Cameo’s origins started in intimate clubs and the city streets of New York City in the 1970s. Blackmon debuted with a single called “Find My Way” on Chocolate City Records (a label managed by Cecil Holmes through Casablanca Records). The group originally formed as a 13-member squad named the New York Players. They changed their name to the more attractive Cameo to avoid confusion with fellow funk group, The Ohio Players.
Cameo’s first single, “Rigor Mortis,” off their 1977 debut album “Cardiac Arrest,” went gold. Their next three albums, “Ugly Ego,” Secret Omen” and “We All Know Who We Are” contained dance floor hits. “Find My Way” was a disco hit and was included on the “Thank God It’s Friday” soundtrack. In 1980, the group was ambitious releasing “Cameosis” which had the singles, “Shake Your Pants,” “We’re Going Out Tonight,” “Feel Me,” which spawned the title track single, and “Keep It Hot.”
In 1981, the group released its seventh album, “Knights of the Sound Table.” The 1982 album, “Alligator Woman,” contained the single “Flirt” and the album cover featured Prince protege Denise “Vanity” Matthews. The 1984 album, “Style,” came out when the band was transitioning from five members to four and a sound change. That same year the group released the “She’s Strange” album which produced the radio hits, “Talkin’ Out the Side of Your Neck” and the title track. Vanity was again featured on the album’s cover.
Cameo prided itself on the use of non-conventional drums on the record and future recordings. In 1985 the group released “Single Life,” which reached #2 on the R&B/hop-hop charts thanks to the title single and “Attack Me With Your Love.”
So by the time the group’s biggest selling album, “Word Up!” hit the airwaves in 1985, Cameo knew what it felt like to have hit records and wanted to change the music game even more.
“We know who we are we know what we offer. There was something along the musical landscape that hadn’t been done at that time and we wanted to create music that was radio-friendly. We wanted to be somebody and we achieved that,” Blackmon said.
“Word Up!” was a world-wide phenomenon and was Grammy nominated for Record of the Year. The group performed at the first annual 1987 Soul Train Music Awards and took home the Best Single/Group and Album of the Year.
The video for “Word Up!“ is when fans were introduced to Blackmon’s signature cup.
“I’ve had cups that I haven’t worn. It was a part of the tradition. When we did the video for ‘Word Up!’ we were standing in line for our outfits and there was this big box our costume designer said you’re wearing this. I took it into the dressing room and I said man this is what he wants me to wear? They said ‘balls out.’ It became all the rage in Europe. People still ask me about it here. They ask me, ‘are you gonna wear that cup’ and I say are you crazy, no I’m not wearing it here” Blackmon laughed.
The title track was a top pop hit and a No. 1 Black Music Single while the catchy “Candy” earned the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip- Hop Songs No. 1 single.
“Candy” has been sampled by numerous artists, including Tupac on the single “All About U” from his “All Eyez on Me album; Will Smith’s “Big Willie Style” album and Mariah Carey sampled it on her song “Loverboy” from the “Glitter” movie soundtrack. The Black Eyed Peas also sampled the song for “Ba Bump” on their “Monkey Business” album.
“Anything people like, they want to hear more of,” Blackmon said. “They’ve used part of a creative process. No one’s taken anything from us.”
The 1988 album, “Machismo,” which was produced by Blackmon, featured the late great Miles Davis and Blackmon collaborating on the single, “In the Night.” The album also included a social commentary “Skin I’m In” featuring fellow musicians Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Bernard Wright, and Randy and Michael Brecker. Cameo also received the American Music Award for Favorite Group/Soul, R&B.
Cameo’s popularity began to decline with the releases of their next records: 1990’s “Real Men…Wear Black” and 1991’s “Emotional Violence.” The group decided to take a break from recording until 1994’s album, “In the Face of Funk;” although two compilation records were released before “In the Face of Funk.” “In the Face of Funk” reached No. 10 on the R&B charts and is out of print now. The group didn’t release any new material until 2000’s “Sexy Sweet Thing” album.
Although the group’s records didn’t make the charts, Blackmon produced projects for several artists, including Bobby Brown, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Chaka Kahn, Arsenio Hall, Eddie Murphy and 8-Ball & MJG.
The group, which currently consists of Blackmon, Kevin Kendrick, Charlie Singleton, Aaron Mills, Jeff Nelson, Anthony Lockett, Tomi Jenkins, Johnny Moffitt, is currently working on a new album.
“We are the only ones who can do music the way we do it,” Blackmon said.” Being in Cameo is an elixir, it’s in your blood. We’ve been recording songs for quite sometime and are exploring ways to release our music but we will be releasing new music by the end of the year.”
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