Huey Dunbar: 1974—: Singer
Entered Salsa Scene With Dlg
The connection with George proved to be a vital stepping stone in the young singer's career. Like Dunbar, George was a New York City native who had an all-encompassing love of music, especially salsa. In the early 1990s George began producing records for the leading salsa label in North America, RMM Records, in New York City. Adding contemporary urban sounds to traditional Latin salsa to produce a hybrid genre, George's productions appealed to younger Hispanic listeners who had previously turned away from Latin music in favor of rap and hip-hop. By the time he formed Sir George Productions in 1995, George was the undisputed leader of the Latin music scene in New York City. With George's help, Dunbar began appearing as a backup vocalist on tracks by Latin music stars India, Yolandita Monge, and Victor Manuelle in 1994 and 1995.
As one of the first acts signed to his management company, George put together Dark Latin Groove (DLG), which immediately signed a recording contract with the Sony Discos label. DLG embodied George's vision of a Latin music act that incorporated the sounds of traditional salsa, contemporary hip-hop and rap, and classicR&B. Dunbar, its lead singer, had a sweet and soulful voice that immediately drew comparisons to Michael Jackson. James (Da Barba) de Jesus, the group's resident expert in rap and reggae, had grown up in Spanish Harlem in New York City but added elements of Jamaican dance hall "toasting," or rap-ping, to DLG's tracks. Rounding out the trio, Wilfredo (Frangancia) Crispin was also an experienced reggae-style rapper and energetic live performer. "DLG's music is about inclusion," Dunbar said of the group's philosophy in a Musica Virtual website profile, "It's like an open door, not being closed to the daily influences of multiple styles of music."
DLG's first album, Dark Latin Groove, was released in early 1996 and became an immediate critical and commercial success. In a New York Times review, Peter Watrous called the release "the most radical salsa album made in the last decade," adding that "Dark Latin Groove is completely aware of tradition and hell-bent on modernizing it." The album entered the top forty on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart and the top ten on the magazine's Tropical/Salsa albums list. Capping off the successful debut, the group earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Tropical Latin performance and a nomination as Best New Tropical and Salsa Artist for the Premio Lo Nuestro award. With international tours throughout Latin America, DLG's popularity indeed spread far beyond the United States.
DLG's sophomore release, Swing On, was released in 1997 to even greater commercial and critical acclaim. The album peaked at number two on Billboard's Tropical/Salsa chart and number fourteen on its Top Latin Albums chart. Regarded as the group's best album, it made DLG's members into Latin music superstars or, as The Rough Guide's World Music volume called them, "the three coolest dudes in Latin New York." It also won DLG the Billboard Latin Music Award for Album of the Year by a tropical or salsa group. The group repeated that feat with its third release, Gotcha, which was released in 1999 and quickly entered the top ten on the Billboard top Latin Albums chart. The album also earned DLG another Grammy Award nomination for Best Tropical Latin performance.