Ahmir is an R&B singing group based out of Massachusetts consisting of four members Big Mike, KC, Mr. Jones, and Sing-Sing. Ahmir holds the title as YouTube’s #1 most popular R&B singing group with over half a million subscribers and more than 100 million views. They have garnered the praises of the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Demi Lovato, Tank, and Beyoncé. We had the pleasure of discussing how Ahmir formed, the impact social media has on their career, the importance of artist giving back, their latest album, and more. Check out our interview with Ahmir below and be sure to #SupportRnB by picking up their most recent album Ahmir available now!
Colette: Can you tell us how Ahmir was formed and the meaning behind your name?
Mr. Jones: Ahmir met, we all went to school in Massachusetts or came for various opportunities. So basically, what year was it guys? Its been that long. [Laughs]. What was the original year we Cheung? (Michael Cheung: It was probably 2001), right. So Mike and I were in competing somewhat choirs. He was at the choir at BU, and I was at the choir at North Eastern two of the best choirs in the city, and it was a friendly rivalry. Both Mike and I were kind of the front tenor's solos for our respected choirs. Eventually, we met up got wind of each other. It was actually Mike’s idea to start the group, and from there the search was on.
Big Mike: Ahmir is Arabic for ‘Prince’.
Colette: You all are well known for your amazing covers of hit songs on YouTube. At times did you guys find the process challenging to cover certain songs?
Big Mike: Absolutely. It’s a challenge to cover any song for me honestly because you want to maintain the integrity of the original song, but I don’t think you want to do it exactly the way the artist does it because if that’s the case, people will just go and find that artist. You kind of want to breathe your own identity into the record, but you have to stay true the core of the record, or else people would be like it's so different that they can’t really vibe it’s not in the same vain that the artist wrote it in. So I think you have to really find a nice balance of putting your own spin on it while also maintaining the integrity of how the writer chose to bring that out.
Colette: In today’s digital age more and more artists are engaging in social media to help promote and market their brand. You guys, on the other hand, have gravitated to social media from the beginning. Can you share with us the impact social media has had on Ahmir’s career?
Mr. Jones: It has had a huge impact on our career, and I think that we might have just came up at the right time. Social media was an important thing with our beginning. It wasn’t like we was in a group for years, like some other groups and then they discovered social media. You know halfway through their journey and kind of figured it out. We kind of came up right in the start of that era and made a very deliberate effort to become popular through social media. Originally it was YouTube and the best way at that particular time was to cover the hottest songs. The ones that were getting the most plays, the ones that were getting the most searches, and just basically try to do them better than everyone else who was covering everyone. That’s what we did for a long time. We took songs and made them our own. We did songs out of our genre to be a little bit different, we mashed up songs to be a little bit different, and we got amazing results. So, we rode that wave for a very long time, and we're still riding it to some degree.
Colette: You guys have developed a nice following overseas in countries like Germany and Japan. Do you find that there’s a greater appreciation for R&B overseas more so than in the United States?
Big Mike: Absolutely. I find that since we’re being completely honest, I believe that it was Stephanie Mills who said it not too long ago. In this country specifically they want R&B, but they just don’t want it from black people. Right, and I know that controversial and pretty a provocative statement but you have people like Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake who put out pretty much R&B records, but because they were white boys it kind of pretty much crossed over really well for them. If you really listen to their albums, the majority of their last two projects, besides the one that Justin just put out was really heavy in the R&B feel. When we traveled overseas, people knew every word, and they really were into what the presentation was of just authentic R&B music. So, I just think that they have a much greater appreciation for it, but I also feel like if the gate holders over here, the gatekeepers rather would just put out great music and give that to the platform I think we would be a lot bigger than what we are right now.
Which is why I am thankful that YouTube kind of neutralize some of that by a way that we could get our music out there, but at the same time the market became so saturated that it became very, very difficult to really breakthrough a certain pocket. Although we been able to kind of stay in the forefront, it has been a challenge to stay at the forefront whenever the market is so oversaturated with anybody who’s anybody who wants to put up something can do that.
Colette: In a previous interview Sing-Sing talked about being gifted a D’Angelo CD and how he was amazed at the fact that when he opened the CD booklet, D’Angelo not only wrote but played the instruments for every song on the album. What are your thoughts on the music industry transitioning to do away with physical copies?
Big Mike: That’s a good question. I’m kind of an in hand type of a guy. I enjoy, like even when I read I am a heavy reader. So like their audiobooks and that has its place, right there’s tablets so you can read things online and etcetera. I don’t think there’s any substitute for being able to really grab hold to a book and being able to feel the pages and all those kinds of things, and when you meet the author of that book and being able to have them sign it. Things like that, I don’t think there’s any substitute for that. I think that overall as accustom we’re becoming very me, me, me and not so much one to another so the aspect that I think music creates. Music creates a family as it were out of things and out of people and it’s a great connecting factor.
So when you think back many years ago people would come with their booklets ready for it to be signed and things like that, now everybody has a camera phone. It’s a little more disconnected in my opinion, but I don’t think there’s any substitute for being able to go get an album and being able to open that sucker up and really read through the material that was printed back then.
Colette: You guys are big on giving back, participating in benefit concerts, and raising donations to help those affected by natural disasters. How important is it for artists to give back and help those in need?
KC: I think that it is really important that you give back especially once you have a certain platform, and you’re really influential when it comes to your followers. I think that without giving back to the people who have supported you throughout the years, it’s just not what it’s about. It’s really about giving back and showing our appreciation, and just being thankful that we’re able to share the gift that we have been given in more ways than one. That’s through our music and also through our influence.
Big Mike: Adding on to what KC said, giving back to us is an extension of who we are. Music gave us the platform to be able to do a lot more, but we are just very giving men who feel very, very deeply, and very, very passionate about certain causes. You know what I am saying, and things that have affected us personally. I have a woman in my family, one of my aunts who was severely beaten in her head with a hammer when I was a lot younger. That was one of the first domestic violence type things that I have ever really witnessed first hand. It lead me into a space where if I ever saw that dude I’d probably catch a case. But as I grew into manhood, it’s like okay, there are so many women dealing with those types of situations. What can we do with the platform that we have to kind of speak to some of that? We’ve done so many different projects, like the 'Pixel Project' and things like that, that really deal with providing a message that I think men need.
I saw a t-shirt not too long ago that said "No." Right under of it said, “No is a complete sentence.” I was like that’s a very simplified, very simplistic, very powerful way to just say enough is enough to some of the garbage that has been happening in this country. I think we have seen that across industries. We have seen men brought up on all kinds of charges that are just horrific, that are just like what are you people thinking? You know what I mean? Like I have a daughter, you what I am saying? I have a mother, of course, I have a sister. We try to do projects that felt very home base to us. Like, what would we want to say if this was your mother? What would we want to say if this was you know my sister or my daughter? So, we try to do things that we are passionate about, and that’s something that our manager always kind of put before us. Let’s do things that you all are passionate about that just doesn’t feel like something that you have to do, but rather something you’re passionate about. It reads as very genuine whenever it’s a result about something we’re passionate about.
Colette: What would you tell an artist that is desperately trying to break into the music industry, but has reached their breaking point?
KC: [Laughs] Well if there’s some talent there I would definitely tell them to keep on pushing through, and if that’s their dream to don’t ever give up on their dream.
Big Mike: KC you’re funny! If there’s some talent there [Laughs].
KC: Cause a lot of people you know what I’m saying, it’s just not for you, but if it’s actually talent there and it’s what they really want to do just don't give up on your dream. It’s a long road [Laughs].
Mr. Jones: If I could say it in a different way then KC, but basically the same thing. Adjust your breaking point because you’re going to have to do that repeatedly if you want to succeed.
Colette: You guys recently released your self-titled album Ahmir. What are some of your favorite songs on the album?
Mr. Jones: Great question.
Big Mike: I would say 'Carry On,' 'Thank you,' and 'We Shouldn’t Be Doing This.’ I think ‘We Shouldn’t Be Doing This’ is real raw R&B.
Mr. Jones: I’m gonna go with ‘Heartless,’ ‘So Wet Wet,’ and … get back to me for my third one. Let KC go.
Big Mike: I know what your third one is going to be.
KC: ‘My Love’
Big Mike: I knew you were going to say that K.
KC: Yeah, man that’s one of my favorites. ‘Heartless’ is one I like as well.
Mr. Jones: My third one is ‘I Won’t,’ which I feel is a highly underrated song. I actually think that it is definitely one of the top songs on the album, and it doesn’t really get as much props as some of the other songs. Underrated.
Big Mike: I thought you was going to say everything.
Mr. Jones: I could’ve, but I was not going to name three of my songs.
KC: You know what? ‘Separated’ is my joint man. Yeah, that’s dope. That’s like fire.
Colette: 'My Love' is your current single. Can you speak a little about the concept of the song and video?
Mr. Jones: It was Sing-Sing’s concept. Sing-Sing wrote the song, and I believe, I can’t speak for him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here, but from a perspective of a songwriter. When you’re a great songwriter, the video writes itself kind of to a certain degree. I believe that’s probably what happened for Sing. The song screams old school, screams nostalgia, screams vintage, so that’s automatically what you begin to visualize as the writer of the song, so that’s what you want for a video. It’s a period piece and it just basically tells a story of new love.
Colette: What can we look forward to in the coming months from Ahmir?
KC: We’re definitely going to be working on new material, more music for you guys. We’ll definitely be putting up some more videos on YouTube. We’ll be doing some promotions for the album of course.
Mr. Jones: Hopefully we’ll be doing the follow-up video for the next single off the album hopefully as well.
Big Mike: Cheung anything else you can add to that
Mr. Jones: We’ll be putting out another Japan album out at the end of the year probably as well.
Michael Cheung (Manager): We’re going to try to put out a video for the second single, continue album promotion, and some dates I am working on. As you spoke before, there’s a lot of love overseas in Japan. We may try to go back over there. We were there just about a year ago; in Hong Kong did a show. We may try to do something like that again maybe in the coming months, maybe summer. I know as individually speaking I know some of the guys have individual projects that’ll be coming down the line, which I think will be kind of cool for people to see individual expressions from some of the guys. Yeah, that’s what I think a lot of people can look forward to.
Colette: Can you tell everyone how they can reach you on Social Media?
Mr. Jones: I am at @DamnMr.Jones (@-D-A-M-N-M-R-J-O-N-E-S) on all social media, Twitter, IG, Facebook, Spotify, all that. Also, don’t forget the Ahmir account. (Instagram & Facebook: @AhmirMusic, Twitter: @Ahmir, YouTube: AhmirTV, and AhmirMusic.com).
KC: KC Washington on Facebook and on Instagram it's @Kellycamacho_.
Colette: Thank you all for this opportunity to interview you for RnB Junkie, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Big Mike: Thank you.
KC: We really appreciate the opportunity.
Mr. Jones: Thank you so much.