Full Force—with Bowlegged Lou, Paul Anthony, B-Fine, Curt-T-T, Shy Shy and Baby Gerry have always been a tight-knit family. Now, in the tradition of Quincy Jones’s Back on the Block, they have an extended family with their new album: Full Force: With Love from Our Friends, featuring a smorgasbord of talent, ranging from Raphael Saadiq, to Roxanne Shanté, Big Daddy Kane, UTFO, Faith Evans, Sheila E., Tevin Campbell and many more.
“I am honored to be a part of this project which is for a great cause but it is also me getting a chance to work with one of my musical heroes,” said Raphael Saadiq.
The album is a dedication to Full Force member Paul Anthony who was diagnosed in 2006 with Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Anthony intends to bring awareness to the disease during the tour and with speaking engagements across the country.
The group has already cemented their place in musical history—finding pop talent like the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj and singing on studio tracks by Bob Dylan. They are continuing in that tradition by giving new and seasoned talent a new showcase with this new album.
EBONY: How did you go about choosing the incredible list of artists?
Bowlegged Lou: I had this idea to do an album like this and just get a lot of our friends to be a part of it, like Quincy Jones’s Back on the Block. Quincy wasn’t an artist or a producer on the record, but we are producing everything and we’re artists on the record. I just thought it would be a great thing. We dedicated it to my brother Paul Anthony. The idea came to me when we performed for Tisha Campbell-Martin in New Orleans. She came on and did “All Cried Out” for the Essence Fest two years ago. We weren’t thinking of recording it. Chubb Rock came over to me and he said I think you guys should record this song. So we were just going to record it. We recorded that and another song. From there I thought we should get an all-star line-up and from there the rest is history. I had a relationship with Faith, I had her number, so I reached out to her and she was down just from the gate. With Sheila E., I had Sheila’s manager’s number and I reached out to her. We were going through a lot of songs that we wrote, that we always had in the vault, plus some new songs and we mixed and matched true school artists.
Certain songs came about different ways—Paul had this dope song called, “Let It Flow” that I had never heard. It was such a dope song. I was like this would be dope as a duet. So we thought of Tevin Campbell and we got Naturi Naughton on it. Naturi sang with the group 3LW. Full Force produced both of their albums. It was so great to hear her and Tevin on such a great song because both of them have chemistry. They played brother and sister in the Broadway musical, Hairspray. The two of them together are like magic.
EBONY: Paul this is your first re-entry into music after beating lymphoma?
Paul Anthony: Absolutely. My brother and family have always been advocates. I would get treatment and I would go do what I normally do with my music. I never really stopped the music. I was singing and writing in my room at the hospital. I knew once God got me through this I had things to do. Music never left me.
EBONY: I really like the spoken word track "Do You Believe in Heaven."
BL: Yeah, Blair Underwood, Omari Hardwick, Malcolm Jamal—we have a versatile line-up of songs, I remember telling Paul I want to do a spoken word joint on the album. We both came up with ideas. And our co-producer did too. I once saw Blair Underwood do a spoken word joint as a dedication to President Obama. Malcolm Jamal Warner has been a friend of mine forever. I always knew he had talent as a spoken word artist. Idris Elba almost made it as one of the spoken word artists. It was Malcolm’s idea to come up with Omari Hardwick who I just thought at the time was an actor. He was at film festival and when he found out about Paul’s cancer championship journey he assembled some of us together and helped to raise money. A friend of Paul’s came up with the idea to use Big Daddy Kane. I always wanted to use Najee on it.
EBONY: All of these are original songs, except for two?
BL: "All Cried Out" is a cover–even though it is one of our own songs and "All I Have to Give" is too, which we once produced for the Backstreet Boys. We got Lil G from Silk, Slim from 112, Steve Russell from Troop & RL formerly of Next. They're doing "All I Have to Give" like a Black boy band. All the rest are originals. Even those I mentioned were songs we wrote, we are just re-charging them.
EBONY: Any plans for a tour?
BL: Yeah, we are in planning stages for a tour. Of course we can't have everybody on the album on there like "C’mon everybody else let’s go!" We will just mix it up.
EBONY: What kind of music did you want to make?
PA: We definitely wanted to follow the trend of bringing back real music. We know how to do hip hop, R&B, pop, Latin pop, we can do it all. We set out that we have good songs on there, love songs, really. The next one may be more club oriented.
EBONY: How long did it take?
BL: I'm thinking about a year. I would take a break every now and then with Paul's illness. We are producing all of them, but we also have co-producers and co-writers. Malcolm Jamal Warner is co-producing the spoken word joint. He wrote Blair’s lyrics. He helped coordinate a lot of stuff.
EBONY: Talk about how Lou came to bat for you when you found out you had cancer.
PA: Yes, a lot of love goes to my doctor too. When I was diagnosed, I was told it was incurable. When I spoke with Dr. Hamlin he told me otherwise. He told me one way to eradicate it would be with a bone marrow transplant. This was 2006. Right away he said let's find a donor. Lou was a 10 for 10 match. Millions die not being able to find a donor, let alone a 10 for 10 match.
BL: The doctor said he was fighting for his life. It was like we have to go ahead and prep for this transplant. I had to inject myself twice a day, seven days a week with some medicine that helps you harvest your own stem cells in your body. Meanwhile my brother's immune system was being brought down by extensive chemo.
I stayed in a nearby hotel to Sloane Kettering. They told me beforehand–"We have to give you these instructions and things could happen. Your spleen could rupture and you could bleed to death. Then they asked me, "Are you sure you want to go through with this?" I was thinking why would they ask that? I was shocked to know some siblings changed their minds after the doctor asked them that. The way our mother and father raised us, we look out for each other. I'm so happy because I didn't know there is usually only a 30 percent match between siblings. God definitely blessed us.
After I did it, the next day I went there to see how the transplant went. I looked through the glass window and saw my brother Paul, he has his back to us, and he was dancing with his headphones! He later told me he was listening to Beyonce. Me and the doctors are just laughing. I'm laughing and crying at the same time. It was just so beautiful to watch.
Paul has been a lion since the beginning with this whole situation. We were always forging ahead. And always, always making music.