It's like a wacked-out comedy sketch from an All That episode. The four hot young hunks of R&B boy band sensation B2K are hanging out backstage after their set in London, clowning around in their matching electric-blue tracksuits, exchanging high-fives. Onstage, headliner and special guest Destiny's Child is finishing up a concert-closing encore, strutting those six infamous legs across a garden of air-dropped balloons as the closing chorus of "Happy Face" fades beneath the roar of applause.
In an instant, the girls fly offstage and grab hugs from their young male counterparts, then both groups are shuttled past the crush of ecstatic fans outside into a pair of waiting black limos. They whiz past hundreds of would-be paramours for each photogenic face in the entourage: hype lil' men, all decked-out and iced-up, with pleading arms outstretched for Beyoncé, Kelly or Michelle; teary-eyed girls clutching Teen People pics, feverish with dreams of becoming Mrs. J-Boog, Ms. Lil' Fizz, Raz-B's boo or Lady Omarion.
But tonight, the world's biggest girl group and its hottest new boy band are kickin' it at the hotel together. Upon arrival, a troupe of burly bodyguards parts another sea of wild-eyed fans as the magnificent seven navigate the mobbed hotel lobby to a waiting elevator. A small army of swift-footed stair-climbers arrive at the star's floor just in time to see the drool-worthy squad disappear into the tower's penthouse suite. The bodyguards swing into place on either side of the door, forming an impenetrable force field of well-compensated muscle. As the disappointed fans sulk slowly back to the elevators, we hear shrieks of delight and spirited giggling from behind the closed door.
Listening to 16-year-old Dreux "Lil' Fizz" Frederic of B2K describe what it was like hoteling with the DC3 every night on their tour of Europe last spring, you're compelled to ask him what really went on when he and his boys got alone with those internationally desired beauties, to coax out of him a peek through the keyhole to see how this sexy summit meeting of girl group and boy band chose to get its collective groove on during those rare moments out of the spotlight.
"We were playing Connect Four most of the time," he laughs. "We did a lot of that. Beyoncé is, like, the world champion Connect Four player."
It's an important detail, the comic coda to Lil' Fizz's glamorous tale that saves us from hating B2K.
Somehow just knowing these guys got the real Foxxy Cleopatra all alone to themselves in a London hotel room and the only things that got horizontal were some Milton Bradley checker pieces makes normal life on earth a little easier to bear.
These are, after all, the four high school pinup boys who've already scored enough cash from their debut Epic album to purchase a fleet of first cars that most kids their age own only in Hot Wheels form.
"Yeah, I got the BMW M3," says the group's resident rapper on the phone during a brief break in Chicago. "Omarion got the [BMW] X5, Raz-B got a C230 Coupe Convertible Mercedes and J-Boog got a C320."
They're the long-awaited black *NSync that every hip-hop fashion label appears anxious to attach its name to. "Different people from clothing companies are always sending us clothes," Lil' Fizz admits (his favorites are his Phat Farm and Roca Wear threads). "We can go into Nike and pick out any shoes we want."
Outrageously buff, dark and handsome ("and available!" insists Fizz), the four also can go into any crowd of females and pretty much pick out dates the same way. "Girls are giving us their phone numbers all the time," Fizz says. "And we'll call 'em up later, just to say hi' and give 'em a surprise, you know. You gotta do it the same day they give you the number, or else they don't believe it's really you."
The four road-tutored seniors (the oldest member is 17) have found they also can make a CD-signing appearance at many of the country's hottest nightclubs and, while not yet old enough to drink, can nonetheless walk out with most of the 20-something ladies in the house following close behind.
"Sometimes, the older guys in a place will look a little jealous," shrugs Fizz. "But we really don't have any kind of haters."
Maybe that's because, while the Boys of the Millennium (the name shorthanded by B2K) truly appear to be living the pop-star dream, they've simply been too busy to really enjoy the pleasures heaped upon them.
An electronic flip-book on MTV's Web site promising an all-access look into a typical B2K day shows lead singer (and girlie favorite) Omarion ironing his own shirts in a hotel room. (Maybe that's why the guys are perpetually shirtless.) A normal tour day's itinerary is jam-packed with guest shots on early-morning radio shows, local TV appearances, store visits, press interviews, rehearsals and, of course, the night's concert -- in addition to the schoolwork they still have to do, which Fizz says he sometimes rises as early as 6 a.m. to tackle.
"We're busy 24/7," he sighs. "It's constant work. But we don't really mind any of it, because the more you work, the more successful you're gonna get."
It's a work ethic Lil' Fizz attributes to the star training he and the boys received from manager Chris Stokes and from the gaggle of star producers enlisted on the album, including Jermaine Dupri. He advised them that the biggest mistake teen artists make is taking some time off to figure out their next move -- only to find out their audience has moved on to someone else.
That's what happened to IMX, formerly Immature, who started up a similar path of teen stardom in the mid-'90s but then spent a little too much time in the huddle, charting their more mature image makeover. Now IMX is opening for B2K, whom they call their "little brothers" -- somewhat literally, since IMX's Batman is the half-brother of Omarion, and J-Boog is Omarion and Batman's cousin.
"They've taught us, too: We have to keep working, to keep the momentum going," says Fizz. "So we keep on recording and doing shows for our fans."
To keep B2K's star on a continuous rise, Epic has upped the group's productivity level to a pace only a high-energy group of 16- and 17-year-olds could handle. Since the release of its self-titled debut CD last March, B2K has released a remix album and recorded a Christmas CD scheduled to drop in October. The group is now wrapping up work on a second album of new material, due in stores by December 10.
Add that to an incessant touring schedule, which has taken the boys from playing Wal-Mart parking lots and roller-skating rinks five months ago to headlining midsize theater shows today, and you begin to see that B2K has barely had time to take in a movie this year, let alone shag the thousands of groupies flung its way.
"It's been real crazy," Fizz says of the pace, his energetic voice slowing and halting as the weight of his own words sink in. "We don't, like, ever have a break, really."
The other reason you can't be a hater of B2K is that, despite all the cash and bootylicious admirers amassed over the past year, these guys are still, after all, kids -- and proud of it.
After the four participated in an online chat in which some female instant messagers went on a bit too much about Raz-B's "big kissable lips," Lil' Fizz -- the premier prankster of the group -- decided his raspy-voiced partner needed his ego knocked down a peg.
"Raz-B was asleep in the bunk," Fizz recalls, "and I decided to put a little Tabasco sauce on his lips. And he woke up, and he kept lickin' his lips." The young practical joker cracks up at the memory. "He couldn't go back to sleep for, like, an hour because his lips was burning real bad!"
On another occasion, Fizz mixed up a special smoothie for the road crew consisting of milk, salad cream, salmon and whatever else he could find on the tour bus. "Halfway through the show, they all ended up rushing to the toilets!"
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Needless to say, there aren't a lot of young women who get to tag along on B2K's rolling playground of doofus pranks and PlayStation. And the more forward girls who do try to make plays for the foursome actually turn them off.
In interviews for the London press during the European tour, J-Boog complained of girls who are "just too wild, that come across all sexual," and Raz-B chided would-be hootchie mamas for "trying to be more attractive than the next girl -- and sometimes that means they end up wearing something too revealing that doesn't suit them." When a fan in Washington, D.C., suggestively handed Raz a bright-blue condom as the group was boarding the tour bus, he reportedly just shook his head and handed it back to her, with an admonishment to watch out for herself.
With that kind of attitude , B2K is one boy band you don't have to fret about taking your girlfriend to see -- no matter how much she might ogle the guys' abs in their videos.
"We're never in one place long enough to even date," Lil' Fizz assures all the fellas out there. "So none of you guys worry."