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"I haven’t seen this kind of excitement since The Beatles."
——ERG President Polly Anthony
B2K’S AOK WITH EPIC
Everybody says "Uh Huh," But We Can Only Manage the "Huh?" Part
They’re Urban music’s answer to the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, and a reminder of teen pop-soul superstars of the past like the Jackson 5, Kris Kross, Immature and New Edition.

Hopefully, the members of Epic Records group B2K—for Boys of the New Millennium—won’t grow up to disfigure themselves or collect the Elephant Man’s bones.

Accompanied by a fan fervor reminiscent of its boy-band forebears, the red-hot act is parlaying the label’s nearly yearlong campaign into a huge chart debut.

Epic Records Group President Polly Anthony says: “I haven’t seen this kind of excitement since The Beatles. How far these kids have come in the last 12 months is astonishing. It’s a superstar group with plenty of hits on this album. Just fasten your seat belts and watch.”

The teenage foursome’s self-titled bow, hot on the heels of the best-selling single, “Uh Huh,” hit the streets Tuesday (3/12), with retailers predicting a high chart debut and sales in the six figures.

EVP/GM Steve Barnett credits fellow EVP David McPherson and Epic’s Urban marketing department (particularly head Gary Beech and Maria Ma) for having the “patience” to set up the record. “The band’s inspiring bond with its fans is the key. This will be a hit around the world,” he says.

The group—J-Boog, Lil’ Fizz, Omarion and Raz-B, all 16—opened for Lil’ Bow Wow last summer. Discovered by longtime IMx manager Chris Stokes, B2K was signed to Epic last year by A&R exec Max Gousse after a new talent showcase in L.A.

McPherson, who signed the Backstreet Boys to Jive, explains he saw a void in the marketplace for a young African-American teen group. “NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys paved the way for B2K, but [label publicity exec] La’Verne Perry started the ball rolling at the black teen fanzines, who were starving for an act like this.”

“Uh Huh,” with a Hype Williams-directed video just added at MTV, has sold more than 300k OTC. The video for the second track, “Gots ta Be,” bowed on BET’s “106th and Park” on the album’s release day, which is also the add date for Urban/Crossover radio, while “Uh Huh” continues to make inroads at Top 40. Other highlights:

—B2K spent the last year playing high schools, visiting radio stations and appearing on Jenny Jones, MTV’s TRL (where they have been consistently Top 5), Soul Train and, later this month, Rosie.

—The band just came off a national tour with IMx.

—On Monday, the act performed in all five N.Y. boroughs for a whirlwind event titled “B2K To You,” climaxed by a free concert at Manhattan’s Bryant Park.

—The group’s online site, b2klovesyou.com, is a vital marketing element, offering free downloads, band fliers, contests, computer wallpaper, customized calendars and B2K Instant Messenger Buddy icons to use with AOL.

—Says Raz-B: “We want to be the kind of group the whole family can listen to. By the way, do you know where I can get Lisa Marie Presley’s home number?”
HITS LIST IS HAVING
A HEAT WAVE
Pass the BBQ sauce. (7/3a)
TOP 20: A LIL MORE OF THE SAME
Like a broken record... (7/1a)
WATCH THIS
We aim to please. (7/3a)
BLACK MUSIC MONTH:
6 IN THE MORNIN'
Origin story of the real OGs (7/3a)
PRE-HOLIDAY PONDERING:
POP TOP EDITION
Have another Beer, we insist. (7/2a)
WHAT NEXT?
The biz ponders action after some reflection.
GRAMMY SPECULATION
100% guaranteed to be somewhat accurate, probably.
BLACK MUSIC MONTH
...continues.
TRUMP'S IN THE BUNKER
Just to inspect it, though.
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