For Black people, music is much more than just a song we throw on while running errands or an album we love. Music for us is truly a lifestyle. Since the beginning of time, we’ve used music to help express our love, cope with heartbreak, dance our pain away, and just have a good time! Growing up in the ’90s and having parents who were teenagers back then, they listened to both hip-hop and r&b heavily, which introduced me to so many amazing artists. Girl groups have been around for decades from the Supremes, Sister Sledge, and Mary Jane Girls to Destiny’s Child, 702, and 3LW. Each group had its own vibe and the members had their own unique vocal talents. There aren’t any Black girl groups currently releasing music but whenever Black women do link up, whether in a group or just on a track together, we make magic! Saweetie and Doja Cat’s recently dropped their really cute single “Best Friend” and on the same day Jazmine Sullivan’s new EP “Heaux Tales” was released, with one song featuring Ari Lennox and another with H.E.R. So, where my girls at? From the ’90s to now, let’s dive in shall we?
The Grown & Sexy
Salt N’ Pepa & Spinderella, EnVogue, SWV, Xscape, Total, and Brownstone
From the mid-’80s with Salt N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella to the mid-’90s when Total, the first girl group signed to Bad Boy Records, came onto the music scene, women were killing the R&B side of music. When a few of these groups came about I wasn’t even thought of or at the least, I was very young. They each were grown and sexy, and talking about heartbreak, making me feel like I had already been through some things in life. VH1Soul was a television channel I stayed glued to. Salt N’ Pepa and Spinderella stood out because they had a woman in the group who was a DJ. Spinderella hopped into a male-dominated industry and started breaking boundaries, making other women go and pursue their dreams of becoming DJ’s too. Also, the group was all about Black culture, always rocking Kente Cloth and the most fly bamboo doorknockers. They showed us that Black is beautiful while also making sexual songs like “Push It” and “Whatta Man” with En Vogue.
En Vogue were definitely the “it” girls, coming to the music industry in 1988. They were super classy, dressed to the nines in gowns and tight-fitted dresses, truly diva status! Whenever they sang, especially “Don’t Let Go (Love)”, there was so much soul and you had no choice but to join in wholeheartedly. Both SWV (Sisters With Voices) and Xscape made their debuts in 1990. They both worked with the best of the best producers at the beginning of their careers from Jermaine Dupri to Keith Sweat to a very young Pharrell Williams. I could go on and on about both group’s influences on R&B. With lovely dovey track to scandalous ones like “You’re The One” and “My Little Secret”, they stayed with hits that everyone vibed to. One thing I knew for sure was that I needed nails like Coko from SWV when I grew up! The length, the design, it was everything and I was so intrigued. I sat with my mom every other week at the nail salon, flipping through magazines showcasing the trends Black women were starting all throughout the ’90s!
Back in 2016, for the Notorious B.I.G.’s birthday, there was the start of the Bad Boy Reunion tour at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn and your girl was there, acting a fool jamming to my childhood songs! I live less than 15minutes away, so it was a no brainer that I had to go. Everybody from Mary J. Blige to Carl Thomas and Lil’ Kim performed and when Total came out the crowd went crazy! Total was the very first women groups signed to Bad Boy and though they only had two studio albums, both those albums had hits upon hits. Their debut album is one of the best debut R&B albums to date and it was stacked with productions from the best of the ’90s like Stevie J, The Neptunes, and Raphael Saadiq. Brownstone is another group that came out in the mid-’90s, only releasing two studio albums but had some super soulful tracks. My mom played them so much when I was young and I feel like they aren’t talked about enough. “5 Miles to Empty”, “If You Love Me”, and “Grapevyne” are all bomb tracks that I can still jam to them word for word.
TLC, Destiny’s Child, 702, Blaque, 3LW, and ISYSS
What about your friends? These girl groups felt like they could be my homegirls. Good energy, fun vibes, and just being themselves and singing about real-life things is what drew me into their music. There’s no other group like TLC, period. From the start of their career, they did their own thing and wore what they wanted to, which I always loved! Baggy sweat pants with a cut-off crop top, suspenders, and sunglasses with condoms on them were absurd to most people at the time but they didn’t care and created their own lane. Nobody was doing that. I can’t imagine there being anybody other than T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili for the group. Their voices meshed so well and just brought their songs together so perfectly. Mixing Hip-Hop/R&B, they were truly CrazySexyCool. Left Eye was really my girl, I mean she was a wild card, a free spirit, and we’re both from the same city, Philadelphia!
We’ve seen Destiny’s Child go from four members, twice, to three members, all while having the longest reign of a Black girl group of my generation. I can still listen to “The Writings On The Wall” like it came out yesterday. Beyoncé and Kelly have held the group down for decades. Honestly, I don’t really know what bad could be said about Destiny’s Child. Their albums were consistent and the hits were always there. They had women of different skin tones and body types. People have always talked a lot of trash about Michelle Williams, which isn’t cool at all. Vocally, if you really tap into Destiny’s Child’s last album, “Destiny Fulfilled”, she carried that album. Her voice is so special and is exactly what the group needed! My mom took me to see them on tour in ’05 and I still have the merch. 702, which is the Las Vegas area code which the ladies were from, was an all-time favorite group of mine. Everybody I’m playing at least one of their three albums. They should get way more credit because they were so fire and we’re literally like the girls next door! Not only did they have a bunch of hits that were largely produced by The Neptunes, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland, they also were the vocals on the theme song to one of my favorite tv shows on, “Cousin Skeeter”, which came on Nickelodeon.
Blaque, 3LW, and ISYSS were groups that you guys may or may not remember but they needed to be included. Blaque was a trio from Atlanta, with a very futuristic vibe. That energy makes sense because they were signed to Left Eye’s production company a few years before her death. Blaque went on tour with ‘NSYNC and were The East Compton cheerleaders in the movie “Bring It On”. I remember when the STARZ tv show, “Power” debuted and everyone was hype seeing “the girl who played Lil’ Kim” in the movie “Notorious” on the screen but long before that movie, I knew who Naturi Naughton was because of her being in girl group 3LW. Their posters were all over my bedroom and I played their debut album constantly. “Playas gon’ play and haters they gonna hate” is a whole entire word! I wanted to see them in concert but by their second album, Naturi was soon to be replaced and it just wasn’t the same. Lastly, you may not even remember ISYSS but I remember loving their one and only album. It had some cute little bops on it and just songs that young girls could really feel! Remember having your first ever crush and just thinking you guys will be together forever, yup ISYSS gave you those vibes while also having tracks like “Stood Up”, reminding us that men do very stupid things sometimes.
Even though girl groups did a phenomenal job at coming together and creating moments we’ll never forget, just think about how many single tracks there have been where two, three, or even four women got on it together and went crazy! Way too often people try to pin women against each other, comparing who’s better, when it’s so clear we can come together and all shine so brightly. An artist who has done this effortlessly throughout her over two-decade-long career is Missy Elliott. Melissa Arnette Elliott is a living legend and has gotten on songs with Ciara, 702, Tweet, Keyshia Cole, Beyoncé, and so many other women and has killed it each and every time. One of my favorite all-ladies tracks is “Not Tonight Remix” with Missy, Lil’ Kim, Angie Martinez (highly recommend reading her autobiography), Left Eye, and Da Brat. The video is such a vibe, on a beach with my girls and getting massages by fine men! That sounds like a great time to me! Then there are R&B songs like Mary J. Blige’s “I Can Love You” featuring Lil’ Kim that just make you feel all the feels. Let’s not forget “Heartbreak Hotel” with Whitney Houston, Faith Evans, and Kelly Price. These three ladies’ talents are undeniable and when they came together for this song, whew did they snap or what?
Black women are truly amazing and we shown time and time again we can embrace each of our talents equally. I love when Nicki Minaj and Beyonce have come together on a song like “Feeling Myself” or “Flawless Remix”. There is such good energy between them and they bounce off one another’s flow. Lately, in hip-hop which is a male-dominated industry, we’ve been women rappers come together and kill it! Many people had a lot of criticism towards Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s song “WAP” but they brought both of their fan bases together and made a song about something that men have been talking about, in their own terms, for a very long time. Just last week, Saweetie and Doja Cat released their song “Best Friend” and a video for it. Every time I hear it get even more upset that COVID-19 is a thing because I know for sure my girls and I would have this blasting at one of our get-togethers if it was safe! Last Friday, Jazmine Sullivan also released her EP, “Heaux Tales” and I haven’t turned it off since. Jazmine’s voice has always been one of my favorites and she’s from Philadelphia too. Most importantly, throughout the album she tells the tales of different women’s lives, giving them a chance to speak while also putting everything into songs which I love because each tale is so essential for women all around the world to hear! She also came together with Ari Lennox for “On It” and H.E.R. on “Girl Like Me”. Jazmine’s vocals intertwined with their’s is something I never knew I needed but I am so glad I did! Wow, they sound so amazing together and just blend so perfectly!
Every day I’m so blessed and thankful that God chose to make me a Black woman! We literally make the world go round and there would be nothing without us. From music to fashion, to beauty, we are the backbone behind it all. I want to hear who some of your favorite girl groups are and what songs did women come together on and truly blow you away? I made a “Where My Girls At?” playlist of some jams by the girl groups I mentioned, as well as songs by women duos who went crazy in the studio! Click the links below to check it out and make sure you’re following along on Instagram / Twitter!