Outside of the 1960s, the 90s was perhaps the best decade for girl groups. The sheer number of duos, trios and quartets around during that decade is amazing compared to the few that exist today. Back then, though, women were queens of the charts, breaking records, breaking hearts and–in some cases–breaking barriers by existing at a time when hip-hop was at its most misogynistic and when solid harmonies fell out of favor for grungy alternative tunes. It’s easy to remember the big names of the time who ruled the decade but perhaps started before or lasted after the 90s–acts such as Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue, TLC, SWV and Destiny’s Child. Here, Soul Train celebrates your other favorite girl groups who are long overdue for some praise and recognition.
Way before Tiny and Kandi became mainstays on reality TV, the pair — along with the Scott sisters, LaTocha and Tamika — took Atlanta by storm with their “rough around the edges but oh-so smooth” vocal harmonies. With Jermaine Dupri as its mentor, Xscape went on to score a No. 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Just Kickin’ It” in 1993. It would be the first of many, followed by the church rhythms of “Understanding” and the introspective lyrics of love found in “Who Can I Run To?” Sadly, Xscape only kicked it together for three albums.
Pronounced “jah-nay,” which was also the title of Zhané’s debut, the duo comprised of Jean (Norris) Baylor and Renee Neufville filled floors with their funky melodies and angelic harmonies. The ubiquitous “Hey Mr. DJ” became the pair’s signature song, but “Groove Thang” and their rendition of “Shame” were equally celebratory, so much so that the likes of Busta Rhymes and Naughty by Nature recruited Zhané to sing hooks for some of their own 90s party-starters.
Terri and Monica
Having paid their dues with New Jack Swing trio The Gyrlz, Terri Robinson and Monica Payne decided to do their thing as a duo. Their mature sound surfaced on the debut disc, Systa, which featured “Uh Huh” and “I’m Still Waiting.” Three years later, the pair returned with Suga, an album that featured one of Terri & Monica’s most notable songs, “Sexuality (If You Take Your Love).”
Cassandra and Charisse sang backup vocals for Sybil of “Don’t Make Me Over” fame, but took the spotlight for themselves as Changing Faces with their salacious debut “Stroke You Up.” The seductive track, penned by none other than R. Kelly, was followed by “Foolin’ Around” and “G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T.,” the latter of which became one of Changing Face’s biggest hits. The ladies’ last notable chart placement came in 2000 with the lead single from their third album, “That Other Woman.”
The chorus of one of Brownstone’s early singles, “If You Love Me,” had fans trying to remember the order of the “say it, do it, show it, prove it” lyrics. Despite a slight roster change in between its two albums, Brownstone still intrigued listeners with a powerhouse vocal style on said track and its follow up “Grapevyne,” as well as the beautiful control the members exhibited on “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “5 Miles to Empty.”
The ladies of Kut Klose — Tabitha, Athena and Lavonn — made their debut on a duet with Keith Sweat, the sensual “somethin’ for the fellas” known as “Get Up On It.” Soon after the success of that track, the trio released Surrender, which featured the group’s biggest hit, “I Like.” Since that time, Kut Klose appeared on another duet with Sweat, 1996’s “Twisted,” while Athena joined Keith on the addictive “Nobody.”
The teen quartet turned trio of young women found breakout success collaborating with boy band Subway on “This Lil’ Game We Play.” The following year, the Las Vegas-based group dropped its debut disc, No Doubt, which featured a slew of hits, including the title track, “Steelo”, and “Get It Together.” As the 90s came to a close, the ladies of 702 returned with the catchy anthem, “Where My Girls At?”
Well before Stacy Francis was a contestant on the U.S. edition of X Factor, she embraced the identity of Stacy X in Ex-Girlfriend, along with bandmates Tisha X, Julia X and Moni X. The quartet was produced by Full Force and sang backup vocals for Jasmine Guy and Cheryl Pepsii Riley before releasing its debut, X Marks the Spot, featuring the hits “Why Can’t You Come Home” and “You (You’re the One for Me).” It’s a Woman Thang followed three years later, whose notable single was “X in Your Sex.”
Blending sex appeal, street savvy and songbird voices, Jade’s appealed to the fan bases of both En Vogue and TLC. Joi, Di and Tonya weren’t afraid to drop a club-ready beat, such as those found on “Don’t Walk Away” and “5-4-3-2 (Yo Time is Up),” but could also croon with the best, as evidenced by the “shoo-doo-doo-wops” from “One Woman.” A pity we only got two full-length albums from the trio: 1992’s Jade to the Max and 1994’s Mind, Body & Song.
Total only released two albums, but the group’s association with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records guaranteed that it left its mark on the industry. The hits started with “Can’t You See,” which featured guest rhymes from the Notorious B.I.G. Following that were notable R&B/Hip-Hop hybrids such as “No One Else” and “Trippin’,” as well as the tender “Kissin’ You” and smoothed-out “Sitting Home.”
Joel Lyons is a New York City-based aficionado of dance, pop and R&B. Experience his appreciation at www.ThatsMyJam.net.