CORDELE -- Bonds forged in adversity are unbreakable.
That explains why Quon, Marcel and Tim Prater -- three talented brothers who collectively are known as the hip-hop/soul act Prater Boyz -- have the kind of closeness that is more about their DNA than it is some publicist's master plan.
"We had a rough childhood, that's why we're so close," Quon Prater, at 20 the oldest of the siblings, said during a recent conversation. "We were all we had. Thank God for that; that's what allowed us to pull through together."
The Boyz, who mastermind their own beats and rhymes around the old-school soul of such new-Jack artists as Boyz II Men, New Edition, D'Angelo and Tony, Tone, Toni, will start their push to expand their visibility outside the region Monday when they release the video for their single "She Likes Money."
The Prater Boyz will debut the video at noon on the Cordele-based Cablecast station WSST (local cable channel 11), in honor of their hometown.
"We've been invited to show the video in Belgium through the Core DJ Network, and it's being processed to be featured on ComCast Cable in Atlanta," Tom Swain with the Albany-based management firm X-tratainment Inc., said. "But the guys wanted to show it first at home."
"We've got to give back to the home folks," 17-year-old Marcel -- aka "Wam" -- Prater said.
The "She Likes Money" video, which features guest vocals from Los Angeles-based Game Records artist Kanary Diamonds, is likely to put a hurry-up on the completion of the Boyz' planned debut album, "Spotlight." Swain said the trio is working on songs for "Spotlight" at Platinum Sound Studios in Albany.
"The album is, basically, already written," Marcel Prater said. "We have more than 16 songs finished, enough to do a whole album. It'll be done whenever. We have about three songs finished."
Swain signed the Prater Boyz to a label/management deal just over a year ago and has slowly worked with them on the various elements of their repertoire to help them prepare for a shot at stardom. Because the brothers are so young -- Tim, the youngest, is only 17 and is a junior at Crisp County High School -- he's kept the demands on their time as reasonable as possible.
When "She Likes Money" started getting radio/club play in hot spots like Miami and Atlanta, though, a video remix seemed like a logical next step.
"We came up with what we thought was a strong concept, and we signed Lewis Farinella to direct the video," Swain said. "We thought we needed more 'oomph' for the remix, so we decided to add a female voice. We looked locally and couldn't find the right person. Really there just aren't that many female singers in the country who have the notoriety we were looking for.
"I had read an article that mentioned Kanary Diamonds as one of the hot up-and-coming female artists in the country, so I took a poke at it and found her management. I sent them the song, and she fell in love with it. I flew her down to Jacksonville for the video shoot, and it went great."
The Prater brothers started singing together in church, and when child prodigy Tim surpassed older brother Quon in producing beats, the three decided to have a go at writing their own material.
"What we try to do is find something different," Tim Prater said. "Every time you walk outside, there's something new. It could be the smallest thing, something no one's talking about, and you can turn that around and make a hit."
The process starts with the beat.
"Tim will take a sound, and when he works it into a pattern, someone will come up with a line," Quon Prater said. "He'll come up with more sounds, and we'll work that into a hook. The hook is the first thing, and the verses are no problem.
"Tim has this wild imagination; he has the ability to take something like a choir singing and chop it up into something new, something you might not recognize at first but it always fits."
Asked about the rhymes, each of the Prater brothers spits a free-flowing verse -- Quon and Tim from "Waste Your Time" and Marcel from "You Are" -- that, while smooth in its rapid-fire flow, is easily distinguishable.
"We all have our own style," Marcel Prater, the last to show off his vocal skills to a visitor, says. "We've always done this together, but we all have a different sound."
Even while they're chasing musical stardom, the Prater Boyz are grounded enough that each is concentrating equally as hard on a "fall-back career." Quon is studying construction at a Youth Build program; Marcel is studying welding at South Georgia Tech in Cordele, and Tim is involved in CCHS's Army ROTC program.
"From the time I was young, I've always said I'm going to be successful," Quon Prater said. "But as you grow up, as you mature, you realize there are real steps you have to take. Our parents have always commended us for our music, but they've always told us we need to have something to fall back on as well."
And if "She Likes Money" is the key that unlocks the gateway to stardom?
"If we do get to the point where we're considered famous, I'll still grind," Marcel Prater said. "We've had to work to get here, and I'll always want to keep working."
"By doing that," adds younger brother Tim, "we can let people know that anything can happen."
And when there's a bond formed of blood and adversity overcome -- such as the one that binds the Prater Boyz -- those words of hope are a lot easier to believe.