Let’s be honest. Nineties R&B remains one of the only genres in music where, “Oh, girl! That’s my song,” is said compulsively without a trace of irony. But while three- to five-part harmonies reigned supreme back in the day, so did bitter fallings out between members and labels. Even TLC was touched by group conflict before the unexpected death of their beloved bandmate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. But through the loss, remaining members T-Boz and Chilli stuck it out to the tune of 20 years as their latest compilation album suggests. Meanwhile the shelf life for most groups born in that glorious era was over before you could say 1999. We count down the ones that devastated us and our tape decks most.
#10 Brownstone (1994-1998)
Original Members: Mimi Doby, Maxee Maxwell and Nicci Gilbert
Known For: “If You Love Me”
The Breakup: Mimi left the group in 1995, almost immediately after tour for their debut album. Bronchitis was the official cause and Kina Cosper quickly replaced the founding member of the trio. Years later Mimi started saying that personal problems with the others girls made her exit quicker than rain on a parade. A second album Still Climbing was released under the Brownstone name in 1997 but never prospered under a new lineup.
#9 Jade (1992-1995)
Original Members: Tonya Kelly, Joi Marshall, and Di Reed
Known For: “Don’t Walk Away”
The Breakup: They released only two albums, but their song “Don’t Walk Away” reached #4 on the Billboard charts. So why’d the trio walk away so soon after achieving success? According to Joi Marshall, label struggles forced the girls into hiatus, which turned into full-blown retirement after everyone soured on each other and the industry all together.
#8 Total (1996-2000)
Original Members: Kima Raynor, Keisha Spivey, and Pam Long
Known For: “Can’t You See”
The Breakup: By the release of their 1998 sophomore cut Kima, Keisha, and Pam, Total had amassed a platinum debut, four gold certified singles and several high-profile guest spots on hit songs by Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J and more. So why split? Well, former frontwoman Pam sited vague personal issues for the “calamity” that befell the trio. She also alluded to internal label strife in a February 2011 interview. Lest you point the finger at Diddy Combs for causing a rift in the Bad Boy girl group (wouldn’t be the first time), Pam’s got nothin’ but love for the self-crowned King of New York.
#7 Color Me Badd (1991-2000)
Original Members: Bryan Adams, Kevin Thorton, Mark Calderone and Sam Watters
The Breakup: How do you “do it” until you wake up? I don’t know, but Color Me Badd had everyone wanting to find out when the multicultural group from Oklahoma hit the scene with some serious New Jack Swing swagger. By today’s standards they look like an SNL parody, but boy could they get it when they hit that a capella refrain at the start of “I Adore Mi Amor.” By 1998, a label change, drinking, jealousy and “disunity” made the band go bust, says co-founder Bryan Abrams‘. Well, that, and, I don’t know, living in a Long Island house together while Bryan’s alcoholism raged out of control after their fourth album flopped.
#6 Dru Hill (1996 – 2000)
Original Members: Mark “Sisqó” Andrews, Larry “Jazz” Anthony, Tamir “Nokio” Ruffin, James “Woody Rock” Green
Known For: ”In My Bed”
The Breakup: Hearts exploded all over the country when newcomers Dru Hill performed debut single “Tell Me” on Ricki Lake in 1996, but five years ago it was nothing but tempers exploding when they tried and failed to reunite in 2008. Woody embarrassingly quit (again) live on the radio and the once harmonizing bros nearly came to blows! Yet, before ‘bows were thrown, it was solo ambitions that really put the hurt on the multi-platinum-selling quartet. Sisqó, Woody and Nokio all released solo projects between 1999 and 2000. As frontman Sisqo put it to Vibe in 2011, “When we left our old distribution, everybody went their separate ways and in doing that, that separated us.” They were never the original four again.
Read on for the beefs behind En Vogue, Jodeci, SWV and more ’90s R&B groups.
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