NEW EDITION Michael Bivins
Monarch: So, of course at Monarch Magazine, we really want to thank you. We want to ask you a few questions about New Edition and get your feel on the New Edition biopic that’s coming out. I can’t believe it’s coming out in a couple of weeks.
Mike: Right, right. Well, I actually think it’s going to be a really great story. I haven’t been able to see one of the nights in full, but I think it’s a testament to brotherhood and everything that we’ve been through on and off stage. I think it will inspire other groups. Some of the turns and twists of the movie that’s going to be ripping at the heart are going make them have a different respect for us in that way because of a lot of internal things and a lot of strangers coming in and out of our life, that made it difficult at times.
Monarch: That’s very powerful, that really is. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about when the group first started out. Being one of the founding members of New Edition, was music something you personally always wanted to do?
Mike: Um, well, my connection to music was playing it outside at the park or going to the block party. I always just thought that was the cool part…we get to hear the latest records and everyone is all dressed up and just dancing and just hanging around. I think my aspiration to being a recording artist started with my god-brothers. I was actually in a couple of groups with a couple of older kids before New Edition and what they were putting in front of me to do I just couldn’t do. But I also told them that I knew someone that was way better than me and that was Bobby. And so Bobby replaced me in the group with my god-brothers and we were in that group for two years and we just felt as though we didn’t want to be around them. They were too old for us. We ended up breaking out of that group on purpose, to start New Edition. So, to be honest with you, the drive at the end of the day came really through Bobby because I would watch him in talent shows. So, he was kind of like the first stages getting toward New Edition. That’s not even in the movie. They didn’t even get that deep with the story.
Monarch: And I’m sure his motivation really trickled down to all the rest of the group, too.
Mike: Yeah, yeah! And the thing is we played ball together so we had this um fascination trade-off like Bob didn’t get a lot of playing time in the basketball league, he would sit on the bench. Ricky always dressed up in new sneakers and headbands, so he was looking up to me. And then you know, I was just the lead singer or star on the court and then when we would go to the talent show, I would just look at him like man how can you just get out there in front of people. Like man, who does that. So, Ricky was kind of the brother that slid in because for some reason we were always together, the three of us. We all hung with different people but we found ourselves with the three of us. Three different damn personalities too, but for some reason, the three of us meshed together and that’s really the foundation of New Edition. Bobby, Ricky, and myself.
Monarch: That’s really cool. When the group was first formed, who were the group’s greatest supporters?
Mike: Um, the audience. We didn’t have no real adults that did anything when we first started. We was doing everything on our own. It wasn’t until some months later we ran into Brook and asked him to help us and mentor us and then another gentleman named Travis, we met him through Ricky and Ralph. So, really it was kind of just us, no one really knew where we were going and what we were doing because we didn’t know where we were going and what we were doing our damn selves. We were just doing something and we kind of found our way as we were going along. It was a smart decision at an early age. We did something right because our first talent show we won $10, we was rich. We knew to split it up $2.50 apiece. If we would have kept that damn attitude we would have been living behind gates and all kinds of crazy stuff. If we would have just stayed hardcore to the bone, we would have been alright.
Monarch: I think that shows that you know the success of the group and you guys coming together was really meant to be. That at that young age, you guys knew somehow what to do or at least had the motivation to do it.
Mike: You know what, sometimes I think about what I would say in the next interview. I’ve been trying to find the next cool thing to say. But you know what I would say to you in this way…it’s why the New Kids [On the Block] made all that money, why the Rolling Stones and U2 make all that money, because those are the epitome of groups that make real money. And then I said to myself, our purpose in the music business wasn’t to be five kids from the hood that became rich and popular, our story was to show you how black youth from single-parent homes can think to do something, live a dream, right. Go through things, break apart, come back together, become one of the world’s most popular group where you know everyone’s name individually, And I think where we are present time is probably what’s going to make this movie so dope, is cause 90 percent of what’s in the movie or 80 I should say, we never talked about it to people. So, when you watch the movie and you hear the song, you reminisce on what you saw, but when you walk out of the theater or when you turn the TV off at the crib, you’re going to talk about what you didn’t know. And I think our purpose was higher than money. It was just to inspire and to show us what we really mean to the world and to the music business abroad. That we were really meant to become friends, because we could have never saw this 33 years ago. We always thought this moment would have been an album. The platform that we’re on now, you normally hear from the record label, “Yeah, the guys make a great record and put out a album and sell 10 million albums to be the biggest group in the world.” Well, guess what, we’re the biggest word of mouth of the world right now with no record out.
Monarch: And that’s true, yes, now that’s something to think about for real.
Mike: So, it’s bigger than the music. It’s way bigger than the music.
Monarch: So, I think, I mean that pretty much sums it up in terms of the movie. I think that when people walk away from the movie, it won’t be just about the music but they’ll also have a message and they’ll also get a deeper look into the dynamic of New Edition. I think that’s awesome.
Mike: Yeah, and the fact that we could go through so much and still kept the train moving, and the music still kept coming out and no matter what they heard, you could never see it on stage because once we hit the stage, it was just all of that stuff was put to the side, we went to work and handled business, which was the best thing we could do.
Monarch: Alright, I have some other questions, but this conversation is really good. It really is. So, what are some of the strongest assets you personally brought to the group and how do you think you professionally evolved over the years?
Mike: You know somebody that always talks in third party. I don’t even know how to begin that because I don’t want to say my name first. But it’s funny that you asked me that because if you would have asked any other person that question, they would have started right off with their name. Um, let me see. What I think I bring personally, I think, I think I’m the connection between the streets, fashion, and strength…I think what I learned from basketball, I actually put into the group except if I’m in the locker room and we’re losing by 10 points, then this real big tall dude and he bounces the ball and he blocks the ball… and if I feel he’s playing soft when I was 10 years old, I would go up to him and put my finger in his face and say you playing like a chump, you playing like a girl and you playing like a wussy, and he would look at me and he would give me the respect because I was a really good point guard and I think what I learned is that sometimes when I probably went like that at the group members it didn’t come off athletic. It probably came off like I was coming at them. But I think at times I played the…role in this group because I didn’t know any other way to get up under his skin without going at him like we was trying to win the championship. So, for a long time, I wouldn’t bite my tongue. That’s why, when you look at the film, every time you see a fighting scene, it’s me and Bobby. I was the fighter all the time. It took me a minute to realize that I had the right thoughts, it’s just my approach was wrong. I couldn’t talk to them like a ball player I had to talk them like yo this is my lead singer and money he might not like the way I’m coming at him especially if I ain’t singing the way you singing. So, you have to have a little respect and poise. And I think that’s what I brought to the table. I put the “no fear” in them. Like it don’t matter if we don’t get along, ain’t nobody, you not taking off with nobody. Not the people that work for us or the people we be around. We going to maintain an orthopraxy stance at all times….We going to represent where we’re from, regardless of what these songs is doing. As men, we’re going to continue to be perceived as men, and smart men. You know, to the best of our ability cause we learned that way. So, I think, that’s what I brought. Just awareness and strength.
Monarch: So obviously not just a singer, but I know you’re a manager and so what are some other ways you’ve been able to expand your personal career over the years and how did your experience with New Edition contribute to that?
Mike: I think the guys in the group, I am surrounded by a lot of talent, A lot of personality, a lot of grit. You know, a lot of natural talent. And then, you actually learn business by not doing what it is. Because if somebody gets you once and you pick up on it, then you prevent it from getting you twice. So, everything we’ve done been through is just like in the school of music and on job training so when you decide to step out on your own, it should be nothing you never seen or been through, that prevents you from succeeding because the best teaching is something you live. Especially if you pay attention, because the writing was always on the wall, it was never like a mystery to me. You know a damn show, you get $50 and it’s sold out…that just don’t add up, it just don’t add up. So, it’s a lot of things that was just right there clear. And um, that’s what you can take from New Edition. A great blueprint. That’s probably going to inspire another kid who typically might have wanted to be a rapper last week, but after watching the movie someone is going to say, well maybe instead of trying to rhyme, maybe we should go do a singing group because there’s nothing for them to see. So, so I think that’s what you learn from New Edition. And in the bigger scope of it, that’s what I was able to take from it, is the blueprint. And then bringing it home, I think the blueprint is not only all of us doing our own solo careers and our business. It’s going to inspire some other kids. Now they have something to look at that’s not presently the big thing or the in thing to do, groups of four or five men singing to the girls and all like that, is not what they’re watching on television. It doesn’t even exit. It’s not even a teen group for the young black girls to look at. You know what I mean. They used to say “I like such and such because they got light eyes.” Like it doesn’t even exist. So, that’s what I get out of it, learning. The blueprint is the trials and tribulations of New Edition, but more importantly, to be successful is to have an idea that fills the voids. A void-filler puts you in a lane by yourself. And anything I did away from New Edition, I just filled the void. Like 702 was before Destiny’s Child. Missy was just writing songs before she came out with her songs. She was a writer, so, if you fill voids, at least give 50 percent chance of winning. And then it continues with yourself. Does that make sense?
Monarch: Yes, it does. Thank you. I really want to thank you Mike.