Updated: May 11
For those who don't know, Troop stands for (TROOP) "total respect of other people." Together, Allen McNeil, Reggie Warren, and Steve Russell Harts are TROOP. A few of Troop's albums include Spread My Wings, The Jackson Five's cover of "All I Do is Think of You," Sweet November, and others. TROOP was also featured in the big-screen blockbuster hit movie New Jack City.
Atlantic Records signed childhood friends Steve Russell, Allen McNeil, John Harreld, Rodney Benford, and Reggie Warren to record "Mamacita" in 1988. "Spread My Wings" and "All I Do Is Think of You," from Troop's second album, Attitude, topped the Billboard R&B singles chart and stayed in the top ten for several weeks. "Attitude" was platinum certified in 1990. From their third album, Deepa, "Sweet November" became their first number-one single. Afterward, Mayday (1998) and A Lil' Sumpin' Sumpin' (1994) were released.
After Mayday in 1998, Troop took a hiatus, but individually they continued writing and producing projects, collaborating, and expanding. Upon reuniting in 2004, Troop released their sixth album. Since returning, they've headlined shows with Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Keith Sweat, Silk, Jon B., and Mario.
They also appeared on Soul Train, Arsenio Hall, and It's Showtime at "The Apollo" and performed a cappella in New Jack City. They also sang Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" and O'Jay's "For the Love of Money" on the New Jack City soundtrack. It was a pleasure interviewing them. We discussed the following topics during our interview.
The "Troop" is the house! First and foremost, thank all of you for allowing me to interview you. The last time I saw you was in Memphis at the "Stomp the City Iconic Awards," and I must tell you, your performance was electrifying!
Troop: Thank you. That's what's up.
My Pleasure. So, let's start by having all of you guys introduce yourselves.
Troop: Ok, I'm Steve Russell Harts, I'm Allen McNeil, I'm John (Jon Jon) Harreld, and I'm Rodney Benford.
Awesome, so let's go back down memory lane. How did "Troop" formulate?
Steven: The band was formed in 1984 out of Pasadena, California. The founding members of
Troop are Rodney Benford and Reggie Warren. They went on the 80's TV Show hosted by Allan Fawcett called "Puttin on the Hits," where various acts would get together and lip sync to their favorite songs. After they had done the show, a producer contacted them and wanted to know if they could sing. That's how I, Steven Russell Hart, and John Harreld joined the group. The group was then named "Five of a Kind."
Over the years, we've all witnessed bands we loved split. Some went solo, and others formulated the same bin but different versions. However, "Troop" has stayed intact. What is the recipe for keeping a band cohesive throughout the years? What's the formula?
Allen: When we fight, we don't leave without solving the problem immediately. Also, a large part of why the group has remained together over the years is our genuine care for each other and each individual's feelings in any situation. Through the years, we have learned how to do that.
"Troop" has experienced some of the same things that other R&B groups go through. Getting through, reaching the other side, and maintaining our careers and relationships with one another factor has been accomplished through growth.
We had to understand that Troop is bigger than any of us, and the good thing is that, as it relates to Troop, we all have the same goals. Collectively, we are on the same page because we want those dreams and goals to become a reality, and together we can make it happen. Consequently, we are committed to working together to achieve those goals.
Everyone goes through hard times and has misunderstandings. Even within your biological family, you won't always see eye to eye. Nevertheless, you learn how to work through it because your love for that family member is greater than the disagreement. So, it is in a group setting. Therefore, working towards understanding one another for the greater good has worked out for us. Although there are so many other things we could share regarding how to keep a group together, that's one of the recipes for the group's longevity and success. Continuing to create these amazing classic pieces of music is incredibly important to us and something we love doing.
Awesome! Ok, I want to ask you guys a few fun questions! These questions will help your fans get to know you a little better and get a better understanding of who you are individually. Ok, are you ready?
Great! Let's get started. The first sequential question is, who in the group has the moodiest and most temperamental disposition?
Allen: Ha Ha, I will say that would be Steven.
John: Yes, I agree.
Allen: Don't get me wrong. He's a great guy all around, but he's a perfectionist.
I admire that about Steven because no matter what we are doing, whether we are choreographing or are in the studio, whatever we are doing, we must accomplish it with perfection. It is crucial for us to avoid any slip-ups or messes along the way. As a team, we take pride in our ability to be excellent, and we want to have an excellent presentation as well. We all do our best, but Steve is the guy that pushes us to our greatest potential even more after we do our best. Whether recording in the studio or engaging in choreography, he pushes us to hit a greater target.
We love him because he goes above and beyond, which makes him such an outstanding person. Although he is a perfectionist, being a perfectionist is one of the characteristics we appreciate about him.
That's OK, Steven; I'm also a perfectionist, so I understand your world. It's a lonely and misunderstood life in the world of perfectionism, yet effective and productive. So, there it is! (laughs) Question #2. Who would you consider to be the most serious and deep member of the group?
John: Allen can be a little deep at times.
Steven: Allen is serious. I'm deep. (laughs)
Is that true, Allen?
Allen: Yes, it's true. I have a reputation for being serious. (laughs)
Who has the kindest heart?
Allen: Reggie was kindhearted.
Steven: Yes, I agree. Reggie has a kind heart. Reggie passed a little over a year ago, but he's still with us in the group, in spirit, and our hearts. Reggie was the kind one.
That's beautiful to say that about your brother. I am sure he was a beautiful spirit, as all of you are. They say birds of a feather flock together—my condolences to you and his immediate family for your loss.
Troop: Thank you.
My pleasure. OK, gentlemen, who is the sneakiest out of the bunch?
Allen: Rodney. (laughs)
Steven: Allen. (laughs)
Steven: Allen is the sneakiest one in the group, hands down.
Steven: That's his reputation.
Allen, what do you have to say for yourself? Is this true? Are you sneaky? (laughs)
Steven: Oh yeah! That's Al Mac!
Alle: Al Mazing! (laughs)
Well, OK then, Al Mazing, who's always complaining?
Allen: I've got to give that to Steve.
John: Un hum. (laughs)
Steven: I'll take that.
Allen: He wants things to go right; I don't see anything wrong with that. No matter what, he's going to voice his opinion. Steve will let you know when he disagrees with an issue. (laughs)
Steven: Yeah (laughs)
Who's the most optimistic?
Allen: That's Rodney.
Steven: Rodney's a positive guy.
Allen: Yeah, Rodney's positive. He will say, wait, let's bring it down and look at it." He's an extremely even guy.
Who's the laziest?
Rodney, would you like to defend yourself?
Rodney: no, I'll take that. (laughs)
All right, then, who's the troublemaker?
Allen: Jon Jon!
John, why would they accuse you of being a group's troublemaker? You have such an innocent-looking face. (laughs)
Allen: We hear about Jon, Jon, all the time. John did this, or John did that. (laughs)
John: But it will be the truth.
OK, John, you owned it. That's awesome! Whos' the goofiest prankster?
John: That's Rodney.
Allen: I think Steve won the trophy on this one because he got all of us on the airplane.
Really? What did he do?
Allen: He captured all of us sleeping on the airplane with our mouths open. (laughs)
He video-recorded you guys' sleep? Steven!
John: Yep, on the airplane. (laughs)
Steven: We have some new stuff coming out too.
Allen: Oh no. (laughs)
Steven: They're hard workers. (laughs)
Who's the geekiest member of Troop?
Allen: That was Reggie.
OK. Who got the most girls?
Allen: Reggie was doing his thing, but Steve's got to fall in there too. He's a superstar.
Thank you, guys, thank you for answering these fun questions. Now, let's talk about your Choreography. I grew up listening to and dancing to your music. Who is responsible for the Choreography?
Steven: We handled all of our Choreography in-house. This was something we did on our own. As a member of the Troop, Rodney was responsible for choreographing Troop's dance routines. After he has prepared the steps, he is ready to teach us the dance steps at rehearsal.
During rehearsal, if there's another idea, as Allen said, I will always voice it. Then, Jon, Jon, or Reggie would throw something in there as well. The results would be a hot performance. We chose the best ideas from everyone in the group, and that’s how it was done. It was a collective effort.
That's awesome. In Memphis, at the "Stomp The Music Iconic Awards," I saw you on stage, and you guys were electrifying. After all of these years, you still have it. I can't move like that anymore because things hurt me when I wake up. (laughs)
Allen: I can relate. Same here. (laughs)
John: We get soreness in our legs and shoulders because of the movements we still do in our shows.
Allen: Yes. After you get home from rehearsal, you feel it. For the most part, we do our best to stay fit.
Who puts your wardrobe together, and do you still have your former costumes?
Steven: No, we don't have the clothes we wore back then. A few of us may have a jacket from a former music video. But, regarding our wardrobe, like the choreography, we handle that in-house also. As a group, we pick our costumes.
Allen: We do discuss our ideas among ourselves. In fact, we recently updated our look for our fans in light of our new show. As a result, Steve found a few retailers with outfits that he thought would enhance Troop's appearance, so he provided images. After reviewing them, we all agreed on what to wear. Thus, the new look for Troop has been a great success! Steve has played an essential role in making this possible. We're excited about the new look and direction as we look forward to the future. Also, we love the new single, Lady.
Awesome! Can you tell me about your most memorable moment in the history of Troop?
Steven: One of our most memorable moments was when we presented an award at "The Soul Train Music Awards." That was always a dream of mine. But meeting Michael Jackson, Rod Temperton, Gerald Levert, and Charlie Wilson was epic! That's personal within my career.
Was Michael Jackson tall? I read somewhere that he's a 6-foot one, or was that fake news? (laughs)
Steven: No, not at all. He wasn't tall.
Wasn't he? Ok. That's news to me. All this time, I thought he was tall.
John: No. Mike's not tall.
Steven: He was about 5 foot 7/ 8 at the most. He was thin and small.
I’m sure that it was an Epic moment for you, Steven, and the rest of your bandmates. I want to circle back to what Allen mentioned: you have new music about to drop. Tell me about it. I'm excited!
Steven: The new single is called. Lady, it's a remake of Michael Jackson's "Lady in My Life. "The idea behind doing this song was because we were on the road so frequently, we wanted to make music that people are not only familiar with but love.
Hopefully, our representation of it will gain the respect of our fans. I truly believe that we have another #1 record on our hands.
I do not doubt that it is and will be. When does the single drop?
Steven: It's out now.
Who wrote and produced the song?
Steven: The song was initially written by Rodney Lynn Temperton. I produced the remake version of the classic.
Are you currently touring, and are you coming to the UK?
Steven: Yes, we're touring as we speak (Back to Life Tour) and coming to the UK soon. We've just completed eight cities with another 10 to go. We're keeping the momentum going. The new single is doing very well and giving us a lot of momentum. Then people love the new single.
Excellent. We are excited about your new release, journey, and look. In closing, is there anything that you would like to say?
Allen: We want to thank you for having us on your platform and taking the time to speak with us and talk about the new single, Lady. We couldn't do it without you.
Steven: Thank you.
My pleasure, and it is my honor. How can fans follow you?
Steve: Fans can follow us on Instagram @ officialtroop2023.
Awesome! I pray that God blesses you all while traveling on the road and keeps you safe and protected. I pray that God will bless the works of your hands, be it done according to God's will for each of your lives. I'm so proud of your lifelong accomplishments, and keep spreading your wings and flying away!
Troop: Thank you, Gina.
My pleasure. Thank you. Bye, guys!
Buy the Magazine on Amazon