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From Oswald Harris Court to the Billboard Hot 100, The Road To The Top Hasn’t Been Easy For Rock City

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Timothy and Theron Thomas of St. Thomas

ATLANTA – If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Or in the case of Theron and Timothy Thomas – 399 tries before success is visible.

The duo, collectively known as R. City or Rock City, wrote more than 400 songs before finally selling “The Rain” to Akon for inclusion on his 2006 triple-platinum-selling album, Konvicted.

“We still wouldn’t have given up no matter how many songs we had to write before somebody wanted one,” Theron said. “We had belief in our ability. We knew we just needed some artist to accept one of our songs. That would open the door to other artists becoming interested in what we might have for them.”

The St. Thomas men were right. “The Rain” was not among the six singles released from Konvicted but enough people were impressed by their work to give the duo a foot in the door. Within a year, they had written or co-written songs for Usher, Nicole Scherzinger, Mary J Blige, Ashlee Simpson and Sean Kingston. The latter’s Take You There hit number seven on Billboard’s Hot 100.

They signed with Akon’s Geffen Records affiliated KonLive label and recorded the tracks for their debut album, “Wake The Neighbors.” It was scheduled for release in 2008 but has still to see the light of day.

“What happened with the album pretty much summed up our entire lives,” remarked 31-year-old Timothy. “We’ve had a constant struggle to overcome obstacles and setbacks. But we’ve also had the determination and belief that we would eventually succeed.”

This positive attitude has taken the boys from an impoverished upbringing in the Oswald Harris Court  of St. Thomas. Their father’s drug habit saw him spend five years of their childhood in jail.

“Our mother kept us together,” explained Theron, 33. “There were times when we might only have meals of soda crackers and tap water but she would never let us get into trouble. You might be poor and from the projects but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be a good person.”

Theron and Timothy began their entertainment career as children. They performed as backing dancers for a local all-girl rap group. But their passion was always for music rather than dance.

“Our parents always encouraged us to follow our dreams,” Timothy recalled. “That’s how we made the move to Miami. We’d become recognised as performers in St. Thomas throughout our teenage years. Trying to make it in America was a massive step but we got total support from our parents.”

Calling themselves 2-Ekwip, the boys did well in major talent competitions but failed to find a record deal. They returned to the Virgin Islands and held regular jobs for a while before trying their luck again in America. On this occasion, they moved to the musical hotbed of Atlanta.

“It was second time lucky for us,” Theron smiled. “We’d changed our name to Rock City by then. This is the nickname of St. Thomas so we thought it was appropriate. We became established under this name and you’ll see us credited as Rock City on the early recordings. But we ran into legal troubles involving copyright of the name so we’ve had to change to R. City.”

Frustrated by KonLive failing to release their album, the boys issued 13 mixtapes between 2008 and 2010 before finally leaving Akon’s label in 2011.

“We were earning decent money working on songs for other people but we wanted our own studio album out there,” Timothy stated. “We were eventually able to create our own Rebelution label and put out more mixtapes on that. But everything really came together when we signed to RCA on Dr Luke’s Kemosabe label.”

Rock City’s official debut album, “What Dreams Are Made Of,” will be released on October 9. They couldn’t hope for better promotion than their smash hit single, Locked Away, which also features Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine. The song is highly personal for Theron and Timothy.

“The lyrics are based around what happened to our family during the time that our dad was in jail,” Theron explained. “People have connected with it on different levels rather than just the specifics of what happened to us. But we couldn’t be happier about the amazing response to our song.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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