Dialect Magazine

Girls Rock!!! The Hottest Pop/R&B female groups of the 90s

While male bands seemingly ruled the 80s, “Girl Power” was in full swing during the 90s. With so many memorable songs to choose from, one had to ask, which songs were stuck in your head the most? Was it 702’s “Where My Girls At” or was it Zhane’s “Hey Mr. DJ“? How about Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away” or Brownstone’s “If You love Me“? Total’s “Cant You See” had one of catchiest hooks ever but it was their memorable guest appearance on LL Cool J’s Loungin (Who Do you Love) that we really couldn’t get enough of.

While many assume that Destiny’s Child ruled the 90s airwaves, there were many others who paved the way.

Hailing from Oakland, California; Cindy Herron, Terri Ellis, Dawn Robinson and Maxine Jones (simply known as En Vogue)possessed the total package of a female quartet – powerhouse pipes, class, signature moves, and sex appeal.

En Vogue has won more MTV Video Music Awards than any other female group in its history – a total of seven, along with five Soul Train Awards, six American Music Awards, and seven Grammy nominations.

The first single, “Hold On,” from their debut album, Born To Sing, was released to radio in late February 1990 and became a crossover pop hit, reaching number two on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles charts, and number one on both the R&B singles and Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts. The album went on to reach number three on Billboard’s R&B Albums Chart.

En Vogue’s second album, Funky Divas, was released in the spring of 1992. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard R&B charts and ultimately doubled the take of its predecessor, going multi-platinum. The album’s first two singles: The aggressive “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” and a sultry cover of Aretha Franklin‘s “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” both went top ten pop and peaked at number one on the R&B charts. The next single, “Free Your Mind” a rock flavored song against prejudice, also went top ten.

Although the ladies have gone their separate ways, En Vogue still remains the 18th most successful act of the 1990s, and one of the most popular and successful female groups of all time.

What do you get when you fuse sweet sounds with hip hop beats and fashion with a classy/street style? The answer to that question is quite simple – Sisters with Voices, better known as SWV. Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson and Leanne “LeLe” Lyons (the founding member). One cool thing about these girls was that they did not wear weaves or overpowering make-up. Coko became known for her super long, multicolored fingernails, and yes they were natural!

Formed in 1990 as a gospel group, SWV became one of the most successful R&B groups of the 1990s. Billboard named SWV the #7 R&B Act and the #2 Top Selling/Airplay R&B Female Group of the 1990s.

SWV’s first album, Its About Time, was released in the fall of 1992. The first single, “Right Here” reached #16 on the R&B charts, while their second single, the danceable “I’m So Into You”, peaked at #2 on R&B and reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, “Weak”, a powerful ballad known for both its melodic content and catchy hook, reached #1 on both the R&B and Hot 100 charts. “Right Here/Human Nature” peaked at #1 on R&B and #2 on the Hot 100 and it stayed at #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for 7 weeks making it one of the longest running singles of 1993. The fourth single and a remix of their first single, “Right Here”, “Right Here/Human Nature” featured samples of Michael Jackson’s hit “Human Nature”. It was certified triple platinum

Despite their breakthrough success, the group split in 1998. After the split, Coko released her first solo album Hot Coko, in 1999. The first single, “Sunshine”, a dedication to her son, reached the Top 40 position in the R&B charts that summer.

Coko’s full gospel solo debut, Grateful, was released in 2006 and debuted at #5 on Billboard’s Top Independent albums chart.

Also in 2007, Taj appeared in the TV One reality series I Married a Baller which documented her life with husband Eddie George, former NFL player and present Nashville entrepreneur.

In 2011, SWV signed a record deal with Mass Appeal Entertainment and E1 Entertainment. They released “Co-Sign” via iTunes as the first single from their fourth studio album, I Missed Us. Older and wiser, with a more mature sound, it’s great to see these ladies back.

“Yo T-Boz is ya being a boss? Chilli what’s up wit’ dat sauce?” asks a playful Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes on “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg. TLC was Hip Hop/R&B fusion at its finest. TLC’s lyrics, mostly written by Left Eye and Dallas Austin, were playful, female-empowering anthems brought to life by Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’s laid back, low-voiced vocals, Left Eye’s quirky, nasal-toned raps, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas’s powerful vocals and harmonization.

Their musical formula was enhanced by their bold and brightly colored videos and curious costuming: each girl wore wrapped condoms on their baggy clothing Left Eye also wore one over her left eye in a pair of glasses.

Their debut album Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip was released in February of 1992, on the now defunct LaFace Records. The songs on the album are a blend of funk, hip-hop (L, and R&B. The album went quadruple-platinum within a year, launching a number of US Hot 100 top-ten singles with the funky”Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”, “What About Your Friends” a song about the warnings of fair weather friends, and “Baby-Baby-Baby” which reached No. 2 on the Hot 100.

1994 brought even more success to TLC with the release of their second album, CrazySexyCool. All four singles from the album reached the top 5 of the US Hot 100. “Creep” and “Waterfalls” peaked at no. 1, while the provocative Red Light Special reached no. 2 and “Diggin’ on You” reached no. 5. “Waterfalls”, a song that featured socially conscious lyrics criticizing drug dealing and unsafe sex, and an introspective rap from Left Eye, became TLC’s biggest hit.

CrazySexyCool sold over 11 million copies in the US. In 1996, TLC took home Grammys for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for “Creep”.

The groups third album, FanMail was another success debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. Released in February of 1999, The album featured the number-one hit “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty”, a song about self-love, also reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100

In October of 1999, TLC went on a worldwide tour simply named the FanMail Tour. The group had a PayPerView special of their tour which at the time became PayPerView’s highest grossing televised special. The tour went on to gross more than $72.8 million dollars according to Billboard which became the highest grossing tour by a female group.

Sadly, on April 25, 2002, while on vacation in Honduras, Left Eye was killed in a car crash. She was driving and was thrown from the vehicle, and died from her injuries. The news sent shockwaves through the music industry. The last month of her life, including the accident, was filmed and later the footage was made into a documentary called The Last Days of Left Eye.

Despite the untimely passing of their band mate and friend, Chilli and T-Boz still remained active. Chilli went on to develop an acting career appearing in numerous television shows, music videos, and reality shows. In April 2010, VH1 aired the reality series What Chilli Wants, which documented her quest to find love and manage her life. The second season of What Chilli Wants premiered on January 2, 2011. She also markets a line of handbags called ‘Bags by Chilli.’

T-Boz continued her singing career. She also did some acting appearing in the 1998 film Belly and also numerous sitcoms and reality shows. In addition to her work with TLC, T-Boz recorded solo singles, including: “Touch Myself” and “My Getaway”. In addition, she has been a featured vocalist on numerous songs by other artists such as “Ghetto Love” by Da Brat. She also published a book of semi-autobiographical poetry called Thoughts. In 2005, she opened a children’s boutique called Chase’s Closet (named after her daughter).

In January of 2013, her reality show, the now defunct Totally T-Boz premiered on the TLC channel. (No pun intended)
The series followed T-Boz as she worked on her new music career. Although Left Eye is angel in heaven, TLC will never cease.

Formed in 1994, Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham,(then known as Victoria Adams), Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton , Melanie “Sporty Spice” Chisholm, and Gerri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell simply known as the Spice Girls exploded onto the scene becoming the biggest British act since the Beatles.

With their individual personas, the Spice Girls were a lot like a live cartoon, and boy did we love them. In 1996, they released their debut single, “Wannabe”, a playful pop ditty, which hit number-one in more than 30 countries and helped establish the group as a global phenomenon. Their debut album, Spice, sold more than 28 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by a female group in music history.

“Say You’ll Be There” was released topping the charts at number one for two weeks. The sexually oriented “2 Become 1” was released, selling 430,000 copies in its first week which made it the fastest selling single of the year.

The group’s second album, Spiceworld, which is the soundtrack album to the film of the same name, also became a huge hit. It debuted at number one in the UK, with first-week sales of 190,000. The album also reached number one in 13 countries. It produced four singles all of which saw commercial success. Its lead single, the Caribbean flavored “Spice Up Your Life” became an international hit, peaking in the top five. To promote the album, the group embarked on the Spiceworld Tour.

In May of 1998, Ginger Spice shocked fans by announcing her departure from the Spice Girls. She stated that she was suffering from exhaustion and wanted to take a break. Her departure became one of the biggest entertainment news stories of the year. Eventually, she went on to launch a solo career.

In August 2012, after the Spice Girls’ , (Ginger also) performance at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, the Spice Girls’ Greatest Hits album went into the top ten.

The Spice Girls have sold more than 80 million records worldwide. They making them one of the best-selling pop groups of all time, and also making them the most successful British band since the Beatles, compared with Beatlemania.

Soulful lyrics, powerful vocals, and a cool down to earth style blended perfectly to create the ones that we called Xscape. Many are unaware that this hip and sassy Atlanta quartet actually began as a quintet. The group had a string of hit songs during the 1990s. The original lineup of the group consisted of sisters LaTocha Scott and Tamika Scott, Kandi Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, and Tamera Coggins. Coggins departed the group before their debut album was released.

Xscape was later discovered by Jermaine Dupri while singing at a festival. Dupri immediately signed the group to his up and coming So So Def label. The group released their debut album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, on October 12, 1993.The album peaked at number three on the Top R&B Albums chart.

The album was certified platinum within a year, and launched two top 10 singles. The debut single, breezy “Just Kickin’ It”, and second single, “Understanding”,a ballad about the importance of communication in relationships, both became platinum and gold certified number-one hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

After much success, Xscape released their second studio album, Off the Hook, in 1995. The lead single, “Feels So Good”, reached the top 40 of the US Hot 100, while “Who Can I Run To”, a beautiful cover of the Jones Girls classic, peaked at #8. The follow-up singles, “Do You Want To” peaked at #9 on the “Hot R&B/Hip Hop” charts. The album eventually went platinum.

1998’s Traces of My Lipstick featured the top 10 hit “The Arms of the One Who Loves You”, which reached #7 on the Hot 100 chart, and “My Little Secret”, which reached #9.

After Traces of My Lipstick, Kandi Burruss left the group to pursue a solo career, and Xscape went on a disbanded.

Kandi has written and co-written songs for numerous artists and groups such as Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, ‘N Sync, and Boyz II Men to name a few. In September of 2000, she released her solo debut, Hey Kandi, which featured the hit song the bold “Don’t Think I’m Not”.

In 2009, Kandi joined the hit reality show, The Real Housewives of Atlanta. While Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, starred in the BET reality show Tiny & Toya, which followed her friendship with Antonia “Toya” Johnson Carter, the ex-wife of rap artist Lil’ Wayne. In 2011, she and husband T.I. began appearing in the reality series T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle.

Fun Facts:

  1. Tameka “Tiny” Cottle and Kandi Burrus co-wrote TLC’s hit “No Scrubs” with both ladies singing vocals on the chorus of the song.
  2. On June 24, 2008, during a performance from Alicia Keys at the BET Awards, SWV made a special appearance with the original line up from En Vogue and TLC. SWV sang “Weak” with Alicia and later performed “Waterfalls” with the two other groups. Now that’s what I call a family reunion!

With their beauty, style, and all of the great music that they’ve given us, its great to see that many of these divas dames are still doing well. And I must also add that those songs never get old. Girl Power at its finest!

Ashly is a freelance writer and poet from Baltimore, MD.

Post a Comment