Albert Joseph Brown III (born June 4, 1968, Mount Vernon, New York), best known under his stage name Al B. Sure! is a three-time Grammy-nominated American R&B recording artist, record producer and a noted pioneer of the New Jack Swing fusion genre.
Prior to his music career, Sure! was known locally as the star football quarterback at Mount Vernon High School. His talents earned him an athletic scholarship to the University of Iowa, but he rejected it to pursue music full time. In 1987, he was personally selected by legendary music producer Quincy Jones as the inaugural winner of Sony's Innovator Talent Search. Warner Bros. Vice President of black music Benny Medina offered Sure! a recording contract to record his debut. Sure!, despite initially starting as a rapper, spent six months teaching himself how to sing and compose melodies with his cousin and producer, Kyle West.
His first appearance on an album was Heavy D's Livin' Large, providing singing vocals on "Dedicated" and "Don't You Know", thanks to being childhood friends with album producer DJ Eddie F. This led to him getting introduced to Uptown Records founder and CEO Andre Harrell, who brought Sure! into Uptown as an artist.
Sure!'s debut album, In Effect Mode, was released by Uptown, with Warner Bros. Records providing distribution. The album became a huge success, topping the R&B/Hip Hop charts and hitting number twenty on the Billboard Hot 200, selling two million copies. The album received multiple award nominations and spawned multiple R&B hits, including "Nite N Day", Sure!'s only single to reach the top 40 of Billboard's pop charts. During this time, Sure! also appeared on the R&B smash "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" from Quincy Jones' Back On The Block as a part of a quartet that also featured Barry White, El DeBarge and James Ingram.
But as fast as he rose to fame, it quickly started to fade out by the early nineties. His 1990 sophomore follow up Private Times... And The Whole 9! only went Gold, and it's lead single "Missunderstanding", just barely missed the Top 40, while 1992's Sexy Versus bombed. After Sexy Versus, he mostly stayed behind the scenes, writing tracks for multi-platinum R&B artists such as Faith Evans, Jodeci, Usher, Case, Tevin Campbell and many others, while providing the occasional song to various movie and TV soundtracks. In 2009, Sure! returned to music and released his fourth album Honey, I'm Home on Hidden Beach Recordings.
Sure! currently hosts "The Secret Garden" on iHeart Radio.
- In Effect Mode (1988)*
- Private Times... And The Whole 9! (1990)*
- Sexy Versus (1992)**
- Honey, I'm Home (2009)
Albums with a single asterisk were released on Uptown Records with distribution from Warner Bros. Records. Sexy Versus was released exclusively on Warner Bros. Records.
Songs of note:
- "Nite And Day"
- "Off On Your Own Girl"
- "Rescue Me"
- "Killing Me Softly"
- "If I'm Not Your Lover"
- "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" (With Quincy Jones, Barry White, El DeBarge & James Ingram)
- "No Matter What You Do" (With Diana Ross)
- "Had Enuf?"
- "Right Now"
- "I Don't Wanna Cry"
- "Black Tie White Noise"
- "I'm Still In Love With You"
- "I Love It (Papi Aye Aye Aye)"
- Big Ol' Unibrow: His trademark look to this very day.
- Contemporary R&B
- Cover Version: Several:
- "No Matter What You Do", a duet with Diana Ross. Ross would later include it on the international version of her 1991 album The Force Behind The Power.
- Slick Rick appeared on the extended remix of "If I'm Not Your Lover". He would later cameo on "Turn U Out" and "Papes in the End" three years later on Sexy Versus. Incidentally, the latter two were some of the last tracks Slick Rick recorded before being imprisoned for attempted murder and immigration charges.
- "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" was a mega crossover with R&B stars from several generations, such as Barry White, El DeBarge and James Ingram.
- "Black Tie White Noise", a collaboration with David Bowie.
- Genre Shift: Enforced by Al B. himself. When he decided to switch from rapping to singing, he trained himself for six months straight. He would still bust out a flow once in a while though, such as on "Papes in the End".
- Gold Digger: "Had Enuf?" and "Missunderstanding" touch on this topic; something Sure! is quick to lampshade in the intro of the latter song.
- Al: Why is it that every time I see your face... It's only when I got gas in my Chevy? Something strange about that.
- Let's Duet: "Black Tie White Noise" sees Al repeatedly trade off vocals with David Bowie.
- May–December Romance: "Shades of Grey" is about the then-twentysomething Sure! trying to court a woman implied to be at least twice his age, despite the protests of both of their friends. Rumour has it it was written about Diana Ross, who he was working with at the time.
- The Mentor: To R&B group Jodeci.
- New Jack Swing: One of the early architects, alongside his cousin Kyle West, Flyte Tyme, Eddie F and Teddy Riley.
- New Sound Album: Private Times featured Sure! doing more uptempo swingbeat tracks compared to In Effect Mode, which had mostly mid-tempo songs. Sexy Versus dialed the uptempo stuff back significantly, and focused mainly on ballads.
- Punny Name: Al B. Sure! is a play on "I'll be sure".
- Record Producer: His cousin Kyle West was always his main producer, and Sure! himself co-produced several songs with West, including his own.
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Black Tie White Noise" is less than subtle about the fact that it was inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, openly mentioning "the glare of an L.A. fire" in its first verse. Songwriter David Bowie likened the riots to an unsuccessful prison riot, "as if innocent inmates of some vast prison were trying to break out — break free from their bonds," and implied in a 1993 interview that one of his goals with the song was to highlight the change that still needs to be made.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: Al has a sweet, high-register falsetto that can rival Prince's, but his normal speaking voice is rather deep and somewhat guttural.
- Spiritual Antithesis: Songwriter David Bowie consciously designed "Black Tie White Noise" to be one for Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's "Ebony and Ivory". While both tracks are anti-racism duets between popular Black and white artists wrapped in music metaphors, "Black Tie White Noise" is much gritter, both musically and lyrically. The song is written in a minor key rather than a major one, has a sound rooted strongly in Hip-Hop and Contemporary R&B rather than traditional pop, and is more pragmatic than optimistic in its message, highlighting the violent struggle that inevitably litters the path to racial unity (having been penned in the wake of the LA Riots).
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The subject of "Off On Your Own (Girl)" was based on a girl Al B. tried to court in high school, only to find out she was a lesbian.note The song omits the lesbianism part, but keeps true to how Al was feeling at the time.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: On various songs:
- Slick Rick appears on the remix of "If I'm Not Your Lover".
- Monie Love appears on a remix of "Missunderstanding".
- Chubb Rock appears on "Ooh 4 You, Girl", "Channel J" and it's remix "See The Lady".
- Rakim appears on "Kick In The Head"
- Grand Puba appears on "Ooh 4 You, Girl".