5 Thoughts, prayers and concerns about why Kandi Burruss (and Xscape) are both wrong AND right about wanting to headline over SWV

OPINION: The two landmark ’90s groups are in a bit of a tiff about Xscape’s desire to be a headliner over SWV on a joint show .. or is it a tour? It makes a difference.

"Dis-Chord" Episode 103 of “SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B.” (L-R) Leanne "Lelee" Lyons, Tameka Tiny Harris, Cheryl Coko Gamble, LaTocha Scott, Tamara Taj George, Tamika Scott, Kandi Burruss. (Photo by: Marcus Ingram/Bravo via 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.

Admittedly, I’ve spent way more time thinking about discussing whether or not Xscape has the right to request to be a headliner on what is either a tour or a one-night-only performance with my favorite ’90s girl group, SWV. The question itself stems from the show “SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B” on Bravo, where the two famous singing groups have decided to do what seems like a one-night performance together. The talks of even doing that show seem to have started back when they “battled” one another in a Verzuz in May 2021. 

However they got together, they’re here now (on the show) and in the latest episode — episode 3 — the women all sit down to decide if they’re going to do the show and what shape it will take since Xscape’s LaTocha Scott has been non-committal about her desire to do the tour since she’s working on a solo deal behind the scenes. The ladies of Xscape are having their own beefs; shenanigans ensue. Anywho, all of this comes to a bit of a head in the last five or so minutes of the episode when Kandi Burruss decides to address what is to her, the elephant in the room: Xscape wants to be the headliner. It seems the women of SWV assumed the joint show would be a co-headliner situation, but that isn’t exactly how Xscape — largely represented at that moment by Kandi — feels about the situation. SWV, as a whole, is understandably miffed and walks off. Coko mentions how many records they’ve sold — which is more than Xscape. The show ends with that hanging in the air. 

Kandi has a talk-back show titled “Speak On It!” on her KandiOnline YouTube page where she has been addressing episodes of the show, giving her reactions and response to what we’ve all seen and clearing up things she feels need to be cleared up. As you can imagine, the “headliner” controversy is addressed in her latest post. I watched the whole thing, and it gave me some perspective on her line of thinking, and it made me realize she’s both wrong and right about Xscape wanting to headline. Here are five thoughts I had about it and maybe even my all-important final decision about it all!

1. Kandi said she loves SWV and means no disrespect. I believe her. It just comes off like that because they’re having a business conversation in the midst of a personal feeling show. 

I don’t think Xscape would want to disrespect SWV. Short of LaTocha and Coko, they all seem like some level of friends, with some relationships being deeper than others. Anywho, watching the show; it feels odd for Xscape to ask for top-billing in what is a television show about both groups doing a show or tour — why wouldn’t they co-headline? 

As it turns out, Kandi said that she is treating the situation as if this is a setup for a tour, not just a one-night-only performance since she felt that’s what was really being presented, though the show keeps focusing on a one-night-only thing. She is trying to set the tone about business expectations. She says that if it were just one show, it would make more sense to co-headline and split money equally. So maybe this is coming down to what was really supposed to be happening versus what did happen? That does impact the perspective. I still think they should co-headline, but points were made that I can understand. 

2. I don’t think we’d normally even see this convo so it looks crazier for a group to be telling another group to effectively take a backseat. 

Kandi points out that in a previous episode, you see them having management issues (at the time). Well, SWV’s managers are in the room, but Xscape’s aren’t because they didn’t have one. Typically this is a behind-the-scenes conversation between managers whose entire job is to advocate for their clients’ wants, needs and pay. Now, pitting the women against one another is obviously better for TV ratings since we’re watching drama happen in real-time, but truly, we probably shouldn’t have been privy to that scene to begin with. Kandi took that L on behalf of Xscape, who mostly sat there (save for a comment by Tiny) and let her fight that battle and be the bad guy. In some ways, I can appreciate Kandi advocating for her group and their money. I’m sure Tiny, Tamika and LaTocha appreciate that, too. LaTocha might not rock with Kandi, but she gon’ let Kandi make sure that bag is right. 

3. Kandi’s receipts, though, are a bit … off. 

One of Kandi’s main points is that SWV has opened for them before so why do they have an issue with it now? Except, the receipts she pulls are LITERALLY from an Xscape tour. It was an Xscape tour with special guests BBD and SWV. OF COURSE, SWV would open that mini-tour. Apparently, it was like four or five dates. Then Kandi said they opened for them other times but unlike when she pulled the tour graphics, etc. she didn’t do that. She just said that’s what happened. She pointed out that when they were on the same bill together, SWV always (now) went before them. If they’re doing festivals, SWV performs during the day and they perform at night, which is shade and also not true.

I saw SWV at The Roots Picnic in 2022, and they weren’t the show closers, but they were very close to the last performers on the closing night. And that’s shady; it implies that SWV isn’t really a headline act at this point, which means that they should be fine NOT  headlining because when it comes to Xscape, they usually open up for them. If I’m SWV, I’d be exceedingly annoyed by that because it skews history and implies heavily that Xscape is the only one really selling tickets, and I just don’t think that’s right. Yes, Kandi and Tiny are very, very popular personalities right now; does that mean people want to hear them sing more than SWV? I don’t know if that’s right.

4. Kandi’s point about record sales is actually a good one as much as I hate to admit it.

So, Kandi keeps pointing out that record sales in the ’90s don’t have anything to do with ticket sales now. And as much as I want to dispute that, she used a perfect example that had me thinking she ain’t wrong. Coko pointed out that SWV has sold 30 million records. Let’s assume that number is right; that’s A LOT of records. Kandi pointed out that New Edition hasn’t sold 30 million records (though I wonder what that number is if you add up individual plus group success) but you’d never expect SWV to headline over New Edition — and she’s right. True story, I went to see New Edition to see Bobby Brown and hear “Can You Stand The Rain” (which doesn’t feature Bobby Brown). So maybe folks will pay to see individual personalities on stage, of which Kandi and Tiny are far more famous than any individual member of SWV. 

5. Despite the above, it’s odd for Xscape to act as if they can’t cede co-billing to SWV when they’re currently doing it with other groups on the R&B Music Experience tour. 

I just pulled up a few of the current R&B Music Experience tours that Xscape is on with a litany of other acts: 112, H-Town, Silk, Monica, Tamar Braxton, etc. On the flyer for the Detroit show, they’re not only sharing top-billing status with Tyrese but they’re listed second, which is odd because I can’t imagine that Tyrese is getting more per show than Xscape would. I love Tyrese, but is he the biggest draw on a bill that includes Xscape, 112, Monica, etc.? I think not. So it’s interesting to hear Kandi make this case against Xscape when they ABSOLUTELY have done the same for other acts. I don’t know the artists’ splits, etc., but there apparently are acts they’re fine taking a backseat to.

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).

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