During the ’90s and 2000s, R&B groups were among of the most popular and profitable acts in music.
Iconic groups like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, and TLC reshaped the landscape of Black music. Their powerful vocal arrangements, distinct personalities, and chart-topping singles not only earned them millions of fans across the globe but respect and recognition from their peers, as well.
Unfortunately, there have been groups that haven’t had the same level of success as the acts mentioned. Some of them struck gold with a hit single or two; but internal bickering, personal demons, or their label’s sudden disinterest were reasons they faded away into obscurity, never to be heard from again.
Let’s take a look at some R&B Groups that may have slipped your mind.
Hailing from Philly, AZ Yet hit the R&B scene in the mid-90s. The group was originally a duo and then became a quintet before signing to legendary producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Their debut single, “Last Night,” was featured on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy comedy The Nutty Professor and went to number one on the Billboard R&B charts.
Powered by the success of “Last Night” and their cover of the Chicago classic, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” AZ Yet’s self-titled debut album reached platinum status and earned a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
The group is still active to this day, but constant lineup changes due to internal issues prevented them from replicating their early success.
Another group of crooners from the City of Brotherly Love is the quartet No Question. Coincidentally, one of the group’s members Damon Core was one of the original members of AZ Yet. They were the first R&B act to be signed to RuffNation Records.
No Question witnessed a minimal level of success with their single “I Don’t Care.” The single’s video was a constant fixture on BET programming when the network still showed videos consistently. Their second single, “If You Really Wanna Go,” failed to chart. There has been no recent mention of the group’s status since Core’s passing in 2014.
Houston Natives Mav, Swab, PZ, and J-Dante made up the quartet known as Ideal. They signed to Virgin Records in the late ’90s and are best known for their singles “Get Gone” and “Whatever.” Their debut album only sold around 600,000 copies, but the group’s sultry baritones and appeal to women gave them a decent level of notoriety.
The group signed with Universal Records in 2004 and started to work on the follow-up to their debut album with a who’s who of R&B producers. However, neither an album nor a single emerged from the group’s time on Universal.
The group’s current state is in question after the recent murder of Swab on February 9, 2021.
R&B collectives aren’t just for adult consumption. Groups like Immature, B2K, and B5 were the objects of obsession for pre-teen girls during the R&B Renaissance. One group that had its fifteen minutes of fame in the ’90s was the New York-based quartet Imajin.
Imajin may have been young, but what they lacked in experience they made up for with strong vocal performances and swagger. Their debut single and biggest hit, “Shorty (You Keep Playing With My Mind),” featuring Keith Murray peaked at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their song “Love Letter” was featured on the soundtrack to the film The Wood starring Omar Epps and Taye Diggs.
Motown Records‘s celebrated legacy was built from the contributions of R&B groups like The Jackson 5, The Supremes, and The Temptations. The label looked to add to this legacy with the signing of the Louisiana quartet, Profyle.
The group has the unfortunate honor of being one-hit wonders with their infamous single “Liar.” The video received around-the-clock showings on major music networks and became the anthem for men in relationships with untrustworthy and unfaithful women. The group disbanded after their 2004 self-titled album failed to chart.
Former Naughty by Nature DJ Keir “KayGee” Gist became a much sought-after R&B producer after his exit from the group in late 2000.
Fonz and Vee were already seasoned pros in the industry before joining forces. But their neo-soul uptempo jam “After Party” is what finally gave them their big break. The single peaked at Number 7 on the Billboard R&B charts. Despite “After Party’s” popularity and commercial success, Koffee Brown’s only album, Mars/Venus, failed in gaining the same traction.
Dante “Chi” Jordan & David “Davinchi” Chance, AKA Ruff Endz, were two musicians from Baltimore, Maryland that embodied R&B Music. They had the voices, the looks, and the moves that were a prerequisite for any male R&B act in the ’90s and 2000s. The duo’s debut single, “No More,” was number one on the Billboard R&B charts and many fans thought the boys from Charm City were poised to be the next big thing in the genre.
But most of Ruff Endz’s efforts managed to keep them hovering around the top of the charts. The closest the group would come to emulating “No More’s” success was their second single from their sophomore album with the same title,”Someone to Love You”.
Record executives and producers have tried to duplicate the success of The Jackson 5 for decades. Groups like New Edition and New Kids on the Block were concocted to dominate the music scene in the same way Michael Jackson and his brothers did in the ’70s. One group, in particular, that received various comparisons to the Jacksons was the L.A.-based group called Brutha.
Much like The Jacksons, Brutha was made up of five real-life brothers with incredible singing and dancing abilities. Their natural talents secured them a deal on Def Jam, as well as a BET reality series that documented their success called Brother to Brutha.
Despite the high profiled co-signs from industry heavyweights like Brian McKnight and Jermaine Dupri and national exposure via their reality show, Brutha failed to live up to expectations. The group disbanded in 2011 and hasn’t been heard from on a mainstream level since.
Did we forget a forgotten R&B group?
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