On the CD sleeve of Ideal's latest record, the name of the song is "Get Gone." But in Houston (and probably other parts of the country by now), the song is referred to by its most noticeable, most frank line: "Get the Hell On." The phrase is like a subtitle. Or at least it is in the eyes of Maverick Cotton, 22, one of the four men in Ideal. The others are Cedrick Swab Cotton, 21, Wayne "PZ" Perry, 21, and J-Danté Green, 19.
" 'Get Gone' is a song about a situation everybody can relate to," says Perry. "I'm sure there's been a time when you said, 'Look, in order for me to grow, I gotta separate myself apart [from this bad relationship]. It's gonna make me a stronger person.' You gotta get gone."
Says Maverick Cotton: "We have songs out there talking about scrubs and pigeons. This is just like another aspect. This song is about a good gentleman, trying to make the relationship work. But the girl is going out and doing other things and he's just like, 'I'm fed up with all this and I'm telling you to get on. Get away from here. I need to get on with my life.' That's what the song is all about. It's not just a male song. Ladies will relate to the song, too."
The tune is a sharp, lucid number, what with crisp guitar flicks and the sound of a twinkly piano making up most of the soundscape. The lyrics are abrasive: "I think you better leave me alone / Get your bags / Get the hell on / 'Cause love ain't here no more." Overall, the song is getting known more for its catchy bluntness than its stylistic harmony. As for the sudden name change, the guys don't really mind all that much. They're actually pretty easygoing. They fit the requisite R&B group composition perfectly. A nice mix of rough and smooth. There's Maverick, the mysterious type. Swab, the toughneck brotha who's gonna handle business every time. PZ, the guy next door. And J-Danté, the Renaissance ladies' man of the '90s.
While most of today's R&B songwriters seem to distill each lyric with tongue-in-cheek exaggeration (e.g., TLC's silly-ass "No Scrubs," Houston girl-group Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills"), the boys of Ideal sound dead serious, mainly because they know some listeners have been down the same roads.
Luckily both men and women have been getting into the straight-but-funky vibe this R&B group extols. Weeks before "Get Gone" was released as a single last month, the tune was a heavy-rotation hit on Houston black radio. This instant recognition from Houston fans may have something to do with the fact that all four members of Ideal hail from Texas's largest city.
Ideal first began as a nameless trio of boys, the Cotton boys plus cuz PZ. They sang as youngsters at churches, talent shows, wherever. At Lamar High School the boys hooked up with J-Danté and soon became Ideal as it is today. About five years ago their voices caught the ear of a local radio-station rep, who began to make calls to various record labels looking for a deal.
The guy's name was Damon Dino. He talked to a zillion companies before he finally called Virgin Records and asked the boys to sing over the phone.
The dude Ideal sang to was senior vice president Eric Brooks, who liked what he heard. But he wanted to see the group live first before extending any thoughts of an offer. When Brooks was in Houston on business, the boys found a way to give him a free concert.
"We met him at an office building and there was a piano in the office building," Maverick Cotton says. "We got on the piano and started singing. We sang a cappella for one. And that was it." Two or three months later they were signed for a record deal.
Ideal got the perfect deal. All they needed now was the perfect name. "We got a dictionary and we opened the book," Green says. "In the I section, we looked down a couple of inches and we saw the word ideal. It was defined as a conception of body and perfection. We were like, 'That's hype.' "
When the group was working on its first album, it began meeting with writers and producers and assembling demos of possible songs. "At first we were a little anxious to get it done 'cause it felt like it was taking a long time," Maverick Cotton says. "But we found out that waiting taught us patience. And we ended up with a product that we really, really liked."
The result is a self-titled debut, scheduled to drop later this month.
Ideal also learned the recording process hands-on. The singers coordinated vocal arrangements on most of the songs. Also, along with the group's production team, Abstract Productions (which includes Green's cousin, D. Scantz), assorted members of Ideal wrote, co-wrote and co-produced many of the songs.
The group's individual fingerprints are all over most of the tracks. For example, "Things You Won't Do," a lascivious tale of generation-gap love that calls to mind The Graduate, was based of the personal experiences of one of the guys in the group. We can't say who.
Ideal doesn't have any big tour plans, but the band is hoping its various promotional stops across the country will eventually send it back to its hometown, where the guys can see first-hand how their freshman single has become a smash.
As for the ideal of Ideal, the members believe you don't have to look any further than the nearest dictionary to see what they're about. "We take that motto and instill it in everything that we do," Green says, "in our music, in our writing, in our production -- so we can try to be ideal men."
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