I love water aerobics. Combined with a good soundtrack and I can do miraculous things in the water that my body is not yet equipped to do on dry land. Today’s class was no exception. I was getting it in and when Kris Kross “Jump” pounded from the speakers and it was on in so many ways.

They were my first multi platinum group along with Cypress Hill (that story for another post) that I penned and developed the marketing plan for. And it wasn’t easy. I was just getting nestled into my new office and position at Columbia Records and as my reward my product management roster consisted of groups and labels that no one wanted, were not a priority and an uphill battle would lie ahead for this turban wearing long skirt flaunting product manager. The Ruffhouse label and their entire roster was handed to me unceremoniously. Here.

I took my time, spoke often with Jermaine Dupri and painstakingly began to implement strategy that would make an impact. It started with the album which at first was an EP. “Jump” was not on it and it wasn’t enough to compete with the hip hop of the day. Jermaine went back to the drawing board and brought back jump and a few other tunes. Now I had something to work with.

They brought the Krossed our look with them in the door. So rather than introduce them as “rappers” I led with their fashion identity and flooded the preteen magazines (Right on Blackbeat) with pin ups. No mention of music. I wanted to develop an audience who would troop for them musically when it was introduced. Next I went back and forth with Donnie and insisted that they appear backwards on the album cover. Over time with the team, publicity Chrissy Murray, street and hip hop promotion, Tyesh HARRIS and eventually Eddie Pugh and Demmette at commercial radio we started to get some traction.

But what brought everything together was their appearance on In Living Color. From day one I started to send Rosie Perez (talent booker and choreographer for the show) postcards of their fashion trend. She responded with “what is this and what am I suppose to do with this.” At that time there wasn’t much of a story at radio so my selling points were weak at best but my drive was strong. I continued to send her tear sheets from the teen mags, and keep her updated on the little victories as their story developed. Then one day she called and said such and such canceled can you get them out here tomorrow. I told her yes before I could get Donnie Ienner (President of Columbia) to agree but I knew it would happen. And it did.

That single appearance set them on the track to stardom.

So hearing them play this morning got me feeling a little nostalgic and a little sad. Loved them boys. RIP Chris Kelly. Long life Chris Smith.

By karen marie mason