Another ill-fated group from the early 2000s, this time around on Tommy Mottola's now defunct Casablanca record label from 2004. After this one and only release (which debuted at no 86 on the Billboard chart) and a video in which Motolla himself guest starred, they disappeared into thin air along with Mottola's other recent signee Tamar Braxton. I guess he just couldn't replicate the success of his previous successes with SonyMusic Destiny's Child and Mariah Carey. Probably one of the worst groups I've heard so far (along with 3LW), but they definitely had a sound all of their own.
Further song by Atlanta, GA R&B trio Dear Jayne and issued promotionally prior to the release of their debut single "Rain" in 2008. Again, the sound is synonymous with all R&B released around this era, either electronic pop-R&B a la Rhianna or in the above case, southern Snap-R&B first popularized by Ciara, Cherish and other southern artists like them. Produced by Christopher 'Tricky' Stewart, it was later included as a b-side on the "Rain" 12" vinyl single...
Talkin' 'Bout Himself (Main) 3:35
Talkin' 'Bout Himself (Instrumental) 3:32
Debut release from another R&B trio from the mid 2000s, this time put together by the mastermind behind Ciara and signed to Capitol Records between 2006-2008. Described as an answer record to Rhianna's "Umbrella", it managed to break into the Billboard R&B chart but their debut album "Voice Message" was a no-show, despite featuring production from big-name producers at the time The-Dream and Christopher 'Tricky' Stewart.
Produced by Carlos McKinney, it's pretty much as you would expect from mid-2000s electronic-pop R&B but they do have pretty decent voices...
R&B duo Changing Faces first came to prominence in the early 90s and were mostly known for working with R. Kelly. Their biggest hits were their 1994 debut Stroke You Up and 1997's G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T, both of which were produced by Kelly. Sadly by the time that the millennium rolled around they were lost in the plethora of similar groups at the time but this album, released in 2000, is a pretty good last effort. Featuring production from a wide range of producers not limited to, Kelly, Bryan-Michael Cox, Jazze Pha and Herb Middleton, it is sophisticated R&B at its finest. Lil' Mo, who was beginning her career as a supporting artist on every emerging release at the time, provides spoken parts on track 6...
Visit Me 4:36
That Other Woman 4:40
Come Over 3:56
Ladies Man 3:56
Baby U Ain't Got Me (featuring Queen Pen) 4:10
Last Night (featuring Lil' Mo) 3:11
Be A Man 4:30
Doin' To Me (featuring BRETT) 4:07
That Ain't Me 5:04
Out Of Sight (featuring Malik Pendleton) 4:05
I Told You 5:34
More Than A Friend 5:42
Don't Cry For Me 4:31
That Other Woman (Joe Remix) 4:18
Rare release from Left-Eye protegees Blaque and released exclusively in Japan in 1999. Despite information to the contrary, it was not included as a bonus track on the Japanese version of their debut but was instead released as a stand-alone single. Co-written and produced by Japanese musician Tetsuya Komuro, surprisingly it is more R&B than most of the tracks on their album.
Adore Me 3:51
Adore Me (Instrumental) 3:51
I Do (Track Masters/Precision Mix) 3:24*
I Do (R&B Mix With Rap) 4:11**
*Features an additional rap section by Lisa 'Left-Eye' Lopes **Includes newly sung vocals
The original (and far more superior) version of Lil' Mo's breakthrough single "Superwoman" before it was remixed by DJ Clue? and Duro. This version, produced by Bryan-Michael Cox, did not appear on her debut album "Based On A True Story" (or any of the preceding promos) but did appear as a single b-side. It was the remixed version that Mo convinced Elektra to release instead and its subsequent popularity that finally got her album released after two years of delays.
Mary J meets DC with the one and only release from singer-songwriter Estes whose initial claim to fame was penning Whitney Houston's 1998 hit "It's Not Right But Its Okay." Released in 2002 via then-independent label Priority Records, the album featured production from a number of big-name producers including Teddy Riley and Warryn "Baby Dub" Campell. Pretty much slept on and currently out-of-print.
~Tracks 5, 11 and 13 co-written with Johnta Austin.
~Track 14 features an uncredited interpolation from "Billie Jean."
Two-Eleven-Interlude (Intro) 1:12
Independent Lady 4:40
Told Me 3:15
Adore You 3:46
Let Me Know 3:29
She's Already 5:15
Big Thangs 3:06
Change Of Heart 3:46
You Don't Got What I Want 4:10
Let's Chill 5:45
She Can't 4:09
Still Your Son 3:37
Two-Eleven Interlude (Outro) 1:26
Continuing on with side/vanity projects from already established artists, here is another notable female group from the late 90s. While Allure was Mariah's invention, this briefly successful female trio was the brainchild of TLC's Lisa 'Left-Eye' Lopes. Also signed to Poke and Tone's Trackmasters Records, they had two top 10 hits before their success ran out in 2002. At the height of their success they were compared to TLC but aside from Natina Reed's lyrical style of rapping, they really didn't sound much like them at all. Mostly very
Breakthrough release from L.A. group Before Dark, their one and only significant single release to be taken from their debut LP "Daydreamin'" before they were lost in the hype of Destiny's Child and fell victim to record label politics. Features scarce remixes by Clark Kent and Warren G that were previously only available on 12" vinyl. Clark's mix in particular features new vocals and alternate production.
Euro-only remixes of Gamble's debut single and previously only available on promo CD in the US. The mixes aren't nowhere near as good as the remixes to her follow-up song Triflin' but the "Hot Sun Remix" is a lot darker than the original Rodney Jerkins production and features some different spoken parts...
Just as many of the earlier groups such as LovHer, Lyric and Her Sanity appeared on the scene when members of DC3 decided to pursue solo careers, many new ones began to pop up when they announced their disbandment. We begin this run-down of the later ones with Atlanta, GA trio Bella whom were formally (and briefly) signed to Warner Bros' Reprise Records in 2006. This is their one and only single (for radio play only) and was produced by Drumma Boy, formally of The Drum Squad. Released during an era when the popularity of female R&B groups was in decline, they share many similarities with the previous group XSO Drive in that they had a harder, more urban edge about them and incorporated rap vocals and singing into their songs. They never released an album but did put out a mix-tape called "Bella: The 1st Official Boss Baby Edition" in 2006. Truthfully, I'm not really a fan of this era of Hip Hop - to me it is more of a glorified form of electronic dance music - but some could and still can pull it off without coming across as overly poppy. The B-side "Ordinary Girl" is a bit of a mess though...
Another hidden group from the early 2000s, this time created by none other than Poke and Tone of the Trackmasters and signed to their Trackmasters Entertainment imprint of Sony/Epic Records in 2003. Self-described as the R&B equivalents of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, the group had a significantly harder edge than many others out at the time and had been performing together since 1999. They had some hype but this song, originally featured on the You Got Served soundtrack, remains the only thing that they ever did. According to a Vibe Magazine article, they did record an album but it was most likely "shelved" when Poke and Tone left Sony...
Featuring former Bad Boy-affiliated rapper Red Café.
Clean Version 3:12
Album Version 3:11
A Capella 3:12
Another hidden female R&B group from the late 90s, this time comprised of two sets of identical twins and marketed as the urban equivalent of The Spice Girls formula (presumably because of the gimmicks with their clothes and personas.) This was their one and only album with RCA Records and spawned two singles Reality and Medicine back in '97 and '98. Being more of a fan of the later urban-crossover stuff, I previously disregarded them for being simply too old skool but this really is an amazingly smooth album. Production comes from Tim & Bob, Mass Order and a pre-fame Missy Elliott who wrote and composed track 2 Good And Plenty. Alas, it wasn't much of a success and the group were later lost in the plethora of similar newbies at the time such as Allure and Destiny's Child (for the first time.) It's a shame as it would've been quite interesting to see what they would've eventually turned into. Old but gold.
Good And Plenty 3:34
Give It Up 3:17
How Can U 4:00
I Need A Real Man 4:09
Bring That Lovin' On 4:32
Gotta Have It 5:05
Pretty Baby 4:10
Better Think About It 4:03
Throwback Rodney Jerkins from his now-wife Joy Enriquez, who at one point was poised to be the next J-Lo but unfortunately had a change of heart midway through the recording her second album and decided to become a Christian pop artist instead. Released one week after the September 11th attacks, it is slightly more poppy than Lopez' early work but thankfully she is no Selena. There are a few pop stinkers (including the obligatory Latin pop song a la Let's Get Loud) and way more ballads than what I would ordinarily like but with backing from producers such as Jerkins, Babyface and Beyoncé (yes THE Beyoncé), it didn't turn out half bad really. Oh, and it is also worth nothing that, unlike Lopez, she can actually sing.
What Do You Want 3:54 (Written and produced by Beyoncé)
Tell Me How You Feel 4:06
I Cant Believe 4:24
Shake Up The Party 3:31
Without You 5:00
I Dont Want You 3:59
Just When I Need You 3:19
Between You And Me 4:21
Uh Oh 4:09
Losin The Love 4:42
With This Love 3:43
Nowadays, unfortunately, she is one of the many former recording artists who've jumped on the reality TV bandwagon...
The acrimoniously shelved second album from Michigan songstress Adina Howard who, along with Gina Thompson, Nicole Wray, Lil' Mo and many others, were unfortunate enough to be affiliated with the hapless EastWest Music Group in the late 90s/early 2000s. Welcome To Fantasy Island spawned one single before its cancellation, the DJ Quik-produced Freak (And U Know It) and Howard has remained a struggling artist ever since. Word around the campfire is that a disagreement between herself and her label CEO at the time was the reason for her blackballing but I am not going to indulge in hearsay here. EastWest Records shafted many excellent R&B artists during the late 90s/early 2000s and Howard was just one of many. Featuring contributions from DJ Quik (2), Bizzy Bone (3), Missy Elliott (5), Timbaland & Ginuwine (6), Jamie Foxx (9) and KC Hailey of Jodeci (10), Welcome To Fantasy Island showed a much more sensual side to Howard as apposed to the animalistic raunch of her debut. 90s R&B at its peak for me. Such a shame that it all went unnoticed...
Welcome To My Queendom (Intro) 1:01
(Freak) And You Know It 5:15
Personal Freak 4:40
All About You 4:27
Crank Me Up 4:20*
Sexual Needs 4:49
Could Have Got Away 3:43
Another Level (Interlude) 1:41
T-Shirt & Panties 4:51*
I'll Be Damned If I Apologize 4:08
Don't Come Too Fast 5:38
Take Me Home 4:19
Lay Him Down 3:44
Ain't No Need 4:13
Satisfied (Outro) 1:43
*later reappeared on Howard's third album The Second Coming.
Pre-release sampler of former Elektra artist Lil' Mo's debut album "Based On A True Story" and featuring an unreleased track "Starstruck" (featuring Missy Elliott.) The album, originally intended for release in 1999, was pushed back and revamped several times before it was finally released in 2001 and this rare track (and at least ten others) never even made it onto the final track-listing. The record label Elektra and its parent EastWest Records America were notorious in the late 90s and early 2000s for delaying or scrapping albums altogether. Other major artists that have had projects shelved by them include Gina Thompson, Tamia, Nicole Wray and Blaque...
Ta Da 4:24
Starstruck featuring Missy Misdemeanor Elliott (Snippet) 1:11
Saturday (Snippet) 1:31
My Story (Snippet) 1:24
The full promo can be found here The earlier 1999 promo w/o Missy can be found here.
Further scrapped production from former EastWest/Elektra artist Lil' Mo and produced by Flava Hood Productions for inclusion on her debut LP "Based On A True Story" in 1999. The song, released in between "5 Minutes" and "Ta Da", was deleted from the track-listing when it under-performed in the charts.
LP Version 4:10
Audio Bio 0:51
The full unreleased album which includes this track is posted here. Hear it and weep...
Originally featured on the Why Do Fools Fall In Love soundtrack, this was Lil' Mo's first ever single and soon to be deleted from the track-listing from her debut LP "Based On A True Story" when it under-performed in the charts. It featured production from Missy Elliott, who would later go on to produce more tracks for the set that eventually and inexplicably ended up in the recycling bin as well...
More unreleased music, this time from Missy Elliott's ill-fated Gold Mind label and under the even more hopeless EastWest/Elektra umbrella. The artist Gina Thompson had moderate success in the mid 90s and was previously signed to Mercury Records. Her debut album Nobody Does It Better was almost entirely produced by Rodney Jerkins and was mostly known for its lead single The Things You Do and its remix by Sean "Diddy" Combs that featured an early appearance by Missy Elliott. Her follow-up album If Only You Knew was scheduled to be released in 1999 via Missy Elliott's label The Gold Mind but it was shelved after only one single Ya Di Ya. Sadly this was to be a common theme with Elektra Records, particularly through the 90s. Other artists that have had albums shelved by them include Lil, Mo, Canadian R&B singer Tamia and Elliott's other former protegee Nicole Wray.
Another exclusive brought to you by Persnickety...usually goes for between $80-$150 but I got a really, really great deal on this thanks to a good friend in Brazil... SUPER ULTRA RARE Un-Break My Heart remix promo by Toni Braxton and intended for Brazilian radio play only in 1996. Featuring all the great remixes by Frankie Knuckles, Hex Hector and Soul Solution plus super exclusives by Brazilian DJ Cuca. Tracks 1 and 2 are some good alternative house remixes - very vibrant and Euro-sounding - and tracks 5, 6 and 7 are some funky down-tempo remixes, each incorporating the organ sample from The Mohawks' 1968 funk song The Champ. Classic Braxton at her best and a must have for any fan of her earlier stuff and of 90s popular house music - real house music before it somehow evolved into the discordant electronic trash of nowadays. The label BMG Brasil Ltda. put out quite a few exclusives in the 90s by Braxton, Lisa Stansfield and others. A further Braxton promo of Spanish Guitar featuring mixes by Brazilian DJ Meme can be found here.
Un-Break My Heart (House Of Heart Radio Edit) 4:16
Un-Break My Heart (House Of Heart Extended) 5:24
Un-Break My Heart (Frankie Knuckles Classic Radio Mix) 4:29
Un-Break My Heart (Frankie Knuckles Ranktidrama Club Mix) 8:37
Un-Break My Heart (188 Street Mix) 5:19
Un-Break My Heart (Soft Soul Mix) 4:28
Un-Break My Heart (Breakdown Mix) 5:20
Un-Break My Heart (Soul Hex Anthem Vocal) 9:37
Un-Break My Heart (Soul Hex No Sleep Beats) 3:56
Un-Break My Heart (Album Version) 4:27
*Same as track 5 but with slight differences in the beat
Yet another ill-fated project from British R&B trio The Honeyz and the follow-up to their 1998 debut "Wonder No. 8." The album was shelved by Mercury Records in 2001 after two singles "I Don't Know" and "Talk To The Hand." I don't know for certain but I believe that the shelving of the album and the eventual off-loading of the group was in part due to internal politics, mainly revolving around the management company 1st Avenue Management which also saw other UK artists such as Eternal and Dina Carroll suddenly without record labels as well. Limited promotional CD acetates of the album, titled "Harmony," were circulated that states the album as being called "Wander" on the disc itself. No production credits are given but they were rumored to be working with former Bad Boy-affiliated producer Stevie J...
Talk To The Hand 3:05
I Don`t Know 4:01
Just As I Am 4:14
More Than One Night 4:01
Best Man 4:38
This Is Not A Game 3:48
Do You Wish It Were Yesterday? 4:10
Just A Little To The Left 3:09
I Need You Now 3:28
Senorita Bonita 3:10
When The Show's Over 3:59
Love Is Strange 4:11
Get Down Tonight 4:07
16 - Do You Wanna Go Home With A Honey_ 3:41
Not Even Gonna Trip 2:30
Another shelved album, this time by Kelli Ball who was a former backing singer for MCA R&B group Immature. Managed and produced by Chris Stokes, Ball - who stylized herself as K-Ball - disappeared after only one single despite high hopes from her record company Warner Bros. Sadly this was to be a repeating pattern for anybody associated with Stokes, particularly for females; in the 90s his first girl group Gyrl disappeared after only two singles and in the 2000s two further groups signed to his T.U.G. Entertainment roster TG4 and Dame Four also found themselves being given the short end of the stick.Other notable people formally associated with him that also lost out on contracts include his own sister Juanita "Smooth" Stokes, Mila J and Jhené Aiko. Regardless, I cannot fault his ability to produce top R&B tracks which is demonstrated here to the fullest on the above release, which was shelved by the label in 1997. Mostly produced by Stokes and a pre-Darkchild Rodney Jerkins, it is a mixture of 90s funky hip hop soul and smooth R&B cuts.
After the above project was sadly cancelled, Ball turned her attention to writing and producing for other artists, most notably her sister's group Damozel who were briefly signed to MCA Records in the early 2000s.
On The Weekend featuring Rodney Jerkins 3:57
Do It On The Upside 4:22
Love Matters featuring Rodney Jerkins 4:09
Wish Upon A Star 4:17
Everything's Alright 4:12
Special Way 3:29
How I Feel 4:22
All Of Me 4:29
1 Dozen Roses 4:34
(Oh Baby) Come My Way 3:51
On My Way 4:05
Mind Trippin' featuring Waterbug of Wataz 3:39
I Can't Deny 3:54
Do It On The Upside featuring Dat Nigga Daz of Tha Dogg Pound 4:30
Another hidden duo from the early 2000s composed of actress Tika Sumpter and rapper Precise. Described as having 'the issue-tackling sincerity of "TLC", and the block party ready vibe of "Salt & Pepa...", this is their one and only single for Universal Records in 2001. They never released an album although a few snippets of other tracks are posted on Sumpter's official website so they must've recorded one at some point...
Promo-only single from yet another hidden group from the early 2000s, former C&C Music Factory-collaborators A.S.K. ME. The group provided vocals for two songs I'll Always Be Around and Don't Stop The Music during the 90s and later in the early 2000s, came out with this DC-esque song. Unfortunately, it never saw an actual commercial release and there was no follow up single or an album...
House Remix Main 4:24
House Remix Instrumental 4:23
Rare promotional-only remix of Her Sanity's one and only single "Xclusive" by NY hip hop DJ Cocoa Chanelle. Chanelle is mostly know for being BET's first ever resident DJ in the 90s and also produced a few cuts for Lox member Sheek Louch in the early 2000s which is most likely how she became affiliated here. Her style is very similar to that of fellow NY heavy hitters DJ Clue and The Trackmasters and is vastly different to the poppy original production but still retains the original vocals.
The groups one and only full-length album can be found here.
The second and final single to be taken from Ericka Yancey's shelved debut and unique in that it includes a previously unreleased remix to her previous single So Good. The original was a classic 80s-esque soul jam but the version here has a more contemporary, urban feel with darker production and newly recorded vocals.
Unfortunately, the last thing of interest from this vastly underrated artist...
Dubbed 'the secret weapon', Keesha was a former artist signed to Carey's ill-fated Crave record label in the late 90s. Though she never actually released anything under the Crave brand, she did release twosingleswith RCA shortly after. Though her debut album never saw the light of day, promotional copies of it can be found for those willing to part with about $80. It straddles 90s hip hop soul and the later urban-crossover stuff perfectly and comparisons can be drawn with Brandy Norwood's earlier stuff. I am unsure as to the reasons why the album was never released but RCA closed its urban division Peeps in the early 2000s, bringing about the collapse of many works-in-progress including Coko's sophomore album Music Doll and others.