Al B. Sure!, a Singer Who Has Polished His Image by Smoothing the Rough Edge of Rhythm & Blues
updated 12/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
Whatever it is, the passion that Al B. Sure! brings out in people has already won him a platinum debut album, In Effect Mode, and three smash singles—most recently the aptly titled "Rescue Me." One of a new breed of singers that include Keith Sweat, Al B. blends a streetwise hip-hop beat with silky-smooth melodies reminiscent of Marvin Gaye. His drop-dead looks are now getting their broadest exposure yet as he continues his six-month U.S. tour.
The son of Al Brown, a nuclear medicine technician, and Cassandra, an accountant, Al B. started writing songs with his cousin Kyle West five years ago, when both were students at middle-class Mount Vernon High School ("They call it Money Earnin' Mount Vernon," Al says). The school's star quarterback, he turned down a University of Iowa football scholarship to attend Manhattan's Center for the Media Arts and pursue singing and writing. His friend Eddie F. of the rap group Heavy D. and the Boyz brought Brown to the attention of manager Andre Harrell, who landed him a 1987 Warner Bros. deal. "They wanted me to do 12-inch singles," he recalls. "I wanted albums. I said, 'Let's get in there for real.' " Al won and took on his snazzier stage name for the occasion.
His career is now so hot that he wants to make the name legitimate: Brown plans to be Sure! legally in the near future. He has found a fairly sure thing—if not a potential Mrs. Sure!—in 19-year-old dancer Auxvasse Hill, whom he met in 1986. "We were in a mall in New York, and we saw each other and just stopped," says Al. "We've been close ever since." That isn't meant literally, however: Hill lives 3,000 miles away in Santa Ana, Calif.
For now, Brown's closest female associate is his mother, whose experience as an evangelist minister helps him fend off the temptations of fame. They live together in a Teaneck, N.J., condo (Al's parents divorced when he was 4), but he plans to hand the place over to her when his tour ends. He will find new digs for himself, and with his new money-earning capacity, they won't be modest. "Just something comfortable enough that I can walk from one end to the other in five minutes," Al B. says. Just roomy enough to ensure some privacy.