We at Watch The Yard recently came across the music video to “Ho Frat Swing” by Ho Frat Ho, a 90s rap group who had some major ties to Black greekdom and Black college culture.
We did some digging after we found out that one of the members of the group was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and reached out brothers in his fraternity to find out who he is and what he is doing today. We found out that his name was Cidney Hollis and that he toured in the 90s as a background dancer for MC Hammer, got involved in his own group called Ho Frat Ho and opened for MC Hammer across the nation but after learning about the legal side of the music industry decided to leave it all, enroll in law school at Southern University and became a successful lawyer.
We came across an article written by Hollis in 2001 for RapCoalition.com about his journey and they kindly agreed to let us post it to our site. We then reached out to Hollis and got him to write a follow-up about what he has been up to, his achievements in law, and how he has grown professionally over the last 16 years since the first article was written. Check out the article below.
(The following is from Hollis’ RapCoalition.com article from 2001)
My journey began in 1989 in Los Angeles, California. My introduction to the entertainment world began at a video shoot for Oaktown’s 3-5-7. MC Hammer’s female rap group was shooting their “Yeah-Yeah-Yeah” video in Los Angeles. My friend Steve Reamer and I were supposed to meet Hammer there to discuss the possibilities of being involved in the music business. Once we got there we were told that we were going to be extras in the video. So, after waiting what seemed to be an eternity, we finally shot the scene that included the extras.
Meeting with Hammer after the video shoot, he told Steve and I that we should make up some dance steps to go with his show that was going around then. At the time, Hammer was on the “Budweiser Superfest Tour.” Hammer left us with a tape of his show and asked us to come up with some new routines to brighten up the show. Hammer then returned to performing on the tour and kept in touch with us in the meantime. When Hammer returned to Los Angeles for a few “spot dates,” he asked us to join him. We were unexpectedly asked to “cameo” our new routines to the show in the middle of the performance of “Turn This Mutha Out.” When we, we being the soon to be known group as Ho Frat Ho, came out, the crowd went crazy. Hammer’s eyes lit up and we could tell that nothing was the same. After the show, we were approached by George Duke, Tony Tone Toni, and asked if we were under contract with anyone. We instinctively said that we were working with Hammer and we were waiting to see what was going to unfold with the situation. This performance was at the Circle Star Theater, right outside Los Angeles. When Hammer once again went back out on tour he told people such as Guy, Heavy D, and Kool Moe D that he had a group of guys that were going to join the tour and really pick up the pace of things. We had no idea this was taking place.
Hammer had us formally come out to join the tour as backup dancers during the latter part of the tour. He named the group “Ho Frat Ho.” The name derived from us being college students at respective colleges in California. I was a member of the Honorable Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. The rest of the group members, Alonzo, Alvin and Michael were not members of any fraternities, but they were heavily influenced by the “stepping” style of them. Some people noted that our dance steps resembled the styles of Omega Psi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha. None of this was done in attempts to portray ourselves as a fraternity, but merely to give credit to their great styles of expression, although my fraternity brothers did not see it that way.
Anyway, in the midst of Hammer’s show he began to introduce us as his new group of guys that he “found” in college. During a break in Hammer’s show he would formally introduce us and the crowd would go crazy when we came out to the song of, “Im A Ho” by Whoodini, who incidentally later signed under Hammer’s management company. We lasted the rest of the tour and returned to Northern California with him when it ended. We were interested in being artists ourselves so we began to work on music of our own. Hammer then began to work on plans for us to be one of his many groups on his label. This all being done without our knowledge.
The more people we met the more we found out that Hammer intended for us to be on his label. We signed our Management contract with Hammer in Virginia when we were there for a few spot dates. The Management agreement was with Bust-It-Management. We were given the night to read and sign our contracts which were to be express mailed back to California. Little did we know, we signed matters that dealt with “publishing” and “advances.”
We ultimately signed away 100% of our publishing and we also signed away the “rights” to our name. We also signed the Record Deal on Bust-It-Records. We had no idea that having our management company and our record company being managed by the same person posing any problems. None of us had ever been involved with contracts or anything of this sort. We had no idea of the concept “Conflict of Interest.” Hammer was working on a deal with Capitol Records that made Hammer promise to produce several groups within a specific time frame, and we were one of the supposed groups he would deliver to them.
As a method of “paying” us or sustaining or daily lives, we were “advanced” our record deal money. We were given a paycheck twice a month. We continued to “Dance” for Hammer but were receiving “advance” money in the meantime. Sounds a little crazy to be “Dancing” or rendering services, but being “paid” with “our” advance money on our “Record Deal.”
Well, anyway, we would continue to do this for a number of years without thinking of anything begin wrong. We recorded our debut album, “Ho Frat Ho” in 1992 and shot our first video at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The video did extremely well and was one of the most requested videos on “The Box.”
The actual number of albums we sold is questioned to this day. We were never told exactly how many albums were sold and did not know how to find out, nor did we know whom to call to find out. We were met with resistance when it came to us wanting to work with outside producers and writers. Hammer had an “in-house” production team that mass-produced tracks for the artists that were on the label. We were approached by noted producers as Spiderman and Freeze, Teddy Riley and a number of others. We approached our management and requested that we use some of the tracks that the outside producers created. As guessed, we did not use any outside producers due to our management stating that it would be cheaper to use “in-house” producers who were on “salary.”
One agreement that Hammer and I made was that if I fulfilled my obligations to the contracts that I signed, he would help me return to obtain my college degree. December 12, 1992, we were sitting in the offices of Bust-It-Management and Records when we were told that we were no longer needed on the label. We received our December 1st “paycheck-advance” and were expecting our December 15th “paycheck-advance” when we were told that there would be no more.
Shocked, stunned, dismayed, hurt, and afraid I had to figure out what to do. I went to my apartment, gathered as much as I could in two army bags, and left for Los Angeles, never to return to the Bay Area. I soon found out that I was to answer for years of back taxes that were not taken out of my “paycheck-advances.” I had not consulted with a financial advisor of any sort due to my lack of knowledge of being in the “business.”
Fall of 1993, after lingering around Los Angeles and attempting to evade everyone I knew, and that knew I was back home, I left for Southern University. I called Hammer and asked if he would make good on the deal we made. He said yes. When I arrived at Southern University I found that Hammer had in fact kept his promise and had my tuition check waiting for me. During my years of finishing my undergraduate study, I lost personal contact with Hammer due to his veiling himself behind many people answering the phone or just not calling me back. I saw when it became news that Hammer had filed bankruptcy that I really wanted to talk to him but, he either never got the messages that I called or he was just not calling me back. He did continue to pay for my college tuition but I was unable to personally talk to him anymore. I also heard that he did a “Behind the Music” interview where he stated that all of his people had abandoned him in his time of need, and that all of his people had “used” him. I wanted to ask if I was included in that category of people that he said used him, but I have not had the chance to personally talk to him.
I have been lucky. I am graduating from Law School in May of this year, 2001. I plan to work within the entertainment industry dealing with negotiations and contracts. I want to work in the field of The Motion Picture Industry to the actual recording of artists’ albums. I want to take my experiences as a young artist in the music industry coupled with my legal education to find ways to help artists.
I want to thank RapCoalition for giving me the opportunity to tell my experiences in the music industry and I want to challenge all prospective Rap Artists, Singers, and producers to spend a little money to have an entertainment attorney carefully read over any and all contract agreements before you sign them. I did not do so and it was a costly mistake.
In ending, I want to give full respect to HEAVY HO, who passed away December of 2000 and to my father who passed away on his birthday, Easter Sunday of 2000. My dad did not make it to see me graduate from Law School, but I am striving to make him proud. I love you DAD.
The following is an update written in 2017 exclusively for WatchTheYard.com
Picking up where I left off back in 2001, when I wrote an article that appeared on RapCoalition.org website, I am now a licensed attorney in two jurisdictions, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. I graduated from Southern University Law Center in May of 2001, and passed the Maryland State Bar exam that same year. I lived in the Washington, D.C. area for over ten years where I served as a staffer to United States Senator Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana. I served on her Senate Small Business Committee where I assisted in drafting legislation that enabled small business that previously received Venture Capital (VC) funding which were ineligible to receive any governmental funding for research and projects.
For service, I volunteered with the Washington, D.C. Bar under the Young Lawyers’ section of the Corporate Finance & Securities division of the bar. I ultimately became the Chairman for the Young Lawyers’ section where I increased young enrollment in the section through outreach seminars, guest speakers, and employment panels that gave insight into the difficult world of landing a legal job.
I also served as Investment Banking Officer for Union Bank, Los Angeles, California, where I was given the opportunity to monitor credit worthiness of portfolio clients. Additionally, I was able to draft amendments to loan agreements, and supporting documentation. This was a huge change from anything I ever did in the past.
My plans for the future include working within the entertainment field again, as I once did with M.C. Hammer. Performing with various artists such as James Brown, George Clinton, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guy, Heavy – D, En Vogue, Doug E Fresh, Vanilla Ice, EPMD, Michelle’, Troop, TLC, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Karen White, Oaktown’s 357, Kool Moe Dee, After 7; and performing on such stages as MTV Music Awards, MTV Spring Break, Soul Train Music Awards, Billboard Awards, NAACP Image Awards, The Grammys, The Budweiser Superfest, Coca Cola Superfest; and appearing in noted music videos as “U Can’t Touch This”, Pray, Here Comes the Hammer, Help The Children, They Put Me In the Mix, Have You Seen Her, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, Dancin’ Machine, Pump It Up, Yo! Sweetness, She’s Soft and Wet, Let’s Go Deeper, Ring ‘Em, “Pepsi”.
These experiences taught me the valuable lesson of perseverance, preparation, and execution. I have assisted various artists over the years that have remained good friends, and it has allowed me to maintain some sense of “boots on the ground” in the world of sports and entertainment. Preparations are now being made to build on that experience as an attorney, manager, and producer.
I have to give an extraordinary amount of credit to what I have accomplished thus far to my education. Thankfully, my experience in completing college at Southern University following my work with M.C. Hammer, gave me the insight into the total Historically Black College & University (HBCU) life. I thank Southern University for inspiring me to become an attorney, as well as my fraternity brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., who likewise ventured with me on the path through law school preparation, graduating from law school, and successfully passing the bar exam on the first attempt. “Achievement” being the cornerstone of my fraternity, I strive in every field of human endeavor to make this world better, and to help as much as I can. I transferred to Southern University after attending my home chapter of Long Beach State University, Long Beach, California (Epsilon Kappa Chapter), which gave me the initial push to strive for more in life. When the opportunity to work with M.C. Hammer presented itself, I was prepared to take that daring step into a world of wonder and mystique. I was wonderful, fast, crazy, and surreal.
Today, I feel the need for HBCU’s to make themselves more prominent and more visible in the minority areas of this country is at its highest. There is a need for minorities to feel the experience of having an institution that cares about your success, development, and well-being. I can only express the feeling of knowing that my education was enhanced by professors and, support staff that knew me by my name, and not just by my social security number on a test. I have law school professors from Southern University that I call occasionally when I need to ask for guidance on a matter I am researching, or not quite sure how to effectively approach it. I am grateful to my professors that take my calls and emails, and who take the time to help. They see value in me, as I see the value in them.
So where do we go from here? I see the potential of something great being created. I see the possibility now that anyone truly can become President of the United States, I see the possibility that a poor black man from inner-city Los Angeles could move beyond his circumstances of that environment, to see the world. I see the opportunity for a young black man becoming a successful entrepreneur and create jobs for those that would otherwise be overlooked. That is motivating for me.”
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