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— by Jennifer Vineyard

This time last year, B2K faced some serious questions. Did the B in B2K stand for "broken up"? Did the O in Omarion stand for "over"? Omari Grandberry wasn't about to let that happen, but just as his rise to fame wasn't entirely his own doing, his boy band's unmaking — after only two years — was beyond him as well, resting more in the hands of people he once considered his best friends, as he relates in his forthcoming memoir. "O," out February 1 via MTV Books, documents his growing up in Los Angeles, joining the gang Under Age Criminals and eventually swapping the UAC initials for those of B2K. As one of the most popular groups on the market was unraveling, its lead singer had to make a crucial decision: Would he be able to go it alone?

From the prologue of "O":

 Omarion's Scrapbook: From beautiful baby to high school hunk to superstar

Here I was, alone in a hotel room high over downtown Philadelphia with the show three hours away, and I'm waiting for the phone to ring. I had one phone in my hand and one in my pocket. I found myself just staring at the phone in my hand, like I was trying to will it to ring. Suddenly both lines rang at once. I flipped open a phone in each hand. My manager, Chris Stokes, was on one line. The limo driver was on the other. Neither call was what I was looking for. The driver said he was ready to run me over to the arena, and Chris and Taz were ready to meet me there. I couldn't wait any longer, so I grabbed my gear and split.

As I watched the dreary scenery zip past, I started to wonder how things could have got so screwed up so fast. Just a few weeks ago my group, B2K, was on top of the world — and the best part was that the four of us were tight. They were my brothers, and I knew they had my back just like I had theirs.

So why am I sitting by myself in a limo, on the way to a sold-out arena in Philadelphia, wondering if my best friends, Raz-B, Lil' Fizz and J-Boog, will show up for the concert? I don't know what they're planning to do, 'cuz except for one brief conference call a few days back, we aren't talking to each other — my boys and I are communicating mostly by managers and magazine articles — when just a few weeks ago we were shooting hoops and playing Xbox.

That's what the phone call was all about. Will my boys be there to perform with me or not?

Our tour was winding up when sh-- started to go down. Stories were flying that we hated each other — I even heard one rumor that Raz-B, Lil' Fizz and J-Boog had told their manager they didn't want to fly on the same plane as me.

In the middle of all of this madness we still had two live shows left on the tour schedule — Philadelphia and New York, two of our biggest fan bases. Now it was time to put all of that stuff aside. We had said that B2K was going to do these shows, simple as that. Of course, things were so crazy that the other guys had lawyers telling them not to show up, but I couldn't get with that. No matter what the beefs were, I felt it was our duty to deliver.

I'd talked to them about it a few days before the scheduled Philly show. As we'd talked over the static of a four-way conference call, I had felt how torn they'd been. When I'd hung up the phone with them, I'd felt good. They weren't going to leave me hanging, they'd show up for Philly.

Don't misunderstand, I've got confidence in my singing and my ability to give it up for an audience. But this new development, the possible solo thing, had come up all of a sudden, and to be honest, it was kind of scary and intimidating. But I had committed to go on with the show with or without the other guys, and I was locked in. As the limo sped closer to the arena, I tried to prepare myself mentally, running through the new dance moves and coming up with ways to keep the show as on point as it would be with all four of us. It all came down to one question: If I had to, could I deliver what the fans were expecting?

As we pulled into the back, I checked out the building from the outside. Going in this time was different — the last time we were four going in. This time it was only one person entering, and all of a sudden this building was looking real huge — like a fortress.

Now it was less than two hours before showtime. As I was going about prepping for the show, I saw constant reminders of who was not there. The main dressing room area was laid out for four people, but I was the only one there. I stowed my gear and went out into the arena for a mic check. Four cordless mics were set up onstage, and I checked all four just to make sure. Behind me there were two dancers — Sam and Dave — rehearsing. These guys had been brought in to back me up if it came to me going on alone. They had good moves, but some immediate adjustments had to be made on my part if we were going to perform together that night. I'm used to glancing to my left or my right and seeing Raz or Fizz or Boog working it beside me. We were so tight I always felt that I could sense what was happening on the stage at every moment during our show. This new setup was going to be kind of strange. Sam and Dave could back me up with the choreography, but the singing was going to be all me.

I moved out into the empty arena. I took a seat halfway back and checked out the surroundings. This was something that me and the guys did before most shows. It was part of our ritual. It was like we were sizing up the battlefield where B2K was set to take on the world. Now, sitting out there alone in the arena, I felt isolated. It was starting to feel like Omarion against the entire universe.

My mind went back to the last show we did together. Even though things had gotten a little tense between us by that time, we'd tossed all that aside because we were going on in five. Before hitting the stage, we'd done the thing we did before each show. The prayers and the hugs had felt different. More solemn, almost. Maybe we'd all felt the same thing that night; whatever it had been, everybody had been serious, and we'd given a killer show.

Now I'm sitting about 20 rows back from the stage, checking everything out. In an hour this place was going to fill up. As I sat and thought about what I was going to do, my cell rang. Damn, waiting on this call was getting to be a bad joke. I flipped open the phone and listened to a solid minute of loud static. I could hear what sounded like a voice, trying to communicate with me, but it was too broken up. I'll never know who made that call, but some part of me hoped it was one of the guys, calling to explain things or just to talk. Something about that failed call helped my mind to focus. I had work to do. I got up out of the seat and headed toward the back.

The crew for the night's opening act, ATL, had arrived and was hanging out backstage. I worked out a few last-minute moves with Sam and Dave and then went into the dressing room. I sat alone in the room and tried to concentrate. Behind me I could feel ATL's bass line vibrating through the walls. As I closed my eyes, I had a brief daydream, one where the guys show up, charge in and make the last-minute save. Just like the cavalry. I imagined them running into the arena just as I'm about to take the stage. We grab hands, say our prayer, and then the lights come up on us. The crowd goes wild. I knew it was a fantasy, but I wanted to believe in it. A knock on the door. My managers, Chris and Taz, came in, and the fantasy ended. I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was dressed in my Lakers jersey, and I looked good. The three other jerseys, one each for Raz-B, Lil' Fizz and J-Boog, were still hanging at the back of the room.

Taz stuck her head in and flashed five fingers — five minutes to showtime. This was it, no turning back, no more wishing. I finally took the phone out of my hand and tossed it into my bag. I left the dressing room. Outside, the dancers were heading toward the stage; one of them gave me a thumbs-up. I nodded, but I've got to tell you, I still wasn't feeling it. I started moving toward the stage. As I got closer I could hear the chant building — "B2K! B2K! B2K!" It felt like I was marching up to a firing squad, and there was nothing sweet about it. But this wasn't a firing squad. They were fans; they knew me, and they knew what they wanted from me. It was my job now to deliver.

Finally I was backstage. The stage was dark, and I could feel the audience's energy building. I closed my eyes and tried to take myself into the zone. The lights flashed up, and just before I ran on I took one last look behind me. I knew my three bandmates wouldn't be there, but I looked anyhow. I took a deep breath and hit the stage. Reality hit me hard. The guys were gone, and they weren't coming back.

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Photo: MTV Books/MTV News

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