90’S REMIX TOUR
Bell Biv Devoe, Blackstreet, SWV, Tony Toni Tone, Dru Hill and After 7
BELL BIV DEVOE
Bell Biv DeVoe was hatched in the minds of its members, New Edition’s Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe, upon the departure of lead singer Bobby Brown in 1986. But it wasn’t until after New Edition completed its supporting tour for the album Heart Break in 1988 that the trio gave in to the urgings of Heart Break producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and decided to chart its own course.
Bell Biv DeVoe enlisted a variety of producers for its debut album, including Jam and Lewis and Public Enemy producers Hank and Keith Shocklee. The results were quite unlike anything in New Edition’s repertoire: The beats were funkier, the lyrics and vocals were sexier, and the overall sound had a harder, hip-hop-tinged edge. The album’s title track, “Poison,” became a number three smash, and it was followed by the equally successful “Do Me!” and the R&B hits “B.B.D. (I Thought it Was Me),” “When Will I See You Smile Again?,” and “Dope!” The album itself went on to sell over three million copies and was followed by a remix album the next year. Meanwhile, Bivins assembled the East Coast Family, discovering and producing debut albums for Another Bad Creation and Boyz II Men.
By early 2001, Teddy Riley’s yearning to reform BLACKstreet had became a serious impediment to progress on the solo album he was working on. “I found myself driving by Mark Middleton’s house every day,” he admits. “I guess I was hoping Mark would just be outside and we could talk, but I never saw him. Finally, one day I drove by and his family was outside, so I asked them to tell Mark I needed to speak with him.”
Middleton did reach out to Riley, and the two quickly agreed that it was time for BLACKstreet to regroup. “What’s amazing is how easily it all came together,” says Middleton. In keeping with this spirit of reunion, the quartet invited original BLACKstreet member Levy Little and mainstay Eric Williams back to recreate the original soul of the quartet. For the back story on this tale of voices rising once again in seamless harmony, one must travel more than a decade back in time. In 1992, Teddy Riley was widely viewed as a defining force in contemporary R&B. He’d guided albums by of-the-moment sensations like SWV and enduring superstars like Michael Jackson (earning a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album for Jackson’s Dangerous that year.) He’d also been a founding member of Guy, which disbanded in 1991 after two platinum albums.
Having settled in Virginia Beach, where he’d opened Future Recording Studio, Riley was contemplating his next move. He longed once again to be part of a team. So, with singers Chauncey Hannibal, Levi Little and Dave Hollister, Riley formed BLACKstreet.
Brandishing an electrifying mix of soul, funk, hip-hop and gospel, BLACKstreet delivered its self-titled debut album in the summer of 1994. The disc was certified platinum, rose to #7 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and spawned three hit singles: “Before I Let You Go” (Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100), “Joy” (#8 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay list) and “Booti Call” (Top 20 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay). These, combined with MTV and BET airplay and a thriving tour, established BLACKstreet as one of the most promising outfits on the R&B landscape.
Perhaps more importantly, though, their sound represented a new direction. Testified Spin: “Lest we forget, Teddy Riley’s spring-heeled, pyrotechnic production extravaganzas had a seismic impact in a field then dominated by obsequious balladeers dressed like head waiters” (August 1994).
Still, as history would bear out, BLACKstreet was just getting started. Little and Hollister departed the group to embark on solo careers, but in 1996, with Mark Middleton and Eric Williams on board, BLACKstreet defied the sophomore slump with an album that soared.
Appropriately titled Another Level, the disc debuted at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and at #3 on the Billboard 200 (it would reside on both charts for more than 60 weeks). This spectacular premiere was due in no small part to a Riley-produced monster called “No Diggity.”
Deemed one of the 100 Greatest Pop Songs by Rolling Stone and MTV, “No Diggity” broke new ground with its amalgamation of gritty hip-hop beats and smooth-as-silk harmonies. The sweltering intensity of BLACKstreet’s vocal performance, coupled with the track’s pulsating rhythms and G-funk-infused sonics (including a cameo from Dr. Dre), propelled the song to #1 (Hot 100) and platinum certification. It seemed “No Diggity” was everywhere. Among other achievements, it topped the Hot R&B Singles Airplay chart for seven straight weeks and the Hot R&B Singles Sales chart for a month. Also helping it along was a steamy video directed by a newcomer named Hype Williams.
As Another Level climbed to sales of more than four million units, BLACKstreet displayed a diversity only suggested by their debut. Where “No Diggity” was a bumpin’, no-holds-barred sexual escapade, its follow-up, “Don’t Leave Me,” was a captivating ballad, a heartfelt missive about lost love that brought the group another #1. “Don’t Leave Me” remained at #1 on the Billboard R&B Singles Airplay chart for three weeks, also hitting the Top 10 of the Hot 100.
A slew of awards and award nominations recognized these triumphs. In 1998, BLACKstreet earned the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group – a feat as yet unmatched by any other male R&B outfit – for “No Diggity.” There were also nods for MTV Awards and American Music Awards and an MTV Europe Award for Best R&B Album.
Artists lined up to ask BLACKstreet to appear on their projects. In 1997 they graced Foxy Brown’s hit single “Get Me Home”; the following year, they lent vocals to Jay-Z’s “The City Is Mine.”
In April of 1999, BLACKstreet issued their third album, Finally. By the time of its release, Terrell Phillips had replaced Middleton, who’d left to seek out solo opportunities. Finally was certified gold, but the quartet seemed to have lost some of its fire. The creative differences that had led to repeated lineup shuffling had begun to take their toll, and corporate restructuring at the group’s record company further stymied any forward motion.
Hannibal, Williams and Phillips returned to their solo careers, and Riley threw himself back into production, developing several tracks for a solo album while helping artists like Profyle, Joe, Janet Jackson and *NSYNC make hits.
“But,” he confides, “I was not happy.” Says Middleton: “This is what you have to understand about Teddy Riley: Music is like a sport for him. He loves to play ball, and he’d much rather be on a team then out there on his own.” Thus a hopeful Riley began driving past Middleton’s house.
Once the reassembled group was fully ensconced at Future Recording, they set out to recapture the magic that made BLACKstreet one of the preeminent pop ensembles of the 1990s. The members soon realized, much to their delight, that very little had changed since the good old days.
Riley ventures: “We’ve stayed true to who we are and that’s why I think BLACKstreet is as relevant today as we’ve ever been. It’s still about the music, not the image. It’s still about the voices, the harmonies – always has been, always will be.”
According to the members of BLACKstreet, the variety of sounds goes a long way toward explaining its appeal. “We’ve always been a mixture of gospel, street music and R&B,” Even when their lyrics are raunchy and over-the-top, you can still hear their roots in the Church. Riley informs: “Despite the success we’ve had with songs like ‘No Diggity,’ we’re probably best known for our ballads, we’ve been embraced because of our ballads and it’s very important to us to please the fans.”
Asked about the challenge of returning to the limelight after years away, Williams says: “What we’ve been able to achieve in the past has been remarkable, so yes, there is some pressure to live up to that. But after so many years, all that matters is that we are family. It feels so natural for us to be together and we’re having so much fun that we’re not really thinking about anything else.”
“I always knew BLACKstreet would reunite,” concludes Middleton. “I had faith that everything would come into place and we would continue to create beautiful music. I’m extremely blessed to find out I was right.”
With their 1992 RCA debut, IT’S ABOUT TIME, the all-female trio SWV scored a string of top ten R&B hits such as “I’m so into you”, “Right Here”, “Downtown”, “Weak”, and “Your always on my mind”; this established the trio as a commercial force early in 1993. Teddy Riley helped the group craft their sound further with the remix to the hit “Right Here” that featured samples of Michael Jackson’s hit; Human Nature which also went #1 on the R&B charts and #2 on the POP charts.
SWV’s “Anything” contribution to the sound track for “Above the Rim”, it became a top R&B hit in the spring of 1994. The entire soundtrack released top 10 smash hits; which resulted in the multi-platinum status of the soundtracks debut. Furthermore, in the spring of 1994 SWV released the remix version of Anything which went gold. SWV has earned 11 Billboard Music Award nominations for their debut album.
In 1996, SWV returned with another platinum album, NEW BEGINNING, which was preceded by the number one hit “You’re The One” and The Neptunes hit “Use Your Heart”. In 1997 SWV released their third album RELEASE SOME TENSION which spawned several top ten hits as “Someone” with Sean Pu y Combs, who produced the track and a featured artist, “Lose My Cool” is a rhythmic duet between SWV and rap artist Redman, “Can We” featuring Missy Elliot and produced by Timberland which was also featured on the Booty Call soundtrack.
“Rain” a trademark torch ballad written and produced by the first album collaborator, Brian Alexander Morgan. SWV received enormous attention with their auspicious debut. They received nominations for a Grammy, American Music Awards and The Source Award in 1993. They won a Children’s Choice Award and a BET “Best of Video Soul” Award.SWV has appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, New York Undercover, and Showtime at the Apollo to name a few.SWV has appeared on several movie soundtracks such as Waiting to Exhale, Have Plenty, Booty Call, and Above The Rim.
Since SWV hiatus Cheryl Coko Clemons is married to Michael Clemons with two sons and has released one R&B album entitled “Hot Coko” that spawned the smash hit “Sunshine” produced by Rodney Jerkins and Tri ing. Coko has also released two gospel projects the Grammy nominated “Grateful” and recently “The Winner in Me” which debuted at number 4 on the gospel billboard charts.
Tamara “Taj” George currently married to former NFL player Eddie George and also has two sons. Taj starred in her own reality series I Married a Baller along side her husband Eddie. Taj is also an accomplished writer and the author of Player Hate Her, How to Avoid The Beat Down and Live In a Drama Free World. Taj has appeared in this years CBS reality series Survivor” finishing in 4th place.
Leanne “Lelee” Lyons has two children a girl and a boy and has started her own production company and is currently working with several artists. Lelee is also in school currently majoring in accounting with a minor in communications. Lelee is a sought after speaker and advocate for Teen Pregnancy, recently speaking at several colleges and high schools.
Taj, Lelee & Coko are big advocates of Children’s rights, and Teen Pregnancy prevention.
SWV emerge back together in 2005 and has not stopped since. Since SWV has reunited they have done several spot dates with Dru Hill, Salt-N-Pepa, Silk, Jon B, Kelly Price, Carl Thomas, Tank, Jagged Edge just to name a few and has traveled extensively all over the World.
Alicia Keys also honored SWV in 2008 at the BET Awards.
SWV most recently appeared on the “Monique Show” and their appearance was one of highest shows for Monique ever.
SWV is one the world’s top selling female R&B groups and is indeed one of the hardest working female groups in the entertainment industry today!
SWV is currently in the studio working on their new album for a tentative late summer fall release 2010. With a new look and a fresh new sound SWV is ready to take R&B by storm once again.
TONY TONI TONE
Brothers Dwayne and Raphael Wiggins and cousin Timothy Christian have proven themselves durable guardians of the soul and funk tradition, while also infusing their music with enough contemporary devices to remain popular. This Oakland trio scored a number one R&B hit right out of the box in 1988 with “Little Walter,” a song that generated some criticism from gospel audiences for its use of the melody from “Wade in the Water.” But they’ve since been able to keep things going on their own, as their LPs, The Revival in 1990 and Sons of Soul in 1993, have also been enormously successful. Tony! Toni! Toné! released their fourth album, House of Music, in the fall of 1996.
After eight years, R&B multi-platinum group Dru Hill reunites and signed a new recording contract with Kedar Entertainment. Sisqo, Nokio, Jazz and new member Tao (pronounced Tay-oh) are back and will release their fourth CD offering, InDRUpendence Day in stores 2010.
The new single, “Love M.D.” is a sexy mid-tempo ballad. The new album is a soulful blend of R&B, rock, hip-hop and romance-in true trademark Dru Hill form. There are several key local and national radio promotions, performances and interviews scheduled for the release of the album. Kedar Massenburg, President and CEO of Kedar Entertainment, is very excited to work on their reunion project. “I’ve always been a fan of Dru Hill and I’m happy to be in partnership with them,” says Kedar. “We look forward to further developing the Dru Hill brand and exploring the numerous marketing and promotional opportunities available to them. Including solo releases from Sisqo, and Nokio’s rock group (Black Angel Down) .
In 2001, the group disbanded so that members could pursue solo careers. Dru Hill group member, Sisqo went on to achieve international success with the acclaim debut album release, Unleash the Dragon, which included the mega hit, “Thong Song.” The album sold over eight million units worldwide, while former group member Woody went on to pursue a career in Gospel
This year, Dru Hill will star in a reality TV series titled Sweat’s Platinum House, produced by label mate Keith Sweat and airing on CENTRIC. The series is guaranteed to keep audiences glued to their seats and further demonstrates the group’s provocative and edgy swagger. In addition to Sweat’s Platinum House, Dru Hill’s member Sisqo also stars in the LondonÂ based (UK) TV sensation, Big Brother. The show has already garnered international visibility for the group and is an excellent marketing vehicle for the CD project.
The trio group “After 7” consists of Kevon Edmonds, Keith Mitchell and newest member Jason Edmonds. Best known for their elegant vocal style, “After 7” very quickly emerged as one of the premier groups on the Pop and R&B music scene. With an array of smash hits, they established a reputation for live performance as an emotionally charged vocal powerhouse with sexy, suave and debonair moves.
Brother Kenneth “BabyFace” Edmonds, along with his former business partner L .A. Reid; discovered the group where they were immediately signed to Virgin Records. It was then that “After 7” launched their singing career, stepping into what would become a new musical dynasty of crooners during the early 1990’s. Their debut album, self-titled “After 7” sold Platinum plus and yielded Two Gold Singles. “Ready or Not” climbed the billboard charts to the #1 position on R&B while the smash single “Can’t Stop” topped out at #6 on billboards Hot 100 Pop Charts. The first release from there 1989 debut album, “Heat Of The Moment” was a Top Ten Single on the Urban Charts and too garnered a solid position on the Pop Charts which then opened the door to a host of awards and major tours.
“After 7” continued their string of success with the follow-up single “Nights Like This”, from the movie soundtrack, “The Five Heartbeats”. Three years later “After 7” came with their second album entitled, “Takin’ My Time”, that was sprinkled with such gems as “Baby I’m For Real”, “Kickin’ It”, and “Can He Love You Like This”. Both their second and third albums achieved Gold status that helped to keep the name alive at both radio and in the market place across the country. Thanks to that strong relationship at radio, “After 7’s” music continued to play which contributed toward building a solid foundation of endearing fans for the group.
Having been heavily influenced by such groups as “The Whispers, Temptations, Four Tops and Originals”; it’s no wonder that their stage performance is reminiscent of the 1960’s style male groups. In their very own unique way “After 7” has managed to create a contemporary presence of the 1990’s, while combining a smooth style of the sixty’s that provided a tasteful blend of both decades. “After 7” has shared the stage with many different artists ranging from Frankie Beverly and Maze, Gladys Knight, M C Hammer, Patti LaBelle, Peobo Bryson, R Kelly, Regina Belle, Smokey Robinson, The Whispers and Whitney Houston in addition to many others. Their presentation has always been classy and elegant along with their timeless music.
Its been nearly 7 years since “After 7” took a time-out from the music business that allowed Kevon to pursue a solo career. His debut solo album entitled “24 / 7”, released in 1999 on RCA Records and achieved Gold status. There may even be a follow-up record for Kevon in the future, but for now “the guys” are gearing up to return to the stage. Finally reuniting to rekindle the flame, bringing back some of those special memories to their fans of old.