Their story reads like the legendary rags-to-riches tale of three Motor City sisters who emerged from the projects to conquer the world of entertainment. They were influenced by gospel and classic rhythm & blues; even though they came out of the hip-hop generation. Motivated by their mutual quest for a career in music, as well as promising talent show performances, all three remained dedicated until fate led them to producer Donald “Dee” Bowden, who took them into the studio to record demos, and to their recent manager, Maureen Singleton, who landed them a contract with RCA Records.
With loads of down-to-earth appeal, youthful vocal licks, sassy struts and a state-of-the-street blend of soul-rooted melodies, coasting above an assortment of streetwise beats, New York City-bred Cheryl (Coko) Gamble, Leanne (Lelee) Lyons and Tamara (Taj) Johnson struck big as SWV.
With slammin’ singles like “I’m So Into You”, “Right Here”, “Weak” and “Anything”, all Top 10 smashes, resulted in the multi-platinum statusof their debut album, It’s About Time.
“This is most definitely a new beginning,” Coko construes, “because on the first album, as you can hear, I was the only one doing leads. Now, on this second album, everybody is coming out. Everybody is really singing on the album, and sounding good, too. They just were not ready to sing yet.” Lelee performed lead vocals on two tracks recorded for It’s About Time, but opted not to have them released until she was more comfortable with her voice. Taj handles the majority of the lead vocals on “All About You”, Lelee performs the sole lead on “Don’t Waste Your Time,” a dreamy, inviting hip-hop soul track she co-wrote with Faith Evans. “Personally, I didn’t feel like I was ready yet”, Taj willingly confesses of their first project, “because I’m really shy at times, and it’s really hard for me to open up at those times.”
Coko and Taj effectively make their debut as a song writing team with the bright-sounding, vampy urban funk flow of “You’re The One.” Of the remaining self-penned material, Coko and Taj also turn in the sultry soul-spiced “Whatcha Need”, and Taj’s solo song writing debut with “Love So Amazing”. Coko composed the slow ‘n steady soul grind of “I’m So In Love.” Coko reveals that “Everything that I wrote about was something that I’ve been through at one time or another.”
Their core urban audience will delight in everything from the oh-so-funky slam dunk beats of “On And On” (featuring a vocal cameo from Erick Sermon), to the sparse, no-frills street vibe of the bumpin’ “That’s What I’m Here For” (featuring Digable Planets’ Butterfly). Furthermore, the heightened soul awareness of ballads like “Use Your Heart”, a breezy, dreamy R&B affair, the lazy, seductive “When This Feeling”, the lush, romantic “You Are My Love” and the somber, melancholy beat balladry of “Fine Time” will surely appeal to older audiences. “It’s mellow, it’s jazzy, it’s streetwise and it has a little pop on it,” Lelee sums up, of the set’s overall sound.
Now, following their debut success, which included Top 10 hits, popular videos, endless magazine coverageand a sold-out tour (with the likes of LL Cool J and Naughty By Nature), SWV has re-emerged as three young women ready to express themselves and be heard for who they truly are today. Taj explains, “The voices are the same (maybe better), the musical style is a little more varied, and the attitude is still, we’ll take it all with a bag of chips on the side and maybe some candy!” SWV is continuing a steady pattern, with the release of their third RCA Records album, RELEASE SOME TENSION. The LP is chock full of the best of today’s most slamming grooves, done SWV-style. “Someone”, the first single from the album, pairs SWV with today’smusic wizard, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who both produced the track and raps on it. The second single, “Lose My Cool”, is a rhythmic duet between SWV andrap superstar Redman.
For that “spice of life,” variety, SWV slowed the pace a bit on tracks such as “Rain,” a trademark torch song ballad written and produced by first album collaborator, Brian Alexander Morgan; the dreamy “Here For You” and the flowing “When U Cry”. And of course, “Can We” appears on the RELEASE SOME TENSION LP,since it’s the slamming track which spawned this new album’s concept, the foray into marrying SWV’s renowned sound with today’s hip-hop sound!
SWV garnered enormous attention with their auspicious debut. They received nominations for a Grammy Award, an American Music Award and The Source Award in 1993. They won a Children’s Choice Award and a BET “Best of Video Soul” Award. As if that weren’t enough, they wowed audiences on a national tour with Bobby Brown, were “poster girls” for Cross Colours, appeared on “The Tonight Show”, “Arsenio Hall”, “New York Undercover”, hosted “Showtime At The Apollo”, and were chronicled in several notable publications, such as People, Us, Ebony, Essence, USA Today and Vibe. So, there you have it, the SWV whirlwind, to which they’ve added RELEASE SOME TENSION. All in all, it certainly appears that the prolific SWV/Sisters With Voices is indeed members of Mr. Brown’s club, and should be deemed “the hardest working trio in show business!”