The 1990’s are considered by many to be the golden age for R&B as a whole and R&B groups specifically. There were so many talented trios and quartets putting out classic singles and albums. to honor some of them we went ahead and made a list of 10 of the best R&B groups of the 90s for your reading and listening pleasure.
The quartet of Slim, Q, Darron, and Mike came to prominence towards the end of the decade but still made enough of an impact to be considered one of the best R&B groups of the 90s. They dropped two multi-platinum albums during the decade and their hit singles included “Only You”, “Cupid”, “Love Me” and “Anywhere”. As smooth with the harmonies as any group of the time, 112 were adept and making both club hits and love songs. As part of the Bad Boy label, the group also contributed to records by artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Diddy, and Mase. The group won their only Grammy in 1997 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, for featuring on the Biggie tribute song “I’ll Be Missing You” with Diddy and Faith Evans.
Bell Biv Devoe
Part of the most talented “boy band” in music history. Ricky Bell, Michael Bivens, and Ronnie Devoe left New Edition at the end of the 80’s and found enormous success as a trio in the 90’s. BBD’s debut album Poison (90), is widely recognized as a key work in the New Jack Swing movement of the 90’s that combined elements of traditional soul and R&B with hip hop, basically changing R&B forever. Bell handled the singing and Devoe and Bivens the rapping. Their two biggest singles, “Poison” and “Do Me!”, both reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and we’re the first crossover hits of the decade, getting parties started from 1990 to today.
Boyz II Men
Representing Philly, baritone Nathan Morris, tenors Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman. and bass Michael McCary, dominated the 90’s with emotional ballads and their amazing acappella harmonies. Their historic musical success began with the release of “Motownphilly” and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” (91) (both top 5 singles), followed by the #1 single “End of the Road” (92) which set a new record for weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with thirteen. The group proceeded to break their own record twice with the releases of “I’ll Make Love to You” (94) which was #1 for 14 weeks and “One Sweet Day” feat. Mariah Carey (96) which was #1 for 16 weeks.
Named after the park in Baltimore they hung out at growing up, Dru Hill mixed soul and hip hop, into their R&B to create some of the best music of the late 90’s. The original members were Sisqó, Nokio, Jazz, and Woody and together they recorded seven Top 40 hits. Their best known songs are the #1 R&B hits “In My Bed” (96), “Never Make a Promise” (97), and “How Deep Is Your Love” (98). As well as three soundtrack classics. “We’re Not Making Love No More” (97) from the Soul Food soundtrack, “Big Bad Mama” (97) with Foxy Brown for Def Jam’s How To Be A Player, and “Wild, Wild West”(99) with Will Smith. They may be underrated on the larger scale, but within The Culture, Dru Hill’s music gets plenty go love.
Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Cindy Herron, and Maxine Jones came together to form En Vogue in Oakland, California in 1989. With their incredible looks and harmonies they immediately found success. Their hits include the #1 singles “Hold On” (90), “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” (92), “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (92), “Free Your Mind”, and “Don’t Let Go (Love)” (96). Mixing the sultry with the powerful, En Vogue sold more than 20 million records, won 7 MTV Video Music Awards, 3 Soul Train Awards, 2 American Music Awards, and received 7 Grammy nominations and had countless men in love with them.
The inventors of the “New Jack Swing” sound, Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, and and Damion Hall can truly be called game changers. And despite only releasing two proper albums, they both went platinum and produced a plethora of #CultureClassics. “Groove Me”, “Teddy’s Jam”, “I Like”, “Wanna Get Wit U”, “Do Me Right”, (US R&B No. 2); “D-O-G Me Out”, “Let’s Stay Together”, and the prom/school dance anthem of the early 90’s “Let’s Chill”. And of course they were featured in Mario Van Peebles’s film New Jack City, performing the song “New Jack City”. From uptempo to slow jams, Guy was gave 90’s babies everything they needed.
The undisputed bad boys of 90’s R&B. K-Ci, JoJo, Devante Swing, and Mr. Dalvin (two sets of brothers) came together as a group and became one of the most influential and successful groups of the decade. They dropped three classic albums, Forever My Lady (91), Diary of a Mad Band (93), and The Show, The Afterparty, The Hotel (95). And the singles, too many to name. But the highlights include “Forever My Lady”, “Come and Talk to Me”, “Stay”, “Cry For You”, “Feenin”, “Freek’N You”, and “Get On Up”. All leading to over 20 million albums sold. Their strong ties to hip-hop made them one of the first R&B groups to regularly be featured on rapper’s songs. The fellas wanted to be them and the ladies wanted to be with them. Jodeci was THAT group in the 1990’s.
Coko, Taj, and Lelee aka the Sisters With Voices came together as a gospel group in ’88 and ended up being one of the most successful R&B groups of the 90’s selling 25 million albums in total. They had a series of hits, including “Weak”, “Right Here”, “I’m So into You”, and “You’re the One”. Their gospel roots helped them create harmonies and melodies that helped them standout among the many talented female groups of the time. SWV dropped 3 albums in the 90’s, toured the world, and garnered a whopping 13 Billboard Music Award and 3 Grammy nominations.
The crazy, sexy cool trio of Chili, Left-Eye, and T-Boz formed in 1991 and changed the game style-wise and musically. Their round-the-way girl vibe made them incredibly relatable and popular. They had nine top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including four number-one singles “Creep”, “Waterfalls”, “No Scrubs”, and “Unpretty”. The group also released four multi-platinum albums, lead by CrazySexyCool (1994), which went diamond (selling over 10 million copies). In total the trio sold over 85 million records worldwide and is the best-selling American girl group of all-time and an easy addition to the best R&B groups of the 90s list.
Tony! Toni! Tone!
As much a band as a group. And bringing as much funk as rhythm and blues, Tony! Toni! Tone! paved their own musical path through the 90’s. The three main members were Raphael Saadiq (born Charles Ray Wiggins) on lead vocals and bass, his brother D’wayne Wiggins on lead vocals and guitar, and their cousin Timothy Christian Riley on drums and keyboards. They released three Platinum alums in the 90’s and had hits that included “Feels Good”, “It Never Rains (In Southern California)”, “Whatever You Want”, “Me and You”, “Anniversary” and “Let’s Get Down”. The group was one of the most successfully R&B groups both critically and commercially making true #CultureClassic love songs.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best R&B groups of the 90s. Did we miss any? Hit us up on Twitter (@CFTCulture) and let us know! And while your hear, check out some more of our R&B related goodness.
- MUSIC MONDAYS – Khalid
- CULTURE CLASSICS – “One In A Million” by Aaliyah
- ESSENTIALS – The Best of Beyonce
Written by @TalentedMrFord