Back in the mid 90s, Bad Boy signed Jerome (also known as Lil' Jerome), a pre-teen R&B singer from Akron, Ohio. After a couple of years on the label, he released his first single, "Too Old for Me"
, which was also the first single for "Bad Boy's Greatest Hits, Volume 1"
. The song was remixed at least twice, into an "R&B Remix" and a "Shorty & Nore Remix"
featuring rapper N.O.R.E. with Diddy on the ad libs. Personally, it's one of my favorite Bad Boy remixes.
His first official appearance may have been "Crush on You" a song featured on the Bad Boy compilation, "Nothin' But the Hotness in '98". He also appeared on the Belly soundtrack
with a remake of Stevie Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer". Two other songs, "No Disturb Sign" (another favorite of mine) featuring Heavy D and Diddy and "Dear Ivette", were also released. And, after that... he just seemed to disappear. He was dropped from the label and I never really heard anything about him again. I always wondered... what happened?
That was, until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon a press release
for a musical called "Paul: A Musical Journey".
The press release mentioned a Jerome Childers, playing the role of John-Mark and even mentioned that he had previously worked with Sean "Puffy" Combs. Through that press release, I was able to get in contact with Mr. Childers, find out what happened at Bad Boy and what he's working on today.
How old were you when you signed with Bad Boy?
I was about 9 and a half.
I read that you left when you were 14. Is that right?
Yeah, about. I was actually, I think, 13.
And how old are you now?
Was it your choice to leave the label?
Well, it just a mixture of the growing pains and the pressure of the music business. I had a nervous breakdown and it was in Puffy's best interest to not keep the project.
So, it wasn't your choice, necessarily, but more of a result of circumstance?
I don't know if you're familar with former Bad Boy rapper Mase's book, but in it, he talks about a 12 year old boy, apparently a Bad Boy artist, who flipped out at a photo shoot. Some had speculated that that was you. Is there any truth to that?
Flipped out at a photo shoot? No.
I read that you first met with Mr. Combs in 1996, when The Notorious B.I.G. was still alive. Did you ever meet him?
There was a time that I was in the same studio as him, but I never formerly met him. I think I saw him once, but I never formally met him. But, yeah, I was signed when he was on the label and I was actually still signed when he died also. It was kind of a sad day for the whole label and definitely Puffy, himself.
I also read that at one point, your debut album was scheduled for March of 2000. As far as I know, the only publicly released songs performed by you were "Too Old for Me" (and it's remixes), "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer", "No Disturb Sign" and "Dear Ivette". [Note after the interview: I forgot about "Crush on You"]. How far along did you get in the process of recording your album? Does Bad Boy have a lot of unreleased material?
Yeah, I had about a good 13 songs ready for an album to come out, before I had a little breakdown. Like I said, it was a mixture of growing pains, such as my voice and the mental things you go through when you go through puberty and so many other things. And then the pressure of the music business compounded that and I had a breakdown. I just couldn't deal with it for that time.
So, it was just a stressful situation that required a life change?
Who were the producers and artists that you had worked with on those tracks?
Some of the producers were Mario Winans, Heavy D and Rodney Jerkins.
Do you keep in touch with anyone at Bad Boy?
No, not at the moment. Most of the people that we knew back then have moved on to different labels and plus, I'm just finishing up school right now. Not really focusing on a career in the music business.
Experience wise, what did you take away from that period of your life?
It was a great experience. It was just a phenomenal experience. When I look back on it, I couldn't have been more happier for most of the time. Before things started getting crazy with me growing and stuff, but the majority of the time I was signed, I had a ball. It was just fun. Meeting the different people on the label, making the songs and the producers, the photo shoots - it was amazing. Most of the time that I was there, I take a very great experience from it.
Now, you sound like you had fun a lot of the time, but when we're talking about how it got crazy, is that mostly the attention and the pressure that you're talking about?
Yeah, the crazy thing was that the time when I started going through puberty and then my voice started acting up, I didn't have a normal voice change. Once my voice started to change, it didn't change normally. I was going through reflux disease, also. So, you know, there would come times when I would try to hit notes and nothing come out.
So, it was driving the whole label and me crazy because we didn't know what was going on, at the time. We first thought it was the voice change, but we realized it wasn't the voice change. I had actually gone through the voice change, already. They throught it was alergies. And then, after they realized it wasn't that, they finally realized it was reflux disease.
So, it was hard to deal with that - the voice change, plus mentally I started becoming emotionally different. You know, sometimes when you go through puberty, your emotions start to get out of whack, too. And then on top of that, at that time that I was going through those changes, that's when everything started to speed up in the music business because I was about to release my album. So, you know, the schedules of studio time and photoshoots started to go back to back and, like I said, the pressure of that and the growing pains, they beared down on me and I had a breakdown.
I was happy to hear about Paul: A Musical Journey because I hadn't really heard anything about you since leaving Bad Boy. How'd that come about?
It started off as just a little play that we were doing, but it grew into something that became very big. It's a play about the apostle Paul in the Bible. It's a Christian play. It basically tells the journey of Paul, going from a Christian killer to becoming a Christian icon.
I play a guy called John-Mark in the play and we've been doing it for a couple of years now. There was a lot of things we did. We went to one of the famous theatres in Cleveland called the Hannah Theatre. We played there for about 6 weeks. And then we did the State Theatre, also, in Cleveland.
Is that kind of the first thing that you've done in the public eye, so to speak, since leaving Bad Boy?
Yeah. I did a couple of national anthems, but that's really the main thing I've done publicly, as far as music wise.
In a musical, you're singing - and you're acting. What do you have a stronger passion for?
I don't know. I think acting is actually easier, for me. Because taping into my emotions is very easy for me, because I guess I'm an emotional person. So, I think acting would actually be easier than singing. You don't have to worry about, you know, am I hoarse? Is it too cold? Is my voice strong enough today? It can be kind of hectic as a singler, but I think acting is something I'd really like to do or to get into.
I think you mentioned before that you're no longer persuing a singing career. Is that correct?
Just not at the moment. Just getting my college degree in International Business and, you know, finishing up things before I think about doing that.
So, you might re-visit it in the future?
Where are you attending school?
I'm attending school at Akron University.
What are you looking to do with the business degree?
Well, I know a lot of languages. I speak 5 languages fluently because I've studied languages on my own. I guess when I was about 12, I had a French tutor. It was amazing to me, you know, the way she spoke the language and how the language flowed. After that, I started to get interested in learning languages and I've been doing it ever since. So, I speak French, German, Spanish, Italian and a little Chinese and I thought International Business would be the best degree for that.
What artists out right now are you into, personally?
There's a lot of gospel artists that I'm into. I kind of like Kim Burrell. Karen Clark. I'm into Brian McKnight and some others, also.
Do you have a MySpace page or anything that Bad Boy Blog readers could check out?
No, I never got into MySpace or Facebook or any of those, yet. But, I might eventually. I just never had the chance to download photos and all that other stuff. Never got into it.
I'd like to thank Mr. Childers for taking the time to speak with me.
To be honest, after the interview finished, I felt a little bad for having asked him to talk about all of this stuff. But, if he was displeased to talk about it, he definitely didn't let onto that during our conversation.
He was very pleasant and forthcoming. I didn't detect any sort of bitterness in his voice. From what he told me, it seemed like he understood why Bad Boy dropped him and didn't feel it was unreasonable.
Being a fan of his work with Bad Boy, I was glad to hear that he was doing alright. Regardless of the field he chooses, I wish him well.
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