New Terrace Heights
The Super Group That Has Music Running Through Their Veins
By Phulbert St. Germain
A Grammy winner and classically trained dancer walks into a tattoo parlor…what could possible start off as a bad joke was the beginning of New Terrace Heights. This is the inside look of how four different people came together to create what they call the “super group,” the random road life took them down all led them to the same place and if it weren’t for their trials, tribulations and humility, this group would have never come to be. They had to travel the world, go through personal struggles, only to come back to New York and let destiny happen.
The Story of DJ Fadelf: “The General”
DJ Fadelf grew up in Hempstead, Long Island, New York. He titled himself a “jack of all trades” because he was good with his hands from an early age. Dabbling in almost everything, DJ Fadelf has done it all; you almost have to ask him what hasn’t he done. His list of professions would fall off the page. He was in a young R&B group with his cousins called 4 U, he became a model at the age of 17 by being in the right place at the right time, he does construction, he is a certified barber and personal trainer; he is also a songwriter and singer so, what can’t he do? Through all of his many talents, the one thing that was constant in his life was his desire to DJ. At 10 years old, Fadelf received his first DJ set– he recalled his days of battling a neighbor with their sound systems and blending and mixing with his only turntable to whatever music that was playing on TV or the radio. At that very moment, he knew he wanted to be a DJ and began to perfect his craft. From Bar Mitzvah’s to red light special basement parties, DJ Fadelf built his network and was tagged versatile because of his broad range of music selection. “I wasn’t scared of any type of music. I love it. Some people do it but they don’t actually love it.” And when I asked him what is dearest to his heart he says, “DJing because it has taken me so far.” DJ Fadelf recalls when he received his first DJ set; “People didn’t see me for a long time. I would stay in the house; it was like making love.” And the passion for his skill continued to grow when he was invited to do a set in the Bahamas; from there he toured as a DJ with his cousin Sincere, a member of the group Product G&B.
Ask DJ Fadelf about his relationship with music and he’ll tell you, “If you took that from me I would be stuck… lost.” DJ Fadelf spun for numerous events, including Breast Cancer and a Haiti Benefit, for free because he feels, “it’s just a matter of giving back. I think it all comes back ten fold. I’m a God fearing person so I think it just was meant for me to be surrounded by the certain elements that came my way.” This type of outlook on life is what labeled DJ Fadelf “The General” of the group.
Sincere Gubano: The Mastermind
Who hasn’t heard the song “Maria, Maria” with Product G&B and the talented, Carlos Santana? As a member of the group R&B group, Product G&B, Sincere has won one of the highest accolades in the music industry; the Grammy. His talent has given him the opportunity to work with the legendary group, Earth, Wind and Fire and he’s had his music used on various soundtracks and performed on the Jay Leno show. His major success granted him three Grammys. After all of that, how hard could it be to put together a group? Sincere says,“putting this group together was like putting the fantastic four together. It’s history in the making.”
Sincere and his cousin, DJ Fadelf, grew up in the same part of Hempstead, and although Hempstead is not necessarily a bad neighborhood, it wasn’t the best part of town. Growing up, Sincere was caught up in the lifestyle of the “block” where drinking beers and fighting was a regular occurrence. He would sing regularly, but it wasn’t until Sincere received attention from the ladies that he decided to stick with the singing. After winning many talent shows, Sincere “left the hood stuff, the thug life and started singing.” His singing led him to travel the world.
Sincere and DJ Fadelf decided to start a group one day; they were always in touch with Chris Classic and they were all from the same neighborhood, but their personal successes pushed them in various directions. It wasn’t until Sincere met Nola Layne at a tattoo parlor in downtown, Brooklyn that he decided to start over again, this time with a female power voice.
Nola Layne: The Survivor
“I grew up in a bad environment so anytime there was dance class, I was always there because I didn’t want to be at home. It was my way of venting. I woke up and thought about dance classes, I went to sleep and thought about it,” Nola admits wholeheartedly.
Dancing was Nola’s escape. She was a classically trained dancer and grew up in Ohio. At the age of 7, she got her first professional job and was home-schooled for half of the year and did theater productions such as Annie, Oliver and the Wizard of Oz. Nola was able to go to the now infamous School of Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio where the MTV show “Taking the Stage” is filmed. This is where “the soul came out of me,” with her hand on her heart, Nola explains the road to finding her voice in a school that didn’t limit her talent.
Nola graduated High School early and headed to New York to continuing pursuing her career, she trained with dance legends, such as Mia Michaels and Savion Glover. After realizing school was not for her, she walked out of class and, “This was when life got hard and you just all of sudden try to work with different people and try to make music happen. I kind of fell off and got into fighting and stuff.”
Nola received a break when she was offered a lead singing role. The only issue was that it was in Japan and she had to be there the following week. She took her only $1,000 and landed in Japan at 19 years old. Going to Japan gave her many opportunities. Nola was heard by Ashanti’s tour manager and was offered to tour with Ashanti; she was then placed on tour in Japan with a Korean and Japanese singer and taught herself to speak Japanese fluently. Nola also toured with Life Jennings.
At 23, Nola was back in the States and tried to work on her solo career. She worked with various producers and had various records; however she never received her big break. “I tried to do my thing,” but because of her look she was told to take a pop route and she wanted to stay true to herself and get creative control over her music. And that’s when Nola met Sincere in that tattoo parlor.
“The hard way is the best way, the easy way is the wack way,” Nola jokingly commented, but it holds a lot of weight. So I asked how she felt about these inexperienced singers on American Idol becoming famous overnight. Her interesting connection was that she tried out for the 5th season was accepted to go to Hollywood; however after reviewing her contractual obligations and her limitations – “It just didn’t seem like something at that time, was good for me, so I dropped off.”
Through all the letdowns, the “no’s” and the “yes’s” (with conditions), Nola believes her trials were all for a reason. “I’m a fighter anyway. I can lose a 1000 times and I’ll never stop going. This is all I have. Music is all I have.”
Nola wants to be an inspiration to other young women out there who were abused and had no support system growing up. She says she “wasn’t even allowed to listen to Boys II Men and Whitney Houston because they were black. I had to hide my music and cassette tapes and hide in the basement and listen to soulful music because that was what I always liked.” Her perseverance shows that once you have a passion, you never let anything or anyone steal your motivation and find your soul.
Chris Classic: The Visionary
You may not know his face, but you certainly know his music. Chris Classic has musical scores in movies such as Transformers, Sex and the City, Alvin & the Chipmunks and the list continues. Classic is the receiver of the American Music Award.
Although Chris went to college, he didn’t go to become famous creating musical scores for movies. His life decisions brought him down that path. Going to college was about making his parents and grandparents happy and learning the technical side of music, by this point, “Music was something that I figured out,” and Chris already knew music was something he was going to do.
In high school, Chris lived with his aunt Justine–who is married to Joseph Simmons or Reverend Run of Run DMC, up until the time he went to college. As most young people do, Chris admits he took for granted the opportunity to work with one of the groups that pioneered hip hop/rap culture. He was the youthful creativity working on the Run DMC album after they were on a hiatus for three years. It wasn’t until his outstanding performance at his college talent show that his Uncle Run realized his rapping skills and proposed for him to work with Run DMC. At 19 years old, he had to make the choice to either stay in school or go on the road with Run DMC. When Chris explained his decision he compared it to being a guitar player and Aerosmith approaching him asking if he wanted to tour with the group. It was a no-brainer and a once in a lifetime opportunity. “You don’t even think about it. This is something you want to do, it’s your passion in life.” So he dropped out to school and went to work.
This was a huge leap in the right direction for Chris’ rap career. Growing up in a Jehovah Witness home, Chris discovered hip hop when he was old enough to stay home by himself. And just like Nola Layne, he had to sneak his love for music. He spent many days after school with DJ Fadelf listening to music. The first single cassette he purchased was Nas’ “It A’int Hard to Tell” for $3.49, “and I’ll never forget it”, Chris reminisces.
By the time Classic was 21, he started working on his personal album with Jam Master Jay, which never came to fruition because of Jam Master Jay’s untimely death. Disappointed, but not discouraged, Chris Classic moved on.
The opportunity for Chris to make music for movies was an idea of Ali Dee, who came up with the idea of licensing his music after his own album never launched as expected. Classic and Ali Dee met during his work with Run DMC and songwriting and production collaborations with groups such as O Town. Ali Dee ingeniously saw a business need and brought Classic along with him; and they created various genres of music for movies and TV productions. While Chris was content on where he was, he knew this was not the end all, be all for him. He was 26 years old and “ready to really start” on himself.
New Terrace Heights: The super Group
When Sincere called DJ Fadelf, he told him to try the group one more time, this time with a female artist. Nola met DJ Fadelf while he was performing at Jay-Z’s 40/40 club in NYC, instantly they vibed. When Nola was presented to Chris, they discussed their tattoos and were bonded by their exact same tattoos, not one, but two–an old school mic and a cassette tape. The group was destined and definitely ready.
The name New Terrace Heights was a play off the old neighborhood Chris, Fadelf and Sincere grew up in Hempstead – DJ Fadelf and Classic were from the “Heights” and Sincere was from the “Terrace.” The name stuck because it had “ a rockish, soul kind of thing” and it was a play on taking their music career to the new level or height. The members were not so much concerned with their name as they were concerned with what will they do and their sound…their true sound.
Chris explains “We try to dabble in everything, but as we do that, we keep the authentic element of what it is. So if we are going to do a rock record, we make sure the finished product has real guitar and real drums like a rock and roll song would.” They describe their sound as eclectic, yet pulling different elements in to one song, Nola adds “even with the rock songs, we are soulful; even with the house songs, we put a little hip hop. There’s always another element that any audience member would love. Their sound would be loved by the 50 Cent fan or the Dave Matthews Band fan.
With the interesting stories of how each person made decisions that took them down their own path and brought them back together, one can’t help but to think of what is next for this group. Individually they will continue their successes; however as a group they are striving to win at the Grammys and to become the “Super Group.”
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Images courtesy of Steve Shaw