Everyone thinks that my first love was Hip Hop. Not true. I’m an R&B girl for life, and who can blame me? My coming of age had the illest, most sentimental soundtrack, and quite frankly, you wouldn’t have wanted to know what kind of woman I’d be if I was bumping Straight Outta Compton in grade school. The truth is that R&B in the early 90s captured the innocence and vulnerability of love, or at least, what I always pictured love would be like. And as soon as the play button popped back up at the end of the tape, I would run back outside to play with my friends, still humming ditties on the swing set. Enter the first few piano chords of SWV’s “Weak” and I’m transported back to one of my first crushes: I was 10, he was 11, and didn’t knew I existed. Never mind the fact that in 3 years I would tower over his puny ass and eventually outgrow him – at the moment, “Weak” captured a lighthearted infatuation that would only intensify as I got older. But until then, Coko, Leelee and Taj tacitly expressed my prepubescent yearnings with their feminized new jack swing and love ballads.
Producer Teddy Riley had his hands on some of the most prolific R&B of the 90s (Mary J. Blige, Jodeci), and SWV was no exception. The girls started out as many singers often do, singing in their church choir and fine-tuning their harmonizing skills as youngsters. It was only when they handed their five song demo to Teddy Riley that they were able to score a deal with RCA Records. Interestingly enough, they were almost known for another acronym, TLC, after their own initials, but were beaten to the punch by a mere two weeks by T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili! Aside from their music, another standout of their performance had to do with an accoutrement on lead singer Coko’s digits: her curlicued and manicured talons that almost upstaged her! She was one of the first R&B singers to embrace the ghetto fabulosity of this mani style, rivaled only by Olympic athlete, and another M.I.S.S. favorite, Flo Jo. When they released It’s About Time in 1992, it went double platinum that year, with “I’m So Into You” reaching number 2 on Billboard, and my personal fave, “Weak” making it all the way to number 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles. Following those singles, their remix of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” entitled “Right Here” also hit number 1 on Billboard, solidifying their status as R&B group du jour. In 1995, they released A New Beginning, which produced yet another number 1 hit, “You’re The One”. (I thought the song was so scandalous content-wise, but with Coko’s shrilly-sweet voice, could do no wrong!)
They parted ways in 1999 after their last two albums as a group, Release Some Tension, and A Special Christmas, but not before introducing me to another wonder woman of an artist, Missy Elliott, in the song “Can We”. Although Release Some Tension had some of the hottest features and producers of the era and eventually reached gold, there was no way they could recreate their earlier successes. Last year, we revisited them as a group with their surprise performance as a part of a musical flashback on the BET Awards, and all those fuzzy feelings started coming back again I’d never want to relive the hormonal angst of my preteens, but SWV will always be there to remind me to keep it light.
- Journey Into Sound: Harlem New Jack Swing
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Conscious Daughters
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Heavy D.
- Reminisce With M.I.S.S: En Vogue
- Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: The Commodores