Straight outta Houston: Destiny's Child's single "Bills, Bills, Bills" hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
Straight outta Houston: Destiny's Child's single "Bills, Bills, Bills" hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
Albert Sanchez

Girls to Women

When a musical performer or a musical group does an "in-store appearance," the result can be hectic, unnerving, sometimes a little monotonous. Now, that may be the way some performers describe it, but for the reporters and journalists who are there to cover the event and interview the talent afterward, that's pretty much the only way to describe it.

But hey, in this biz, you gotta go where the action is.

At Wherehouse Music on South Post Oak, masses of people were lining up inside and out to meet hometown-girls-made-good, Destiny's Child. Showing up at around three minutes after six, the four lovelies that make up Destiny's Child — Beyonce Knowles, 17; LaTavia Roberson, 17; LeToya Luckett, 18; and Kelly Rowland, 18 — filed in through the door and through the turnstile. Each was wearing some variation of a green and white floral-patterned ensemble. The quartet spent the next three hours ferociously signing anything: cassette covers, magazines, napkins (for the people too cheap to buy an actual CD or cassette), anything their fans threw at them. And man, what a wide array of fans there was. From petite six-year-old black girls to full-grown 35-year-old white men, people of different ages, races, genders and sitcom preferences all flocked to meet the members of Destiny's Child and get something with the girls' Jane Hancocks on it. To make the event seem even more glitzy, assorted publicity/management/record-label folk wrangled fans relentlessly.

Destiny's Child was back home to promote The Writing's on the Wall, the follow-up to its 1998 debut. The sophomore effort looks to have the potential to be the group's most successful album to date. It debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard album charts and has already spawned the hysterical, over-the-top ode to trifling, broke-ass boyfriends everywhere, "Bills, Bills, Bills," which has already hit No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart. The album also boasts an impressive list of producers, including the getting-popular-by-the-millisecond Rodney Jerkins, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Tony! Toni! Tone!'s Dwayne Wiggins and Kevin Briggs, the man behind TLC's monster smash "No Scrubs." With these pros working behind the boards, the girls erase the tease tag that has followed them ever since their breakout hit from last year, the Wyclef Jean-remixed "No, No, No." They've transformed themselves into self-assured women who know what they want in their men.

After a whole evening of signing autographs, the ladies are finally free to engage in some one-on-one banter. For only five minutes, of course. Then it's off to do some other publicity-related stuff.

Houston Press: So how did you enjoy the whole shindig here?

Kelly: It was wonderful. I think until we saw the crowd and how big it was, we were really shocked and surprised because Houston really showed us a lot of love and support. I know all of our eyes got big when we stepped out the car. And even when we drove in, we were like, "Oh my God," 'cause we saw, like, a lot of chaos going on. When we walked in, everybody was like, "Hey, Destiny's Child!" And it really makes you feel good, because you're at home.

HP: How much time do y'all get to spend here in Houston?

Group: None!

Beyonce: Not a lot, not a lot. We're actually leaving tomorrow morning.

HP: Where are y'all off to?

Kelly and LeToya: The Bahamas.

Beyonce: We're blessed to do five episodes — host five episodes — of MTV [Jams Countdown, a daily black-music show] in the Bahamas.

HP: How has it all changed?

Beyonce: I think the main thing that has changed is the fact that we're not at home as much. We don't really get a chance to see our family as much. I mean, our whole lives has changed. We live out of suitcases now. We get a chance to see the world. We've been over to Europe 12 times in the past two years. Japan, Jamaica, Bahamas, we've been all over Canada. We've gotten a chance to meet a lot of people. We're just really blessed. The good definitely outweighs the bad.

HP: Let's talk about "Bills, Bills, Bills." It's obvious that the song is all tongue-in-cheek. Have you come across those who didn't find it so amusing?

Kelly: You know, you bump into some guys and it's like [in deep roughneck voice], "Man, y'all know y'all wrong for 'Bills, Bills, Bills.' " But the thing is some people don't really listen to the song. They really just listen to the chorus. You have to be able to listen to the verses to understand the chorus. And in the beginning of the relationship in the song, the guy is treating his girl all right, you know. Everything is going great in their relationship. But then, you know, when further down the line, he starts slipping and maxing out her credit cards. It's, like, in the song. You gotta listen to the song. And later on, she's just asking him, "Look, can you pay my bills that you were running up?" And that's it.

One of the publicity/management/record-label brothas stands up near the side of the table and says, "Two minutes, man. Two minutes."

HP: This album lays down a lot of "commandments" for men. How personal did you get with this album?

LeToya: A lot deeper than the first album. We got to write 11 out of the 14 songs. Beyonce got to co-produce seven. So, all of this stuff just really came from us. It's like having a conversation with Destiny's Child the whole album. I think everyone can relate to this album, both young and old. Though the music touches the young people. And I think anybody that's been in a relationship can really, you know, relate to this album.

HP: At any point during the recording of this album did you feel you had to make this album to prove you're more than the "No, No, No" girls?

Beyonce: I think the more albums you come out with, the more you gotta prove yourself because you wanna be successful every time. And we worked really hardŠ The publicity brotha reminds the ladies that time is about to be up. Beyonce tells him to hold on. ŠPeople always told us about the second-album jinx, and we wanted to prove everybody wrong. So, in order to do that, you know, we just worked extra hard.

HP: What's next for y'all?

Beyonce: Hopefully getting more into any part of the entertainment business that we possibly can. That means modeling, acting, more producing and writing, some movies, anything. Probably get our own clothes line or something like that. Just getting more involved with the entertainment industry.

HP: Let's end this on the Barbara Walters question. What do you want people to take with them after listening to this new album by Destiny's Child?

Kelly: Hopefully they'll see our vocal maturity and just our maturity from young girls to young women.

Destiny's Child performs with Nas, 702, Blaque, Lil' Troy, JT Money, Sporty Thievz and others as part of the Summer Cooldown concert Saturday, August 21, at Hofheinz Pavilion, University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun, at 8 p.m. Call (713)629-3700.


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