and looking to not only revive their own status in music, but the outlook of R&B groups. I had the chance to talk to Billy, Treston, and Faruq, to remember the past and look forward to an even brighter present.
Jasmine: First off, I just want to say welcome back to the music scene. Your fans are going crazy for you on social media and everything, so that has to feel very good.
Faruq: Yea, it feels real good. Thanks to all you guys for having your arms wide open and accepting us back in you know.
Jasmine: Yes! Now, this question is for Billy. You co-wrote the song It’s Nothing, a very hot track with Brian Adams and Sheldon Goode, so what brought the song about and what made it perfect for the return of Hi-Five?
Billy: Me and Brian have been writing together for a long time. Sheldon is an awesome producer. I know yall know the Donell Jones Where I Wanna Be– Sheldon penned that record. But, we got together, when we got the Hi-Five thing together, we were like man this would be the perfect song to bring us back. It had those young elements, but it had a grown up effect and was a really good R&B record. We presented it to the group and everybody fell in love with it. We recorded it and it’s running right now.
Jasmine: So can fans expect a video for that song?
Billy: Yea, we had discussed doing a video- we haven’t actually decided when it is going to come out, but we are definitely making a video for that record.
Jasmine: And Hi-Five The EP, will be released next Tuesday, so can fans expect more of the same sound that they received from It’s Nothing, on the EP?
Treston: What we have on the EP right now, we have songs that are more mature sounding, but still have the Hi-Five feel to it. We wanted to make sure we didn’t run away from that. We didn’t change the formula. Rest In Peace to my man Tony Thompson. But we still wanted to make sure that we keep the Hi-Five sound going. I believe that when fans hear the new EP, I believe that they will be pleasantly surprised- and with all of the positive feedback we’ve been getting, it is just that. Pleasantly surprising and we are excited that the fans are accepting what it is that we are doing with the music. They digging us again and it’s all good, it’s a good feeling.
Jasmine: That’s good! So along with preparing for the release of the EP, your Unsung episode will be premiering tonight on TV One. Obviously as a group, you have had trials and tribulations and a lot of changes, but what is one thing you think your fans will be surprised to learn about Hi-5 tonight?
Treston: I think the fans are going to realize a lot of stuff to be honest. I think when they see the episode of Unsung, I believe they gonna be shocked. A lot of shock value that is gonna happen tonight and a lot of understanding and maybe some closure.
Jasmine: Is the Unsung episode what brought you guys back to doing music again or has this return been planned for awhile?
Treston: Oh naw, this return has been planned for awhile-for a long, long, long time to be honest. Even before Tony had passed away, we had planned on getting back together, but the good Lord had other plans on how it was gonna happen. And like I said, everything happens in the Lord’s time and when the Lord is ready for it, whenever it is, then and only then is it going to happen. That’s kind of the approach that I’m taking on this question. When God’s ready for your victory, then you’ll know. Does that make sense?
Jasmine: Yes! I am a spiritual person, so I believe that God’s timing is everything. When he’s ready, you’re ready, and you’ll know.
Treston: Exactly! When he’s ready, you’re ready, exactly. Then you’ll know. Exactly. [laughs]
Jasmine: [laughs] So Hi-Five was in the news recently, not as a group, but due to former member Russell Neal’s arrest. So will we see him on the episode tonight?
Treston: Right, the episode was shot before the situation had occurred, so you know, I want everybody to tune in! You know you may see him! Get to hear him speak. You got to tune in! It’s gonna be a good time. We gonna leave it like that!
Jasmine: Right! You gotta give them some suspense, you can’t tell them everything!
Treston: [laughs] You can’t tell em everything. You gotta tune in, maybe he’s there, maybe he’s not!
Jasmine: [laughs] So a couple of years ago, there were like no R&B groups around at all. And now, we have the return of you all. TGT, last year is now Grammy-nominated. Jagged Edge has came back this year. So for anyone that wants to answer, what do you think causes the time where R&B groups are just nowhere to found, then they pop up, and then they go away again? Why can’t R&B groups stay together?
Billy: Man! Ima get that one. You know the ones that really make noise in the industry, they stay together regardless if they’re hot. You know the cats that you just mentioned, Jagged Edge, TGT, they realize that there’s something missing. They realize the direction that the music industry is going in and they’re like, since we’ve been off the scene, there been nobody coming to take our place, which means that we still got room to get back in and be loved. It’s still a void, I think. Because there hasn’t been many male R&B groups that have been out and been successful over the last couple of years. There hasn’t been a lot. And the cats that are coming back, they have been consistent, they’ve been doing shows. And to see that void, it’s like why not record another album. Why not give the fans what they want? That’s why we’re here because of the fans. And we’re just filling that need of what they’ve been missing.
Jasmine: I agree! And speaking of the fans, they want to see you all live. Will you guys be hitting the road soon to be reaching out to your fans and stuff?
Billy: Aw, yea.
Treston: Yea, we are. Actually, we have a date coming up this Saturday in Ontario, California. We can’t wait to perform for the throwback show out there. We gonna be out there with Sunshine Anderson, Nappy Roots.
Billy: Next, Ruff Endz is gonna be there.
Treston: So we excited to do that. We gotta show in New Jersey coming up on September 5. A show in the Bronx, New York, September 6. So we looking forward to being busy, looking forward to seeing all of our fans. We tryna reach all of our fans, we been gone for so long. We ready! All the promoters out there holla!
Billy: People watch these shows and realize we still doing shows and there’s a lot of throwback concerts happening, all over the United States- give us a shout.
Treston: Yea holla. 917-751-4799.
Billy: Real number!
Treston: It’s a real number yo, promoters lets do it!
Jasmine: [laughs] I will send that out to all the promoters to get you guys a show.
Treston: That’s right! We ready!
Jasmine: Before I let you guys go, I always like to give the artist a chance to say some words to your fans, so I know you guys got something to say to your fans that have been holding yall do.
Treston: This is Treston and I just want to say to all the fans out there, we appreciate you guys and thank you for all the years of support. Through all the trials and tribulations, and the resurrection. We would like to ask all the fans to please appreciate what we are bringing forth, now. The new situation we are bringing forth now and that we are not 17 year olds no more. We’ve grown and matured, just like yall have, and we’re going to continue to act like mature adults and do the right thing. Continue to promote us and continue to support us and we love yall and we miss yall. I’m excited, we all excited to be amongst all of our friends and family. And friends and family meaning fans, because without you guys, we wouldn’t be here today. And the people behind the scenes, radio people and everybody. I’m excited. I have no words. I’m getting tongue twisted, so Ima let you guys talk. I’m full of energy right now, we got Unsung, that’s about to air in a couple of hours and I am over the top excited.
Jasmine: Have you seen the episode yet or will yall be seeing it live tonight?
Treston: We going to be seeing it today, little pieces here and there . We not gonna get a chance to see it the way everybody else gonna see it until tonight.
Jasmine: And Billy did you have any words for your fans?
Billy: Just pretty much the old Hi-Five has definitely paved the way for the new Hi-Five. Without paying homage to what happened, what’s going on right now wouldn’t’ be. Rest In Peace Tony Thompson- vocal pioneer. He really put it down and our records, the old stuff still plays on the radio. So although you haven’t seen us, the music never left. We just tryna give the fans of old what they want, and give the fans of new, something new. Just hold on, we riding man and definitely want to get out there and see all our fans and do some more shows, appearances, and things of that nature. It’s a lot of love for all the fans.
Thanks again to Hi-Five and stay tuned for not only their episode of Unsung which premieres tonight on TV One, but also their self-titled EP to be released next Tuesday (August 12)! Until then, you can pre-order the EP here!!!