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Published on October 1st, 2014 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


TROOP: “We Got Our Old Energy Back!”

Please introduce for me the members of TROOP…

The members of TROOP are as follows: Reggie Warren, Rodney Benford, John “Jon Jon” Harreld and Steven Russell Harts.

First things first, can we please address the “Elephant in the Room,” in order to get it out of the way right off the bat…In light of certain events surrounding your friend/group-mate Allen McNeil’s permanent departure from the fold, can you all please shed some light on what actually all has transpired between you all?

Well, after making a commitment to really make this historical comeback, we realized that we were on two different pages in life and decided to move on in separate directions.

Okay now that that’s been dealt with…Well, a lot of people may have believed that this year’s surprise, and very well received might I add, appearance on the BET Awards was your “official” resurgence, but technically it was last year’s “Forever,” produced by Hit-Boy, that was expected to be your “reunion” single — Why do you all feel that this particular song didn’t quite ignite your return to form, because, truth be told, it was a very strong/solid record?

Yes, the BET Awards solidified the return, and you see the energy between the four of us?! We got our old energy back! The single “Forever” couldn’t work because it had bad energy connected to it. So much (so) that even being produced by the hottest producer in the business couldn’t help us! *Laughter*

With that being said, it’s been well over sixteen long years since the masses last heard from you all collectively — Where exactly have you all been? And, what all have you all been up to, both personally and professionally speaking, during this lengthy musical hiatus?

We’ve been growing as men, as intellects, being fathers and husbands…We’ve been living life. Steve has become one of the hottest songwriters/producers in the business, writing for some of today’s hottest artists…

Yes, I’ve written songs that most people have no idea I was a part of! *Laughs again* Like “Take You Down” “Free Run” (and) “Up 2 You”/Chris Brown, “No Air” Jordin Sparks. I’ve worked on artists; such as, B2K,  TGT, Tyrese, Charlie Wilson, David Archuleta, just to name a few. Rodney And Reggie are chefs, Jon has his own radio show and he is recording his solo album as well.

Why did you all opt to take so much time off between records?

Well, we never chose to take so long…It’s just we were so separated that it took time to get together.

In having said that, what was it about NOW, in 20-14 specifically, that prompted you all to decide to make this “comeback?”

Well, we knew now would be perfect (because) there’s nothing in R&B that makes us irrelevant. Besides, this is the perfect time to finish what we started!

How has not only the business of music in general, but, even more-so, you all collectively either changed and/or evolved since your whole inception into music?

We all have evolved into businessmen. We all have had to learn the hard way what it means to respect your hard work. The music business changed us from boys to men.

Longevity, what do you all attribute yours to?

We attribute our longevity to staying alive and healthy, not ever giving up even when others have written you off, and keeping our ear to the streets…Always understanding what the people need and want.

In addition to your future endeavors as/with TROOP, both Steven and Jon Jon are also gearing up for solo albums as well, correct? So, can you all tell me about these specific upcoming projects?

Well, Jon is in the studio recording his first solo album now, (so) we’re all very excited about that! Steve — me — I released my first solo album, close to two years ago, called Steve Russell/SO Random. I just released my second solo album called Steven Russell Harts/The Wedding Singer.

…My album [Jon] is an album dedicated to soul and true R&B music, to the likes of Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass.

[Steve] my new album, The Wedding Singer, is a love album. It’s a body of songs put together to represent love, falling in love, understanding love, and respecting love.

Now Steven, you, of course, are also well known for your outside works as part of The Underdogs collective — What are your future plans and/or goals for/with this production team?

Well, I had 16 great years with The Underdogs, (but) I’m at a place in my life now where I have to make sure that my main focus and hard work is going towards building a future and a foundation for my children. I created The Motel Music Media, a multi-media entertainment company, which is my own song and music production team. I still write with The Underdogs from time to time…It’s still all love.

Do you all have any other outside/additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?

Yes, [Rodney] I totally focused on my career as (a) chef and owner of my own food business.

[Reggie] I’m also investing my future in the cooking industry.

[Jon] I’m gonna continue to record also (a) record (singing) gospel.

[Steve] Well, I compete and raise Birmingham Roller pigeons, which are pigeons that do backward somersaults toward the ground, only to come out and do it again!!! *Laughter* So, I’ll be doing this until the end of me, as well as teaching. I want to become a great teacher and historian.

On a more serious note, are you all happy with the current state of R&B? And, as an extension to that question, when it comes to the overall sound-scape of today’s current music trends, where exactly do you all “fit in?”

We don’t exactly fit into today’s music…What we are is an extension to today’s sound, a reach back to a sound that is greatly missed in today’s R&B. There is no current state of R&B, (so) there’s not really too much to talk about. There’s plenty of room in today’s R&B market for some great music!

To date, what has been your biggest career moment(s)?

When we met the guys from New Edition for the first time, and when we met Michael Jackson! Also, seeing ourselves on top of the charts, on top of everyone else in the world, feels amazing as well.

Looking ahead, say five or even ten years from now, where do you all see yourselves?

Ten years from now…We probably will still be doing music just because we love it. We plan on spending the rest of our lives living it to the fullest.

As for the immediate, what’s next for TROOP?

Well, next is our episode of [TV One’s] Unsung [it actually aired on Wednesday August 27th]! Finally, the world will get to hear our story! Then, tour the world!

Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?

We want to mention that we love our fans, the fans that have stayed by our side through thick and thin…We promise never to disappoint you.

Any “parting” words for our readers?

Look Out For The Return!

@trooprnb @stevenRusel @jonjonoftroop1

TROOP Return

By: Todd Davis

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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