Their perfect five-part harmonies have put brothers Dwayne Jones and Anthony Fuller, cousins Michael Best and Steven Capers Jr., and Kenny Kelly on the right wavelength. Two years ago they were singing together at Eastside High in Paterson, N.J. Today the pop R&B quintet has planted a single in the top 30 (”My Heart Is Failing Me,” from their debut LP, Riff), besides touring with Vanilla Ice and L.L. Cool J. A second single, ”If You’re Serious,” is expected to climb the charts as the group heads for Europe for another Ice tour.
Shy about singing in public, Riff (whose ages range from 19 to 21) got a confidence boost in 1989 when the producers of Lean on Me, the movie about their controversial principal, Joe Clark, asked the group to perform the school anthem in the film. They did, and a year later landed a deal with SBK Records.
Riff’s music — soaring gospel sweetened with pop straight out of a lovestruck teen’s angst — shares several influences. But to suggest a comparison to New Kids on the Block is to ask for trouble: ”Just listen to us,” Capers says. ”We’re bringing back the old Motown sound and funking it up. New Kids are just five guys in a group.”