Honeyz – Not Even Gonna Trip

Released: 16th October 2000

Writers: Greg Charley

Peak position: #24

Chart run: 24-41-61-X-68-X-X-X-X-X-X-71

After racking up five consecutive top ten hits from their debut album, Honeyz had the opportunity to release a lucrative soundtrack single. But a second line-up change in as many years threatened to derail their plans for success.

When Heavenli Denton walked out of Honeyz during the promotion of their third single, Love Of A Lifetime, the group were on the cusp of signing to Def Jam Recordings to be launched in America. Her departure threw a spanner in the works (the deal fell through) but with Mariama Goodman drafted in as a replacement, the trio extended their run of top ten hits in the UK. And while their debut album, Wonder No. 8, peaked at a modest #33, it quietly spent 22 weeks in the top 75. So, as Honeyz began working on their second album, there was a solid foundation upon which to build. And things got off to a good start when Not Even Gonna Trip was included on the soundtrack for The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, starring Eddie Murphy. Admittedly, it only appeared on the UK edition (tagged onto the end, no less), but even so, featuring the group alongside acts like Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Eve, and LL Cool J made a resounding statement about the demographic Honeyz were regarded as belonging to.

Unfortunately, behind the scenes, things weren’t going quite so smoothly. Growing tension between Mariama Goodman and Naima Belkhiati ultimately led to Mariama deciding to leave. History was repeating itself as the group were plunged into crisis at a pivotal moment in their career. The prospect of Honeyz continuing as a duo had already been rejected following Heavenli Denton’s departure. For some reason, this was such an untenable suggestion that in the immediate aftermath, they were even joined by a stand-in – known as “Fake Hev” – to complete their tour of Australia; such was the insistence that Honeyz could only operate as a trio. In need of a replacement for Mariama, the group’s management approached Heavenli to re-join before summoning Celena Cherry and Naima Belkhiati to a meeting where all was revealed. It didn’t matter what they thought (not that anyone was asking); the release date of The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps was looming, so they had little choice but to accept.

Looking at the situation purely from a business continuity perspective, it made sense. Or something approaching that, at least. Heavenli knew the dynamic of the group; she knew (most of) the material and had experience of the promotional circuit. Few other people would have been able to slip into the role with such relative ease. But this wasn’t easy for Celena and Naima, who were as blindsided by Heavenli’s return as they had been with her leaving in the first place.

How anyone in the Honeyz management team thought this would be the best solution is a total mystery. Yet, with forced smiles on their faces, preparations for Not Even Gonna Trip pushed ahead, and just as planned, the single arrived to accompany a UK release of The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. The group had previously flirted with the sound of their American contemporaries. Here, though, they go all in on a production with stuttering beats and synth-guitar chords reminiscent of TLC’s No Scrubs. The verses are also punctuated with that classic – and very of-its-time – phoned-in effect applied to some of the vocals (“Why you think I’m gonna let you play me?”). In essence, Not Even Gonna Trip sits very cohesively on The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps soundtrack, so much so that the song doesn’t jump out as one designed to appeal to the UK, despite being included for that specific purpose.

Even so, Honeyz deliver an authentic performance loaded with swagger and attitude: “So get rid of my phone number, you have no reason to call me for, we have nothing more to talk about, I’m through with you without a doubt”, which further cements the self-assured direction established by their previous single, Won’t Take It Lying Down. And while the chorus: “I’m not even gonna trip about it, worry about it, I’m not even gonna trip over it, don’t care about it, I’m not even gonna bug myself out about it, I’m not even gonna…trip”, is deceptively catchy, it never quite manages to land a knockout blow. In part, that’s because Not Even Gonna Trip feels unnecessarily rushed, with a running time of just two and a half minutes. There’s nothing wrong with any of the individual elements; they just end up piled on top of one another with little room to breathe. Nobody wants a pop song to overstay its welcome. Still, Not Even Gonna Trip is barely around long enough to make an impression, leaving the track and some of its potential curiously – and avoidably – underdeveloped.

The music video is – at least – padded out a bit. It opens with a clip from The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps before cutting to Honeyz in their very turn-of-the-century styled apartment with its vivid orange and purple colour scheme and futuristic sphere TV. There’s some impressive acting from the group (Celena is ruminating over being cheated on by her boyfriend, Heavenli is telling her to forget about him, while Naima thinks he’s cute) in as much as they manage to convincingly hide the tension that was barely brimming beneath the surface. After de-briefing for the first part of Not Even Gonna Trip – with over-gesticulating and head-shaking aplenty to convey their disapproval – Honeyz head out to a club, their clothes and hair transforming as they enter. It’s another venue of the sort that only exists in music videos, with a well-lit, spacious dancefloor and plush seating widely available. The man implied to be Celena’s ex enters with his new beau, drawing glares and eye-rolls from her friends (she appears to have ditched the other Honeyz by this point) before they hit the dancefloor in defiance.

Visually, Not Even Gonna Trip looks the part. And had the track been a big hit then, it wouldn’t necessarily have vindicated the questionable decision-making that saw Heavenli reintroduced in the way she was. Still, at least Honeyz might’ve felt that they got something out of it. Furthermore, if there was any lingering interest in launching the group internationally, this could have been an option. But instead, Not Even Gonna Trip became their first single to miss the top 20 when it peaked at #24. And while it could be brushed away as a soundtrack single – rather than the proper lead for Honeyz’s second album – this was still perceived as a rather dramatic decline.

There wasn’t one individual factor to explain what went wrong, but several perhaps combined in a bit of a perfect storm. The revolving door line-up – and the way Heavenli explained what had happened (she stated she’d left to prioritise her relationship with Matthew Marsden) – came across as rather flippant and not wholly reassuring of her long-term commitment to the group. Furthermore, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps arrived in the UK several months after opening in America to almost universally scathing reviews. The first movie had its fair share of critics, but the reception to the sequel was notably worse; and though still a success, it didn’t have the same commercial pull or pop culture impact. Certainly not enough to merit a second single being lifted from the soundtrack when Janet Jackson’s Doesn’t Really Matter had already been a top-five hit several months earlier. Plus, on a more practical level, while Not Even Gonna Trip is a very credible stab at American-sounding R&B, there was more to Honeyz’s identity than that, which got a bit lost in the process. Alas, despite some valid reasons for the track flying under the radar, none was a particularly robust defence in an era where chart positions were primarily taken at face value.

So, in a faintly ironic turn of events, Not Even Gonna Trip – plus the chain of events preceding its release – represented a rather significant stumble for Honeyz. And it’s one from which they never truly recovered.

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