Last year around this time, Pretty Ricky was blowing up. Four brothers named Spectacular, Pleasure, Diamond (AKA Baby Blue), and Slick 'em locked up the airwaves with "Grind on Me." With Pleasure cooing, "Let me get deeper, shorty/Ride on me," they sounded as sweaty and grimy as Jodeci, augmenting each "ooh girl" with slow, symbolic pelvic thrusts. Needless to say, the little girls of South Florida ate it up.
So it came to pass that at 9 a.m. middle of last April, the Levinson Jewelers Theater at the Clear Channel Communications building in Miramar was overrun with females. The ladies squealed with delight as the fledgling boy band weaved through a performance of "Grind on Me" for them and tens of thousands of listeners tuning in to "Bakaz and Eggz," a showcase that 103.5 The Beat's morning jocks the Baka Boyz occasionally throw for their listeners. The bandmates were dressed sharply in matching Tommy Hilfiger lime ensembles and Air Force One sneakers.
After the performance, Pretty Ricky settled down to hang out with Nick Vidal from the Baka Boyz, who gave out raffle prizes to the audience. "I'm gonna give away Spectacular!" Pleasure interjected. "He got a six-pack too! Take it off!"
The audience chanted, "Take it off! Take it off!" Spectacular stood up and began to slowly take off his jacket, then his fuchsia shirt. No one wanted to win a tote bag with a 103.5 The Beat logo on it. They wanted the stars.
One of the girls had the lucky raffle number, so she "won" Spectacular. The two just danced closely for a few moments, grinding together as DJ Eric Vidal from the Baka Boyz cued up "Grind on Me" one more time. Kids.
Afterward, Pretty Ricky's members retreated to the conference room for a quick chat. But it was difficult to pin them down. They were still hyped from the showcase, cracking jokes, amiably snapping on one another, and making random cell phone calls.
Cut to April of 2006. The Baka Boyz are long gone, and New York jocks Star and Buc Wild now run 103.5 The Beat's morning show. Meanwhile, Pretty Ricky outmaneuvered the haters who called "Grind on Me" a freakish novelty hit. Rereleased by Atlantic Records and retitled "Grind With Me," the song soared into the top ten pop charts. Then the group earned a gold certification for its debut album, Bluestars. They even snagged another top 20 hit, "Your Body."
More importantly, the four brothers in Pretty Ricky are growing up. No more shits and giggles during interviews. "We have matured," Baby Blue says.
In fact, Bluestars is explicitly sexual for a teen R&B act. The members of Pretty Ricky don't often curse, but they imbue their metaphors with so much feeling, it may make you blush. On "Your Body," the group harmonizes, "We ain't gotta make love/We can just cuddle up/But if she want me to beat it up/Then dammit, I'ma beat it up." They aren't singing about fighting either. Slick raps on "Nothing But a Number," "I'm a young man, but my dick grown up/I like to beat it up with legs on my shoulder." Baby Blue says I probably heard the "dirty" version; a "clean" version of Bluestars is also available.
Some things haven't changed, though. Despite Pretty Ricky's new star status, it only takes a day to reach Baby Blue through the group's label Atlantic Records. "We're not on that superstar stuff," he proudly notes. He even offers his phone number in case I want to ask follow-up questions.
Baby Blue is one of 12 children sired by Joseph "Blue" Smith. "We've got the same father and different mothers. So we grew up in different households." He and Spectacular grew up with their mother ("We the only kids out of all 12 to have the same mother," Baby Blue says) until their early teens, when, alarmed by their growing unruliness, she shipped them off to live with Smith in Carol City. At the time, Smith worked for EKG Records, a Miami independent best-known for regional artists like Black Haze and Trinere.
With Smith's help, the four boys developed the group that became Pretty Ricky. First called Prettie Rickie and the Maverix, the quartet of brothers and Smith, who became their manager, sent out demo CDs to key industry people, with limited results. An initial single, "Flossin'," made a small impact on local radio in 2003. The group retooled its sound and serviced "Grind on Me" to radio stations in the winter of 2005. "Grind on Me" improbably made its way into Power 96's rotation, became one of the most-played tracks in that station's history, and effectively launched the group's career. (Along the way, legal conflicts with roots-rock band the Mavericks forced a name change to Pretty Ricky).
Today, Pretty Ricky is sitting in a recording studio, working on the follow-up to Bluestars. Unlike that album, produced by the Unusual Suspects team of Jim Jonsin and Big D (the same crew responsible for Trick Daddy's monster smash "Let's Go"), the new disc will mostly feature music produced by the group. "We haven't decided a name yet, but we're working on it," Baby Blue says. "It's probably going to be something real sexy for the ladies." The still-unnamed album is scheduled to hit stores before the end of the year. "Our last album sold over 800,000 copies, so we should be reaching over a million when the new album drops," Baby Blue says.
Baby Blue models himself after his businessman father. He rattles off several prospective spinoffs from Pretty Ricky's success, including a reality show. The Marco de Bleu clothing line he announced last year is still in the works. "We're investing in a lot of stuff, like real estate, the branding of Pretty Ricky, merchandising, all of that. We're business-oriented."
Meanwhile, Blue Star Entertainment International, the production company that manages Pretty Ricky, is developing a new Miami rap act called Meat & Bones. "They're two fat boys. We're bringing the Fat Boys back," Baby Blue says, laughing. "They're just like Pretty Ricky, only a little thicker."