One of the top R&B vocal groups of the '90s, Blackstreet was founded by singer, producer, and new jack swing pioneer Teddy Riley after the breakup of his seminal trio Guy.
Riley had taken a few years to concentrate on his booming production career, which saw him working with Wreckx-N-Effect, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, and SWV, among others. His itch to get back in the performing arena resulted in the formation of Blackstreet in 1991, which included singers Chauncey 'Black' Hannibal, Levi Little, and Joe Stonestreet in addition to Riley. Stonestreet was replaced by Dave Hollister prior to the recording of the group's self-titled debut album, which appeared in the spring of 1994. On the strength of 'Before I Let You Go,' a Top Five hit on the R&B charts, Blackstreet was a platinum-selling hit even without much crossover exposure. Two more singles from the album, 'Booti Call' and 'Joy,' were minor hits as well.
subsequently left for a solo career and Little exited as well; their replacements were Mark Middleton and Eric Williams
. The new additions helped set the stage for Blackstreet's pop breakthrough with 1996's Another Level. More specifically, it was the inescapable smash single 'No Diggity,' which featured special guest Dr. Dre
, that put them over the top. 'No Diggity' reigned for four weeks on top of the pop charts and won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal by a Duo or Group; it also pushed sales of Another Level past the four million mark. The follow-up single, 'Don't Leave Me,' was a decent-sized hit in 1997, and the group later made a guest appearance on Jay-Z
's 'The City Is Mine' and teamed with Mya
for the hit 'Take Me There' from the Rugrats soundtrack. More personnel shifts had ensued following their blockbuster success, however: Middleton left for his own solo career and was replaced by Terrell Phillips.
Blackstreet's third album, Finally, was released in early 1999, and though it contained 'Take Me There' (and a bevy of guest cameos), it spent only one week in the Top Ten. The group's commercial momentum had slowed in the intervening years, and Finally struggled to go gold. Tensions within the group and with their label, Interscope, ran high, and a rift between Hannibal and Riley spelled the end of the road for Blackstreet before the year was even out. Reports surfaced in early 2000 that Hannibal had sued Riley for two million dollars, but after Riley filed a countersuit, Hannibal denied that he had ever taken legal action and the matter was dropped. Riley recorded a reunion album with Guy
in 2000, and subsequently began working on material for his first solo record. However, he had second thoughts about disbanding Blackstreet, and patched things up with Hannibal; Middleton and Williams
returned to restore the Another Level lineup, and Riley's solo project became a Blackstreet reunion. The resulting album, Level II, was released in early 2003. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
Pop-oriented contemporary R&B artist Mya arrived in 1998, when she was 18 years old. Within only a few years, the singer, songwriter, and dancer had two platinum albums and a gold one, a clutch of Top Ten pop hits, and a Grammy Award.
Just as significantly, she developed from an artist frequently compared to the likes of Brandy and Aaliyah into one with her own identity. Sounding innocent and knowing at once, while consistently upbeat and confident, she released some of the most memorable R&B singles of the late '90s and early 2000s, including 'It's All About Me,' 'Case of the Ex,' and 'Fallen.' Mya took her rightful place in a continuum of stylistically similar artists that gave way to Ciara, Rihanna, and Tinashe, among others, then went independent in the late 2000s as she divided her work between recording, acting, philanthropy, teaching, and even competing on Dancing with the Stars.
Mya was raised in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, where she took dance and music classes as a child. After briefly losing interest in the dance, she returned to it in her preteens and eventually joined the dance troupe T.W.A. (Tappers with Attitude). She left the group after a short while and headed to New York to study at the Dance Theater of Harlem with Savion Glover, best known as the choreographer/mastermind behind the Broadway spectacular Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk. Her passion for improvisation made her a favorite of Glover's, who had her perform solo at the Kennedy Center.
Although Mya was best known as a dancer, she was also musically inclined. During her childhood, she learned to sing and play the violin. When her father, a professional musician, learned that his daughter could sing and was serious about a musical career, he shopped around demo tapes. The recordings eventually earned the attention of Haqq Islam, president of University Music. Impressed with Mya's audition, Islam subsequently worked out a deal with major-label Interscope
Mya and Interscope
spent the next year working on her self-titled debut album, hiring an impressive list of collaborators who included Babyface
, Diane Warren
, Wyclef Jean
, Missy Elliott
, and Dru Hill
and Nokio. The result, released in April 1998, was a smooth R&B song cycle about love and growing up. The first two singles, 'It's All About Me' and 'Movin' On,' reached the Top Five of the Billboard R&B chart and sent the album to platinum status. Two years later, Fear of Flying, which featured collaborations with Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes
, as well as a handful of tracks made with a pre-fame Robin Thicke
, arrived with a Top 20 placement on the Billboard 200. Its biggest hit was 'Case of the Ex,' an early hit for emergent producer Tricky Stewart, but it was outshone early the following year by 'Lady Marmalade,' recorded with Lil' Kim
, Christina Aguilera
, and P!nk
for the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann
's Moulin Rouge. The colorful cover of the LaBelle
classic reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and won a 2002 Grammy Award in the category of Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. Also in 2002, Mya appeared as a murderers' row prisoner in Chicago.
Moodring, Mya's third album, was issued in June 2003 and would be her last release to be certified gold. Top-heavy with 'My Love Is Like...Wo' and 'Fallen' as the first two songs and the only singles, it was nonetheless her finest album, enhanced with input from the likes of Stewart, Elliott
, and the team of Jimmy Jam
and Terry Lewis. The path to Mya's fourth album was not nearly as smooth. Numerous obstacles were encountered before, during, and after its making. There were acting roles in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Shall We Dance?, and Cursed. She moved from A&M
for the somewhat ironically titled Liberation, which was released only in Japan. Mya established her own label, Planet 9
, but her fifth album -- Sugar & Spice, released in standard and double-disc editions -- wasn't released outside Japan either. A digital download mixtape was made available in 2009, the same year Mya competed on the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars. Two years later, she released K.I.S.S. (Keep It Sexy & Simple), her most pop- and club-oriented album. A trio of relatively R&B-rooted EPs -- With Love, Sweet XVI, and Love Elevation Suite -- followed in 2014 and 2015. On Valentine's Day 2016, Mya released her seventh LP, Smoove Jones, which received a Best R&B Album nomination at the 59th Grammy Awards. ~ Andy Kellman & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
A native New Yorker, Case got his start in the music biz in the '90s, singing backup on albums by several renowned R&B artists (such as Usher
Signed to the Def Jam label in the mid-'90s, Case issued his self-titled debut in 1996, followed by Personal Conversation in 1999 and Open Letter in 2001. On the latter release, Case wrote each song with a different person in mind ('A Song for Skye' was written for his daughter, while the tracks 'Love of My Life' and 'Shine' were inspired by the great Stevie Wonder). Case was joined by such big-name producers as Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Tim & Bob. In 2004 he asked to be released from his Def Jam contract in order to launch his own label, Indigo Blue. In 2009 The Rose Experience became the first release for the label. He switched to Real Talk Entertainment for 2010's Here, My Love, and moved to eOne for 2015's Heaven's Door. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi
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