Ask the three ladies in Lyric to say what makes the group unique and different and Thema, Jackie and Fendi respond with one voice: "Musically, we’re kinda edgy. Image-wise, we’re more into baggy clothing and fitted caps than high fashion. Our attitude is very urban and no question, people who are our age can relate to us."
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Of course, in a crowded music marketplace, it takes more than image and attitude to get over. It takes creative talent and skill, something the young women who comprise Lyric clearly possess. Given the enthusiasm from J Records and the master production work of hit makers Hennessy and Carlos McKinney, it’s obvious that this exciting group is off to a flying start, witness the infectious first single, "Young And Sexy" (written by Jack Knight and Steve Estiverne, whose credits include hits with Jennifer Lopez and P. Diddy.
As a unit, Lyric has been together since the end of 2001 and since that time, all three members have been hard at work completing work on their all-important first album, with group member Fendi collaborating with producer Hennessy as co-writer on many of the songs. "I’m writing about situations and experiences that I know our audience can relate to," says the Brooklyn native."
Other tunes on the album include the tough-edged "Episode" (featuring J Records label mate Shells) which deals with "keeping everything in a relationship between the two people that are involved" and the upbeat "Sunny Days," written by the trio with producer Will Baker which focuses on "following your dream, something we definitely know all about!"
For each of the members of Lyric, working in music professionally has been a lifelong dream. Fendi recalls, "I started out in school, doing shows but more as a dancer than a singer. That was when I was five or six and I was always the youngest person in every group! I remember performing at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music and being in the marching band when I was in junior high school. I learned to play a few instruments - trumpet, drums and so on and I always knew I could sing, I just didn’t try it till I tried out for this talent show. I did an SWV song and, well, the audience really liked what I did."
Fendi was a part of the Jackie Robinson Steppers before she left school and went to college: "My mother, who’s also a dancer, wanted me to finish school...and I felt I needed to see the world! Everything changed one day when I was hanging out with a friend in Times Square in New York..." Fendi literally bumped into producer/songwriter Hennessy: "I thought he was just trying to talk to me," she laughs, "until he told me about some of the things he had done like the song "Monica" for Before Dark. I called him the next day and that same day, I was in the studio with him working on a song called "Hot And Tipsy." That was in December 1999 and we started writing together." It was while collaborating on songs planned for others that Hennessy posed the idea of creating a female group: "At first, I didn’t know if I was ready to be in a group," says Fendi, who says her musical influences include Mary J. Blige ("for emotion"), Tina Turner ("for pure energy") and Gladys Knight ("for vocal tone"). "But I remembered my mother telling me that when opportunities come along, I should take them."
Joining Fendi to form the nucleus of Lyric was Detroit-born Thema, whose brother Carlos McKinney was working with Hennessy as part of the Urban Legends production company. "I’ve been singing all my life," says Thema. "You know, in church, in middle school, in elementary school. My whole family is very musical and growing up in Detroit, you know all about Aretha Franklin and all the Motown artists like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. I was in a group at home and once my brother Carlos moved to the East Coast to work as a producer, I thought about pursuing music full time." Thema - whose influences include Wonder, Robinson, Mary J. Blige and Jodeci "and anyone who ain’t afraid to scream!" - moved to New York herself in the fall of 2000 and immediately joined Fendi as a member of Lyric.
The search was on for a third member and after auditioning several singers, Los Angeles-born Jackie was chosen to round out Lyric. "I’ve had a passion for music since I was three or four," she says. "My mom and dad both sang and my mother was involved for a short while with (legendary group) The Platters. I got into the school choir when I was in 10th grade and I went as a part of the Palmdale Choral Ensemble to England for an international competition in 1999. That was very exciting and I knew I had to surround myself with people who were involved with music." With Michael Jackson as a main musical inspiration and "singers like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey who sing with a lot of emotion" as influences, Jackie sought different opportunities to express her own vocal talent. Her journey included a stint with a local Los Angeles band (Om Sequence) and some background work with Ricky Bell (of Bell Biv DeVoe) before she started working on a solo demo with producer D Jam Hassan, who in turn, knew Hennessy. When Jackie found out about the female group Hennessy was creating, she came out to New York. "I met Fendi and Thema and we clicked right away," she says.
The bond between all three was instantaneous: "We really are like sisters, for real!" says Fendi. "We’ve stayed in the same household, lived together and we’ve really come to know each other." Working closely in the studio with Hennessy and Carlos McKinney, the group completed initial songs for their first album in 2001: "The guys started shopping a deal for us and when we found out that J Records was interested, we were so excited. We auditioned for Mr. Davis and that was amazing. We wouldn’t want to be with any other label. It’s been incredible having him involved with our first album."
Knowing that there are other successful girl groups out there, the members of Lyric are philosophical about possible comparisons: "We’re probably going to be compared to all of them!" the ladies agree. "But we’d like to think we’re like a breath of fresh air. We're different. And once we come out, we’re coming strong - and people will see the difference!" Sexy smooth yet street-wise and soulful. Lyric are ready to hit. Naturally, on J Records.
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