Sometimes, when you grow up in the suburbs, all you can do is dream.
And for a young trio from the suburb of Willingboro, New Jersey, who go by the name of City High, those dreams left the rec room and back yard and came true. Big time.
City High have the #1 rap single in the country with the provocative "What Would You Do?," and they're on a road to making their 36,000 neighbors proud.
After writing and producing most of their self-titled debut, which hits stores May 22, the protégés of rapper Wyclef Jean are proving that the forced isolation of small-town living did them good.
"It was your average suburban community," explained member Robby Pardlo. "Real quiet, deers and squirrels. That was even more reason for me to be all into the music."
"It's good 'cause you can climb trees and stuff like that, and you won't fall into the street you fall on some nice, padded grass," bandmate Claudette Ortiz added.
Ortiz and Pardlo hooked up with third member Ryan Toby at Willingboro High. Although they clicked and were impressed with each other's singing skills, initially the group was conceived as a duo.
The wheels were set in motion for the duo of Pardlo and Toby when the latter got a part in 1993's Sister Act 2. "I stumbled upon the audition, I didn't even know what auditions were I didn't have an 8x10, no bio, no nothing," said Toby, who was focused on becoming a recording artist at the time.
While on the film's set, Toby befriended his co-star, Fugees leading lady Lauryn Hill. L. Boogie then introduced him to Wyclef and his cousin Jerry Wonder, who signed Toby to his Booga Basement label.
Biding his time while Wonder secured a distribution deal with Interscope, Toby earned extra cheese ghostwriting songs for Will Smith, including the hit "Miami."
Pardlo, whom Toby had worked into his deal at Booga Basement, spent his downtime assisting superstars as well, singing backup on Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love."
"Me and Ryan were working on stuff, and the first song that we did, I had Claudette come over to the crib to sing the hook," Pardlo remembered. "When 'Clef heard it, he was like, 'There's something sort of crazy you all got some type of chemistry, so maybe I should think about making it a threesome.'"
The formula seemed primed for success, but there was just one problem: One girl, two guys, plus Wyclef sounded a little too familiar to some folks.
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