Bell Biv DeVoe members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe made history with their 1990 debut Poison release. The Poison album found the group as the second most successful spin-off act from the New Edition camp when their debut sold four million copies. Expectations were high for the group’s sophomore album of new material. BBD had previously released a gold-selling remix album in the summer of 1991 entitled WBBD – Bootcity! The Remix Album. However, numerous delays led to BBD’s second album not achieving the same success as its debut. Now let’s take the time to revisit Hootie Mack!
In 1993, the music industry was changing, and hit makers Bell Biv DeVoe hadn’t released anything new, officially, in a while. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album had just been released, and gangsta rap had begun to dominate the airwaves. R&B was now filled with numerous groups who all wanted that number one spot. In 1991, the group made a memorable appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where they performed “Gangsta.” One would think the group was lining up a project for 1992 as they stayed in the spotlight. The group even performed one of its most sought after songs “Boot/Sneaka” on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve Special.
However, the group’s label didn’t release “Gangsta” officially until January 1993. When Hootie Mack was finally released on June 1st of that same year, “Gangsta” and “Boot/Sneaka” were both notably absent. Instead, the group started out with the promo single “From the Back.” While not a bad song, “From the Back” just didn’t catch on, which is a shame as it has a nice groove. The official first single “Above the Rim,” a basketball anthem, also failed to catch on due to the timing. The song only peaked at #81 on the Billboard R&B charts. I always felt that song would’ve done better as the lead single for the soundtracks to the basketball classics White Men Can’t Jump or Above the Rim.
Following the lukewarm response to the first two singles, the group finally bounced back with “Something in Your Eyes.” Written and produced by Babyface, the ballad is easily the best song on the album. It showcases the vocal talents of member Ricky Bell. The remaining singles from the album are “Lovely,” a warning song about messing with underage girls and surely wouldn’t be safe to record in 2020. While “Show Me the Way” is a message song about unity.
The rest of Hootie Mack is filled with numerous topics ranging from the consequences of unprotected sex (“The Situation”) to female anatomy (“Ghetto Booty”) and finally the joys of marijuana (Nickel). None of these songs are particularly memorable; however, die-hard NE fans will find something to like about each song, I’m sure.
The album gets better with its closing two ballads, written by a young Fatin Dantzler of Kindred the Family Soul. “Please Come Back” is an excellent apology record in the vein of “When Will I See You Smile Again.” While “Lost in the Moment” is a sexy slow jam, that Ricky sings the mess out of.
While Hootie Mack eventually ended up going gold, the group never performs any of the material from this album at their live show, outside of “Something in Your Eyes.” Had Hootie Mack drooped in 1992, as initially planned, the results may have been better. In interviews, the group has mentioned that the final version of Hootie Mack wasn’t what they were actually going for. In fact, some of the instrumentals that ended up on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic were initially offered to Bell Biv DeVoe.
Additionally, the chemistry doesn’t seem to be there. The members all seemed to be focused on solo endeavors and not on being a cohesive unit. Michael Bivins, who was running a successful label at the time, appears to be in executive mode. In contrast, Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe appear to be recording their own individual albums. Bell does a commendable job on the ballads. The slower songs all would’ve sounded great on a mid-nineties Ricky Bell solo album. While DeVoe was never a top-notch lyricist, he still knows how to ride a beat, and Hootie Mack could have been a great solo debut album for him.
The task of topping a four million-selling debut was going to be a massive undertaking for any artist. While Hootie Mack suffers the sophomore slump, there are still a few gems worth the listen.
Final Relisten Grade: C+
Best songs: “Something In Your Eyes,” “Please Come Back,” “Lost in the Moment.”