Pretty Ricky, Fresh From Miami and Baring Good Knees

Clothes not included: Members of Pretty Ricky at Constitution Hall on Saturday night.
Clothes not included: Members of Pretty Ricky at Constitution Hall on Saturday night. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 2, 2007

Some musicians play unplugged. The salacious siblings from Pretty Ricky prefer to perform undressed.

Saturday night at Constitution Hall, the bawdy Pretty boys were caught with their pants down, writhing around onstage in nothing but white boxers and undershirts. That's just how the teenage girls had hoped to find them, of course.

Pretty Ricky is a Miami-based group that specializes in outrageous, orgiastic music centered on sex. It's slick R&B and frenetic rap spiked with Spanish fly. (Think R. Kelly in quadraphonic, but without the bizarre narratives about midgets and closets.) The group performs loudly and carries a big shtick: Its songs and shows are completely over the top, laced with libidinous references to being on the bottom.

One such song, "On the Hotline," was from Pretty Ricky's latest CD, "Late Night Special," which topped the Billboard album charts in January. Proof, perhaps, that crass sex songs still sell -- at least up to a point, because Constitution Hall wasn't quite half-filled. Was somebody hiding the women and children of Washington?

Pretty Ricky didn't stage a concert so much as put on a freak show. Rappers Slick'Em, Baby Blue and Spectacular, plus Pretty Ricky's only real singer, Pleasure, opened the 70-minute set by crawling onto the stage on all fours. Wearing matching red silk pajama pants and hooded robes with Venetian bird masks, the boys then launched into a synchronized pelvic-thrust routine involving folding chairs.

Backed by a deejay rather than a live band, Pretty Ricky reduced a number of songs to snippets -- a verse, a chorus, and then, just like that, on to the next track. Live music for the ring-tone generation, perhaps. And maybe just as well, since there's a sameness to the group's music. ("Late Night Special" is the group's second album, following 2005's "Bluestars.")

But some songs were played in full -- including "So Confused," which stood out for its tight vocal harmonies, thanks to two female backup singers who spent most of the evening prancing around in various stages of undress. The tune was about forbidden fruit. Or, rather, verboten vegetables, what with Baby Blue rapping about his desire to "butta that thang like a baked potato."

There was also "Too Young," which addressed the legally problematic age difference between the performers, who are now past their teenage years, and their core fans, who are not. Outfitted in black slacks, silver sequined jackets and spangly shoes, the boys delivered the bad news. "I'm attracted to you, but you're way too young for me, girl," Pleasure sang while playing a lithe melody on the piano -- the only time the instrument was used during the show. The message didn't seem to get through: Midway through a verse by Baby Blue, some of the girls up front grabbed hold of his leg and refused to let go. The rapper had to be yanked to safety, losing one of his Liberace-like shoes in the process.

It was a scene that would be repeated often as the girls kept pulling at the guys, who kept rescuing each other, often after losing an article of clothing. Slick'em, for instance, emerged from one scrum sans his boxers. (He was prepared for just such a scenario, wearing compression shorts beneath his undies.)

While the young ladies swooned and shrieked, Pretty Ricky tried to leaven the proceedings with lame humor -- assorted comedic interludes featuring a plus-size adult male racing around on stage dressed as a woman.

Meanwhile, back at the raunch . . . there were lyrics about lollipops and making sex a holiday ("let's celebrate all night and day") and, finally, this: The buffed, braided heartthrob Spectacular emerging from backstage wearing nothing but sweat on his upper torso and a towel around his waist. Yet another revealing moment from Pretty Ricky.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company