Don’t deny it: you were an Al B. Sure! fan the second he stood on the rooftop and delivered that quick hallelujah shout, “Whooooo!,” with his arms outstretched to the sky. Ladies across America were open on Sure!’s good looks and falsetto. But he was more than a pretty face, the Money Earnin’ Mt. Vernon (New York) protégé had a gift for recognizing talent. The “Nite and Day” singer has had a hand in helping to shape the careers of everyone from Jodeci to Case and Mary J. Blige to Faith Evans. ESSENCE.COM caught up with Sure! to find out about TV One’s “Unsung” series, his new album, and why he believes in Spiderwoman.
ESSENCE.COM: It’s good to hear from you! You’re permeating the Los Angeles airwaves with your own radio show and now you’re hosting TV One’s “Unsung” music docuseries. How’d that come about?
AL B SURE!: After listening to my radio show, a good friend of mine who used to work at TV One called me and posed the idea of me serving as the narrator and host of this series. Of course, considering my love for music this was a perfect match, and when I discovered it was about all the music greats including Donny Hathaway, DeBarge and The Clark Sisters, I knew it would be an amazing task and challenge to interpret the producer’s thoughts while including my personal musical experiences with some of these legends.
ESSENCE.COM: Sounds like some great edutainment. What is your personal connection to many of these musical greats?
SURE!: It was amazing to watch the footage, and having to come up with the fabric of the expression to describe these artists was the most challenging part. But what I loved most was reliving history, because I know these artists. For instance, I never met Donny Hathaway, but his daughter, Lalah Hathaway, that’s my baby right there! El DeBarge and I costarred on “Secret Garden” from Q’s “Juke Joint” compilation. So ” Unsung” encompasses these artists’ personal journeys through music, which will resonate with many.
ESSENCE.COM: We’ll all be tuning in. So was radio a natural progression for you after a solo career?
SURE!: Radio is just one of the ventures of my portfolio. When I was about 14, I started a radio show for my Bishop at my church in New Rochelle (New York). I had a four-track (yes, a four-track, not an eight-track!), and I used to record his sermons and then mix it up and take it to the local a.m. station and host a show. Honestly, I fell in love with radio back then and I did it for fun. My Bishop had the spirit of discernment of what I’d be doing in the future.
ESSENCE.COM: Back in the day, all the singers on “Secret Garden” performed for the Soul Train Music Awards, and I remember the next day everyone said that your mike was turned off, suggesting that you weren’t a great live singer. Is that true?
SURE!: No, my mike was not turned off. But everyone will see because I’m finally doing a new album, “Honey I’m Home,” which is scheduled to release in May on Hidden Beach Recordings. The beats have to be right musically, melodically. You won’t hear me singing young-people content like, “I had her upon the wall in the club.” It’s strictly for grown folks. I’m bringing back that Money Earning Mt. Vernon flavor, which is singing about songs that make up the handbook to everything that is [love].
ESSENCE.COM: Absolutely, everyone needs to stay on the grind for what they truly want in life. Which brings me to the rumor that you wanted Quincy, your youngest son with Kim Porter, who also has children with Diddy, to acknowledge you as his father and not Diddy during his birthday bash (the party and its preparation were documented for MTV’s “Sweet Sixteen” series), which you failed to attend because you wanted them to change the theme title from “Stuntin Like My Daddy”?
SURE!: That’s absolutely not true. I never had a conversation about changing the theme name of the party. Zero. [Editor’s Note: Forgive us, but we can’t resist but recite his lyrics “You think you dope on the rope? Nope. Zero on the strength!”] I don’t discuss my personal life, but I will say this: I truly think the world of Sean. I respect him and he respects me. He’s a great stepfather to Quincy, and Kim is a great mother. We all grew up together, so I just laugh when people, or should I say groupies, are concerned more about what’s going on in your life than theirs. I don’t even know how my name ends up in any gossip because I haven’t been out [as an artist] since Kung Fu (laughs.) What I’m most grateful for is that I have the most famous family on the planet, but at the end of the day, folks paying so much attention to notoriety is tired. What kind of grown a– man or woman is concerned about something that doesn’t concern them. [These bloggers] shouldn’t vent if they can’t offer resolve. So that’s all I have to say about my personal life.
ESSENCE.COM: Sometimes silence is golden. So you were the R&B heartthrob back in the day. What’s the craziest thing a woman has done to get your attention?
SURE!: I was on the last floor in my hotel room during the Heart Break Tour, and this woman scaled the entire hotel like Spiderwoman!
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) Ohmigoodness! What did you do?
SURE!: I let her in, sheeyat! (Laughs.) No, I’m just kidding. Really, I’m just a sucker for a pretty, genuine smile so keep the plaque off your teeth, ladies.
ESSENCE.COM: So what’s on your future agenda?
SURE!: Besides producing Jamie Foxx’s HBO Comedy Festival, my music, and other projects, I truly believe that God has a bigger plan for me. All I’m concerned about is being a better father and human being.
Check out this clip of DeBarge performing from TV One’s “Unsung.”