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Diddy-Guided Da Band Faces Make-Or-Break

When MTV televised the Sept. 10 finale of "Making the Band 2," it was a ratings smash, pulling in a 2.1 rating (which equals 3 million viewers), according to Nielsen Media Research.

When MTV televised the Sept. 10 finale of "Making the Band 2," it was a ratings smash, pulling in a 2.1 rating (which equals 3 million viewers), according to Nielsen Media Research. Now the question is whether the group can repeat that success on the charts. The answer will come with the Sept. 30 release of "Too Hot for TV," the debut album by Bad Boy's Da Band on Bad Boy/Universal.

MTV and Bad Boy CEO Sean "P. Diddy" Combs teamed up for the show, which followed the trials and tribulations of the sextet. Now, MTV and Bad Boy have joined forces to give the album the full promotional push.

Following the season finale, MTV premiered a new episode of "Making the Video" featuring the group's first clip, "Bad Boy This Bad Boy That." Since then, Da Band has made appearances on "Direct Effect" and "TRL." Also, MTV re-aired the first and second seasons of "Making the Band 2" beginning the week prior to the album's release.

"MTV is my partner," Combs says. "When we started the process, we told [the group] if they made a hot album we'd make their dreams come true. We just wanted to follow through with that." MTV/MTV2 president Van Toffler says, "Because we were partners in the TV show, it flowed organically. It was easy to retro-fit the band's presence on our other programs."

Management Inc. CEO Phil Robinson, who manages Bad Boy's Da Band along with Combs, sees MTV's support of the group as crucial to its initial success. "That's the medium that the public knows the band through," Robinson says. "Although people recognize Bad Boy as a record company that goes out and develops first-class talent, the [band's] initial and continued availability has been through MTV."

And MTV is where Da Band's audience is, Robinson says. "The audience is not on radio . . . yet. The audience is not through street campaigns . . . yet. The audience just knows them through seeing them on MTV every Wednesday at 10 o'clock," he says.

While the level of support from MTV may be unusual, what the group went through to craft "Too Hot for TV" has been even more extreme. "Our timetable was ridiculous," Bad Boy product manager Allison Stanley says. "We had to create an album in three weeks. That's unheard-of for a hip-hop album. Jay-Z or Biggie [Smalls] might have been able to do something like that, but for [a group of] new kids who have not been seasoned to this industry, it was a difficult process."

"Right now, we have one group, but when we started we had six solo artists," Stanley says. "Some of them today still act that way. So, it was really hard to merge and jell six people who have been living their lives as solo acts and getting them to come up with a hit record."

As that process unfolded during the second season, viewers really got to see the ups and downs of the group, which consists of MCs Babs, Ness, Miami (also known as Fred) and Young City (formerly known as Chopper), reggae toaster Dylan and R&B singer Sara. "We had to push the [release] date back," Stanley says. "We were supposed to deliver singles, and we missed those dates. It just wasn't happening."

Stanley adds that the group's contribution to the "Bad Boys II" soundtrack "was the first song where everything finally came together. That was a pivotal point, because it proved that we could make a hot record. Up until that point, we were wondering what we got ourselves into. When that record happened, we knew that this was something that we could make happen."

For Brooklyn, N.Y., native Babs, "Making the Band 2" has been the "experience of a lifetime. Coming into it, we thought it was just about music, but this is a business," the group's only female MC says. "It's 10% music and 90% business. We just had to grind all the time.

"The music is what brought us together," she adds. "We all argued and fought a lot, but when it was time to go into that studio and collab on a song, we worked together as a winning team."

Ness, a native of Philadelphia, agrees, saying, "That was the beautiful thing about the whole situation: No longer did I have to sit down and write three verses, a hook and a bridge. I had five other people brainstorming with me, so it made my job easier.

"Once we got into the studio and really got into the rhythm of making songs, it just upped the bar," he adds. "Every song got hotter and hotter, because we were vibing together and around each other 24/7."

With the album finally in the can and the promotional push in full swing, the label chose to introduce the group's music with the single "Bad Boy This Bad Boy That." "This isn't a normal setup," Stanley explains. "We have continued just not being normal with this project through the setup, because normally an album needs three or four months' setup prior to release. We didn't get that. So, we've had to leak records on the Internet just to get the word out on the streets.

"With 'Bad Boy This Bad Boy That,' we're doing a staggered release," she adds. "We're going with that now, and then the second single ["Tonight"] will be our main single at radio. 'Bad Boy This Bad Boy That' was a huge leak that we released at radio, and people like it, but we're not necessarily going hard with it. We'll be going hard on the next single."

For fans still craving more, Stanley says that the first season of "Making the Band 2" will be released on DVD this holiday season with season two to follow in 2004.

Will there be a third season? "I don't know," Combs says. "We're weighing our options. As far as a brand, we've made the blueprint for 'Making the Band.' If that's the blueprint that is going to be followed, we want to be involved."

Excerpted from the Oct. 4, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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