A few reasons you should go on ahead and watch ‘SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B’

OPINION: How much can possibly go wrong when two of R&B’s greatest groups from the ’90s attempt to do a show for one night only? A lot. 

SWV and Xscape members LaTocha Scott-Bivens, Tiny Harris, Tamika Scott, Kandi Burruss Tucker, Tamara Johnson George, Cheryl Gamble and Leanne Lyons attend "SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B" purple carpet at The Aster on March 2, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew J Cunningham/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I have to be honest, I had zero plans to load up on another reality television show. While there was a point in time when I couldn’t get enough of the pseudo-scripted shenanigans of some of our favorite kinda, sorta celebs, one day, it seemed as if I just lost interest. I tried to get back in the saddle. When I saw that Ray J was one of the participants on BET’s “College Hill: Celebrity Edition,” I gave it the old college try — pun intended. But that lasted for maybe three episodes. I’ve taken to watching “Love & Marriage: DC” since I know (not well) a few of the folks on the show. But I’m not sure how long that will last, either. 

But then I saw a commercial for “SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B,” a six-part limited series documenting the runup to a joint show featuring the two legendary ’90s R&B groups. I realize calling them legendary might be in dispute, but for me and my heart, they’re both legends in the game. Especially since SWV is far and away my favorite female R&B group. They did hip-hop R&B better than anybody, including the queen, Mary J. Blige. SWV has both classic uptempo party jams and downtempo ballads that are guaranteed to have entire rooms full of Black people singing at the top of their lungs. That is not in dispute. Ditto for Xscape. Plus, both groups have some of the most epic cheating jams in R&B history. Both groups were on Mrs. Steal-Your-Man time in melodious fashion. Anyway, on the heels of their May 2021 Verzuz “battle,” it only made sense for them to finally get together to do at least a show together. Right? I think so. 

Anyway, I started watching the show and good googly moogly is the drama on a non-stop loop. And it’s mostly — through two episodes, anyway — coming from one direction. Anywho, here are five reasons why you should go on ahead and give this show a spin around the block. 

1. There’s something interesting about seeing how two groups whose entire success was in the 1990s are doing now. 

Xscape and SWV had their greatest successes in the ’90s. Both groups originally broke up in the late ’90s after three-album runs that made them superstars. SWV reunited for two albums: 2012’s “I Missed Us” and 2016’s “Still.” SWV tours constantly, and Xscape has toured together but hasn’t released another album, and based on this show, it doesn’t seem like they ever will. But by the looks of things, that tour and show money has done them all well. Everybody seems to be living alright. In some instances, that music money bounty is also buttressed by other things: Kandi Burruss Tucker and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle have both continued as songwriters and reality stars and Tiny is married to rapper T.I. Tamara “Taj” George is married to former NFL superstar running back and current head coach of Tennessee State University’s football team, Eddie George. Point is, they all seem to be doing pretty well financially, which is great. 

2. As groups, though, they’ve had their interpersonal ups and downs and that’s on display. 

I remember watching the “Unsung” for SWV — which I found odd seeing as they are absolutely not unsung — and the drama they had, which seemed to have been caused largely by the alleged ego of Coko and her solo aspirations. I’m saying alleged because that’s how it looked. Through two episodes so far though, it seems like SWV realized that stuff, at least internally, was for the birds, and it looks like they don’t let that stuff get in the way of getting to the money. 

On the other hand, Xscape … whew, chile. The decades-old beefs, particularly between LaTocha Scott-Bivens and Burruss still seem present, along with beef between sisters LaTocha and Tamika Scott that I didn’t realize was a thing because I haven’t kept up. Two episodes in, and I have to admit, LaTocha seems like the problem. It’s all the more interesting because Xscape seems to have had more history as friends before being a group than SWV did. Either way, through two episodes, the internal beefs between Xscape are front and center, and though we know they did end up getting together to do a show, I find it hard to believe they’ve truly hashed out their issues. 

3. The show is hilariously almost an opportunity for Tiny to stunt. 

Through two episodes we’ve seen at least two of Tiny’s houses, and how she has so many appliances and such and such that she doesn’t know how to use things in her own houses. She pointed out that she has five houses, and I laughed. I don’t have any proof, but it seems like she and Kandi are doing the best out of everybody for various reasons. The funny part is that we’ve seen plenty of stuntin’ on Tiny’s part on her and T.I.’s show, “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle,” but just in case you forgot, we get more. I love it. 

4. It looks like their friendships will be tested in upcoming episodes. Yay, more drama.

It seems as if all the members of SWV & Xscape get along. I imagine (and they’ve said as much) it’s like a big sister (SWV) and little sister (Xscape) relationship, but in a teaser for the next episode, they have to decide who gets top billing, though there seems to be some confusion. As was portrayed in the teaser, SWV thought they would co-headline the show, and Xscape said they wanted to be the headliner, which is also confusing to me. Like, I know Xscape is famous and all, but how would they be the opener over SWV? Like in what universe? I can’t wait to hear that explanation. To that end, we see SWV and Xscape splinter because … egos. And I’m entirely in support of this. 

5. We know how this ends, but it’s so interesting to see how the sausage gets made when trying to put on something that seems as simple as a one-night-only show. 

Over the course of the past few decades, as TV networks have looked to create more content that centers reality and artists, etc., we’ve gotten a lot more information about internal group dynamics, and because of that, I’m amazed we get albums and tours from some of our favorite artists and bands. Fact is, a lot of folks truly don’t seem to like one another but who can pass up money? So I’m curious to see how they get past the stuff that’s on TV (you know the other stuff ain’t making it; we have theft accusations and issues with husbands, etc.) to give the fans a show. I’m here for it. If you watch, you will be, too. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.