top of page

Amidst all Odds, R&B Group, Hi-Five is Determined to Leave a Lifelong & Unforgettable Legacy!

Jive Records signed Hi-Five in late 1989, and they released their debut platinum album the following year. As part of the album, there are three singles, such as "I Just Can't Handle It" (R&B No. 10), "I Can't-Wait Another Minute" (Pop No. 8, R&B No.1), and "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)," which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, the group's biggest hit ever. Marcus Sanders and Shannon Gill of Hi-Five sat with me for an interview in Memphis. The following is a summary of our conversation.

Thanks for being here with me today, Marcus and Shannon; it’s an honor.

Marcus Sanders: Thank you

Shannon Gill: Thank you

My pleasure. As a class of 1990 graduate, I listened to your music growing up, and today you’re still one of my all-time favorite groups.

Marcus Sanders: Thank you

Shannon Gill: Thank you

My pleasure. There wasn't a song that you guys put out that I didn't like, especially “kissing game.”

Shannon Gill: Were you kissing back then?

I may have kissed a boy in high school, but that was all. I wasn't considered one of the "it" girls. Not only was I a pastor's daughter, but I was also a skinny, underdeveloped, kinky hair, brown girl with no hips, a bubble butt, a goofy laugh, and an annoying smile.

During that time, most of the guys wanted fully developed, lighter-complected mixed-race girls with "good hair" and light eyes willing to do "whatever" with the boys, and that wasn't me. Because of that, I was overlooked by the popular boys. (laughs)

Marcus Sanders: Well, I wonder what they would say now because You’re developed now.

A little bit more, but not too much, but thank you, Marcus. (laughs)

Shannon Gill: And you have a beautiful smile.

Thank you, Marcus and Shannon. I believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Many young people don't think this way because of their youthfulness, but eventually, the transition happens through maturity and life experiences. And speaking of transitioning, I would like to pivot and talk about your successful careers in the iconic group "Hi-Five." So let's start with your origins. Where were you born and raised?

Marcus Sanders: We're both from Waco, TX.

Shannon Gill: Shout out to Waco!

Yes! Shout out to Waco because Waco is in the house! I've never met anyone from Waco, TX. So, how's life growing up in Waco?

Marcus Sanders: It's the country.

Shannon Gill: Yeah, everyone knows everybody. It's like a family.

I'm a city girl, born in Chicago and raised in Inglewood and LA, so can you tell me what it is like growing up in the country? What do country children do for fun?

Marcus Sanders: You play in the grass, ride your bike, do flips, and sometimes go to the barnyard to do other things.

Sounds like fun. Did you both know each other when you were young?

Marcus Sanders: Yeah, we kind of knew of each other, and then later, when we got in the group, we got closer to each other.

Shannon Gill: It was around 87/89'. I'm class of 1993. So, I joined the group in 1993.

Shannon, you're just a baby. As they say, you're still wet behind the ears.

Shannon Gill: Yes. I'm still learning.

Exactly. We should all have that same posture and an attitude of humility and openness to learning. Good Shannon! Let's take a vacation and go back in time. As children, did you have a favorite toy you loved playing with?

Marcus Sanders: I used to love "Stretch Armstrong." That was one of my favorite toys.

Shannon Gill: Marcus, you had a "Stretch Armstrong?"

Marcus Sanders: Yeah (laughs)

Shannon Gill: I wanted one of those. (laughs)

Marcus, did you ever figure out how far you can stretch him? That's something I always wanted to know. For some reason, whenever I was about to test his stretch, something always happened where I got distracted. Therefore, I never figured out how far he could stretch. Did someone ever grab and pull him across the room to see how far he could stretch? (laughs)

Marcus Sanders: Yeah, we did. (laughs) Okay, here's the truth: I have two other cousins, and all three of us had to share it. So, the eldest cousin wanted to find out what was inside, so he stuck a hole in it.

What was inside of it?

Marcus Sanders: Some sort of gel or something, but we got in trouble for doing that. So, I want to give a shout-out to "Stretch Armstrong." (laughs)

Shannon, what about you? What was your favorite toy growing up?

Shannon Gill: my favorite was the "Green Machine."

Oh yes, I remember the "Green Machine." those were super cool!

Shannon Gill: Yeah! I remember I used to turn that baby around and 360 it!

It sounds like a lot of fun! Your friend always had that toy your parents couldn't afford. The only way to play with it was to visit their house, but I was always afraid of breaking it, which ruined the fun. I'm clumsy, so there you go. (laughs)

Shannon Gill: The cousins always had those types of toys. Growing up, we weren't that fortunate, so I couldn't wait to go to my cousin's house because they always had cool toys.

Shannon, I get it. We had Barbies but didn't have the Barbie house or the Barbie dream car. Therefore, we, too, had to go to our friend's house who lived around the corner because she had it all. It was four of us girls, but she was an only child, so her mom could afford those things for her. I used my mother's high heel shoes to ride Barbie around in. (laughs)

Marcus Sanders: Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

So, guys, when did you meet, and how did you rise to stardom?

Marcus Sanders: Truthfully, we knew some guys. Tony Thompson was talented and was always in talent shows in Waco, TX. Tony competed against a guy named William Walton. Then, after William Walton got his first deal, he returned and got Tony. After picking Tony, he handpicked the rest of the group and brought us together. We recorded a demo, sent it around to a few record companies, and Jive Records signed us.

Who shopped your deal? In those days, did you have a close friend managing your career?

Marcus Sanders: The deal that the group signed with Jive Records was negotiated by William Watson. He signed a writer/production deal with Jive intending to help create another group. Therefore, he selected "Hi-Five."

Before he put the group together, were you guys already singing in various events and shows?

Marcus Sanders: Before we got the deal, yes, but once he put us together, we did choreography and practiced.

Back then, what were popular dances?

Shannon Gill: We were doing the running man.

Marcus Sanders: Yes. Around 1987/1988, we did dances like "The Smurf, The Pee Wee Herman, and "The Skate." We did all the popular dances. (laughs)

Shannon Gill: (Laughs)

That's hilarious! I remember those dances because I was doing them too. Time sure passes when you're having fun! (laughs)

Marcus Sanders: Yes, it does. (laughs)

That's awesome. Did you incorporate those pop culture dance steps within the routine of "Hi-Five?"

Marcus Sanders: I think so. I say this because one of the guys initially in the group was a choreographer. Although his style was different, we tried to incorporate the best dances we knew into the choreography; therefore, some of those dances were included in our performances.

Cool beans! So, guys, tell me about one of the most embarrassing things that have happened during a live performance.

Shannon Gill: We used to do grad nights, and because we were signed artists, we couldn't tell them where we were, but I was that guy in the group that loved the woman. So, I would write down my number and the room number where I was staying, and I would give it to the one girl I wanted.

So, once, I was up there performing and doing my thing and spotted this girl. I already had my paper ready, so I dug in my pocket to give it to her, and I accidentally gave her $100. (laughs)

Are you kidding me? (laughs) That's hilarious! Did you ever get it back?

Shannon Gill: No, because I was embarrassed. (laughs) I didn't even know that I had given it to her until I entered the store and reached into my pocket, and instead of pulling out the money, I pulled out my number. I was like, "Oh no, I gave her the money!" (laughs)

Shannon, that is a funny story! See, God spared you from sinning! (laughs) Somebody was praying for you.

Shannon Gill: Gina, what was even funnier was that she saw one of the guys at Magic Mountain the following day and said, "Shannon was so awesome! He even gave me $100! I was like, "No, I didn't." (laughs)

Hilarious! Usually, people tell me that they fell off a stage or forgot the words to the song, but your embarrassing story is unique. How have you kept the band intact and harmonious after all these years when many bands disintegrate shortly after their formation?

Shannon Gill: We pray.

Marcus Sanders: Yes, we pray and try to have difficult conversations so that we are always in a suitable space. Also, being around this long and going through several lineups, we know that doing things this way works best for us.

Shannon Gill: Another thing is that we are Christians, and we are also like brothers. Because of this, everybody gets along without egos. There’s no “I’m better than you attitude in Hi-Five.” We all stay in our lanes. We all know our strengths, so we have fun when we come together.

Awesome! It is remarkable what you said about being Christians and having a brotherhood. That's wonderful! Your cohesiveness is admirable because, sadly, that's not always the case in many bands today. Social media has created a "me and I" first generation, which has led many bands to use one another as stepping stones and then later " break free to do me." In my opinion, many of the past bands were much more dependent on each other and understood the concept of teamwork better. That may be why many bands we grew up listening to are still around.

Marcus Sanders: Ego is a bad thing.

Let's talk about the changes that have occurred in the industry. There are many, some for the bad and others for the good. I remember when you could stand out in front of a record label, sing, and get noticed. If you were good and the right executive walked out and saw you, there might be a possibility of getting signed, but not today. There are a lot more challenges now because the game has changed. Getting a label's attention requires a gazillion social media likes. Have you been able to adapt to the changes in the music industry?

Marcus Sanders: Back when we were coming up in the music business, it was constructed in a way that we were familiar with it, both musically and systematically. Before social media, we would only let the fans know what we wanted them to know; this is no longer the case. As a result of social media and fan demand for substantial transparency, this generation wants to know everything. Being from an age when privacy was highly valued makes sliding into "the culture of the new music business" more challenging. In our case, that isn't who we are, and it's not the way we operate, so it's challenging.

I agree. I'm private too. I never share my business on social media. Unfortunately, being intimate, classy, caste, and discrete are characteristics quickly dissolving in our current society. Allowing our young ones to be exposed to adult topics significantly contributes to this problem. Due to their young minds and incapacity to handle what they are being fed, they are maturing too quickly. AI is like that; what was deemed okay initially is now a pot of ants without a lid. At one time, when your parents spoke with another adult, you were not even permitted to be present, let alone participate in the conversation.

In contrast, children now address adults by their first names and standing among what was once the domain of grown-ups. Following this, they watch television and listen to music unsuitable for the young brain to comprehend. I believe this has contributed to the current "Too Much Information culture."

Marcus Sanders: I think they're just overexposed. Compared to growing up, we just had to sneak to watch certain things. We had to develop it. But now, you can get anything at the tip of your fingers. So yeah, it negatively impacts our youth to some degree.

Another thing is that some of the parents of this generation need to raise them in a manner, as you stated earlier. Also, respect your parents and the rules. This is one of the reasons why they're just listening and learning from everything and everyone else.

Awesome! That's wise advice. Bring back the old and out with the new! (laughs) So, guys, I have a question I would like both of you to answer. Over the last few years, so much has changed in our world, and God has worked mightily in my life through blessings and provision. How has God blessed your life this year in ways you wouldn't have imagined?

Shannon Gill: God has done so much for me, including blessing me with my beautiful kids. He blessed me with homes and just so much. I’m not saying that I'm a great person, but, despite everything, He’s brought me through so much. Just to be here today is a true blessing.

And to that, I say, Amen!

Shannon Gill: Yes, amen!

Marcus? What has God done for you?

Marcus Sanders: For me, just having my life and being to wake up is a blessing. I've lost two of my brothers who started the group with me, so I'm blessed to be here, have a sound mind, and carry on this legacy by honoring it with the utmost integrity it deserves.

And in speaking with both of you gentlemen and learning of your development into the amazing men you have become, I can say you positively represent the Hi-Five brand and legacy.

Shannon Gill: Thank you.

Marcus Sanders: Yes, thank you.

My pleasure. Now, gentlemen, I have a fun question for you. Who in your family makes the best BBQ? Many claim to be the best, but the test is in the taste of the taster. So, who is it in your family?

Marcus Sanders: I would have to say, my grandfather. He started the legacy and passed it on to my cousin, and now my cousin does an excellent job. He adds Mesquite and knows how to flavor it well, so I give him props.

Shannon Gill: I would have to give that honor to my momma. My mom would get out there and pull her chainsaw out and cut up wood. She had her own little thing. But yeah, my momma.

(Laughs) I know that’s right! You go, Mom!

Marcus Sanders: (Laughs)

Awesome! I love it! Guys, if you could say one thing to someone to inspire and encourage them, what would it be?

Marcus Sanders: I would say keep God first. Second, keep focused and do what you love. And don't do it just because somebody will pay you to do it, do it because you love what you do.

Shannon Gill: And be yourself. Don't try to mimic somebody else because you see their style is rocking, and they are making all these things happen. No, be you. God gave us all a unique voice.

Yes. Defiantly! Guys, it's been an absolute honor speaking with you. I know you could have done a million things today, but you chose to take a slice out of your life and give it to me and the readers of The Indie Post Magazine. Thank you with all my heart. Guys listen, I want to take this time to pray that God will bless the works of your hands, both you and the other outstanding members of Hi-Five, be it done in accordance with His will for your life.

I pray that God will keep you, the Hi-Five members, and your precious families safe and protected in these trying times. Last, I want to congratulate you on all your accomplishments and music career success. I look forward to hearing more of your beautiful voices in the future. God bless you all.

Marcus Sanders: Thank you

Shannon Gill: Thank you

The Interview With Hi-Five has ended

Follow Hi-Five on Instagram @officialhifive

The Photo of Hi-Five is courtesy of Hi-Five

Words of inspiration posted by The Indie Post, written within ( The New American Standard Version Bible Verse) and are not the interviewee's words.

"John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him."

"Romans 10:9-13 9 [f]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, [g]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [h]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [i]PUT TO SHAME.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13for “EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
bottom of page