Claim to fame

Ricky Bell of Bel Biv Devoe talks BBD’s longevity, a return to Philly but more importantly how the group discovered Philly’s own Boyz II Men. | Image: Shauna Carnegie

Ricky Bell doesn’t even try to sugarcoat it. 

When it comes to Philadelphia legends Boyz II Men, the Boston-based group Bell Biv Devoe takes the claim of gifting the city not just with the group, but with their name. 

“They are the group that in my opinion put Philly R&B on the map but y’all forget they got their name from one of our songs,” Bell told PW over the phone in advance of BBD’s near sold-out show Parx Casino on Jan. 18. “They found us, but we named them and it’s something we as BBD are really proud of.”

Technically, it wasn’t BBD that discovered the group. 

Jump in a time capsule and jettison back 32 years to 1988 when original members of BBD were a part of the award-winning group, New Edition. The group dropped an album called “Heartbreak,” with a single on it called “Boys to Men.” A year later, a collective that later would be known as Boyz II Men and over the years featured Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman, Marc Nelson and Michael McCary were granted access backstage at a New Edition show. A trio – which Bell couldn’t readily recall – hit a tune a cappella for New Edition that “was a wrap for us.” 

The Boyz II Men collective, which originally called itself Unique Attraction, affectionately known for using the bathroom walls at Philadelphia’s School for the Performing Arts for its wonderful acoustics, slapped a twist on “Boys to Men,” becoming Boyz II Men — and the rest is R&B history. 

Legendary hip-hop and R&B group Bell Biv Devoe headline Parx Casino on Jan. 18. The group is what spawned Philly’s similar sound in fellow legendary group Boyz II Men. | Image: Shauna Carnegie/Primary Wave Digital

Along the way it would be BBD’s Michael “Biv” Bivins who would manage and promote the Philly boys via his Motown Records spin off label Biv 10 Records to international stardom. 

“They are the group that in my opinion put Philly R&B on the map but y’all forget they got their name from one of our songs…they found us, but we named them and it’s something we as BBD are really proud of.”

— Ricky Bell, one part of legendary hip-hop, R&B trio Bell Biv Devoe on being a part of the group that discovered and helped turn Philly legends Boyz II Men into an international sensation. 

If you’re too young to remember Boyz II Men (“MotownPhilly”), Bell Biv Devoe (“Poison”) or New Edition (“Candy Girl”), you’ve certainly heard all of these tracks at some point even if you couldn’t readily put your finger on the name of them. There’s still a whole bunch of people out there who value the impact groups like BBD to the hip-hop, R&B genre, proof in there being only limited seats available for BBD’s Saturday Night show at the Xcite Center.

Why, almost 40 years later?

“Because we bring the fucking party,” said Bell. “It’s more about making music for us and going through the motion, it’s about the performance, the experience for our fans. We may be Boston boys, but the fan base here in Philly is amazing. We’ve always been that date night concert, you’re gonna dance, you’re gonna sing our shit for two hours, that’s just how it is and that’s how it always has been when we come to Philadelphia.”

Bell paused and added: 

“We have a history with Philadelphia, and to us, given that history, Philly has always felt like home.”

Bell Biv Devoe | Saturday, Jan. 18. 8 p.m. $35-75. The Xcite Center at Parx Casino, 2999 Street Rd., Bensalem 

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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