The Real Deal

If he has to reach waaaaaay down, Jesus will pick you up. Oh, yes he will! If he has to reach waaaaay down, Jesus will pick you up. Down in the ghetto! Waaaaaaaaay down. Down in the valley! Waaaaaaaaay down. Oh, yes he will! Oh, yes he will! Oh, yes he will!

Drug dealers, crack addicts, prostitutes, ex-cons, voices of God. The women of Revelation S.E.E.D. are here to tell you that the Lord has not forgotten you and never will. "We're proud that Jesus picked us up and gave us another chance," says Margaret Reynolds, a former back-up singer with K.C. and the Sunshine Band who got mixed up in the drug trade to the tune of a ten-year sentence in federal prison, of which she served eight years and three months before getting sprung to spread the good word. This is not a revival meeting, though, or even a Baptist church of a Sunday morning. This is the recording studio of producer Rudy Perez, better known for his work with Christina Aguilera, Cristian Castro, Luis Fonsi, and even Paul Anka. For today it is also the home base of the new gospel group discovered and produced by Perez's dear friend and Miami treasure, Betty Wright.

Wright met Reynolds way back when, 1969 or '70 she thinks, wearing a white jumpsuit on a barstool at a club called Jetaway. The two became disco friends and then Reynolds introduced Wright to the church, but the Sunday-morning congregation was never as accepting as the crowds on Saturday night. "A lot of what happened to Margaret was rejection," her friend explains. "People couldn't fathom this R&B singer being into God; they thought that because we sang music other than gospel we were little devils." Wright stuck to the straight and narrow, while Reynolds strayed further and further away.

A few kilos of coke in her car led Reynolds to a federal prison in California, where she recovered her focus on God. Eager to be closer to her family in Florida, Reynolds transferred from joint to joint, picking up other convicted dealers marked for conversion along the way. In Lexington, Kentucky, she found Donna Hubbard. In Alderson, West Virginia, she found Lucretia Church and Annette Ellout. Nicole Johnson, who was collared at MIA moving kilos into the country, heard about the group and transferred down from prison in New York. "We had a reputation inside the prison system," Reynolds explains. "But women couldn't get in based just on their talent. They had to have integrity and standards and believe in the Living Bible." Reynolds taught her girls technique and made sure they protected their voices by keeping their throats covered in the drafty jail cells. "I used to tell them, 'Do it like this, because this is what you'll have to do in the studio,'" she laughs. "I found out after we got out that they were just humoring me. They didn't really believe I used to sing with K.C."

One by one, Reynolds gathered Revelation S.E.E.D. as each woman was released. When old friend Betty Wright heard the group at a revival, she insisted they fly up to perform a showcase for Evander Holyfield and the execs at his new record label, Real Deal Records. "Afterwards I told the girls, well, so much for that," says Reynolds. "We had been singing all weekend and had no voice left." Real Deal signed the ladies anyway. Their life stories can now be heard in breathtaking harmony on the album Living Testimonies.

How do the women feel dropping a disc at a time when the best-selling music promotes the lifestyle they left behind? "I don't think we can blame the music," testifies Johnson. "It's just a reflection of society. We have a society that says, 'Make money. Make money fast.' Everything is a quick fix. Everything is pointed in the direction of drugs. We're praying that the words in our songs can help you transform your lifestyle before you have to endure what we had to endure. We can tell you what's down that path, so we're sending you an alarm." Hallelujah!


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