93 ‘til Infinity: A very teenage story about Tony! Toni! Toné!’s ‘Sons of Soul’ album

OPINION: The Oakland, Calif., band’s third album holds a special place in my heart since it reminds me of just how lame I was as a teenager.  

Sons of Soul, Tony Toni Tone, theGrio.com
Tony! Toni! Toné!'s "Anniversary" video. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

When my family moved to Madison, Ala., for the start of my freshman year in August 1993, my sister and I (both freshmen at the local high school, Bob Jones High School) made friends pretty quickly. Now, I assume I made friends quickly because all of my soon-to-be homies wanted to meet my sister. At least, that’s the clarity I have now as an adult. Either way, between church and school, by the time the first month of school was over, I felt pretty settled. 

In Alabama, like in many southern states I assume, EVERYBODY goes to the high school football games. All of my friends played football, and I’d be in the stands hanging with those who didn’t and all of my sister’s friends. One of her friends had a best friend from another school who I caught an immediate crush on. She went to our rival high school; I met her at the football game between my school and the rival school. Now, as it turns out, her on-again, off-again boyfriend was one of the homies but nobody told me this and I had no idea. All I knew was that a really pretty girl from another school was one of my sister’s new friends, and I wanted to get to know her better. 

I mentioned this to my sister who told her friend who then told the other friend … there were no cell phones back then (and I doubt she’d have given me her number, anyway). I suppose she thought I was cute in the really short, little brother way (I was like 4 feet, 11 inches in ninth grade) so she would talk to me and be nice to me. But I was determined to be seen in some way. My sister and her friend told me that the young lady, who we’ll call T, really wanted Tony! Toni! Toné!’s new album, “Sons of Soul,” which was released in June 1993. Their forever jam “Anniversary” had just been released as a single so she wanted the album. 

The obvious light bulb went off for me. If I got her the album, she’d be so impressed with me that she’d want to … speak to me? I don’t really know what my plan was. I had no idea what to do with a love interest at that point in life. And I mean that sincerely. Anywho, I set a plan in motion. I knew that on the upcoming Friday, T was going to be at my house with my sister and her friends before they went to the football game together. I was, of course, going but not with them. But if I gave her the album, she might want me to come with them and … really I have no idea what I was doing. 

I had enough money to get the CD because of my allowance, and because my father loved frequent trips to the local military base (and the PX — post exchange — which is basically a military tiny mall-like situation), I knew I could get the album before then, which is what happened. I went to the PX, bought the CD and waited for Friday. 

When that Friday came and T came over to the house, I got my nerve up, and while she and my sister were talking, I walked right up to her and handed her the CD. She looked at me with the biggest smile and said, “Oh my god! Thank you so much! This is so sweet!” And then went back to her convo with my sister. I turned around and walked upstairs realizing I hadn’t planned for this occasion at all. I saw them at the football game, and I’m not sure she even looked my way, possibly because she was enthralled with the football game since her on-again, off-again boyfriend was one of our star players. They were on again, as it turned out, and went to the homecoming dance together and everything.  

To this day, whenever I hear the song “Anniversary” or think about Tony! Toni! Toné!’s third album, I’m reminded that somehow, my sister and her friend suckered me into buying an album for their friend because they knew I had a crush on her, even though I never stood a chance. I felt stupid, but thankfully, I would have many, many more “feel stupid” moments ahead so I got over it quickly. 

A teenage love.

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.