Since 1990, P.M Dawn has been redefining and challenging musical boundaries. Prince Be’s haunting, whimsical, alto voice behind the smash debut single “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” influenced everything from this era’s boy bands to Puffy’s Mase-Notorious B.I.G./Sting apocalyptic new hip hop swing. Prince Be sampled a popular ballad from Spandau Ballet and set the world on fire. P.M. Dawn’s debut album Of the Heart, Of the Soul and Of the Cross sold millions of records worldwide and launched the New Jersey duo’s roller coaster ride of fame and misunderstandings. Now with enough drama behind them for a whole season of “Behind the Music,” P.M. Dawn is ready to change the game again with the Jim Sullivan Syndrome, making their own brand of music on their own label Karmis Music.
“P.M. Dawn is an abbreviation of the idea that in the darkest hour comes the light,” says Prince Be in explanation of their name. Children of the decade that made big shoulder pads and greed the latest accessories, they vibed off hip hop, R&B, pop music and rock while always finding solace and joy in music. Because they loved everything, they combined it all together in a big, “alternative” cocktail and laid their first demo to tape.
At first everyone turned them down because their sound was too hard to define. They finally found a spark of interest with fledgling label Warlock and released a 12-inch. P.M. Dawn left Warlock for greener pastures at boutique record label Gee Street. Next, they found themselves caught off guard when “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” was leaked by a radio jock. Soon the whole country was bumping the song and the video propelled it to the next level. P.M. Dawn created a classic record and the term “alternative” was used to describe the song because it just didn’t fit into any categories.
While promoting the album overseas, they experienced a fantasy level of fanfare and celebrity. Be says, “That was the most fun I have ever had in my whole life. But music-wise we were doing the same thing we’re doing now. I was just singing over a rap beat.” There were parties, girls, paparazzi, money, fame and more girls, but things were not quite right. Stateside, the hip hop audience was angry with them for lacing their music with white pop culture references and butting heads with other established, hip hop artists. When it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, the press added fuel to the multitude of misunderstandings by reporting P.M. Dawn said they “weren’t black.” When asked about that controversial period, P.M. Dawn chooses to let their new music speak for itself as a testament to their acknowledgment and love of all music and cultures. However, the Jim Sullivan Syndrome is actually named after their grandfather’s struggle to get professional prize fights in the white world of boxing, but back to the story.
While in Europe, Be wrote one of the most beautiful ballads in history, “I’d Die Without You.” The loneliness of his voice paired with the ethereal, multi-layered melodies of the track seemed to give regret a tangible quality that appealed to superstars like Eddie Murphy and Babyface. “We were at Eddie’s house and he told me he was working on a movie about this player that gets played.” But the label’s distributor hated it and wanted the group to stick to their hit making, formula of rapping and singing on choruses only. P.M. Dawn gave the song to Babyface anyway and the movie Boomerang was a box office monster. The song’s success was their insurance against the sophomore jinx. P.M. Dawn’s second album went gold in the U.S and the Boomerang soundtrack went double platinum. In between follow-up albums and perfecting their signature style, P.M. Dawn worked with everyone from Elton John, to the Backstreet Boys, George Michael and White Zombie. P.M. Dawn made two more albums but again was caught between being embraced by rock, pop or hip hop audiences. “That’s when the fun stopped.” The albums didn’t perform well and the group seemed to vanish into obscurity.