10 Best R&B Girl Groups
These days, girl groups seem to be a thing of the past. But in the ’90s, fans just couldn’t get enough of the captivating, soul-stirring songbirds that seemed to emerge from every corner of the country. Knowing that no one group was alike, whether they were a duo or a quartet, groups like TLC, Xscape and Total stood at the forefront of R&B with their out-of-the box, always changing styles and versatile sounds.
Each group — during what what some consider to be R&B Golden Era of music — had a distinct style that made them stand out from the rest.
From Xscape’s early roughneck look to Destiny’s Child’s ultra feminine attire, fans were always looking to these ladies to get some style inspiration, but what really mattered were the songs they sang. During the ’90s, girl groups were at the top of the charts and thousands of songs were produced — but only a select few would earn the title of “classic.”
From SWV to Destiny’s Child, The Boombox takes a look at 10 Best R&B Girl Groups.
After nearly 15 years with no new music or signs of a group date to the studio, fans never thought they would see the day when SWV would release a comeback album — or at least an album showing their want to come back to music’s limelight. But after a 2005 reunion, it seems it only took Coko, Lelee and Taj a simple seven years to find themselves a new label to call home and a 13-track LP to help them return to their in-need-of-some-classic-R&B fan base. But before they made a comeback, the R&B trio climbed the Billboard R&B charts with ease when they made their debut.
In 1992, music heads grew weak for SWV as they let everyone know they were ‘Right Here’ when their debut album, ‘It’s About Time,’ dropped. The 15-track LP peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart and found itself sitting at No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart.
After their successful debut ‘It’s About Time’ the trio left fans waiting for what seemed like an eternity. SWV then embarked on another ‘New Beginning’ four years later when they released their much-anticipated sophomore album. Fans were wooed by their soulful voices and tomboyish yet feminine mystique. But, after releasing two more projects, the girls watched their five-year reign come to an end. It seems that a third studio album was rightfully named ‘Release Some Tension’ because that’s exactly what they took the time to do when they decided to part ways in 1997. Despite their differences (as seen on their reality show ‘SWV Reunited’), SWV will always be the group to make people stop what they’re doing, start swaying side to side and throwing one hand in the air any time one of their classic ’90s’ hits touches the airwaves.
‘Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha,’ Xscape‘s debut album yielded three unforgettable singles (‘Understanding,’ ‘Just Kickin’ It’ and ‘Tonight’), a No. 1 Billboard hit and a platinum-selling effort — and that was just off their first project.
LaTocha, Tamika, Kandi and Tameka used their College Park, Ga., roots to let the music industry know they were ‘Off the Hook.’ It was clear the quartet made the right decision when deciding to sign onto Jermaine Dupri’s SoSo Def label because the group produced another platinum project two years later in 1995. Xscape watched ‘Who Can I Run To?’ sell more than 500,000 copies, and quickly found themselves returning to the studio with JD to muster up another LP — but fans didn’t know it would be would be two years in the making.
When ‘Traces of My Lipstick’ hit shelves in 1998, fans lost their minds when the foursome offered details on femininity in its finest form with ‘My Little Secret.’
Kandi Burruss has made it known she’s not feeling a reunion anytime soon, which leaves die-hard fans with little hope of new music. Even though Xscape’s final lyrics were all about the creep their talent will never stay a secret.
It was 1998 when Destiny’s Child stepped in to the spotlight with their self-titled debut album; it was also the same year The Box turned into every tweens go-to music channel. For months, the then quartet’s major single, ‘No, No No, Pt. 2,’ was on replay, giving every girl a reason to sing “You be sayin’ no, no, no, no, no / When It’s really yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” The song shot to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and from there it was only a matter of time before the group itself shot up to No. 1.
One year later, during the summer of 1999, Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson released their sophomore LP, ‘The Writings On the Wall,’ and the girl group from Houston saw instant success. The album spawned four hit singles, two of which sat at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. The project became the group’s best-selling album, moving more than eight million copies.
But Destiny’s Child experienced some extreme internal tension, and by 2001 LeToya and LaTavia were no more.
When DC released their third album, ‘Survivor’ in 2001 (the title was inspired by their survival of group turmoil), fans were introduced to Michelle Williams — the first group member not born and raised in good ol’ Texas. Because of the group’s departing members, the “new” Houston-bred threesome ran into legal troubles pertaining to the use of songs that existed pre-Michelle, but with Bey’s father Matthew Knowles around, the troubles didn’t last too long. With a new face and a new, more mature sound, Destiny’s Child watched ‘Survivor’ go straight to Billboard 200’s No. 1 spot, which was fitting because the project sold more than four million copies. That same year, the girls gave fans their first Christmas album, ‘8 Days of Christmas.’ The project didn’t exactly have people running to their local music store to purchase a copy, but the album did reach gold status.
In 2004, unbeknownst to fans, Destiny’s Child released their fifth and final album, ‘Destiny Fulfilled.’ If people didn’t know that this was going to be Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle’s last project together, they should have. The LP’s title was pretty clear. The album produced four official singles including ‘Cater 2 U,’ ‘Lose My Breath,’ ‘Soldier’ and ‘Girl,’ ultimately pushing more than three million units.
Two years later, the Texas trio announced their goodbye during their 2006 NBA All-Star game performance and gave fans their final show as an official group a month later. As of today, Destiny’s Child is the best-selling girl group of all time in the U.S., with more than 15 million units sold.
En Vogue came together as a quartet from Oakland, Calif., offering a fresh take on the sound (and look) of R&B. Different from other girl groups on the market, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson and Terry Ellis showed off their smarts lyrically while infatuating crowds with their sultry style and tantalizing sounds.
After getting together in 1989, the girls released their debut album, ‘Born to Sing,’ on Atlantic Records in 1999. Under the direction of Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, the LP delivered three standout singles: ‘Lies,’ ‘Hold On’ and ‘You Don’t Have to Worry.’ Impressed with the girls’ fresh, New Jack City twang, the album went to the top of Billboard’s R&B Albums chart at No. 2.
One year later, En Vogue dropped ‘Remix to Sing,’ which housed six tracks including four hits from their premiere project. In 1992, Cali’s soul sisters dropped ‘Funky Divas,’ an album that showed sass, grace and a whole lot of talent. The LP is best known for two records: ‘Free Your Mind’ and ‘My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).’ ‘Free Your Mind’ proved that while En Vogue was certainly an R&B group, they had a versatile spirit that others might have been too scared to explore. The track sat with an ’80s rock beat and some bad ass vocals. It was one of those let-your-hair-down-and-run-around-the-world free kind of feelings. To no surprise, the song trekked its way to No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. But in the process of watching their name rise on the charts, Dawn Roberson felt the group thing just wasn’t for her. She parted ways with her sisters while recording ‘Funky Divas.’ And then there were three. Over the next 12 years, Oakland’s songbirds released four more albums before they parted ways after their final project, ‘Soul Flower,’ in 2004.
Who knew three little women from New Jersey would find a way to sit in the too-hard-to-forget girl group category? In 1999, Adrienne Bailon, Kiely Williams and Naturi Naughton signed with Epic Records. In 2000, they kept it real with the masses when they let everyone know ‘Playas Gon’ Play.’ Then the women weren’t going to take ‘No More…’ Obviously, 3LW were wearing their emotions on their sleeves. Their debut self-titled album only had two official singles, but Gary Hardwick’s 2003 flick, ‘Deliver Us From Eva,’ took note of the not yet legal teens and added their ‘More Than Friends’ record to the movie’s soundtrack.
In 2002, they recruited Diddy, Full Force Crew, Mario Winans and a few others for their sophomore effort. As ‘A Girl Can Mack’ released, tension and controversy spread as Naturi was forced to leave the rising girl group. Rumor has it the now 29-year-old singer had to part ways with the ladies because her skin color was, well, not light like the
rest of ’em. Naughton was replaced by the beautiful Jessica Benson, but funny thing is, Benson was the same color as Naturi — so guess we’ll chalk it up to the weave difference.
3LW dropped one final album that same year, but it only included Adrienne and Kiely. So in this case, we’ll just say long live the Cheetah Girls.
Fans of Chilli, T-Boz and Left Eye have watchd VH1’s ‘CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story’ by now, so it should be clear that a quick write up about their lives and career will never do the group’s legend any justice.
Determined not to be like anything in the music market, T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli created their own lane with a style that combined sultry hip-hop with bold and expressive R&B. Plus, their fashion sense put many eyes in their direction — remember those condom-laced glasses. They dropped their first project, ‘Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip,’ in 1992, after signing to L.A. Reid’s LaFace Records, a joint venture created alongside Babyface. To many people’s surprise, TLC sold more than four million copies of their debut LP and watched two singles reach platinum status. Not bad for a new girl group from Atlanta.
It’s no secret the trio encountered a few business bumps when they learned their former manager, Pebbles, was robbing them crazy, but that didn’t stop them from selling an additional 18 million records over the next 10 years. But after the release of the group’s final album — a fact that never would have been known at the time — TLC sorrowfully said goodbye to Left Eye when she was killed in a car crash during her vacation in Honduras. Chilli and T-Boz took some time off and away from music, but made an attempt to return to the limelight in July 2005, when they signed on with UPN to host ‘R U the Girl,’ a reality show in search of a new TLC group member. Oh So Krispy got the part, but only performed with the girl’s during the show’s season finale.
R.I.P. Left Eye.
Straight from the streets of Plainfield and Edison, N.J, JaKima Raynor, Keisha Spivey and Pamela Long packed up and left the Garden State so the could reach an empire state of mind. Looking to find a place in R&B, the ladies grabbed the back-up singer role for the Notorious B.I.G. and first appeared on his classic ‘Juicy.’ They also earned the opportunity to sing on Biggie’s smash ‘One More Chance.’ Impressed with their talent and different chord style, Diddy took the nasally, alto-soprano girl group under his wing, and began producing their first studio album. Thus, his new Total package was born.
In 1996, the threesome dropped their debut self-titled LP, which produced two Billboard hits — ‘Kissin’ You’ and ‘Can’t You See’ took the No. 12 and No. 13 spots on the Hot 100 chart, respectively. Two years later, the ladies released their sophomore effort ‘Kima, Keisha & Pam,’ partnering with Puffy and Missy Elliott — and a few others — to deliver songs like ‘What About ‘Us,’ which was featured on the ‘Soul Food’ soundtrack. But before that LP hit stores, Kim, Pam and Keisha were featured on multiple hits like LL Cool J’s ‘Loungin’/Who Do You Love?,’ Ma$e’s ‘What You Want’ and Foxy Brown’s ‘I Can’t.’ After the project dropped, Total went on to make guest appearances on several artists’ albums, but never released another project of their own.
Remember when hip-hop was all about the DJ? Well, in 1993 Zhane, comprised of Jean Norris and Renee Neufville, dropped ‘Hey Mr. DJ,’ one of the ’90’s biggest club and radio cuts. The song stemmed from the duo’s debut album, ‘Pronounced Jah-Nay,’ which officially released in 1994. While reaching gold status, the track also reached No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. That same album housed Zhane’s ‘Groove Thang’ single, an up-beat dance record that received major radio play and still surfaces during a throwback party.
Three years after giving fans a number of rhythm and pop hits with their first LP, Zhane released their sophomore album, ‘Saturday Night.’ With a more funky and diverse vibe, the 16-track album took the No. 8 spot on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart, and the girls watched yet another hit (‘Request Line’) reign in the clubs.
Unfortunately, ‘Saturday Night,’ was the group’s last musical effort together. While Jean and Renee saw warranted success, it’s hard to believe the two met while attending Temple University in Philadelphia, Penn., and fell into a music career when they impressed Naughty by Nature’s Kay Gee.
When you combine musical rhythm with seductive sounds accompanied by soprano-pitched poetry, a group like Floetry is inevitable. The polished product: two women with two distinct voices. One songstress sends tingles up your spine and the other’s voice just makes you say “Damn!”
Before moving into music’s center stage in 2002, Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart began their lyrical journey as two sought after songwriters. But after sharing their much-needed talent with the likes of Michael Jackson and Jill Scott, the two British-born songbirds transferred their neo-soul and R&B skills from a simple pen and pad into an in-demand singing duo touring the world.
Stewart and Ambrosius released their debut album, ‘Floetic,’ in the fall of 2002, and watched their premiere LP sell 864,000 copies in the U.S. alone. The album peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and produced two singles that late night lovers can never get enough of. With their tantalizing tones on constant replay, Floetry became a fan favorite and the girls went on to release their sophomore project, ‘Flo’Olgoy,’ in 2005.
The 11-track LP shockingly didn’t sell as well as its predecessor, but the project did take the No. 7 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart. After Ambrosius and Stewart let every man know they were a ‘Supastar,’ the two said farewell to the group thing and embarked on solo careers.
During the mid ‘90s, finding a mellifluous girl group with sensuous smiles was an unprecedented task. It seemed like they existed on every corner, singing in every club, always looking for a deal or that one break. Many tried but few made it to the top, and that lucky number includes quartet-turned-trio of 702.
Irish, LeMisha, Kameelah and Orish (the latter being Irish’s twin sister and founding member of the group who was later used as a substitute vocalist) made their public debut on Subway’s 1995 single, ‘This Lil’ Game We Play.’ This occurred after being discovered and introduced to the game by New Edition member Michael Bivins. Watching the song become such a hit, Misha, Meelah and Irish were officially presented to the public in 1996, with their first album, ‘No Doubt.’ The ladies, hailing from Las Vegas, realized they launched a hit when the LP’s premiere single, ‘Steelo,’ went gold and landed at No.12 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. But the girls knew they were onto something when the record was still hot two years later and featured on Brandy’s must-see UPN sitcom, ‘Moesha.’
In 1999, the trio dropped their self-titled project which spawned another gold hit: ‘Where My Girls At?’ The almost-three-minute album cut had girls singing and doing the track’s respective hand motions non-stop (see the video), which later helped the LP reach platinum status. Unfortunately, 702’s third album didn’t see as much success, and the group called it quits soon after. In 2008, after one of their founding members Orish passed away of kidney failure, they officially parted ways.