BET recently announced the new series The Encore which unites members of girl groups from the 90’s and 2000’s to form an R&B supergroup. The cast includes Pam Long from Total, Shamari DeVoe of Blaque, Irish an LeMisha Grinstead of 702, Aubrey O’ Day of Danity Kane, Nivea Nash, Felisha and Fallon King of Cherish, and Kiely Williams of 3LW. We are sure that the road to revival will be filled with drama, but we can’t wait to hear the music!
In celebration of the upcoming series, we recognize some of more obscure 90’s R&B girl groups that made bops out of their brief time in the spotlight.
The Encore premieres June 9th on BET Networks. Check your local listing for time.
High school friends Antonia Bryant, LaKisha Johnson, Julia Garrison, and Tiffany Phinazee, emerged in 1995 and signed to Hall of Fame Records. The sultry New York quartet made waves on radio with single “Make Up Your Mind” featuring Big Daddy Kane, followed by their debut album which served a familiar, tasteful blend of R&B, jazz, hip-hop and gospel influence poured over contemporary melodies.
Success on the R&B charts came naturally for the soul sisters of For Real. After signing with Herb Alpert’s A&M Records in 1993, Latanyia Baldwin, Necia Bray, Josina Elder, and Wendi Williams charted with three singles on their 1994 debut album including “You Don’ Wanna Miss”, “Easy Love,” and “You Don’t Know Nothin’”. The group even landed placement on the iconic soundtrack of Waiting To Exhale with “Love Will Be Waiting At Home”, penned and produced by Babyface. Signed a new deal with Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records, they reached the Hot 100 charts with the throwback Motown sound of “Like I Do” in 1996.
While attending Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, songbirds Danielle Andrews, Tiffanie Cardwell, Monique Peoples and Shannon Walker Williams formed a friendship built on the solid foundation of four-part harmony. That passion earned them a recording deal with Motown Records where they released their eponymous debut in 1997. The leading single “Tell Me, (I’ll Be Around)” would heat up summer radio, peaking at #50 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The group reunited in 2019 and we hope there is more music in store!
Marked with grace and elegant harmonies inspired by The Clark Sisters and The Jones Girls, Pure Soul was just that. While actively recording, the Washington, D.C. powerhouses landed three Top 40 hits on the Billboard R&B Charts. Their debut “We Must Be In Love” served as a launch pad for their Interscope/Universal Music debut release and became a wedding anthem in 1995 and beyond. The group’s follow-up, a soul-stirring cover of The O’Jays’ “Stairway To Heaven” is an impressive successor to the Philadelphia International original. Shawn Allen, Heather Perkins, Keitha Shepherd and Kristin Hall will always be revered as sisters with pure soul.
In 1993, DeVante Swing was king and his New Jill Swing group, Sista, delivered their debut album 4 All the Sistas Around da World. Out of Swing’s Da Bassment Crew, members LaShawn Shellman, Chonita Coleman Radiah Scott, and a then-unknown singer-songwriter Missy Elliott had a style and flow all their own. Albeit short lived, the group’s single “Brand New” reached #84 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts but pioneered a fresh sound for future 90’s R&B heroines to emulate.
The ladies of Divine hadn’t even finished high school when their debut single “Lately” skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1998. Solo singers Nikki Bratcher, Kia Thornton, and Tonia Nash, we united by their managers to deliver a blend of urban funk and gospel for their debut album, Fairy Tales. In a time of hip-hop and beat loops, the album utilized the lost art of live instrumentation for an organic sound. Unfortunately, the trio got lost in the sea of their contemporaries but we will never forget the saddest day in sweet November.
For fans of The Cheetah Girls series by Deborah Gregory, you’ll recognize Before Dark as the original girls on the cover of the bestselling books. Like the characters made popular from the Disney Channel films, the Los Angeles trio had big dreams of soul stardom. Lead vocalist Arike Rice was no stranger to group dynamic as a founding member of early 90s pre-teen group Voices, alongside members Monique Wilson, Tia and Tamera Mowry. In the late 90s, she formed Before Dark her sister Jeni G and friend Mia Lee. The group’s youthful debut “Baby” featuring Sole and catchy second single, “Monica” would crack the Hot 100 charts, earning the trio a spot as opening act for the Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera tour in 1999. Ahead of their 2000 debut album, Daydreamin’, the group also appeared on Tyrese’s debut album. With only one album released from the ladies, they went their separate ways to conquer individual dreams. Rice would go on to have success on stage with roles in modern musical films Hairspray and Dreamgirls. Jeni Rice Genzuk is Executive Producer and co-showrunner for the hit Freeform series Grown-ish. Mia Lee (nee Wright) serves as President of the National Basketball Wives Association, married to Miami Heat veteran Dorell Wright.
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