Artist/producer/ Divine Mill Records head KayGee is fast becoming a music executive to be reckoned with. Artists already profiting from his Midas touch include former-Arista-now-J Records trio Next, as well as Warner Bros. singer/songwriter Jaheim. The latest act to emerge from his stable is the Arista male/female duo called Koffee Brown.
Comprising singer/songwriters Fonz and Vee, the duo is preparing for the March 6 release of its “Mars/Venus” album, which was produced by KayGee in conjunction with various other East Coast producers. That list includes Allstar (who did the retro-jazz/funk-flavored single “After Party,” which shipped to radio Nov. 8), Eddie Berkeley, and Barry Salters.
The duo was formed when both artists — under KayGee’s auspices — auditioned separately for former Arista Records head Clive Davis. Vee originally performed with another male artist and Fonz as a solo act. It was Davis’ idea for the two to join forces.
For Missouri-born and -raised Fonz, it meant relocating. It was R.L. from the group Next, a family friend, who encouraged Fonz to try his luck in Minnesota, Next’s hometown. When Next signed with KayGee, R.L. championed his friend’s vocal ability.
“KayGee let me move into his house,” Fonz says. “As the project progressed, I started working more hand in hand with him doing production.”
For Vee, an East Orange, N.J., native who previously toured as a backup singer with Aaron Hall, Mary J. Blige, and Faith Evans, KayGee was a neighborhood friend who had been aware of her vocal ability for some time before bringing her under his wing.
“I sang on Case’s ‘Touch Me Tease Me,’ which featured Foxy Brown [from the Nutty Professor soundtrack],” says Vee. “After that I worked with Next [on that group’s “Too Close”] and Jaheim.”
Koffee Brown’s sound, as the name suggests, rests on a foundation of classic soul with some serious singing and a hip-hop undercurrent. Examples of this music strategy can be found on the dark, moody ballad “Chick on the Side”; the light, melodic “Do You See”; and the ’round-the-way, party-flavored “Weekend Thing.” As such, Koffee Brown feels it has something for everyone.
“People will be able to relate because it’s basically about relationships,” says Vee. “When the project first got under way, the original idea was mainly to do love ballads. But then KayGee decided to go in the opposite direction, and that meant getting into the nitty-gritty of relationships.”
“Koffee Brown’s music is so different from what else is out there that in many ways they market themselves,” says Kemett J. Timms, Arista’s marketing manager. “On one hand, there aren’t any male/female duos. Then lyrically, because of their structure, they can discuss relationships from opposite sides of the fence. Listening to one of their songs is like listening to a conversation — sometimes loving, sometimes hostile, but always compelling. It’s something both men and women will be able to relate to.”
The duo’s radio promo tour kicked off Jan. 28 in support of “After Party” and will continue through the album’s release date. In addition, the group is partaking in the Special Olympics promo tour that commences Feb. 28 in Los Angeles with a launch party hosted by Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal and actress Vivica A. Fox.
“The tour stops in 15 cities, and Koffee Brown will visit approximately eight to 10 of these markets where they will perform at an NBA game in each host city,” Timms says. A Soul Train TV appearance in the spring is also planned.