The Suffers

GFM Spotlight Interview: Kam Franklin Talks The Suffers' New Album, Representing Houston & Lionel Richie's Advice

Grown Folks Music chatted with Kam Franklin, lead vocalist for the Houston-based band The Suffers. The Suffers have rocked crowds all over the globe and wowed David Letterman. Franklin talked about the commitment of the band to stay together, invaluable advice from Lionel Richie, bridging the gap with fellow Houstonians Bun B and Paul Wall and how Hurricane Harvey influenced a song on the new album; Everything Here, out NOW [preview it below]. Read and enjoy.

A Legend Speaks

GFM: What's been missing from the R&B, soul and funk game is the band. Tell us how The Suffers came together and how and why you choose to remain a band.

The Suffers: We actually had all been in different band for a while. We were doing things like reggae, ska, punk rock and a bunch of other things. We all had these fellow musicians around town that we admired and that we wanted to play with, but life kind of does what it's going to do and it was always, 'Yeah we should make music some time together. We should jam out together.' But, nobody ever did it. It took probably about 10 years before someone finally-- someone being the bass player Adam and the keyboardist Patrick Kelly-- was like, 'Look we've all got a little bit of free time. We wanna do this project where we do rocksteady and reggae covers of popular music. One of the first covers we ever did was "Every Little Step" by Bobby Brown. The reason we decided to do it as a band is because that's what we all started off doing. We were all marching band, orchestra and choir nerds. Being in a band was something all of us had always dreamed about. But, as far as making a living being in a band and touring the world being in a band [goes] none of us really knew how to sustain that as far as a full-time, everyday kind of thing was concerned. None of us had real examples of people that were doing that. We're here in Houston so a lot of amazing musicians come from here that have done a lot session work or have worked as solo artists, but as far as bands were concerned we didn't really have any type of examples. But we knew that we wanted to play together so that was the focus-- figuring out how we could work together and how we could get stronger as a group and how we can write better songs. Instead of focusing on success and being famous and all that stuff we just focused on writing good music and getting to know each other as artists more.

As far as maintaining the band-- one of the first people to tell us to stay together as long as possible was Lionel Richie. We played a show with him at the Moody Theater where they tape Austin City Limits a few years ago. He came up to us after the show and introduced himself. He was really kind [and] really supportive. He was like, 'Y'all sound great. Stay together as long as a possible. People are gonna try to break y'all up, but coming from somebody who was in a band forever [The Commodores] , it's the best thing that will ever happen to all y'all. They're gonna try. They're gonna try to make you go solo or they're going to try to tell you that you're not good enough. Don't listen to any of them. There's a reason they want y'all. Keep that in mind and know your worth.' I was like, 'Wow.' To get that advice from someone at that level that didn't know us, and we have seen him since then, but we took that advise to heart and he was right. [It was] us staying together, us choosing to get better together and us treating this band not only like a business but like a family. Acknowledging that if one of us is having issues or going through something, [then] all of us are going through something has allowed us to reach this place that none of us ever thought we would get to. I think it's even more meaningful to us because we got here together.

H-Town in the House

GFM: Talk about what it means to represent Houston as you perform all over the world.

The Suffers: It means everything to us because it's something that we never thought we would get to do. So many artists have come out of here-- from Beyonce' to Lyle Lovett to even the new ones like Travis Scott or Fat Tony and Maxwell Kreme who aren't really new to people that are from here, but they've been poppin' off. We didn't have that example of a band that started from the bottom that didn't get signed to a label. For a long time people would tell us, 'You're not gonna be anything unless you move to New York or LA or one of the big industry cities.' For us, we were like, 'Why do we have to do that? That doesn't make any sense. What's so wrong about our city to where we can't find success from living here?' We almost kind of did it like a,'You know what? We're gonna show y'all.'

Every time that we hit a stage we ask the audience, 'What's the name of the band? Where are we from?' We've done this from Japan, to South America to Australia. Having people that barely speak your language say your band name and the city that you come from-- for me, it makes me want to work harder so that the next round of musicians that come out of Houston, or Texas or whatever don't feel as discouraged. I want them to know that the options are limitless. They might have to work a little harder because the industry isn't as set up here as it is in some of those more pronounced cities, but if they're wiling to do the work the opportunity will eventually follow them and find them. It all of a sudden will make sense. All the work will make sense.

Bridging the Gap

GFM: How did Bun B and Paul Wall get involved with the album?

The Suffers: [Laughs] We first met Bun I wanna say maybe almost four, maybe five years ago. That's not the first time that I met him, but the first time the band worked with him. It was for tenth anniversary of a very popular sneaker store down in Houston that's also based in Brooklyn called Premium Goods. The idea was to have the band to perform for the anniversary party and then Bun B come out as a surprise and do three of four of his songs. For that event we learned "Draped Up", "International Players Anthem" and "Get Throwed". It was such a surreal experience for us with all of us being lifelong Houstonians that grew up on UGK and respected him immensely. It almost felt like we were graduating as local artists were concerned into this new circle of OG rappers that work in a realm of greats that I really haven't seen in other areas of hip hop.

From there we actually ended up doing a festival, maybe six months later, called Free Press Summer Festival that's no longer around, but it was in Houston. They had this event called Welcome To Houston. The year prior it had been nine famous rappers that were from Houston that came together for one night to perform, but they performed with a DJ. It was Bun B, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Geto Boys, Lil' Keke, Devin The Dude, Mike Jones and Lil' Flip. Those dudes did their thing, but then the next year they said wanted to go bigger so they were like, 'Let's get a band.' Originally the festival was like, 'Oh yeah, we'll put a band together for you.' Bun B was like, 'No, I wanna use The Suffers. They know my music.' When it came to everybody else those rappers had no idea who we were. We'd just played [David] Letterman for the first time but playing in front of an audience like Letterman and playing in front an audience like all these rappers... unless you're being played on the radio, a lot of times they're not going to know who you are. That was the case.  A lot of them originally was like, 'Oh yeah, the backing band.' I'm like, 'Wait, no.  We're learning all your music by heart. We have our own jobs. We're not doing this out of this being a fun thing. We're doing this for the challenge and for the opportunity [laughs].'  Some of them were a little confused, but Bun, Paul Wall, Z-Ro and Devin especially were super adamant about making sure that not only we got their music right, but about making us feel included as peers and just as a backing band. Since then, Bun has been this quiet mentor for me and the band whenever we cross paths.  We've performed together quite a few times since then and every time he blows our minds with how amazing his is.

Video Credit: FPTV News

The Conductor

With Paul, he's one of these people that is always everywhere. He's always somewhere working... performing, networking, whatever, and he has all these businesses. Getting that face time with him sometimes is really hard, but he promised, 'I'm going to make it work. I'm going to make it work.' When it came to the album both of them were like, 'Okay, let me hear the music and I'll write some verses.' I said 'I love y'all so much as artists. But, the intent here is not for y'all to rap.' What I love about most about both Bun and Paul Wall is who they are as people and their personality. No matter what they're doing, they can get a crowd excited... no matter what the circumstances are. When we came to Paul's studio for him to do his part, I told him I wanted him to kind of serve as that role that Bernie Mac was on those early Kanye [West] albums where it was kind of like an interlude, but also like a palate cleanser for what was coming next. Paul serves as the introduction to the album, and he serves also as the, 'Y'all doin' alright? Anybody need anything else? Can I help you?' Just kind of checking in on you to make sure you're ready for what's about to come next. He serves as the conductor for the shift change in the emotion of the music on the album.

"Sexual Chocolate Style"

As for Bun and Bun singing on the album, we were just kind of jammin' around when we were working on a set that we had coming up with him. I think we were working on "Get Throwed" or something and he just started playing around and singing on the mic as the guys were playing this kind of "Sexual Chocolate" style music. He was singing to his wife Queenie. Usually when you see Queenie, she has a very solid look. You don't really know if she's having a good time, a bad time, or what. She doesn't usually share that much with people she doesn't know. But, when Bun started singing to her, you just see the biggest smile on her face. She's laughing and he's laughing, but he's committing to this. I said, 'I know it sounds really stupid, but I want you to sing on this album and not in a jokey way. I want you to commit to this.' He was like, 'You really don't want me to rap'?' I said, 'No, I want you singing.' So, he's singing and we added all of these... I think they reminded me of the Isaac-Hayes-Blaxploitation film soundtracks where it was just the over-dramatic female background vocals and this baritone voice would come through. He, at first was like, 'Are you serious?' I said, 'I swear to God on my mother I am serious.' He came through and did two passes of it and that was it.

Me and my home girl came through and added all of the background vocals after the band did their thing. We had this dude come in and play some really crazy jazz flute on it. I just wanted it to be obnoxiously good. I know that what we do makes us feel good, but when people listen to this album, and when they listen to that interlude especially with Bun, I want them to feel the exact way that I do when I see him performing. It's not so much about what he's saying as much as it is who he is. You can sense that aura on the record like, 'I don't know why I'm kind of uncomfortable, but also really excited at the time.' That's what he does to people. We're so happy to know that they respect and appreciate us enough to come through and give us their time, but the feeling is mutual. Whenever we have the opportunity to work with either of them we always try our best to make it work.

Silly Lockdown Songs/"After The Storm"

GFM: Hurricane Harvey occurred during the making of this album. How did that influence the album?

The Suffers: Hurricane Harvey was awful. Luckily, no one in the band had any severe damage. Somehow the studios both miraculously kept up so we were able to finish and record on time. At times it made things harder. Your mind is focused on what's happening out there... trying to figure out what you can do. But, at the same time it was a much-needed distraction after weeks of cleaning and volunteering and going a little stir crazy-- 'cause that's one of the many things that happens after a storm like that.

If you don't have something to do, the boredom gets crazy. I'm talking little kids at your grandparents' house with no internet. 'No, you can't go outside.' Just boredom, so you've got to make up your own games kind of stuff. Luckily, one of my home girls was in town and she was like, 'Hey, come over. We can drink. We can smoke. Whatever.' We both forgot that the curfew had taken effect in our neighborhood in well. She's a musician as well. She appears all through the album as well helping out with the vocals. She had a piano at her house. One of those OG organs that are actually called Fun Machines. We went Facebook Live and we went on YouTube and made these really songs about keeping people happy during the hurricane. We were drunk, so they ranged from songs about how the weed man in the hood will still deliver during a hurricane so keep your head up, and we wrote this song called "After The Storm". People that haven't heard this song on the record and just see the name automatically assume that it's this deep, sad, song about Hurricane Harvey. But, it's actually about trying to have sex and get lucky during Hurricane Harvey. Hurricanes and most natural disasters send people into this state of craze where they're alarmed and they're scared. A lot of times they want to do nothing but hook up with somebody to feel safer and get really drunk because they're usually pretty sad about what's happening. This song was about a fictional neighbor and making a move on said neighbor because he's cute and lives next door. Just saying, 'Hey, I wanna see you after the storm. I know it might seem like a fling 'cause it's a hurricane. But, no really, I wanna see you after the storm.'

When I presented it to the band at first I think they thought I was a little crazy. It sounds great and it ended up working out really well. The sounds that we use on that particular song are so different... just a different vibe from what we usually make, but because it's still us it's cohesive and falls in line with everything else happening on the album. While Harvey was really, really sh***y, I am happy at the creative outlet that came from it.

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

The Suffers: Grown folks music is timeless music. Music that no matter what year it comes out-- be it something that came out in '77 or something that came out in 2007-- it makes you feel a type of way. It takes you to another place. I feel like if I listen to Frankie Beverly and Maze's "Happy Feelings", I think about things that just bring me joy. If I listen to "For The Good Times" by Al Green, I think about the last thing that broke my heart. With our music I think about things that I'm grateful for that really aren't that bad like bills or people that don't appreciate me, or jobs in the past that didn't appreciate me, but knowing that if I bet on myself I'm going to be just fine. Grown folks music is that music that gives you that break that you need when life isn't going the way that you would like it go. But, you know if you turn on a song and you kind of close your eyes and just get into it for a second, you're going to be fine.

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In Memoriam: Leon Ndugu Chancler (1952-2018)


If you don't know the name Ndugu Chancler you certainly know his drum sound like this one...

Or his Grammy Nominated production work like on this one...

Simply put through his work with George Benson, Stanley Clarke, The Crusaders, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Laws, Thelonious Monk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Patrice Rushen, Santana, Frank Sinatra, Donna Summer, The Temptations, Tina Turner, Weather Report, Erykah Badu and many more you know Ndugu Chancler.

Funk, Rock, Jazz, R&B, Country... Music. Ndugu Chancler was called upon to lay down the groove and boy did he lay it down. All the way down. Need an example? Watch and listen how he sets the entire pace on Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer". A young drummer would do well to spend a lot of time working toward this level of Groovesmanship.

With a reputation as one of the kindest musicians you could ever meet, Ndugu's work as a life-long educator( he was a graduate of California State, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Music Education) is very easy to understand. Check out his work here at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

It goes without saying that the sound that Ndugu Chancler provided to countless seminal recordings has been a vital part of the musical landscape for decades. This point should not be overlooked and in Ndugu's absence should serve as a constant source of inspiration for musicians to work to achieve a commitment to musical excellence the example of which Ndugu left us. Examine the legacy closely. As I often say follow the breadcrumbs. They are so easy to follow now more than ever. But don't spend your entire life online, get out and apply the lessons learned from a Ndugu Chancler to your own work and that is how we honor a legacy in word and deed.

Rest well.


Number One R&B Hits of the '80s

The Number One R&B Hits Of the '80s begin with Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" and end the decade with "Tender Lover" from Babyface. A pretty representative pair of bookends - The Disco Sound of "Rock With You" and the Electro-Funk underpinnings married to Pop Songcraft sensibilities of "Tender Lover". The decade saw a lot of changes in technology and culture that influenced the music.

This playlist simply seeks to highlight for historical purposes all of the songs that rose to the position of number one on the Billboard R&B Charts as a top-level peek into what was happening musically during the decade. We know that there are numerous musical acts and musical movements that are not reflected herein. 223 different songs by 128 different artists(a few songs and artists are missing from our playlist because: Spotify). We invite you to take a moment and consider who hit number one, who didn't and perhaps who hit number one never to be heard from again?

Please know we're not placing a premium on topping the chart. There are a number of factors as we know that contribute to a song acquiring enough mind-share to become as ubiquitous as a number one song becomes. More than anything this view of what was popular can be the entry point for a number of interesting conversations.

1. We all know about the dominance of Michael Jackson during the decade of Thriller but looking at the R&B charts Michael had some stiff competition from another Jackson... Freddie.

2. Noticeably absent from the number one spot on the R&B charts during the decade are The Pointer Sisters. Their success crossed over for certain but why didn't it cross back?

3. Speaking of crossover... from the crossover to the R&B charts side of the game the only representers for the decade are Hall & Oates, George Michael, and Michael McDonald as part of his duet with Patti Labelle. Discuss.

4. The period from 1987 - 1989 was incredibly competitive as well as has the most representation of new and different artists taking the top spot, what may have spurred on that amount of diversity?

5. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" has the distinction of holding the top spot on the R&B Charts for the longest during the decade at ten weeks. The two songs that closely trail Marvin are "That Girl" by Stevie Wonder and "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson both holding the top spot for nine weeks. This occurred between 1982 and 1983 as the decade progressed we see less and less of this type of multiweek domination by songs. Any thoughts as to why?

These are just a few items up for discussion. Feel free to use this post and playlist in your own discussions around the web and at home as well as hit us up in the comments section with your thoughts, questions etc.,

Please subscribe to this and all over our playlists by going here.



Are You Sufficiently Outraged???

I'd like to forget the above clip. I think we all would who witnessed it first hand would like to forget it. I know what Bro. Lionel was going for but after a while it went beyond the cringe. Different time, or same time? In the spirit of Richie that mid-1980's time was an outrageous of the "Ye Let's Have Un Festive Time" variety. Now? Everyone's outraged and they don't know why, you should've seen the media as the funked the fly or something to that effect.Read more

GFM Playlist 8/10/14 - 8/16/14

Trying something out new here... if you missed any of the action on our always active FB page we wanted to try out a week in review packaged like a radio show (minus the commercials or a few if you don't have Spotify Premium). The running time will mirror a morning or mid-day slot and the music... well the music can only be described as Grown! Take us along with you to work, or press play for an afternoon or evening at the crib!

New Releases This Week: March 27

Check out some of the new music released this week:


Lionel Richie: Tuskegee

Get it at iTunes


Madonna: MDNA (Deluxe Edition)

Get it at iTunes


Macy Gray: Covered

Get it at iTunes


Incognito: Surreal

Get it at iTunes


Take 6: One

Get it at iTunes


Clay Aiken: Steadfast

Get it at iTunes








"The Vanguard Series" Celebrates " The Commodores"

Formed by a bunch of funk-loving friends at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, the Commodores became one of the major crossover acts of the 70s and launched the career of the biggest male solo star of the 80s. At the early end of the trend for self-contained funk bands, the group, consisting of Lionel Richie on saxophone, Walter Orange on drums, William King on trumpet, Ronald LaPread on bass, Milan Williams (who died in July 2006) on keyboards and Thomas McClary on guitar, found success principally playing local gigs in Alabama before scoring a major coup by successfully auditioning to serve as the warm-up band for the Jackson Five's 1971 tour.Read more

Chuckii Booker Interview w/ Jarrell Mason

One of the best facets of the You Tube phenomenon has been discovery. It is in the spirit of discovery that from time to time we will bring you those "jewels" that we discover while traveling around the You Tube Universe. Such is the wonderful series of interviews that Jarrell Mason has compiled in conjunction with over the years with pivotal members of the New Jack Swing Era. Enjoy! Read more


Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones to remake "We Are The World" for Haiti

Source: Guardian UK

Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones will record a new version of We Are the World to benefit Haiti. The veteran stars are honouring the song's 25th anniversary, releasing their tribute alongside new charity tracks by Simon Cowell, and Jay-Z and Bono – who have revealed that they are bringing along Rihanna.

Like the original 1985 recording, which raised money for famine relief in Africa, the new We Are the World will consist of both a song and a video. Organisers are asking artists to stay in Los Angeles for an extra night after the Grammy awards. According to Billboard, Richie and Jones hope to include Usher, Natalie Cole and John Legend, as well as many Grammy nominees.

The late Michael Jackson, one of the song's co-authors, is also expected to be integrated into the project.

Continue reading this article.

lionelrichie_justgo Screencap

Lionel Richie f/Akon - "Just Go"

So, I missed the performance of this on American Idol, but I've heard a lot of good things about it. The pairing of Lionel with Akon initially scared me, but it's really not that bad. What do you think about the single and the album?

Official Website