“I started Blackstreet after we were doing all the demos for Bobby Brown’s third album (Bobby). Chauncey ‘Black’ Hannibal was singing all the demos: ‘One More Night,’ ‘Get Away’…all of these songs he was singing them. And I didn’t know he could sing like that. What’s crazy is Chauncey and Eric [Williams] actually auditioned to sing background for Guy. This was in ’89. I said, ‘Yo, they wack. I need some real singers that sound like Aaron Hall. Get them out of here.’ I didn’t think that Chauncey and Eric had that gospel feel like Aaron. So Chauncey ends up signing to Damian Hall, but when Damian moved back to New Jersey Chauncey didn’t have anywhere else to go. Damian calls me like, ‘Hey, I need a job…I’ll watch the studio…I’ll do whatever.’ Chauncey is such a humble guy, but in the beginning I didn’t know if I could get close to him because he was with Damian and I had quit Guy. I had one of my people watch Chauncey while I was away working with Michael Jackson [laughs]. But when I came back I found out Chauncey was a standup guy. He really looked out for my studio. So Chauncey ended up being that guy. He told me he could sing all the demos and he was great!
I wanted to do a record with him, but Chauncey didn’t want to go solo. He wanted to do a group. He was like, ‘I think you should be in the group.’ But I just told him after Guy I didn’t want to go through that anymore. I was having flashbacks [laughs]. And Guy wasn’t truly divorced. There was a meeting between me and Aaron, but it never happened. Then I saw an interview where Damian and Aaron were saying, ‘Yeah, we are going to do a Hall album…we finished with Guy.’ That’s when I knew it was time to put together Blackstreet. Then we found Joeseph Stonestreet. It was Leon Sylvers that brought Joseph to us. I told Leon, ‘Man, I want us to do some writing together.’ Leon wrote ‘Before I Let You Go.’ I called Chauncey black because he was dark skinned and then we had Joseph Stonestreet, so it all clicked: Blackstreet. But after we did out first song ‘Baby Be Mine,’ Joseph Stonestreet started going wild. He was acting like Eddie Kane from The Five Heartbeats [laughs].
We ended up getting a record deal with John McClain (former Interscope A&R Executive) and Jimmy Iovine (founder of Interscope). So here it is. We had to make that transition really fast because Jimmy was used to seeing Stonestreet with us. But we are telling him, ‘Well, Joseph Stonestreet is no longer in the group. We have to find another singer.’ Jimmy just told us, ‘I don’t care…I just want your sound.’ So I remember in my head this guy at the Hilton Universal Hotel who kept handing me a CD. He kept asking me to listen to his music. And that singer was Dave Hollister. I thought he was incredible. I knew with or without me he was going to make it. It was God and timing that made me call Dave and us getting that perfect replacement.
I had Chauncey trying to sing ‘Before I Let You Go.’…but he was like, ‘This song was meant for Joseph Stonestreet.’ I told him, ‘Well, we should put the new singer in.’ As soon as Dave Hollister came out to Virginia, he signed to Blackstreet, and he sang on ‘Before I Let You Go.’ Dave came in—first take—and killed that song. He was great. When that first Blackstreet album went platinum I proved to the industry and to Aaron and Damian that you could not block God’s talent.”