Yesterday’s R&B Groups: Then and Now

From the Four Tops to SWV, The Root takes a look at what happened to your favorites.

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  • The Supremes (1962-1977)

    The Supremes (1962-1977)

    Throwback listen: “Come See About Me

    Their hip-hugging, floor-length dresses, simple choreography and feminine voices boosted the Supremes from a Motown act to a household name. In the late ’60s, Berry Gordy changed the group’s name to Diana Ross and the Supremes; shortly after, Ross went solo. In 2000 a reunion was scheduled but fell through. The Supremes laid the foundation for future R&B acts to cross over to white audiences and gain mainstream success.

    Captions by Erin Evans

  • The Temptations (1964-Present)

    The Temptations (1964-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Just My Imagination

    Describe the Temptations? Matching suits, intricately choreographed sets, microphone-stand dips, white patent leather shoes and pitch-perfect harmonies. The quintet was the first Motown group to earn a Grammy. What other music group has had 22 members in rotation over its 50-year career? In 2010 the Temptations released their 49th album, complete with an auto-tuned track, “First Kiss.” T-Pain meets the Temptations? Only in the new millennium. (Now, if only their website could get up to speed.)

  • The Four Tops (1964-Present)

    The Four Tops (1964-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

    With Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Four Tops produced several chart-topping hits; the quartet received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Abdul “Duke” Fakir, the only original surviving member of the group, tells Blues and Soul magazine, “I truly miss Lawrence, Obie and Levi.” The 2011 version of the Four Tops will perform with the Temptations this month in Vienna, Va.

  • The O'Jays (1965-Present)

    The O'Jays (1965-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Back Stabbers

    You can’t talk about Philly soul without talking about the O’Jays (even though the group’s five members are originally from Ohio). Producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff signed them to Philadelphia International in 1972. In 2009 Tevin Campbell, Trey Songz, Tyrese Gibson and Johnny Gill performed a tribute to the O’Jays as they were awarded the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year they released The O’Jays, Live in Concert. And they are currently on tour; here’s a list of their tour dates.

  • The Jackson Five (1969-1989)

    The Jackson Five (1969-1989)

    Throwback listen: “I Want You Back

    Where would bubblegum pop be without the Jackson Five? Pullout posters in Right On! magazine were plastered on teen girls’ walls. Screaming (and hair-pulling) fans flocked to malls, concerts — anywhere — they could get a glimpse of Michael, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Jackie. In 2009 Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon and Tito starred in A&E’s The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty.

  • Shalamar (1970-1990)

    Shalamar (1970-1990)

    Throwback listen: “This Is for the Lover in You

    The definition of an R&B group saw change in the late ’70s and ’80s. Shalamar, with its disco-y, groovy tracks, fit right in. In the mid-’80s, the group changed its lineup, replacing Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel and, ultimately, Howard Hewett, too. The group quickly faded from the charts. A reunion isn’t likely. On TV One’s Unsung series, Watley said that she’s moved on. We guess she found her “new love.”

  • Earth, Wind & Fire (1971-Present)

    Earth, Wind & Fire (1971-Present)

    Throwback listen: “September,” “Can’t Hide Love

    They have it all: saxophones, trumpets, bass guitars, drums. They’ve won six Grammys. And they’ve been covered, sampled and remixed, undoubtedly, by some of your favorite artists, from D’Angelo (“Can’t Hide Love”) and Diddy (“Fake Thugs Dedication”/”Shining Star”) to Common (“Charms Alarm”/”Side by Side”) and LL Cool J (“Murdergram”/”Moment of Truth”). They’re currently on tour.

  • En Vogue (1990-Present)

    En Vogue (1990-Present)

    Throwback listen: “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)

    En Vogue was known not only for their extraordinary singing skills but also for their mini-movie music videos. (Remember “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” and “Don’t Let Go” with Mekhi Phifer?) They’ve racked up more MTV Video Music Awards than any female group in history. In 2010 they performed a reunion show in London and are currently on tour — minus Dawn Robinson.

  • DeBarge (1981-1991)

    DeBarge (1981-1991)

    Throwback listen: “Rhythm of the Night,” “A Dream

    After the group had several successful albums in the mid-’80s, Berry Gordy “Supreme-d” DeBarge and began calling them DeBarge, Featuring El DeBarge. In the following years, El left, then Bunny, and the group released their final album, Bad Boys. El DeBarge made a brief comeback late last year, after he released Second Chance. But in early 2011, he checked himself into rehab after suffering a relapse. He performed at this year’s Essence Music Festival.

  • Boyz II Men (1991-2009)

    Boyz II Men (1991-2009)

    Throwback listen: “I’ll Make Love to You

    Nathan Morris, Michael McCary, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris shattered records throughout the ’90s. They won four Grammys, were named the “most successful musical group of the 1990s” by Billboard and sold more than 60 million albums worldwide. In 2003 McCary left the group, but the trio still tours. On Valentine’s Day this year, they hosted a 20th-anniversary cruise, and this fall they’ll release Twenty, a compilation of old and new songs. 

  • Jodeci (1991-1996)

    Jodeci (1991-1996)

    Throwback listen: “Forever My Lady

    If Boyz II Men are the family-friendly group of ’90s R&B, then Jodeci are definitely their uncensored cousins. They wore head-to-toe leather outfits and sang about “Freek’n You.” The new jack swing group disbanded in the late ’90s, and brothers K-Ci and JoJo went on to garner their own brief success, you know, before they had problems with drugs and alcohol. (We endorse Martin Payne’s “guest appearance” with Jodeci on The Varnel Hill Show and Sheneneh’s rendition of “Forever Shene-” er, “Forever My Lady.”)

  • New Edition (1983-Present)

    New Edition (1983-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Mr. Telephone Man

    The Boston-bred quintet, save Johnny Gill, paved the way for boy bands to come. Much of their success was in the ’80s, but fans remained eager for reunion after reunion. After one spin-off group, Bell Biv Devoe, decided to go on tour in 2008, Gill, Ralph Tresvant and Bobby Brown decided to form their own group, Heads of State. In celebration of the group’s 30th year, they announced at this year’s Essence Music Festival that all six members will tour again.

  • Tony! Toni! Tone! (1988-Present)

    Tony! Toni! Tone! (1988-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Lay Your Head on My Pillow

    Need sounds from “the Town”? Tony! Toni! Toné! will make even the most hard-core East Coaster want to chill out in the California sun. Like many of the other lead singers of these R&B groups, Raphael Saadiq went on to release solo efforts. At the end of this month, the band, now headed by Amar Khalil, will perform at the Urban Legends concert at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

  • Color Me Badd (1991-2000)

    Color Me Badd (1991-2000)

    Throwback listen: “I Wanna Sex You Up

    1991 was a golden year for this R&B quartet. They had several No. 1 hits, were featured on the New Jack City sound track, appeared in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 and were awarded an American Music Award the following year for best R&B/Soul Single. They broke up in 2000. What are they up to now? In 2008 Bryan Adams was arrested on charges of domestic abuse. Sam Watters is married to American Idol star Tamyra Gray. As for the other two …

  • Mint Condition (1991-Present)

    Mint Condition (1991-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)

    Mint Condition is responsible for some of the most well-written R&B songs of the ’90s. And today they’ve stayed true to their musical roots. Twenty years after releasing their first album, Meant to Be Mint, Mint Condition is still touring and delivering hit albums. The group released its seventh studio album, 7…, in April.

  • Jade (1992-1994)

    Jade (1992-1994)

    Throwback listen: “I Wanna Love You

    They released only two albums, but their song “Don’t Walk Away” reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts. Their song “I Wanna Love You” was a hit on the Class Act sound track in 1992. One great thing about Jade? They all had strong voices and shared leads on their songs.

  • TLC (1992-Present)

    TLC (1992-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Creep

    They were, indeed, CrazySexyCool, from Left Eye’s fire-y rage to Chilli’s long, silky hair (and slicked-down baby hair) to T-Boz’s raspy, laid-back voice. They won Grammys, broke records and set trends for other female R&B groups to come. They filed for bankruptcy, and in their later years, it was T-Boz and Chilli vs. Left Eye. In 2002 Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died in a car crash in Honduras. T-Boz and Chilli vowed never to replace Left Eye.

  • Shai (1992-2008)

    Shai (1992-2008)

    Throwback listen: “If I Ever Fall in Love (a cappella)

    When you hear that famous “oooh, da, doo, doop, doo, doop,” you can’t help stopping and singing along. Who knew Shai, an a cappella group from Howard University, kept releasing songs after the ’90s? (Peep Ananda Lewis in their “Baby I’m Yours” video.) Their fourth album, Back From the Mystery System, was released by CD Baby.

  • SWV (1992-Present)

    SWV (1992-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Weak

    They were Sisters With Voices. After five years and four albums, the group disbanded in 1997. But in 2005 they reunited with plans to release another album. Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George starred in a reality show with her husband, former NFL baller Eddie George, and Cheryl “Coko” Gamble went back to singing gospel. But earlier this year, the trio announced that they will release their fifth studio album. (In the meantime, we’ll just keep “Weak” in rotation at karaoke bars.)

  • Silk (1992-Present)

    Silk (1992-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Freak Me,” “Meeting in My Bedroom

    Silk was all about sex, sex and more sex. In late 2010 they sat down for an interview after their sold-out show in Kent, Wash. Watch as they talk about longevity in R&B music, their sexy (often raunchy) style and their promise to deliver a new album in 2011. They’re on Twitter here.

  • Immature/IMx (1992-Present)

    Immature/IMx (1992-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Never Lie,” “We Got It

    The mid-’90s were pretty good to Immature. Batman, Romeo and LDB were young heartthrobs. They were only 13 when their second album, Playtyme Is Over, was released, and after they decided they were too mature for their name, they changed it to IMx. Earlier this year they reunited to record “Ghetto Angel,” but it looks like one of the members — ahem, Romeo — has lost his appeal. (And he’s still wearing that eye patch!)

  • Xscape (1993-1998)

    Xscape (1993-1998)

    Throwback listen: “Understanding,” “Just Kickin’ It

    They were from Atlanta, wore baggy clothes and sang soulful harmonies about love and fun. After successful albums, they broke up in 2005. In this interview, Kandi Burruss tells why she would never return to the group. Today Burruss and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle are in the reality-TV limelight with appearances on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Tiny and Toya. In 2009 LaTocha Scott was eyeing a “purpose-driven” reality-TV show, whatever that means.

  • Blackstreet (1994-Present)

    Blackstreet (1994-Present)

    Throwback listen: “No Diggity,” “Before I Let You Go

    Teddy Riley helped cultivate the new jack swing of the ’90s, and he definitely made sure he and his bandmates (first with Guy, then with Blackstreet) kept R&B funky. Their first two albums, Blackstreet and Another Level, went platinum. But other albums didn’t fare as well. Dave Hollister went solo; Riley briefly reunited with Guy in 2000. They’ll perform in Connecticut in August with Jagged Edge, Al B. Sure, Keith Sweat and Cameo.

  • Brownstone (1995-1997)

    Brownstone (1995-1997)

    Throwback listen: “If You Love Me

    The trio was nominated for several Billboard Music Awards and even a Grammy. “If You Love Me” and “Grapevyne” garnered the most success and got them to No. 2 and No. 6, respectively, on the Billboard R&B charts. In 2009 there was talk of a reunion, but we’re still waiting …

  • Soul 4 Real (1995-1999)

    Soul 4 Real (1995-1999)

    Throwback listen: “Candy Rain

    The Dalyrimple brothers, aka Soul 4 Real, are best known for their hit single “Candy Rain.” In the video, they had their Temptations-esque choreography in top shape. Diddy produced their second album, For Life, but it only made it to No. 119 on the Billboard charts. (Insert “Diddy kills so many talented artists’ success” jab here.) Updates? In 2009 three of the members were arrested for identity theft.

  • Total (1996-2000)

    Total (1996-2000)

    Throwback listen: “Can’t You See,” “Trippin’

    Here’s another R&B group that might be considered a casualty of Sean “Diddy” Combs. (Puffy is poison.) Kima, Keisha and Pam were featured on some of the hottest tracks of the ’90s, including Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” and LL Cool J’s “Loungin’/Who Do You Love?” Their first album went platinum, but their second offering wasn’t as successful. Currently, Pam seems to be the only one still doing music; she released a gospel track last year.

  • 702 (1996-2004)

    702 (1996-2004)

    Throwback listen: “Where My Girls At?

    Repping their hometown of Las Vegas, sisters Irish and Lemisha Grinstead and their friend Kameelah Williams were all over ’90s pop culture. Their music was featured on Nickelodeon’s Good Burger and Cousin Skeeter; they had cameos in Sister, Sister and Moesha. After appearing on an independent album, they disbanded and Williams began singing backup for Faith Evans. Last year Williams performed a tribute to SWV in New York City with several other R&B acts.

  • 112 (1996-2005)

    112 (1996-2005)

    Throwback listen: “Cupid

    Q, Mike, Slim, Daron!” Here’s another R&B group we can add to “The artists formerly affiliated with Bad Boy Records” list. They climbed the R&B charts in the ’90s with hits such as “Anywhere” and “Peaches and Cream.” In the late 2000s, the group broke up because of financial problems and to pursue solo projects. In 2010 there was talk of a reunion, but to no avail. Most recently, Q Parker covered Beyoncé’s “1+1.”

  • Dru Hill (1996-Present)

    Dru Hill (1996-Present)

    Throwback listen: “In My Bed

    Just after Jodeci exited the R&B stage, Baltimore-based Dru Hill grabbed the mics and released several hits. Last decade they lost their contract, disbanded and tried to come back. In one interview with a Baltimore radio station in 2008, Woody announced that he’s pursuing a gospel-music career. And then Sisqo stormed out. Fight ensued, etc. Last year Dru Hill released their fourth studio album, InDRUpendence Day — um, who knew? — with the newest member, Tao.

  • Next (1997-Present)

    Next (1997-Present)

    Throwback listen: “Butta Love

    In 1998 their song “Too Close” was named the No. 1 song of the year by Billboard. But in the 2000s, after label changes, health concerns and solo-album aspirations, the group briefly disbanded. However, in June, R.L, Tweet and T-Low announced that they would reunite to record their fourth studio album, Music 101.

  • Destiny's Child (1998-2005)

    Destiny's Child (1998-2005)

    Throwback listen: “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “No, No, No

    Call Mathew Knowles the Berry Gordy of the new millennium if you want, but he had a vision. At least he didn’t change the name to Beyoncé and Destiny’s Children. The group changed their lineup in 2000, replacing LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson with Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin (who later left the group). Destiny’s Child has already made one comeback with their Destiny Fulfilled album and tour in 2004. Perhaps another is on the horizon?

  • B2K (2001-2004)

    B2K (2001-2004)

    Throwback listen: “Bump, Bump, Bump

    Boy bands were all the rage in the early 2000s, and B2K carved a nice spot for themselves as the hip-hop version of N Sync. Every issue of Right On! and Word Up was filled with pullouts of the R&B quartet. Every teenage girl had her favorite member. The group disbanded shortly after the release of You Got Served. Omarion received the most success in his solo career. Late last year, Raz-B claimed that he was molested by the group’s manager, Chris Stokes.

  • Day26 (2007-Present)

    Day26 (2007-Present)

    Must listen: “Since You Been Gone

    After making it through the drama that is forming an R&B group via MTV, reality television and Sean “Diddy” Combs, Day26 came out pretty strong. Their self-titled album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2008. They left Bad Boy for Atlantic (which was probably a good move), and then Qwanell left the group. Earlier this summer they released a new single, “Let It Go.”

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