The mid 90s was an magical time to be a fan of R&B music. Especially during the year of 1993 when you had talented black musicians such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Janet Jackson, Prince and many others dominating the charts with chart topping hits and stellar albums. This was also a flourishing time for R&B groups(which is pretty extinct today) to emerge and branch out into super-stardom. Jodeci when they debuted in the early 90s brought the bad boy era into R&B with their expletive grooves and hip hop swagger.
Whereas Jodeci had the streets and also the hip hop crowd. Boyz II Men on the other hand represented more of the grown and sexy side which is total opposite of Jodeci. But the beauty of it all was that none of these acts sounded identical, they had their own trademark sound with their own lead singers whom stood out indifferently. But in 1993 Uncle Luke(whom was a rap star in his own group 2 Live Crew) introduced a young trio who provided the perfect balance of sensitive heart melting messages with seductive love-making anthems. This group would be H.Town.
The group which consisted of twins Dino and Shazzam Conner and close friend Darryl “G.I.” Jackson decided to come together and attempt at gaining success in the R&B world. Performing in small clubs, venues and shows throughout the South, The lucked up when Luther Campbell(Whom was looking to launch his label Uncle Luke Records) discovered them and signed them to a lucrative deal. It was what the 3 have dreamed of and it was a worthy investment for Luke. Luke signing H-Town was a surprise because their were concerns about their image coming to play. Jodeci were already pushing the envelope with their sexual imagery and Boyz II Men done had the grown and sexy lane as stated earlier. But H-Town led by the very talented Dino Conner was talented enough to balance both of their styles and allowing H-Town to stay in a league of it’s on without sounding like carbon copies. This is where Fever For Da Flavor was created.
The album had great up tempo cuts to compliment that New Jack flavor that was trending at the time. But it was the album’s slow cuts that captivating H-Town into the mainstream within their first album. Luke knew these guys were talented so he pushed them also to make songs that were gonna appeal to the people “whom be knocking the boots” while making love. Their biggest hit to date titled Knockin the Boots shot up the R&B charts at #1 and turned them into sex symbols. Seeing the formula working, Luke continued to have the trio push out two other slow baby makers into singles titled Baby I Wanna and Lick You Up. The song’s didn’t catch wind like Knockin the boots but the album was already successful so the investment was well paid off.
When H-Town started to work on their 2nd album titled Beggin for Dark, They wanted to take a more serious direction this time around. Their first single Emotions would possibly be as deep and personal as Dino would reflect on instances in his life where he felt true love from the time he entered out the womb to where he finds someone he feels very compatible with. It showed that the group was willing to go into a mature route with Beggin For Dark, But then label pressure according to the group members in an interview with Donnie Simpson came to play. The label wanted more sexual songs reminisce of their biggest hit Knockin Da Boots. The group felt conflicted to where they were basically selling out themselves and wanted off the label. Despite the Creative differences, Beggin for Dark was released on November 14th 1994 under displeasure of the group. The majority of the songs on Beggin For Dark were very sexual and it seems at times that the group felt or looked uneasy at performing them.
Fan perception to the new album was often positive but the group still felt that they sold out to play the game. Fed up with the politics of the music business, The 3 members were probably one of the first to really come out in Natural Television and speak out against label politics in a fashion where they would come out like prisoners. Taking a page from Prince whom wrote Slave on his cheek because he felt like a slave to record labels, H-Town took viewers by surprise by pulling this stunt and possibly could have risked being blackballed. The group claimed also that they didn’t get a push by the label that they felt was needed in making the record work.
After two years of grueling negotiations and fighting to get off the label. The group recharged their batteries and claimed to went through a unspiritual awakening. They started to pay attention to domestic violence issues that’s been happening involving women around the world and they based their album based off that. They started off with a good start with their hit single A Thin Line Between Love and Hate(A cover of the classic The Persuaders track) landing on the R&B charts for the first time since Emotions. The album when released was met with high regards with the group taking note on serious issues involving innocent women. This was the album that H-Town really wanted to make and showcase their growth.
Tragedy would strike not only H-Town as a group but also the Music world as January 28, 2003, Dino and his girlfriend were killed in an Automobile accident. Dino was just leaving the studio and was riding passenger side alongside his girlfriend; the vehicle was suddenly struck head first by a SUV running a red light thus killing Dino and his girlfriend Teshya Rae Weinsen. This is another one of the strange deaths that occurred among the music industry that remains unsolved. The album titled Imitations of Life was released a year later and could have been the album that really brought H-Town back in the forefront. Dino’s prowess behind his vocals and his true talents shines throughout. Especially on the song The Day I Die which is eerie considering he died shortly after.
The remaining group members would continue to soldier along, touring, putting out albums and collaborating with Jodeci to keep their name and most importantly Dino’s legacy alive. They may not see big time success like they did in the 90s and most likely that’s due to the fact that their front-man is deceased. But there’s no denying the fact that H-Town would go down as possibly one of the best groups to have done it in such little time. They may have not crossed into the mainstream like many of their peers or won any MTV awards, But fans of true soul music will forever hold their name anonymous as one of the best groups to have ever done it. R.I.P. Dino Conner