Reminisce Over You: R&B Acts From the 1990s We Miss
It’s safe to say that the R&B and hip-hop of the ’90s was experimental. Today’s superstars were still newbies, having not yet shifted tax brackets, while the divas of the day had been locked in place since the ’70s and ’80s. Hip-hop was just finishing up business school, praying that mainstream fans would stop being scared of it. During this time, many acts sprouted, and some were never heard from again.
Granted, a few scored multiple hits, but their reigns only lasted a decade. If the ’80s were the one-hit-wonder era for pop and rock, the ’90s were the same for hip-hop and R&B. Thankfully, the BoomBox hasn’t forgotten the singers who crafted catchy tunes, if only for a moment. Here are 15 R&B acts from the ’90s that we miss. Hip-hop, we’ll get back to you later.
4PM were best known for the 1995 hit ‘Sukiyaki.’ The original was sung in Japanese and released in the ’60s by artist Rokusuke Ei, who achieved some Billboard success with the single. 4PM, short for “For Positive Music,” had a similar experience when they released the song in English more than 30 years later. 4PM has popped up here and there in subsequent years, finding fame in the birthplace of their first single — Japan.
During the ’90s, a slew of jam bands followed in the wake of such groups as Tony Toni Tone. Their music was all-around cool and characteristic of the New Jack Swing era. Portrait was one of those groups, and they created such songs as ‘Honey Dip’ and the laid-back track ‘Here We Go Again.’ The latter cut sampled Public Enemy‘s ‘Bring The Noise.’ Portrait took a P.E. song and transformed it into a lighthearted track. That’s a huge feat.
13. Joe Public
Poor Joe Public. Their song ‘Live and Learn’ played like an after-school special, as Joe “kicked this one for the public” and covered a whole range of topics. There was Mary Mary (quite contrary) who turned to prostitution to support her son, who eventually wound up in jail. How about “my man” Dan, who planned a scam and then was found dead? You know, this was feel-good music. Needless to say, Joe is probably singing his songs in private these days.
Leschea was the female constituent of the hip-hop posse Masta Ace Incorporated. Her single ‘Fulton St.’ was a sweet street fairy tale about a girl who crushed on the local hustler on her block. She’d watch him every week (on Fulton St.) ride up in his Jeep and do good — sometimes do bad, too. By the end of the song, she gets the guy and goes riding around town in his vehicle. All of this happened on — you guessed it — Fulton St. Forget online dating; that’s the street to find love!
Brownstone was one trio whose longevity should have extended beyond the ’90s. Their singles ‘If You Love Me,’ ‘Grapevyne’ and ’5 Miles to Empty’ were among the many songs from that era that showcased girls asking guys to prove their love. Ladies everywhere could turn to ‘If You Love Me’ and demand some answers from their man. Brownstone was signed to Michael Jackson‘s MJJ Music label, and while they had tons of promise, their real success stayed in the ’90s.
10. Changing Faces
Changing Facescoined the phrase, “Do you mind if I stroke you up?” to which one would reply, “I don’t mind.” While these two had the R. Kelly cosign with the song ‘Stroke You Up,’ they got Jay-Z on the track ‘All Of My Days’ a few years later, in ’96. A year later, the girls popped up again with the cut ‘G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T.’ which appeared to be a hybrid of the words “ghetto,” “out,” and “get out.” Wouldn’t it be cool to have Jay-Z reunite with members Cassandra Lucas and Charisse Rose on a new song? OK, maybe not.
The late Michael Jackson and his siblings weren’t the only ones in the family with the songbird gene. MJ’s nephews formed 3T and proved to have quite the trifecta of voices. The trio had brief success with their ’95 debut, ‘Brotherhood.’ All sons of Tito Jackson, they made their mark with the single ‘Anything.’ The song topped the charts, but their time in the spotlight as a group was short-lived. After U.S. fans fell out of love with 3T, the young singers took their music overseas. However, with the Jackson last name, they can always make a comeback.
Allure hit the scene in ’97 and made an immediate impact. Their debut, ‘Head Over Heels,’ featured Nas and was a high-energy cut that displayed the rapper throwing some bars down as Allure vocalized their crushes. Then the foursome made major waves with the 112-assisted ‘All Cried Out.’ Take the emotions of 112 and combine them with the attitude of Allure and you’ve got the makings of a hit. If Facebook statuses were a thing back then, “Apology not accepted, add me to the broken hearts you collected,” would be all over the place.
7. KP & Envyi
KP & Envyiwere a two-woman show on the hit single ‘Swing My Way.’ KP rapped while Envyi sang the hook. The rhythmic track found the pair in a club, chasing after some dude and referring to him as “shorty.” That’s a word most often used by guys to describe women, but KP & Envyi took the title back and turned the tables on men. Who knew with just one hit, these two could do their part for women’s lib?
6. AZ Yet
Included on the ‘Nutty Professor’ soundtrack was a romantically graphic song called ‘Last Night.’ Recorded by the group AZ Yet, the track was quite risqué, even for a time when R. Kelly was bumping and grinding and Bobby Brown was humping around. However, even in the midst of the naughtiness, this group got pretty poetic — saying they saw the sun, moon, stars and heaven while romancing their lady. As fate would have it, this group didn’t see long-term success. There were probably some ’90s babies made because of their song, though.
Speaking of graphic R&B songs, Silk was another group who made radio listeners blush — most notably with their song ‘Freak Me.’ While there were a few more songs from Silk, this track was the one that put them on the map. The hook started with, “Let me lick you up and down, ’til you say stop.” The song even came equipped with a video that showed Silk — founded by R&B vet Keith Sweat — in a locker room, singing and dancing in towels, fresh out of the shower. Nowadays, if a group of guys were to do that, someone would probably leave with a black eye.
Somewhere, someone used the opening voicemail in Jade‘s hit ‘Don’t Walk Away’ as their own outgoing message on their answering machines. The threesome first appeared in the Kid N’ Play film ‘Class Act’ with the song ‘I Wanna Love You.’ This Chi-town trio had voices as big as their braids, and they had a platinum-selling debut album, ‘Jade to the Max.’ Their combination of sassy and cool made for a winning combination. Their follow-up LP, ‘Mind, Body & Song,’ produced another hit, ’5-4-3-2 (Yo! Time Is Up),’ and then they vanished.
3. Soul for Real
Soul for Real were being touted as the next Jackson 5 — well, four in their case — as the band of brothers all had sweet vocals that they matched with smooth dancing. Their bandleader, Jason Dalyrimple, was the youngest — just like MJ — and played frontman while his brothers assisted him on the classic tune ‘Candy Rain.’ The song’s innocently romantic undertones reminded everyone of the first time they fell in love. Even Diddy backed the quartet on their follow-up album, ‘For Life,’ producing the entire project. They never became Bad Boys though.
When Jermaine Dupri attempted to reinvigorate the whole booty-bass movement with the So So Def Bass All-Stars, he was definitely onto something with Ghost Town DJs. Their song ‘My Boo’ was the epitome of a summer soundtrack, with a video showing off girls washing cars and everyone having a good time in the hot sun. We never really heard from Ghost Town DJs after this track, but it still resonates every time the season of ice cream trucks and dips in the pool comes around. ‘My Boo’ was featured on ‘So So Def Bass All-Stars Volume One.’ What ever happened to those mixes?