Carl Thomas Biography By Derwin Howell
In In the Beginning a young Carl Thomas sang around the Chicago-land area, joining various groups, singing in the church choir, and doing some recordings in relatively comfortable surroundings. Now Carl has Over 5 million records sold, 2 Grammy Award Nominations, 3 Soul Train Music Awards nominations, and he was the Winner of the 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist. So Over 20 years later, after Thousands of appearances, performances & live concerts..this is Carl Thomas’ story.
Feeling the need to test himself in unfamiliar waters, Thomas trekked to New York and began singing during open-mic nights at various clubs. Troy Taylor (best known for discovering Trey Songz) befriended Carl allowing him to move into his 1 bedroom apartment with his wife and newborn son in Brooklyn.
Troy taught Carl the difference between recording gospel music and recording R&B music. “Troy is and will always be my brother, I owe him and Ron Grant [host of open mic night at Chaz & Wilson’s, & Nell’s) so much, They took a chance on a very “green” Carl Thomas and for that I’m eternally grateful”. “I was born and raised in Chicago… But I became a Grown Man in Brooklyn.”says Thomas.
One day Bad Boy records CEO Sean“Diddy”Combs & Christopher “BIGGIE” Wallace caught one of Carl’s open-mic performances and shortly afterwards Diddy signed Carl to his label (97′). Immediately Thomas fit in with the trend setting Bad Boy records family, first recording only as a featured artist Carl appeared on several records including: “The World is filled” (feat Biggie, Puff Daddy, and Too Short), “Chicken Heads” (feat Lil Cease), and the “Been around remix” (feat Puff Daddy and MASE). As a Recording Artist-Carl Thomas’ major label debut was certainly Emotional as well. The strong buzz caused by the airplay of the not-available-to-retail single “I Wish” (sent to radio in Jan of 2000) was so great that the projects official release date was moved up by 4 months (from late August to April 18, 2000). Thomas wrote or co-wrote 11 of the album’s 15 tracks. The hit song “I Wish” spent six long weeks at number-one on the R&B chart and also peaked at number twenty on the U.S.pop charts. This success set the stage for Carl’s debut album “Emotional”. The album also released be two more classic singles, “Summer Rain,” (featured on the Samuel Jackson featured movie “Shaft” soundtrack) and the title track “Emotional” (which featured young actress Stacie Dash in the video) which reached #18 and #8 on the R&B charts respectively, Carl Thomas had officially arrived. In fact, Thomas’ debut album “Emotional” went platinum with 1.7 million units sold in its first 3 months. In Jan 2002 to close out that phenomenal debut Carl earned his first Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Can’t Believe,” (Faith Evans featuring Carl Thomas).
Although Carl Thomas’ masterwork “Emotional” was a critical and sales success, life has not always been a simple path for the young and talented singer. In March 2004 Carl Thomas came back with his second album, Let’s talk About It. The album went gold and had moderate success. The album’s singles were “She Is”(featuring L.L.Cool J) and “Make It All right” which reached #56 and #33 on the R&B charts respectively. This Project “Let’s talk about it” would prove to be Thomas’ last on BadBoy records. Following the senseless murder of his only brother in the streets of Chicago, (Halloween night 04) Thomas felt it was time to move on.” Music lost its taste, I went to Europe for 8 months and visited friends,” recall Thomas. “I experienced life, I learned to land a helicopter, then I went to South Africa to visit Nelson Mandela’s original home. “I was in South Africa, when I learned how to face my fears,and when I found where my strength lies..It was in the LORD“. Thomas explains.
Emerging from his solitude over a year and a half later Thomas began right where he’d left off, in the late fall of 2005 Carl received a covenant S.C.L.C Image Award in New Orleans presented to him by the late Corretta Scott King (wife of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King) “an honor I will always cherish” recalls Thomas. In Dec 2006 Thomas earned a Grammy Award nomination along with legends Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, and the late great R&B vocalist Gerald LeVert for (“Everyday”), a song from the soundtrack of Tyler Perry’s Movie “Medea’s Family Reunion” (nominated for Best R&B Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocals),Thomas’ second Grammy Nomination was as sweet as the first, There is grand heritage that already exists.
Carl has no problem spreading charm like butter. “Before I give my audience something different, I needed to remind them why they loved me in the first place,” Carl says. For his third album, “So Much Better” Thomas teamed up with Music Industry Icon The late Jheryl Busby, (former President of RCA & Motown records) and Super Producer Mike City (who produced/co-wrote I Wish) and formed a new label named “Umbrella Records”. In May 2007 “So Much Better” was released and reached #25 on the US Billboard charts. With great records like “I just thought you should know” (feat Lalah Hathaway) & ‘something bout you” (feat Brandy), or “Can’t get over you” (feat Dave Hollister). “My only real responsibility is to the music,” Carl confesses. “I’m aware that I have to uphold a certain tradition and integrity in my music, but I also have to stay sincere to myself”. “Working with super producers on this project made me feel secure, working with composers who i’m a fan of was a dream come true” says Carl. Songs like “Home” (produced by Jam & Lewis), and “if you ever” (produced by Brian Michael Cox). “I believe people who love music can feel when you’re not being real.” In the wrong hands, “Realness” can become cliché of booty songs and artificial toughness”. But after listening to Carl Thomas’ singing, one realizes he isn’t having any of that.
Thomas released a new album entitled “Conquer” In December 2011. The first single was “Don’t Kiss Me,”(featuring Snoop Dogg) was written and produced by Rico Love. The music video for “Don’t Kiss Me” reached over 1 million viewers online on the first day of it’s debut .“What comes from the heart reaches the heart,” Carl says poetically. “In other words, when I’m writing songs I try to capture scenarios that are true. There is a complexity to relationships that many songwriters miss that I try to relate; we all have a lot of drama in our lives and that is what I was attempting to express on Conquer”.
In Jan of 2014, Carl was asked to appear on the 22nd Annual Trumpet Awards as apart of the tribute to the legendary Grammy/Soul Train Award and Rock & Roll Hall of famers Producers/Songwriter Gamble and Huff Lifetime achievement award performing the hit song ” “. “I was super excited to perform one of there records”, and even more excited to shake the hands and meet the two legends who paved the way for a little fella like me”. recalls Carl
“Its been A long time com’ing” sings carl as I show him a picture of Ma$e, Diddy, Faith and Carl in the Black & White BadBoy baseball Uniforms. Sept 1st – Oct 16th 2016 Carl Thomas and the entire BadBoy Family got together for an Epic 30 city US Tour. This tour would celebrate over 20+ years for BadBoy as a Label and would also be the first time all the artist from the famed label ever appeared on the same stage. “We will forever be united at the hip” says Carl, from me to Faith, Total to 112, Lil Kim to Ma$e, Black Robb to Puff. “We didn’t know we were making history back then, we were just trying to beat the guy/girl in the next studio booth over, who was spitting fire too” Carl explains.”But when I got to the first rehearsal, and seen that stage..I thought to myself, wow we really did changed the world back then”. A Huge success selling out in every city that BadBoy Reunion tour sparked the demand for the CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP film which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017.
In November 2016 following that phenomenal tour Carl Thomas appeared on the Soul Train Awards, and performed his classic hits “Emotional, Summer Rain, and I Wish. Carl Thomas is still relevant, looking good, sounding amazing the performance was viewed by over 50 million homes worldwide.
Black Music Honors came calling on Carl in AUGUST 2017, as part of the tribute to celebrate The legendary Group Guy as they received their Lifetime achievement award for Bounce TV (20 million viewers) performing a medley of songs (Groove me, I wanna get with you).”These are my friends, role models and hero’s”, says Carl. when Teddy Riley called me and asked if i’d be a part and I couldn’t say no”.
In January 2018 Thomas was invited back for the 26th annual Trumpet Awards (25 million viewers) as a tribute to the Grammy Nominated Rock and Roll hall of fame super group CAMEO’S lifetime achievement performance singing “Single Life”. “After all that I was forced to look at my own mortality! explains Carl. “Have I done enough? Can I do more? What will the game say about me? So I wrote”Love Ingredient” its my latest offering to the world”.