Lyte and Funkie
The saga of LFO begins with one guy, known throughout Boston's mean streets as the Lyte Funkie One. "When I started rapping," Rich Cronin recalled, "a lot of black kids I was around would make a joke and call me the Lyte Funkie One."
Tall, blond, and decidedly Caucasian, Rich didn't always look the part of a West Roxbury homeboy. But then again, neither did the New Kids on the Block when they first alerted the world to the tremendous amount of talent proliferating on the wrong side of the Boston harbor. Still, classic features and Nordic good looks make it easy to mistake Rich for an alumnus of the city's most exclusive prep school. His heavy Boston accent, however, tells an altogether different tale; a tale that begins amid the mean streets of inner-city neighborhoods rather than on the happy-go-lucky set of Disney's Mickey Mouse Club.
The Fourth One
LFO was born in Beantown's blue-collar districts of West Roxbury and Dorchester. The former was home to Rich, while the latter were the stomping grounds of one Brian Gillis, better known as Brizz. Those wondering what Brizz has to do with anything are in good company. Nowadays, Brizz's role in LFO is the stuff of library archives, but the fact is that without Brizz, there would be no LFO.
Growing.up in an inner-city section of Boston, Massachusetts, Brian Allan Gillis had no shortage of opportunities to join a gang and run wild in streets. "It's not that you're looking for trouble," he explained to Popstar!, "trouble finds you."
His was an honest, working-class family where the mom didn't always have the luxury to look after her flock of eight children. With so many mouths to feed, both parents had to work their fingers to the bone just to put food on the table. "Mine wasn't the richest family in the world," Brizz has since said.
In the absence of Sega and Nintendo, Brizz took to hockey, basketball, and singing to entertain himself. Since his Elvis impersonations were the stuff of family legend, he soon became addicted to the rush of adrenaline that a round of applause never failed to deliver. Unfortunately, in the mid-1980s, as Brian was entering his teens, the Dorchester neighborhood showed no signs of improvement. To get their son off the streets and out of the high-risk environment, the Gillises decided to enroll him in the Dorchester Youth Collaborative.
Surrounded by other boys his age, Brian came to love the security and companionship offered by this after-schoolprogram. More importantly, he looked forward to the various activities staged by the center's caring staff. In the history of LFO, the Dorchester Youth Collaborative played the crucial role of steering Brizz in the right direction. As he explained, "A lot of my friends that didn't go there ended up into the wrong thing, you know, drugs, jail, or getting in trouble for doing things that totally could've been prevented if they didn't hang out on the street corner."
Instead of drugs and petty thievery, Brizz spent his free time performing at talent shows and charity functions. As the years flew by, he honed his singing and dancing chops, becoming the program's standout performer. Suddenly, his family weren't the only people commending him on his stage presence and star quality. Brizz still remembers the high praise he'd receive after each and every breathtaking showcase. "People were like, 'Hey, man, you should do this for real. Just don't do it as hobby, you could make money at it.'"
With thoughts of superstardom planted in his head, Brizz's hopes soared to the uppermost heights of the music industry. Looking to the phenomenal success of fellow Dorchester natives New Kids on the Block, the aspiring musician dared to dream the impossible dream. In 1993, he began searching for guys who shared his talent and ambition to help him break through the well-guarded portals of show business.
A Meeting of the Master Minds
While Brizz was busy putting together his new hip-hop group, Rich was also making a name for himself as the hot new rapper on the local scene. He would hit talent shows and the small clubs trying to astound the audiencewith his freestyling skills. And yet, it was not until meeting Brian that Rich actually began to take his hopes for a career in the entertainment industry seriously.
Unlike Brizz, Rich wanted to secure a fallback position just in case his career as a B-boy fell through. Instead of sinking all of his energy into the music, he chose to split his time between college and solo performances. To him, music was more an all-consuming hobby than a full-time job.
That attitude would change radically when Brizz entered the picture.
Although the two Bostonians only had one acquaintance in common, that was all it took to send the rest of Brizz's group packing. Through their efforts on the music front, both Rich and Brizz had happened upon the same record producer. After meeting Rich, the producer was immediately struck by the similarities between him and another rapper he'd been working with for some months. Seeing that Brian and Rich could really cause a stir if they ever pooled their talents, he wasted no time before handing Brizz a phone number. It was Rich Cronin's.
The next thing Rich knew, he was talking to Brizz and agreeing to ditch his solo shtick, and maybe even his college education, for a chance at superstardom. The producer that had brought them together had been right on the money; Rich and Brizz were truly two of a kind. Despite the contrast between Rich's clean-cut golden boy appearance and Brian's dark, scruffy, and goateed look, the parallels between them were truly extraordinary. "We had the same musical influences and listened to the same things," Rich mused, "and we just got together."
Much as he hated to leave his own group in the lurch, Brizz could not deny that he and Rich made the most dynamic duo since Batman and Robin. The only wonderwas that these guys hadn't met sooner. Each had so much to offer to the new venture that success suddenly seemed like only a matter of time. Of course, there was the question of their image: Would they be a latter day Beastie Boys or a revamped version of the New Kids?
The guys decided to aim for something in the middle. While their own tastes skewed toward the Beasties, the New Kids were local heroes, and some of them, Danny Wood, Joe McIntyre, and Jordan Knight in particular, were actually close personal friends. "I knew those guys pretty good, especially being from Boston," Rich said of the New Kids on hiponline.com, "and I think a lot of them because they were so successful. I don't think anything negative about them, and they are good guys and they made a lot of strides in music, but they didn't influence me musically, but as being good guys."
After the New Kids broke up in 1994, Danny Wood had decided to relegate himself to working behind the scenes. He began to produce songs for Dorchester-based acts, and stumbled across Rich and Brizz while doing so. In 1996, as the pair was laboring to polish their sound, they often sought out the assistance of the New Kids veteran. "I can't really say [that the New Kids] influenced our music so much," Rich was quick to reiterate, "but we are good friends with Danny Wood, and he taught us a lot about what to look out for on the business side of music."
In an industry teeming with unscrupulous managers, exploitative record labels and naïve recording artists, Wood's advice would come in very handy down the line. Albeit, at this point, the guys were only interested in one thing--fame, and lots of it.
What's in a Name?
With their new act almost ready for the local stages, the guys had to come up with a name. Having written countless rhymes, hooks and lyrics, brainstorming a handle should have been a piece of cake for the right-brained performers. At least, that's what they thought until they actually sat down to the task.
After tossing around dozens of potential monikers, and shooting down each and every last one, the guys threw up their hands in defeat. They were totally and completely stumped. Finally, Rich had an idea. Since he'd already gained some modicum of renown as the "Lyte Funkie One," there was no need to strain their brains trying to reinvent the wheel--they'd simply "pluralize" the tag.
"Let's just call ourselves the Lyte Funkie Ones or LFO," Rich suggested.
Brian took a moment to think it over. Struck by how well the name described the duo and their hip-hop sound, he soon gave the new appellation his thumbs-up. Of all the contenders, "Lyte Funkie Ones" was the first name that the two had managed to agree upon, and it would turn out to be the last. From that moment forth, Brizz and Rich would be known as the Lyte Funkie Ones, or LFO for short. While they would eventually get tired of the full name, the three-letter acronym would see the guys through the rest of their career.
With a name to call their own, the guys returned to the local club and talent show circuit as a pair. At this stage of the game, their first priority was to find a manager. Since Rich was still attending college, the networking responsibilities fell directly to Brizz. This wasjust fine by the outgoing performer. "I'm a people-person," he told Popstar! "I like being around people, dealing with people. That's an important thing to have in the industry, but also in life in general."
While that may be true, Brian would find that the gift of gab, a funky group name, and raw talent alone would not land LFO the elusive management deal they were after. Since managers work strictly on commission, taking on clients who are not sure bets is an extravagance most can ill afford. By the same token, it is almost impossible for an artist to rise to the next level of their recording career without the support of a manager. Most record labels don't even consider half the acts that managers send their way, much less those groups that are without representation. So when the guys realized that months of rehearsals, performances, and business meetings had not brought them any closer to finding a manager, they decided that something had to change.
The Missing Link
Rich and Brizz racked their brains to figure out what they were doing wrong. Something was impeding their progress, but neither could put their finger on the problem. After investing so much energy into their outfit, they were determined to make it big or die trying. At length, the guys hit upon the solution to their woes. His name was Brad Fischetti.
Tall, dark, and painfully handsome, Brad had the kind of looks that were better suited to a Calvin Klein billboard than to a hip-hop ensemble. Of course, that had never kept the New Jersey native from practicing his rapping in the family rec room.
According to LFO lore, Rich and Brian first met Bradat a party. By this time, Brad's passion for music had developed into a full-blown obsession. "I was doing local stuff at clubs, nothing really big," he told hipon-line. com.
Nothing really big indeed. The fact is that Brad had always been too shy to perform before a crowd, restricting most of his efforts to rhyming along with gangsta-rappers like Public Enemy in the comfort of his suburban home. Still, when the threesome got to talking, it was plain to see that they shared both a rapport and a common vision.
Much as they might have wanted to, however, Rich and Brizz could not incorporate Brad into their act had he not been blessed with the necessary MC skills. Unwilling to put off till tomorrow what they could accomplish on the spot, the guys asked Brad if he wouldn't mind joining them in an impromptu rap. He consented, and by the time the trio had finished their number, there wasn't a clenched jaw in the house. All the party guests had stopped what they were doing to listen to the guys deliver their rhymes.
A round of enthusiastic applause was all the confirmation LFO needed to go from a duo to a trio. "We all just clicked," Rich recounted. "We all wanted to do the same thing with our music and we got together."
Rich and Brizz had discovered that to get their foot in the door, they would need to bolster their image. With Brad at their side, the guys no longer just sounded like a professional group, but they actually looked the part as well. Their transformation was amazing and their spirits high. The only thing left to do now was to conquer the world.
Copyright © 2000 by Elina and Leah Furman.