The Dukes of Hazzard versus Boss Hogg, Austin Powers versus Dr. Evil and Howard Stern versus the FCC are all rivalries for the ages. And you can add Ronald "Mr. Biggs" Isley versus R. Kelly to the favorite-feuds list now that their beef has been rekindled in the Isley Brothers' "Contagious" video.
Kelly's 1995 "Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)" video was so successful, the Isley Brothers decided to make a sequel with one of their own songs. Ronald Isley reappears as Mr. Biggs in the new clip, which was co-directed by Kelly and Billie Woodruff. This time, however, his cheating mate is played by R&B songstress Chanté Moore, who's having an affair with Kelly. After Isley catches the two in his bedroom, the video ends with Kelly's and Biggs' bodyguards facing off as Moore departs with her lover.
Isley said the R&B star felt he had a lot on the line as director. In fact, he'll be calling the shots for a feature-length film based on the love triangle, with music by Kelly and the Isleys.
"Contagious" is the lead-off single from the Isleys' Eternal. The August 7 release features production and guest appearances from Kelly, Jill Scott, Avant, Raphael Saadiq and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
"They played a bunch of our old songs for us," said Jam, who helped lay the tracks for five cuts on the album, including the title track. "Ernie [Isley] would take the guitar out and Mr. Biggs would sing songs like 'Tell Me If You Still Care' by the SOS Band as though it was their song.
"They're like my idols," Jam continued. "My whole writing style evolved from what the Isleys did."
Double-J isn't the only hitmaker to idolize the Isleys, who recently broke the record for longest time span charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with nearly 42 years separating 1959's "Shout" and "Contagious."
"Saadiq is one of Ernie's students," said Ronald. "If you listen to 'Head on My Pillow' and 'Anniversary,' those records were inspired by the Isley Brothers' feel."
Their influence spreads much further. The Isley Brothers employed both Jimi Hendrix and Elton John early in the rock legends' careers. The Beatles covered the Isleys' "Twist and Shout" in 1964, while "Who's That Lady" and "It's Your Thing" were both used in ubiquitous commercials.
The Isleys' influence isn't confined to pop and R&B, however. A Tribe Called Quest, Aaliyah, DJ Quik, Ice Cube and the Notorious B.I.G. who used "Between the Sheets" as musical backdrop for "Big Poppa" have sampled their work. Nas and Foxy Brown have called upon Mr. Biggs to sing on their tracks.
And, yes, the Isleys can keep up with the youngsters. They've used rappers such as Lil' Kim on their records, while Ronald's getting ready to enter the studio with Dr. Dre and members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
"Puffy and those guys really know what they're doing," said Mr. Biggs, who once called on P. Diddy to produce tracks for him. "They're on top of the technology, using sampling. They know what they're talking about."
"We love music. We love the competition," said brother Ernie of the group's motivation. "We feel like well-trained athletes. Everybody else is trying to catch us, following our steps."
Speaking of steps, Ronald said you'll see just where R. Kelly took Chanté Moore in the follow-up to their current video.
"The next single will continue 'Contagious,'" said Mr. Biggs. "You're gonna see what happens when they leave the room and go down those steps. It's going to go into the movie."
What will Mr. Biggs be doing while his girl is creeping off? Humbling himself, apparently, since the clip will be filmed for a remake of Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now."
"We turned it into an Isley Brothers song," said the singer. "It's one of the great remakes. I'm begging her to come back to me. No one leaves Mr. Biggs."
Eternal track list, according to DreamWorks:
- "Move Your Body"
- "Warm Summer Night"
- "You Deserve Better"
- "Just Like This"
- "Secret Lover"
- "You're All I Need"
- "Settle Down"
- "If You Leave Me Now"
- "Said Enough" (featuring Jill Scott)
- "You Didn't See Me"
- "Ernie's Jam"