Love of family and music. Those are the energizing forces behind Island Def Jam/Goodfellas Entertainment latest R& discovery, Brutha. Powered by a strong family bond, these five brothers resurrect the goose bump-raising harmonies and thrilling showmanship that were the hallmarks of groups like the Jackson 5, New Edition and Boyz II Men. However, Brutha represents more than just a contemporary facsimile of these popular icons.
Equally talented, the Harrell brothers—Anthony, Jared, Jacob, Cheyenne and Grady— couple crystal-clear, five-part harmony with high-energy dance moves and a genuine exuberance for their craft. In short, Brutha is the real deal: bringing back the magical group dynamic sorely missing in today's music. In fact, Brutha's natural ability not only netted a recording contract with Island Def Jam/Goodfellas Entertainment but also an upcoming BET reality show, "Brothers to Brutha," premiering Nov. 18.
Recorded primarily in Atlanta, the group's self-titled album will be released Dec. 21. Collaborating with the soulful quintet was a who's who in songwriting and producing, including Jazze Pha, Shae Taylor, the Corna Boyz, the Heavyweights and 112 founding member Daron Jones.
Already whetting fans' appetite is lead single "I Can't Hear the Music." The track pulsates with an infectious R& beat, complemented by the brothers' distinctive vocals and a spirited rap by Fabolous, the project's only guest. The single's accompanying video, directed by Jesse Terrero, fittingly captures the group in performance mode —simultaneously underscoring Brutha's raw essence and striking appeal.
"We not only pride ourselves on our a cappella harmonies but thrive on the choreographed precision moves that take you back to the days when groups moved rather than just walked around the stage," says Grady, the eldest Brutha. "Our sound is fresh and uplifting. It's about being young and experiencing life's ups and downs."
The brothers' struggle to fulfill their musical dream—without compromising their close family ties—is the premise behind the forthcoming BET reality show, "Brothers to Brutha." Notes group member Anthony, "While other shows have sugarcoated similar journeys, ours actually shows us laughing as well as fighting, overcoming issues associated with working in the music industry as well as the everyday obstacles families experience living together under one roof."
Ranging in age from 19-25, the brothers Harrell come from a music-loving family of 13: eight boys and five girls. The Los Angeles-based quintet's earliest memories are of their father introducing them to the artistry of the Jackson 5, Sam Cooke, the Temptations, New Edition and Boyz II Men. Another major influence was dad Harrell himself, a former member of an R& group once signed to RCA Records.
Steeped in soul as youngsters, the brothers took their father's lessons to heart as they grew older and began performing at school talent shows, weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs and even on street corners. Their relentless grind eventually paid off in more professional gigs. Brutha's first official performance was in 2003 at Los Angeles venue the Key Club featuring celebrity basketball team the Hollywood Knights. Then came stints as the opening act for Brian McKnight and entertainer Wayne Brady plus more high-profile, special engagements: Michael Jackson's 45th birthday party and a 2006 Christmas Eve celebration at Steve Wonder's home.
It was the brothers' manager/uncle, industry veteran Donny "Drano" Harrell, who brought them to audition for Def Jam Executive VP Shakir Stewart and Island Urban/So So Def President Jermaine Dupri in 2007. Within two weeks of that audition, the group accepted an offer to sign with the label. In the midst of recording its first album, Brutha was asked to perform at ASCAP's annual Rhythm & Soul Awards in honor of another male group that got its start 25 years ago, New Edition.
Keeping their eyes on the prize of achieving a similar legacy is what sustains Anthony, Jared, Jacob, Cheyenne and Grady as they arise each day at 6 a.m. for a cardio workout followed by rigorous vocal and dance rehearsals. As grueling as their schedules may be and whatever challenges come their way, one thing is for certain, says Grady., "Whatever the music industry brings, our bond is unbreakable."