LFO scored one of 1999's biggest hits with their insanely catchy "Summer Girls." Yet the tune's sing-songy "Abercrombie and Fitch" chorus also made the band one of the year's most annoying for many. As three white kids playing hip-hop-influenced pop, LFO were dismissed as poseurs and phonies. But when it comes to rap credibility, lead singer Rich Cronin feels just fine.
"We had all these white hip-hop fans saying they hated us, which is funny, because what does that say about them?" Cronin asked, adding that "Summer Girls" got props from LL Cool J, M.O.P. and De la Soul. In fact, M.O.P. and De la Soul like LFO so much they appear on the band's new album, Life Is Good, which comes out Tuesday (June 26).
"De la's manager came up to me and told me they loved us, and that they'd call us," Cronin said. "I thought he was BS-ing. But when we got together, I played them 'Rap Star,' which didn't end up on the album, and they were totally buggin'."
The rappers ended up on the minor-key tune "Alayna," which features Cronin's half-sung, half-rapped vocals and a Latin-tinged chorus. "They followed their own path, and so have we, so I always felt a connection with them," he said.
M.O.P.'s interest came as a total shock to Cronin, however. "I was like, 'No way, those guys are the hardest, they like rob people and stuff'," he laughed.
Refraining from their usual explicit lyrics "out of respect" to LFO's pop audience, according to Cronin, M.O.P. laid down a 16-bar rap on Life Is Good's title track. The album has an even sunnier pop vibe than LFO's eponymous debut, and the singer admits he owes as much to the Cars and Green Day as he does to hip-hop.
"I'm not gonna pretend I'm not a pop artist," Cronin said. "I think we got respect from the hip-hop community because we never pretended to be something we're not. I'll never be Eminem, 'cause I didn't have the same experiences he did, so I'm not gonna try to come across all hard."
The band's good looks, its ascent through music mogul Lou Pearlman's ranks alongside 'NSYNC and even its name (which stands for Lyte Funky Ones) often get LFO written off as just another teen-pop group. Cronin said he's not going to turn down any potential listeners, though. "If we're in teen magazines, that's cool with me," he said. "We get lumped in with 'NSYNC and those guys, but all I can do is make the music I like and hope people take it seriously."