In House With SWV: Singers Talk ‘I Missed Us’ Album, ‘Figuring Out’ Nicki Minaj & Story Behind Coko’s Nails
SWV, comprised of singers Coko, Lelee and Taj, first showcased their R&B skills 20 years ago in 1992, when they released their debut album, It’s About Time. The trio, known for their catchy choruses on lauded tracks like “Weak,” “I’m So Into You” and “Right Here,” sit in the upper echelons of esteemed female powerhouses.
They’ve built a solid reputation marked by creating music that resonates with listeners. On their new album, I Missed Us, released last month, SWV are bringing back much of the same sound they put out in the ’90s. “If you enjoyed the old music, you’re really going to enjoy the new music,” Taj tells The BoomBox. “You’ve grown up with us so you’re right here with us. The music is mature, it’s entertaining, beautiful, emotional.”
Currently hitting major markets promoting their LP, Sisters With Voices spent an afternoon dropping some pretty hilarious sentiments during a conversation in New York City. Comedy may not be their specialty, but they could easily cause a room to erupt in laughter at amateur hour. Read on as the ladies drop gems about their trouble “figuring out” Nicki Minaj, the R&B beef they were once involved in, emotional I Missed Us studio sessions and the story behind Coko’s infamously long fingernails.
See The BoomBox’s In House Photos With SWV
Twenty years have passed since the first album, It’s About Time, was released. Did you ever do anything once it was released in 1992, to celebrate the hard work you had put into it?
Coko: We really didn’t have time to do anything at first. We worked hard for a long time. We lived in the ‘hood, so we had to move.
Taj: I was slow, I didn’t move until we were almost double platinum. After I was down to like one pair of underwear [since the rest were stolen] I had to move [laughs]. I was in Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy. I loved laundromats, I had this obsession with the smell of dryers. I love going to the laundromat. I would go and wash my clothes, read a book, go to the bathroom, and my stuff would be gone. After four pairs of underwear, [I was like], “Maybe it’s time.” Couldn’t fight it anymore.
When you were recording the album, I Missed Us, is there one song that you had a hard time recording because it brought back a specific memory or emotion as you were performing your vocals?
Lelee: “The Best Years.” I was thinking about every guy that I dated that I put so much time into the relationship and it just did not work. For whatever reason, you replay all of those moments in your head, at the same time in the booth trying to record it, sing it. That was hard for me.
These days, much of R&B has an electronic, dance feel. What are your thoughts on this shift in the music that you made a career of performing?
L: We’re going to show you what real R&B is, because it isn’t that.
T: It’s a sad day in music. It really is. If I could be 100 percent honest; some of the artists I enjoy for entertainment purposes, but it takes me absolutely nowhere. I can’t go to those when I’m feeling sad, when somebody leaves me. I can’t relate to those songs, they’re for the moment. By the way, if people enjoy those for-the-moment songs, it’s whatever you like.
One of you said you’re not trying to be 19.
L: People automatically remember us from the ’90s, when we were 19, 20 years old. You get all of these jokes. Everybody expects us to look like Beyonce. It ain’t gonna happen. We’re 40 years old. I’m almost 40 years old. That’s not where we’re trying to be. We’re not trying to sell sex, that’s not our group. We’re not sex sellers, we’re music sellers. Take it for what it’s worth. Buy the record and don’t worry about if we could wear a thong or not. Damn.
Watch SWV’s “Co-Sign” Video
What have you each done in your time away from the spotlight that helped prepare you for this album?
C: I put out two gospel records on my own. I went back to church. That prepped me a lot, vocally, took me to another level. It was good training for me.
L: I go to church all the time. There are moments where the church I went to before, I was in a choir. I was! My new church, I wanted to be fed, didn’t want it to become about me. I go, and enjoy. You need a word or two [from the church] in this business.
T: I don’t go to church that often. If I do go to church, I do it online. I like to be able to sit there and hear the word on my own. You can sit there and enjoy God’s word in your pajamas. I always did school choruses I never did the church thing. I’m not as holy as them. I’m the group sinner [laughs].
If there were ever to be an SWV tribute, who would you want to sing your vocals?
L: I would want Mary to do a tribute to us. Absolutely, Mary J Blige. I love her.
T: Who would be me? I have no idea. Adele!
C: She likes country music.
So Taj is the person in the group that puts you all onto other music?
C: We’ll be in the car, and she’ll play some station we’ve never heard before. She knows word-for-word.
T: I love all kinds music, I love it all. Because I’m in Nashville I do get to hear a lot of country. I’m exposed to it. I really enjoy it. I love a little bit of everything. Right now I’m on this group called The Henningsens. They’re so good out of Chicago. They’re a group, a family, incredible. I love Paramore. I got a litte bit of everything.
And Coko, is your musical palette more on the R&B side?
C: R&B, but mostly gospel.
Who out right now do you like that’s in mainstream?
L: Ask us who we’re sick of right now.
So who do you think gets more credit than they deserve?
Nicki Minaj. I’m not taking anything away from her artistry; I think she’s wonderful in her look and her image. She’s working it, milking it. I’m still trying to figure out what’s happening. I just dont know what’s the big thing. It’s nothing out there now. That could play a big part in it. She’s definitely talented but I never really got on that bandwagon. I’m trying to. My daughter is Nicki Minaj crazy. I’m still trying to figure it out. I don’t know if she’s a rapper, a Rihanna-type. Are they in the same category? I’m confused. I don’t know where to put her.
Are you a fan of rap?
C: I don’t like rap, but I have a 16-year-old who likes rap, so I know about it. But he likes people like Wiz Khalifa, Lil B. I like KRS-One, old school rap. I don’t like this new stuff. I don’t like anything that’s going to give me a headache.
T: I love, of course, J. Cole, Drake. I like all hip-hop. it’s dope I can definitely get with it. I don’t like underground hip-hop, some of it i just don’t understand what they’re saying. If I can understand the words I can get into it. And I love Mary J. Blige.
What do you love outside of music? Any passions or guilty pleasures like reality TV shows?
T: I watch reality TV and get angry. I cuss out my TV. I gotta drink tea afterwards.
C: We watch and we get together and discuss. “Did you see so and so?…I’m mad at her.”
L: We’re horrible. When we were recording in Miami. This one [Coko] is horrible. We had to stop for “Love & Hip-Hop.” She’s horrible!
Did you have ever have R&B beef when you first started?
C: Another group, Black Girl.
L: They were on our label. That was so dumb. Our label at the time had another girl group, three members, that damn near sounded similar to us. We went to caverns and had to do a show… And said, “We gotta murder them.” They had us all come and do this show. We had R&Beef. When we were on tour with Brownstone they were going before us. They would take some of our show and do it before.
Coko, what ever happened to your long nails?
C: I am a mother now. When I had my first son, they wouldn’t even let me leave the hospital with my nails long. I had to cut them. I still grew them out when I got home. I busted a vessel in his nose, which was terrible because he has very bad nosebleeds ’til this day. I just cut them off after that. I let them grow a little bit. [I originally grew them to] irk my mother. I grew up in a very religious household, couldn’t listen to R&B, wear pants, go to movies. None of that stuff. Everything was the devil. When I turned 18, I grew them out, colored them all bright colors. She told me I was going to hell. I just wanted to get on her nerves.
Watch SWV’s “It’s All About U” Video