90’s R&B Group Hi-Five Opens Up About Lead Singer’s Murder Charges

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Tony Thompson, Roderick “Pooh” Clark, Marcus Sanders, Russell Neal and Toriano Easley were just a group of boys from Waco, Texas when Hi-Five was formed. They released their debut song “I Just Can’t Handle It” in 1990 and it wasn’t long after that their self-titled album–produced by the legendary Teddy Riley–went platinum, thrusting them into “new jack swing” fame. Over the next three years, the boys would release two more albums that garnered modest success. They disbanded in 1994 until reuniting in 2006.

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To say that Hi-Five have had their fair share of trials and tribulations would be an understatement. The group struck tragedy in 2007 when lead singer Tony Thompson was found dead as a result of inhaling freon from an air conditioning unit. Earlier this year, member Russell Neal was charged with murder in the stabbing death of his wife in Houston.

Despite the many setbacks faced by the quintet, they have reunited once again (with some adjustments) to provide their fans with new music. Treston Irby, Marcus Sanders, Shannon Gill, Billy Covington and Faruq Evans’ latest release, “It’s Nothing” is a smooth single that plays off of their signature sound.

Hi-Five will make an appearance on TV One’s “Unsung” tonight and their stories of violence, love and music will be broadcasted to the mainstream.

We caught up with guys to get the scoop on their return, fears and how they feel about the boy bands who are out now.

HelloBeautiful: How has the response to “It’s Nothing” been so far?

Hi-Five: (Billy) We got 3,000 plays in one day from the release. It’s an exciting time and we hope that it brings some more buzz out there in the media. Everyone seems to like the record.

HB: What inspired this comeback?

Hi-Five: (Treston) The comeback has been ongoing for a minute now. It all started just before Tony passed away. We were getting ready to get back in the studio to record a brand new Hi-Five record. The good Lord called him home, so we weren’t able to commence recording, but I felt that since Tony, myself and Marcus wanted to put the group back together so that we needed to keep on doing what we said we were going to do and continue to have the Hi-Five’s name roll out and keep the legacy going. We love the fans and we owe it to them to keep on keeping on, not just letting the name die down and continue to keep giving them good music. The fans paved the way for us because without the fans, we wouldn’t be here today. We want to continue to bring the world great music.

HB: How has his death affected you all individually?

Hi-Five: (Treson). Tony was my brother, business partner, family, so it affected me greatly. Immediately after the tragedy, I went into a state of depression and didn’t want to do any music or anything for a minute. When you lose a best friend, you’re human, you have to feel it.

HB: What are some of your fears with this new project?

Hi-Five: (Billy)My fear is that they’ll try to compare what we’re doing now to what we were doing back then. Even though it’s different. We still made a concerted effort to maintain that integrity musically. We made it 2014, but as far as lyrical content and how the music makes you feel, we tried to keep it as close as possible to what would happen back when hi-five was on top of the charts.

(Treston) One of the things that we would like to ask the fans to, for those who have matured with us, you have to understand that in life, we have to continue to do what we have to do. We have families and we all work hard to building the name Hi-Five and we have to eat to support out kids. I hope that our fans would give us a chance. We’re not trying to create that type of atmosphere where people think we’re bringing in a lead singer to take the place of Tony Thompson because there’s only one Tony Thompson and with all due respect, I salute him. I just want the fans to accept what’s going on and be mature about what’s going on.

(Pharook) It’s not just about feeding our kids and doing what we love, but this is what he wanted. His untimely demise before this happened, that’s what we were in the process of doing. No body wants to replace him, we’re keeping the legacy going. We’re keeping the movement happening in his honor, not despite of his honor. That’s what I think our fans need to understand.

(Billy) We want everyone to understand that part right there. If we keep putting good music out there, we can’t do an interview without mentioning Tony’s name. If we’re not out there, putting music out there, there’s not gonna be nothing out there to talk about. We have to teach the youngins’ about Tony. We have groups like Mindless Behavior taking the Kissing Game and redid it. Where did that song come from? If we stay out there, we keep the name going. We want the fans to appreciate what we’re doing now and be mature about the situation.

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