As far as female groups go, the 90s was definitely the best decade for me. And you can’t speak on that topic without mentioning SWV! This trio of Cheryl ‘Coko’ Gamble, Leanne ‘Lelee’ Lyons and Tamara ‘Taj’ Johnson, all from New York, bought hit after hit to the airwaves, music video channels and clubs back in the 90s, and a lot of those songs are still hot till this very day.
Their RCA released debut album It’s About Time (1992) was responsible for gems such as Right Here, I’m So Into You, Downtown and of course Weak, a classic anthem guaranteed to bring out the howling karaoke queen in all of us (including the fellas). Weak, an ode to the emotional effect the object of your affections can have on you, was the first Billboard Hot 100 number one for the group, from an album which went on to be a multi-platinum smash.
Lead singer Cheryl’s is one of my favourite vocalists of all times. Her smooth-as-honey tone and amazing range continues to leaves me transfixed every time I hear her. In fact her voice is so sweet, she makes a song ode to oral sex (Downtown) sound like a church hymn.
SWV were signed after new jack swing king Teddy Riley got hold of their demo tape, and his trademark sound from that era (late 80s and early 90s) can definitely be heard on the LP. The group’s visual style was also a product of the New Jack Swing period (dubbed ‘New Jill Swing’ for the females who adopted it), and was a mix of street (baseball jerseys, bandannas and Dr Marten boots) and glamour (slick weaves and Cokos’ extra long nails painted in a range of colours – or maybe that was just ghetto Lol!). Check the beginning of the below video for Downtown to see those ‘unique’ nails in all their glory!
Just a random thought, is it just me who misses the days when r&b singers/groups used to sing AND rap on their records (e.g. Bobby Brown, Usher, Jodeci, R.Kelly and SWV, ala Right Here, below), even though they weren’t rappers? This was in the days when artists didn’t rely on an established rapper to jump on every track, and it was a lot more creative. I kind of miss that!
Anyway, I digress. After releasing two more successful albums New Beginnings (1996) and Release Some Tension (1997), responsible for the classic banger Someone featuring P.Diddy, SWV split in 1998 when Coko decided to pursue a solo career. I love Diddy (then Puff Daddy)’s raps on that track! Lines such as ‘Lookin at my rolly it’s about that time…’ , ‘Don’t speak about it, be about it…’ and of course ‘I got the skill of an actor, wind chill factor, minus 5, 5, coolest man alive’. Classic! Okay, Maybe you had to be there. lol!
The ladies reunited in 2005, and only this week appeared on Youtube singing a sparkling acapella version of Weak. Check it out below!!!! They holding it down! They have been touring recently, so hopefully new music is not far off, or a UK concert date!
In 2008 SWV appeared at the BET Awards as part a special tribute by Alicia Keys to honour key girl groups from the 90s. Other groups featured were the surviving members of TLC and En Vogue.
UPDATED (3/10/10)!!!! Check out the ladies below being interviewed and singing on the Mo’nique Show in 2010! They look and sound great, don’t they?
DID YA KNOW?
- SWV stands for Sisters With Voices.
- Reportedly, Michael Jackson was a big fan of the group and was the one who suggested they use Human Nature in the Remix to Right Here.
- It’s About Time was the number one best-selling r&b album of the year and it was also the 2nd best selling Pop Album of the year in 1992. The LP has sold a combine total of five million since its initial release.
- SWV and Destiny Child are the only r&b female groups with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
- SWV is the fourth best selling r&b female group, the fifth best selling female group of all time and the 18 best selling group of all time.
- In 2007 Lelee confessed in an interview with Sister 2 Sister magazine that when SWV disbanded she only received a check for $25,000 from RCA Records. She used the money to bury her mother, who passed away from cancer. She also disclosed that this left her broke and homeless and she was forced to go to gay clubs at night to meet women, so she would have a place to sleep at night.
- Both Coko and Taj are married with two sons, Cheryl to Percussionist/producer Mike Clemons and Taj to football player-turned sports commentator Eddie George.
- Lelee has two children (a son and a daughter). She had the first at the age of just 15, and the second at 17. She decided to form the group to prove to everyone that this was not going to stop her achieving something in life.
- Coko released a solo album titled Hot Coko in 1999, which featured the single Sunshine. Since then she has concentrated on a gospel sound, releasing subsequent albums in that genre.
I had to add this below track, another banger from SWV and one of the many reasons why I miss the old school!
What’s your favourite SWV song?