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Rock Beat: Destiny’s Child

September 10, 1998 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ There’s a particular tidbit that record producer Mathew Knowles likes to mention when pitching his fast-rising rhythm and blues group Destiny’s Child.

The four girls who form the Houston-based ensemble have performed more than Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston combined, Knowles boasts, and they are only 16 and 17 years old.

He offers this nugget not only to impress but to show that the group’s success is due to more than just destiny.

``They’re not where they are by luck,″ Knowles says. ``The success is because the group has already developed. It’s all old hat to them.″

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Belting out soulful ballads and hip-hop dance tunes might well be old hat, but fame is a new fringe benefit that these ladies have welcomed with the enthusiasm of teen-agers and the humility of professionals.

The group’s self-titled debut album, released in February, has gone gold after selling almost 1 million copies worldwide. The first single, ``No, No, No,″ is double platinum with some 2 million copies sold.

Destiny’s Child also has been featured on soundtracks for the films ``Men in Black″ and ``Why Do Fools Fall in Love.″

``It’s a trip, but it’s a blessing,″ 16-year-old Beyonce Knowles, Mathew’s daughter and the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, says of the group’s success.

Rounding out the quartet are LaTavia Roberson, also 16, Kelly Rowland and LeToya Luckett, both 17.

The group got its start about seven years ago when Beyonce and LaTavia, then 9, joined a singing and dancing group called Girls Tyme.

With its hip-hop songs and bubble-gum lyrics, Girls Tyme performed at birthday parties, talent competitions and clubs from Houston to Dallas. The group even recorded an album but had no luck in landing a record deal.

Then in 1992, Girls Tyme got its first big break when it won an appearance on the televised talent competition ``Star Search.″ But the group was placed in the rap category and performed its only rap song _ not its best. The girls lost to a rock band.

``We did not win,″ recalls Beyonce, ``but that was the turning point in our career.″

After the disappointing loss, Beyonce’s father started managing the group and set out to change its image. The dancers were scrapped. LeToya and Kelly came aboard, and the girls began honing their vocal skills.

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During the summers, they received voice lessons and rehearsed daily. Once school started, they rehearsed at night and performed on weekends. At the end of their ninth-grade year, they quit school and hired tutors.

``Everybody else was outside playing, and we were working. But we still played,″ says Kelly. ``We had to make up our own games, but we made sure we had fun.″

All the while, the girls continued recording songs and hunting for a record deal.

Their luck finally changed after a representative from Columbia Records saw the group perform at a Houston expo. Afterward, they were invited to perform in a showcase of up-and-coming stars and, in 1996, Columbia signed them to its label.

After two years in the studio, the album ``Destiny’s Child″ was released.

John Moran, owner of Digital Services Recording in Houston, likens the group’s deal with Columbia to a baseball player ``coming out of high school and going directly to the major leagues.″

``It’s impressive that they were signed directly to Columbia,″ said Moran, whose studio was used by Destiny’s Child to record its early material.

Also impressive is the lineup of stars who pitched in on the album. Wyclef Jean of the rap group the Fugees collaborated with the girls on ``No, No, No.″ Dwayne Wiggins of the rhythm and blues group Tony, Toni, Tone produced several tracks, as did Vincent Herbert, who has produced hits for Toni Braxton.

With its studio backing and talent, Destiny’s Child is destined for big things, says Moran, who describes the quartet as a young Supremes. The group also could help expand the image of Houston’s music scene, known more for its rap artists.

``There is an intangible quality that is evident in most people who can be described as stars _ presence. They have that,″ Moran says. ``And the girls themselves work very, very hard and have been doing so for many, many years. That is the major key.″

The group has no plans to slow down.

After three months on tour with the award-winning Boyz II Men, the girls are getting ready to go back on tour this month. Each is learning to play an instrument, and work on the next album begins in February.

Despite the hard work and nonstop lifestyle, the members of Destiny’s Child says their success has been a blessing _ one they won’t soon take for granted.

``We appreciate everything, and we do understand that all of this can be taken away the next day,″ says Beyonce. ``You can be No. 1 and then the next week, nothing.″