Black like ebony, white like ivory.
We’re the tightest rappers, undeniably.
Three months ago, an idea struck Malibu High School students Jon Glover and Aaron Smith — form a vocal duo and call it Ebony & Ivory. They may be new at it, “but we’re committed,” says Glover. “When we say we’re getting together, we do it.” Their reward: Scheduled auditions with MCA and Motown records, a demo cut at Riptide Music, and some local gigs.
Glover approached Smith to perform as a duo at this year’s Masque, the MHS talent show. “Aaron, let’s go do this,” Glover called to him across the school’s quad one day. But the selection committee rejected them. “I think the school was hesitant to do rap,” Smith suggests. They were also two days late for the auditions. They also admit they weren’t really ready.
Then they sang at the school’s Battle of the Bands and won first place. “We were really stoked,” Glover admits. “After we won, we thought, ‘This could go really far.'” And the plans began.
Smith says he is nervous performing, but his partner calls him a natural performer. And Glover? “Oh, I’ve been performing all my life,” he says.
They met playing soccer as young lads. Always the stars of opposing teams, they were cordial but competitive toward each other. Only recently have Glover, a 16-year-old sophomore, and Smith, 14 and a freshman, grown tight, like brothers.
Their families seem close. While practicing, the duo tries out material on Smith’s grandmother and Glover’s father. As it happens, she is Malibu producer Candace Bowen, he is an entertainment attorney, Jeffrey Glover.
“Without Candace, we wouldn’t have so many opportunities,” Glover acknowledges. Adds her grandson, “She’s a producer, so she knows how to get stuff done. And she’s very honest about how we sound. She’ll tell us straight out, ‘You’re wack.'”
“A lot of my family is in the music business,” Smith says modestly. His uncle, Jeffrey Bowen, was executive producer for Motown Records and is married to Bonnie Pointer, making Smith’s great aunts the Pointer Sisters. Bowen wrote songs for Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Supremes and Diana Ross, and he signed Rick James, Lionel Richie and Freda Payne, among many others, to Motown. The duo plans to modernize Uncle Jeffrey’s songs, rapping them.
Meanwhile, Glover’s mother, Sylvie, a sculptor, sustains the duo by making them crepes in the afternoon. She says, “You need to believe in yourself.” She believes in the duo, also. Thus their confidence about their scheduled auditions this summer. Glover is pushing for Motown, while Smith has his fingers crossed for MCA. Glover was the more excited when the two attended the Soul Train Awards Afterparty. “I was the only white guy there,” he notes. “I freestyled with a girl named Breeze,” Glover says. “He’s very brave,” says Smith. “It’s all about guts,” Glover continues. “My heart was pumping a little bit.”
On the balcony of his Point Dume home, Glover demonstrates freestyling, making up rap lyrics as he sings them. It is dark, rhyming poetry about cutting flesh with broken glass, about bloody mattresses. “It’s against someone, about who can put someone down faster,” Glover explains. “I could do something about the beach,” he says, but when he tries it he thinks it sounds silly. Smith performs the “beat box,” the vocal sounds that back the singer. They have absolute pitch, launching into a song without preparation and hitting the harmony.
The two remain ready and willing to perform at local events — for charities, parties, whatever — saying they are ready to give back to Malibu. They are fresh off their performance at the city’s birthday bash and hope to perform for Malibu’s annual music festival.
They hope Ebony/Ivory will be their big ticket. But Glover is also preparing himself for a career in computer animation. “Especially CGI [computer generated imaging]. That will be the future of the movies. People want to see more and more graphics.”
Bowen adds, “In my day, my mother wanted us to get our education. Music is in his DNA, but I want him to stay focused and get an education.”
They admit to taking dance classes to begin work on choreography but will only identify the location as an undisclosed Santa Monica studio. Both remain active on team sports at MHS. For real escape, however, Glover surfs.
“And his voice is even better after surfing,” Smith says. “The water energy, it rejuvenates you,” Glover explains, adding, “It’s the best time to write.You’re high on emotion.”
Glover strums Santana on guitar. “You know, we could rap to it,” Smith suggests. And so they do.