This time of year is always very busy musically. There is a lot of preparation for the Grammy awards including performances and anticipating the winners. Music festival season is also starting and that means a lot of preparation. Artists are also getting ready for tours during the spring and summer months around the world. With all of those things happening a very good storyline has presented itself and has run for a few months. 1990’s Female R&B singing group Xscape reunited and is performing after an 18 year hiatus. I have talked to many fans of their music, and they are happy to see and hear the wonderful development. Will they continue to stay together for at least a few years? Will they record new music? What led them to break up in the first place? All great questions. Some can be answered, some might take time to answer, and some may never be answered. Nevertheless, we still have a lot of great music from the high point of their musical run. There is also an interesting back story surrounding their music. Let’s discuss Xscape’s history.
The group from Atlanta, Georgia formed in 1992 as a five-piece Kandi Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, LaTocha Scott, Tamika Scott and Tamera Coggins-Wynn. After Tamera Coggins left the group in 1993, Xscape became a quartet. They were later discovered by Jermaine Dupri. Dupri immediately signed the group to his So So Def label. He debuted the quartet at his birthday party in 1992. The group released their début album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, on October 12, 1993. The album peaked at number seventeen the U.S. Billboard 200 and number three on the Top R&B Albums chart. Right from the very start the consensus was that Xscape would be very successful. It was a critical and commercial success, certified platinum within a year, and launched two top 10 singles. The début single, “Just Kickin’ It”, and second single, “Understanding”, both entered the top 10 of the official Hot 100 and became platinum and gold-certified number-one hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
I can vividly recall Xscape’s start as I was involved in record promotions at the time. Most fans of the group lament today as a time void of good female musical groups. We do have more than a few today. However, at that time there were a great number as recording companies scrambled to find success by duplicating popular trends. Xscape also took advantage of opportunities on television and film. In 1994, the group appeared on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where they appeared at a benefit booked by Steve Sanders. The group later appeared on The Mask soundtrack at the conclusion of Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, the group appeared on “Freedom (Theme from Panther)” for the movie of the same name, and the film’s soundtrack in 1995.
With such a great breakout album, Dupri and Xscape went to work on the all important followup to Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha. Would the group be able to replicate and possibly build upon the success garnered from that début album? The answer came quickly. Off the Hook was the second studio album by American girl group Xscape. The album was released on July 1, 1995, through So So Def and Sony Music Entertainment. The album was preceded by the release of four singles — “Feels So Good”, “Who Can I Run To” and “Can’t Hang/Do You Want To”. The album debuted at number twenty-three on the US Billboard 200 and number three on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album was certified Platinum by the RIAA the on November 16, 1995 and won the 1996 Soul Train Music Award for R&B/Soul Album of the Year – Group, Band or Duo.
Thinking back to this album, the song, “Who Can I Run To”, stands out as one of the best Xscape songs of all times. In fact, it is possibly one of the greatest songs ever recorded. The 1979 song was written by Charles B. Simmons, Frank Alstin, Jr, Richard Roebuck and originally recorded by The Jones Girls. Xscape’s version of the song is what moved Billboard to name the song #58 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. Of course it has been sampled and recorded several times since the Xscape hit, but never as popular as the version from the Off the Hook album. The song still has regular rotation on radio stations worldwide.
Xscape was able to hit platinum once again with Traces of My Lipstick. The third and final studio album by the American girl group was released on May 12, 1998. The album was preceded by the release of three singles — “The Arms of the One Who Loves You”, “My Little Secret” and “Softest Place on Earth”. Once again Xscape recorded hit music and broadened their fan base even more.
After Traces of My Lipstick, LaTocha Scott initially left the group to pursue a solo career. She later joined her sister Tameka Scott and Tameka Cottle to reform the group. The three members requested Burruss also rejoin. When Burruss declined, she was asked to sign a “leaving member notice,” signing over her rights to the Xscape name. She signed and the remaining three original members went on to make appearances on the Big Momma’s House and Hardball soundtracks, before going on another hiatus until 2005.
After a five-year hiatus, sisters LaTocha Scott and Tamika Scott reunited with Tameka “Tiny” Cottle and new member Kiesha Miles to record a fourth album, Unchained. The new single, “What’s Up”, was released on a mixtape and later got some airplay in hometown Atlanta. However, the album was not released due to lack of promotion from the record label.
On June 25, 2017 the original four group members had their first performance together in over 18 years at the 2017 BET Awards. They would also have performances at the Essence Festival and at Chene Park in Detroit. In September 2017, the group announced a reunion tour featuring 29 cities from late November through early January 2018 and were to be joined by Monica and Tamar Braxton. On September 22 of the same year, the group made their first appearance together on daytime television on the Wendy Williams Show, performing “My Little Secret” and “Understanding”. I watched that show and heard the interview. Williams dug for the reasons why the group broke up initially. However, the women basically said they were very young at the height of success, and just moved on. I believe them. After 18 years, a lot of life had been lived by all of them, most of it on reality television. The music brought them back together.
On November 12, Kandi publicly announced that she would not be making new music with Xscape at this time. She stated that she did not want to do harm to the group’s legacy with attempted new music. I understand her sentiments, although the other three members plan to record without her. As I read about all of this I was reminded of a quote from Bil Keane, American cartoonist and creator of The Family Circus. He said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
Three new singles titled “Wifed Up”, “Dream Killa”, & “Here For It” were released on December 1st, neither single featuring Burruss.