Hootie Mack was the second studio LP from Bell Biv DeVoe. Circa 1989 – 90, the alumni of New Edition (including Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant) began a hot streak of solo (and in BBD’s case, spinoff-group) hits. BBD’s debut LP Poison was multi-platinum and yielded several substantive chart hits, including at the crossover level. By working with a combination of hip-hop friendly producers, BBD crafted a hybrid hip-hop/R&B sound that fit in perfectly with the nascent new jack swing movement in urban music.
Hootie Mack attempted to recreate the formula, but with mixed results. Strangely, none of the original collaborators on the Poison LP (Hank Shocklee, Elliot “Freeze” Straite, Timmy Gatling) were found here. Early lead single “Gangsta” (which attempted to build buzz in late ’92) failed to make the final cut of the album’s 11 songs (cassette purchasers at the time had to settle for 10). The LP lead-off song here is “Nickel”, a pro-pot ode that owed something to the then-recent success of folks like Cypress Hill, Redman and Dr. Dre. The basketball-themed “Above the Rim” was a nice up-tempo number, but not quite in “Poison” territory.
In fact, none of the songs here are. “Ghetto Booty” was a thematic sibling to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”; “Straight from the Back” is a barely-coded paean to Kama Sutra sensibilities. Not that it makes them bad records, per se, but on the previous album the guys limited the horn-dog carrying on to “Do Me”. Unchecked libido is definitely the driving lyrical force on this album.
It is perhaps ironic, then, that the biggest hit here ended up being the more subdued-in-comparison ballad “Something in Your Eyes” (penned and produced by Babyface.) It’s a touching nod, as is “The Situation”, which offers the story of a former after-concert “conquest” showing up a few years later with child in tow. But those moments are fleeting on “Hootie Mack.”
By the time of this LP’s release in 1993, the floodgates had been opened with a glut of R&B vocal acts that followed in the wake of BBD (including BBD protégés Boyz II Men) and while 1993 was a record year for R&B singles hitting the pop top 10, Hootie Mack only barely went gold, a sharp drop from the sales heights of Poison.
Despite its faults, Hootie Mack is a nice time-capsule for urban music of the time. Enthusiasts of early 90s R&B or New Edition completists may cop this on reflex, but the uninitiated should definitely cop Poison first.