Many may recognize Tiny (Tameka) from her celebrity marriage to rapper T.I. but long before she said ‘I do’ she was a part of the sensational female quartet Xscape. The Atlanta singers made their way onto Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label, where they made a string of classic and soulful hits about female empowerment. Xscape hits “Understanding,” “Who Can I Run to” and “Arm of the One Who Loves You” are just a few examples of how these four women completely personified classic R&B.
9) Destiny’s Child
Even though they are most recognized as the powerhouse trio of Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle, you can’t forget the early days where LeToya and LaTavia graced the stage as well. In the late 90s these women struggled behind more popular female artists, but they headed into the new millennium (with two fewer members) to make everyone say their name. Destiny’s Child may be the only all-female 90s group to make the transition into the 2000s while maintaining their peak celebrity status, turning heads, and eventually breaking every American heart with their separation in 2005.
112 was Bad Boy exec Puff Daddy’s second R&B endeavor after he and Faith Evans struck gold. Another quartet hailing from Atlanta, the “Only You” singers were an integral part of Bad Boy’s dynasty in the 90’s. To this day, if you play 112’s trademark ballad “Cupid” at a party sparks will fly.
Led by super producer Teddy Riley, Blackstreet was a force in the 90’s. Riley, like he did with his previous groups Guy and Wreckx-N-Effect, used Blackstreet as a vessel for his signature New Jack Swing sound and they didn’t disappoint. What makes Blackstreet all the more impressive was that they were able to still crank out hits while always having a rotating roster of members.
6) Tony! Toni! Tone!
This family affair, that produced break out star Raphael Saadiq proved to be safe guardians of the soul and funk vibes that preceded them. The Oakland trio hit it big with hits “Anniversary” and “Feels Good” along with three albums that stormed up the charts throughout the decade.
The group’s name ‘Sister with Voices’ hit it right on the head for this all-female trio. The NYC natives formed early on in the 90s and became one of the most popular female R&B groups of the decade. Another group backed by Teddy Riley, their hits, including “Weak,” “Right Here/Human Nature” and “Downtown,” catapulted them into commercial success. The group took a hiatus to focus on their solo careers, but not for long, joining forces again in 2005 to help everyone enjoy the little bit of the 90s that some feel got left behind.
4) En Vogue
This iconic California quartet has racked up Grammys, MTV Video Music awards, Soul Train awards and many other honors in higher numbers than almost any other female group in the 90s. From their beginnings in 1989 they charted the way for all other female groups of their era. Before any of the other women on this list and long after some, there was En Vogue.
As the bad boys of R&B, Jodeci was a raw, hip-hop-tinged quartet with an edge that made them the polar opposites of the clean-cut Boyz II Men. Led by brothers K-Ci and Jojo, Jodeci made nasty sound so good. Songs like “Fiendin’,” “Cry For You” and “Forever” are reflective of an era where musicianship and talent actually were all you needed for a hit record.
The trio of T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili made TLC the premier female group of the 90s. Fans witnessed the Atlanta natives transition from cute teens during their “Aint Too Proud to Beg” era to the sexy symbols that we saw in “Creep” and “Red Light Special.” TLC went on to become the highest-selling group in the 1990s.
1) Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men was the greatest R&B group of all time and during the 90’s they dominated the charts with hits that lived on the pop charts. “End Of The Road” will always be a staple at high school graduations across the country as well as the quintessential break up anthem. “Motownphilly,” “Song For Mama” — the list is endless. Boyz II Men’s vocal versatility solidifies them at the top at the R&B totem pole.
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We love the 90s! Looking back there are so many things about music that have changed, but no genre is more missed than the golden age of 90s R&B.
Many talented artists joined forces to make R&B groups that dominated the decade. In another Black Music Month installment theGrio is emphasizing groups that came together to make music the industry will never forget.
See if your favorite male or female group made the top ten.