When BET aired “The New Edition Story” last week, a three-night miniseries that chronicled the highs and lows of the iconic boy band, it made Fatin Dantzler recall his younger days when he was a hungry, up-and-coming writer/producer. You see, one of the first tracks he ever worked on was “Please Come Back,” a number off of New Edition spinoff group Bell Biv Devoe’s 1993 sophomore album “Hootie Mack.” It was also a song dedicated to an on-the-rise actress by the name of Halle Berry.
“At that time, (lead singer) Ricky Bell and Halle Berry either were boyfriend-and-girlfriend or he was trying to talk to her or something like that was going on,” says Dantzler, 43, on the phone from his Philadelphia home. “And, of course, I was very young in the business. It was very new to me to be working alongside any sort of celebrity. But, at that time, Halle Berry was working, I believe, on (the movie) ‘Boomerang,’ so she wasn’t completely, like, famous.”
According to Dantzler, Bell was completely smitten with the future Oscar winner. “He says it in the song. If you go back and listen to the song, he says, ‘I love you, H.B.’ at the end of the song.”
These days, Dantzler consistently makes music for a special someone. It helps that that special someone, his wife and longtime music partner Aja Graydon, 38, records and performs that music right there with him, as part of the progressive-soul duo known as Kindred the Family Soul. The couple has been around for 18 years, with six kids surely taking up most of their time, so it makes one wonder how have they managed to stay together as a couple, let alone a musical team.
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“I don’t really know the answer to that,” admits Dantzler. “But the short answer, in a sense, is because we want to keep it together, because we continue to work towards keeping it together. And so, we’re blessed that it stays together.”
Amazingly, they still continue to come with the new music. Last year, after being involved with labels for most of their professional careers, the pair went indie and self-distributed their sixth studio album, “Legacy of Love.” They worked on the album with the same Philly-based friends they’ve always collaborated with, including longtime producer Steve McKie, The Roots keyboardist James Poyser and trombonist Jeff Bradshaw, who was recently hospitalized after being diagnosed with diverticulitis.
“Legacy” features Kindred once again singing about love and happiness not just for themselves, but for everyone around them. The tune “All My People” could also serve as an uplifting anthem for our heavily-divided times, as Dantzler and Graydon sing about trying to find ways to unite so we can all live well.
“We’re just going with what was on our hearts and what we feel and, you know, what our motto is in general overall and laying that to music,” says Dantzler. “And if that resonates or that connects with people at any given time or moment in life, that’s a beautiful thing.”
Kindred is now reaching out to audiences on a more multimedia level. Although he hasn’t been on it lately, Dantzler has used the live-video app Periscope to give updates on Kindred. He also says he and his wife will be hosting a podcast, scheduled to hit the Interwebs next month.
As for now, Kindred is part of the Nu Soul Revival Tour, which also features Musiq Soulchild, Lyfe Jennings and Avery*Sunshine. (Raleigh audiences can catch them Friday night at Memorial Auditorium.) On some dates, they’ll be joined by Chrisette Michele, who recently made news for performing at Donald Trump’s inaugural ball.
How does Dantzler feel about that?
“Am I psyched about having her on the show?” he asks, laughing. “I think that she’s deserving of being on the show. She’s a soul artist in our genre. She has some unfortunate circumstances that are going on with her that people are judging a certain way, and that’s unfortunate for her particularly. But, you know, I think that will work itself out. She’s still an artist and lots of artists have done things that people question and have questionable thoughts about. We have to learn to disagree – I would say that.”
Who: Nu Soul Revival, with Musiq Soulchild, Kindred the Family Soul, Lyfe Jennings and Avery*Sunshine
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Memorial Auditorium, 2 E. South St., Raleigh
Info: 919-996-8700 or dukeenergycenterraleigh.com