October 2, 2023

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12 SWV and Xscape songs that we need to hear in their Verzuz

Whether you needed a side chick soundtrack or a sneaky link anthem, 90s R&B had it all dressed in silk smooth vocals and serious attitude. Girl groups got an update from acts of the 60s and Doo-Wop met hip hop. New York’s Sistas With Voices, better known as SWV, and Atlanta’s Xscape hit the scene and masterfully merged soulful church vocals against edgy street life both in lyrics and style. This Mother’s Day weekend — on Saturday (May 8) to be exact — these masterful mamas will share the Verzuz stage.

SWV, composed of Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson and Leanne “LeLee” Lyons, was formed in 1988 as a gospel group. They quickly landed a manager and began to work on a demo that landed them an eight-album deal with RCA in 1991. Their critically acclaimed debut album, It’s About Time, reached massive success, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and going certified multi-platinum by the RIAA. Singles “I’m So Into You” and “Weak” held No. 1 positions on the Billboard Hot 100. “Right Here (Human Nature)” featuring vocals from Michael Jackson and “Anything” were featured on the soundtracks of major box office smashes like Free Willy (1993) and Above the Rim (1994), respectively. In total, SWV has produced six albums over 24 years and continues to perform to this day.

Xscape was formed in 1992 by Kandi Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, LaTocha Scott, Tamera Coggins-Wynn, and Tamika Scott. Just a year later, four of the original five members, sans Coggins-Wynn, met and signed with Atlanta super-producer Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def record label. Xscape’s debut album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, sold 7 million records worldwide and became certified platinum in 1994 due to the success of breakout singles “Just Kickin’ It” and “Understanding.” Both songs held top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. From their sophomore album, Off the Hook, standout single “Who Can I Run To” peaked at No. 8 on the charts, but the notoriety availed opportunities for features like background vocals on Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and placements on movie soundtracks for Jim Carey’s The Mask (1994) and Sunset Park (1996). Kandi and Tiny continued to write for other acts such as TLC and Destiny’s Child, and remain in the spotlight today.

To get the fans ready for the event, REVOLT compiled a list of SWV and Xscape’s must-play hits you can expect to hear during their Verzuz. Check them out below.

1. “Weak”

Arguably SWV’s most popular song, “Weak” was originally written for Charlie Wilson about a young person falling in love for the first time. Instead, songwriter Brian Alexander Morgan gave the song to SWV despite lead singer Coko’s rumored objection, and they released it as the group’s third single. “Weak” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in July 1993 when it knocked Janet Jackson’s “That’s The Way Love Goes” from the No. 1 spot after a two-month run. It was certified platinum and even secured a place on Billboard’s Top 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.

2. “Softest Place On Earth”

In one of the most artfully crafted songs about a vagina, “All The Things” singer Joseph “Joe” Thompson wrote and produced the sensual song. Powerhouse LaTocha Scott held down the dynamic lead vocals that crescendos from an innocent alto to the vocalist’s angelic upper register for a love song that feels like a journey. Tiny also contributes soprano vocals to the bridge as a contrast, while the group keeps the rich harmony tight on the pre-chorus and chorus.

3. “Anything (Old Skool Mix)”

The ‘90s is the birthplace of the remix and SWV’s “Anything” is a great example of why they became so popular. The original song is a traditional slower tempo R&B ballad and the first track on the group’s debut album. The sped up New Jack Swing version that also featured verses from WuTang’s U-God, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Method Man secured a spot in the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and held top positions on the Pop, Adult R&B and Hip-Hop/R&B charts too.

4. “The Arms of the One Who Loves You”

Released on Valentine’s Day 1998, Xscape gave a stab at a pop ballad with this track. “The Arms of the One Who Loves You” showcases lead vocals from the two biological sisters in the group, LaTocha and Tamika. The single certified gold and peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100 and No. 4 on R&B/Hip-Hop Charts.

5. “I’m So Into You”

Teddy Riley understood the assignment and his production really shined through on “I’m So Into You.” En Vogue was the girl group standard until the hard hitting Hip-Hop influence acts like SWV brought to the genre and helped the trio to find its place. The song became SWV’s first Top 10 hit when it found its way to the No. 6 spot on the Billboard and went gold in 1993. The melodic vocals and high energy production is enough to make you forget that the girls are singing about being in love with someone else’s man. Maybe they could’ve been called Savages with Voices.

6. “Just Kickin’ It”

Following the multi-platinum success of teen Hip-Hop act Kriss Kross, Jermaine Dupri created his own record label So So Def. His first act on the imprint was Xscape. Their debut single “Just Kickin’ It” peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 and is the quartet’s most commercially successful song.

7. “Right Here”

Bursting out the gate SWV came to prove that they were an act to contend with. Their debut single, “Right Here,” featured vocals from Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and instantly became a No. 1 smash. Can you believe the group didn’t think Teddy Riley’s magic mix would get airplay on radio? The King of New Jack Swing strikes again!

8. “Who Can I Run To”

This cover of the 1979 classic by the same name was originally performed by The Jones Girls. Xscape’s 1995 rendition saw chart-topping success and even scored a sample from Anderson Paak for his song “Might Be” in 2014.

9. “Rain”

Released as the fourth single from SWV’s third album, Release Some Tension, this track peaked at No. 25 on the Hot 100 and No. 7 on R&B charts. Funny enough, Tyrese was featured in the 1997 music video and sang the hook on Chingy’s 2006 “Pullin’ Me Back,” which samples “Rain.” Full circle moments in entertainment are always so special.

10. “My Little Secret”

This Jermaine Dupri-produced track is the second single from Xscape’s third album, Traces of My Lipstick. Sultry lead vocals from Kandi — amplified by a piercing high note in the song’s bridge — was supported by flawless performances from Tiny and LaTocha for a chart-topping ensemble performance. “My Little Secret” is Xscape’s final top ten single on Pop and R&B charts. The song touches on cheating by describing the excitement of a secret love affair. Side chick culture ain’t nothing new.

11. “Can We”

This Timbaland-produced track was featured on the soundtrack to 1997’s Booty Call starring Jamie Foxx, Vivica A. Fox, Tommy Davidson and Tamala Jones. Missy Elliott brought her special sauce by sprinkling guest vocals on the track for an instant radio smash.

12. “Keep On, Keepin’ On”

This MC Lyte single featured Xscape on the hook and landed a placement on the Sunset Park soundtrack. “Keep On, Keepin’ On” was a track from Lyte’s fifth studio album and features a sample from Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl.” This song became the rapper’s highest-charting song with a peak at No. 10 on the Hot 100. MC Lyte and Xscape even performed this track in a star-studded second season episode of hit TV sitcom “Moesha.”

To hear these hits and more, remember to tune in this Saturday (May 8) at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET for a special Mother’s Day weekend presentation of Verzuz. Don’t forget your Ciroc to really set the tone!