I grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, as a military brat in the mid-’80s and early ’90s. Those of us who grew up overseas had one channel to watch on television: AFN, which stands for the Armed Forces Network. We all watched the same cartoons, the same soap operas (General Hospital was followed by Guiding Light), and the same sitcoms and talk shows. The good part about this was that there weren’t any commercials; between shows we got advertisements for government-sponsored goods and services available on overseas military bases. The bad part was that unless it was on AFN, we weren’t seeing it.

During the summers, most of us got sent back to the States to visit aunts, uncles, cousins, family, etc. It’s where we’d get hip to the latest in fashion, music and pop culture. We’d all come back to Germany before school started with our newest garb straight from the States and be in style for at least a few weeks.

Some of us were also fortunate enough—actually, I’d wager that a significant many of us were in this boat—to have family who would send us VHS tapes of current television shows, late-night talk shows and music videos. I was one of those people. My mother would send tapes each month that had shows like A Different World, The Cosby Show, The Arsenio Hall Show, Beverly Hills, 90210, Martin, Living Single, In Living Color, etc. Kids across Department of Defense Dependents Schools would swap videos and cassette tapes daily so that we could all know what was happening in American culture, especially while hip-hop was truly taking off.

In my house, I used to get a lot of VHS tapes that were full of music videos from Yo! MTV Raps and The Box. There are two distinct videos I remember from the dozen or so video tapes we received: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” and SWV’s “Right Here.” Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s single is still, to this day, my favorite hip-hop song of all time. SWV’s song and video had me open off the ladies on-screen. Also, I’m not talking about the “Human Nature Remix”; I’m talking about the original version. And I was sold.

It’s such a perfect hip-hop/R&B song. Released at nearly the same time as Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love,” the song kicked off that post-New Jack-swing, hip-hop/R&B shit. “Right Here” was everything “Real Love” was, except it seemed so much more fun. It had the super-corny talk-intro and even the super-terrible rapped lyrics. It had a few different drum breaks and was perfect for early-’90s dance moves. For me and my 12-year-old self, if ever there was a perfect song, SWV’s “Right Here” was it for me.

Full disclosure, I like the original version more than the “Human Nature Remix.” That remix is great, but I fell in love with the original and, subsequently, SWV.

Because my father never saw an album with women on the cover that he wouldn’t purchase, SWV’s debut album, 1992’s It’s About Time, soon made its way into my home, and I jacked that CD and listened to it easily a zillion times. “I’m So Into You” was just as good as “Right Here” to me. I was too young to truly get “Downtown,” but I loved “Weak.” They even had one of the worst songs of all time on that album in “Blak Pudd’n,” which I’m pretty sure most people don’t remember, but SWV literally rapped the entire song. It sounds like you’d think, but the beat banged.

The point of all this is that I was sold on my initial hearing of SWV. And I’ve been all in ever since.

Even though I couldn’t tell you who was Taj and who was Lelee for like the first 10 years I knew they existed, Coko’s was a voice that had me straight trippin’ boo. This isn’t to disparage Taj and Lelee, but Coko’s voice was so dope to me. It had such an interesting sound. And the trio sounded great together on harmonies, as far as I was concerned. Were they En Vogue? No. They were much cooler to me; they were SWV.

Do you remember the Above the Rim soundtrack? Of course you do—it’s one of the best soundtracks of all time. And who had the biggest song from it? SWV, of course, with the “Anything (Remix).” (Okay, maybe it was “Regulate” by Warren G & Nate Dogg.)

New Beginning dropped in 1996 with the single “You’re the One,” which followed in the tradition of hip-hop/R&B. Because it was SWV, it was perfect. They also had an early-Neptunes written-and-produced track, “Use Your Heart,” which I remember being a hugely popular song in high school.

My favorite album is probably 1997’s Release Some Tension, which has possibly my favorite SWV song, “When U Cry,” which uses the same Tyrone Davis “In the Mood” sample as M.C. Eiht’s “All for the Money.” I haven’t checked in a while, but I’m sure my iTunes would tell me that I’ve listened to that song at least 1,000 times.

They released an album titled I Miss Us in 2012 to little fanfare, and last Friday, they released an album called Still. I had no idea, and this made me sad. I was pulling up Spotify to listen to “When U Cry” (which I’m also listening to as of this writing) when I saw that they’d released an album. On Saturday I listened to that album on repeat, from start to finish, at least four times. I was so happy to have a new SWV album that the euphoria of the moment wouldn’t allow me to listen to anything else.

I love SWV.

Since 1992, they have been my favorite girl group. For me, all of their songs seem rooted in fun and good energy. While Mary J. Blige has used her music to showcase her struggles, I have no clue what struggles SWV are going through via their music. And that’s OK for me. When I need to feel better, I listen to SWV. It’s been that way since the ’90s, and it’s that way in 2016. When I think of the ’90s, they are one of the first groups I think of because their early sound was so representative of what we think of when talking about the decade that moved the needle when it comes to black culture and influence.

I’m glad that some 24 years later, Coko, Taj and Lelee are still making music and living their lives. I watched their show on WEtv sporadically; all I wanted to know was that they were still singing. I’ve seen them live in recent years, and that also made me a happy camper.

I don’t feel that SWV gets all the credit they deserve for making such great music, but the truth is, they may have mattered so much more to me that I feel as if everybody should recognize and respect everything they’ve done. I’d love for their latest album to go diamond, just because I love them that much.

But no matter what, SWV will long be one of my absolute favorite groups. I’ll “still” be “right here.”

See what I did there? Of course you do. SWV for life.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • LadyIbaka

    Their chocolate is popping.

  • Julian Green

    The first time I heard “Downtown” was around two years ago. It immediately made me think;
    “Wow. My generation has no clue about what makes a song sexy.”

  • Taj is still find like a ticket on a dash. But yeah, they fell off, and they had some serious hits. I miss them, and I might play their latest on Spotify.

  • I was always troubled by homegirls nails. Even as a youngster. Claws aside, I was definitely here for SWV in the 90’s.

    • Quirlygirly

      Yes they were scary but I loved SWV. I saw them in concert recently and they were good. Lelee cursed too much for my liking but when they sang- I was fine

      • KB

        “Lelee cursed too much for my liking but when they sang- I was fine”
        I mean they are from Oakland

        • Quirlygirly

          I thought they were from Brooklyn, no?

          But still as a grown women, F bombs and unnecessary cursing is a turn off

          • KB

            You’re right, they are from Brooklyn. I always thought they were from Oakland *go figure*. Well that just further proves my point about the cursing lol

    • miss t-lee

      I just saw a chick with them style nails at church the other day.
      Ew.

  • This Blak Pudd’n song is very terrible.

    • Ari

      It was so terrible – but my pre-adolescent self couldn’t stop playing the song just to hear the nasty lyrics safely buried within an album my parents approved me to purchase.

      • LOL I was much more into rap as a little one. I think as a result of having two older brothers. My first album I can remember memorizing front to back was Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle (this sentence is a bit much lmao) But… I was 8, and I shouldn’t have been…but that album was a classic. The first album (cassette) I purchased on my own (I was 11 I think?) was Jay-Z’s In My Lifetime Vol. 1…my first solo concert…DMX (at…mmm 14 maybe?)

    • panamajackson

      It is the everything of terrible.

  • Ari

    “Blak Pudd’n, separates the boys from the men,” Panama, I don’t even know what else to say – I am astonished that you managed to pull that from the archives of my mind.

    I was a smooth 12-years old when that album came out. I used to press pause on the cassette tape so that I could write all of the lyrics to Black Pudd’n in my note pad and recite them in class. That and Downtown. SWV was my first legit full album purchase.

  • Quirlygirly

    Panama, you packed a whole lot of nostalgia in this post and I am here for all of it. Thanks

    • panamajackson

      You’re welcome.

  • SWV and Brownstone never really got their come uppance

    • 5 Miles to Empty…. man…..

      • Wish I could vote twice

      • miss t-lee

        Still my jam. I will still hit a mean car karoke to that.

        • Quirlygirly

          Me too! and I know I can’t sing worth a d a m n but in my mind I am sing the hayle out the song

          • miss t-lee

            FIIIIIIIIIVE MILES TO EMPTYYYYYYYY!
            HURRY HURRY QUICK QUICK!!!!

            • L8Comer

              When I think of your love, it only makes me stop and wonder truly whyyyy oh WHY??? Why would you make me CRY, oh baby!!

            • We speeeend soooooooooooooooooooooo much tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!

          • miss t-lee

            yes lawd!

    • Val

      Please add Zhane to that list.

      • DBoySlim

        The dopest duo ever.

      • PaddyfotePrincess

        Renee Neufville has a new single called “Watching Me” that I LOVE.

        • Val

          Thanks. I’ll check it out.

        • CozyVon

          “Watching Me.” Is. My. JAM. And did I mention that it’s my jam?

          • PaddyfotePrincess

            I know, right?

      • cakes_and_pies

        I just listened to “Sending my Love” yesterday.

        • Val

          Their three hits stay in heavy rotation on my ipod but Sending My Love is my fave.

        • orchid921

          Want to see me ugly cry? Play “Everything Happens For A Reason.” Damn.

          • Don’t do it… I sang that with my sister at her homecoming in a talent show.

          • CozyVon

            That song is one of the most ugly cry, wall slide-inducing songs EVER.

      • YES to Zhane, SWV and Brownstone

      • TeeChantel

        Yes, Val. Love me some Zhane. Sending My Love still bumps in my car.

        • Quirlygirly

          Yes, I love the harmony on that song.

        • KB

          I loved the video to that song

      • Zhane was Total with some semblance of talent. Just no.

        • Quirlygirly

          Zhane was cool! They had talent. Total did too just not on the same level

          • Total!!! OMGah! I saw them at “Legends” in Detroit circa 1994 and Keisha didn’t hit that bikini line and let’s just say….. the whole front row could see the bush from down under! Ewwwwww!

        • Val

          What Zhane were you listening to? Lol

        • Side eye.. Todd? Are you ok?

    • Ari

      Brownstone would’ve had more longevity if they stopped yelling long enough for me to hear the lyrics.

    • panamajackson

      I don’t think Brownstone had enough big songs really. I loved them because how could you not, but they only had like two songs big enough to put them on the forever map, and even those didn’t really make the leap to forever.

      • I think every cut would have been a snag had they gotten more play, instead of beating those one or two songs to death. Once it was the only CD in the car on a two hour trip, I guess it grew on me, lol.

      • Overtymer Adio

        Wow. Brownstone literally owned 1995 with their debut album. Now their second album did not go as hard on the charts, but was still a high quality piece of work. If You Want Me and Grapevyne were huge hits.

    • cakes_and_pies

      I done fell into the mid- late 90’s Black girl groups rabbit hole right noe. Now I’m listening to 702 and Changing Faces.

      • Val

        I love 702! RIP Orish.

        • panamajackson

          702 was also a group I could write an homage to. I loved them.

        • cakes_and_pies

          She died?!?!

          • Val

            Yeah. Back in 2006, I believe. She had kidney problems.

          • GirlMelanie86

            Orish was Irish’s sister who died. The 702 girls are all still alive.

        • Asiyah

          WHERE MY GIRLS AT?!!!!!!!

      • PaddyfotePrincess

        Jade was one of my favorite groups from the 90s.

        • Val

          Don’t Walk Away and the remixes that followed!

          • Sigma_Since 93

            I know she was more dance than R&B but Jody Watley’s Don’t You Want Me remixes had folks sweating on the dance floor.

            • Val

              I love Jody. I love her back to her Shalamar days. And I hit youtube every now and then to check her out on Soul Train back in the day.

            • Quirlygirly

              Jody Watley was my girl! Looking for a new love, Real Love, Some Kinda Lover and I Want Your Love. And she always looked like she gave no fcuks.

              • Val

                And I loved her fashion/ style too.

            • miss t-lee

              Jody Watley and Karyn White will always be my girls.
              My cousins and I used to learn all the dances from the videos and rock out.

              • Quirlygirly

                I loved Karyn White- Superwoman is the song but I loved Secret Rendezvous and Romantic

                • miss t-lee

                  Secret Rendezvous was my cut!

                • malaentuvida

                  I still have to play it cool at work when Romantic comes on. I miss some 90s music.

                  • Quirlygirly

                    Shoot- when I hear that song I get to dancing in my chair.

          • Overtymer Adio

            Me and you could party all night jamming to NJS and 90s music!

      • The lead singer sang a duet with Rudy Currence and nearly took my wig off:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUCEwR35Pr0

        • cakes_and_pies

          She can still blow.

        • Mr. Mooggyy

          Wow!!!!!

        • Glockenspiel

          Rudy! My homie from Charlotte!

      • Sigma_Since 93

        702s Get it Together still gets rotation to this day.

        • PaddyfotePrincess

          Yes! “I Still Love You” is another gem.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            Folks still sleep on my girls The Gyrlz. It’s Over is still one of the best break up songs eva!

            • Val

              Wow, Sig. You went deep into the crates for that one. Lol

              • Sigma_Since 93

                Back when Al. B Sure and Kyle West ran the world.

                • PaddyfotePrincess

                  Now I’m about to listen to “Alone With You” by Tevin Campbell.

                  • Sigma_Since 93

                    Since my I pad died and I can’t be great, I’ll need you to follow that up with the Killing Me Softly remix for me

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      I will – and follow it up with “Spread My Wings” by Troop.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Then could you follow that up with So Fine (fo da 94 remix) by Mint Condition. *Cause I’ve got to peep you in your black signal lost

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      The remix was hot. I saw them perform in MD on Sunday and they did the original version of “So Fine.”

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      I’m a Mint Head and I got to see them open for Charlie Wilson a few years ago. I’d pay to see them and Eric Roberson perform any day.

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      Meeee too! I love that they are a band and that they stay true to their sound. I like Eric too and Uncle Charlie’s shows are legendary. He performed a bit of “Uptown Funk” at the Essence festival and explained that since they stole his song/sound, he was taking it back.

                    • Quirlygirly

                      Bwhhahaha OK Uncle Charlie- take your song back and show them how it is done

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      It was hilarious and he killed it.

                    • L8Comer

                      Eric Roberson came on half way through a Goapele show I went to last summer. He’s a great singer and entertainer, so engaging, fun, and charming. I legit had a crush on him by the end of the night.

                    • Quirlygirly

                      I saw him in Maryland a few years back. He was really good and he sang a medley of his song and I was over the moon.

                    • L8Comer

                      He was such a beautiful voice and he’s so funny!! At one point he invited the audience to throw out completely random words/phrases, we came up with trump, foot rub, bootay, chinese food, I never knew love till I knew you… etc maybe about 10-15 of them, and then on the spot he made up a song using all the words. He also threw in a bit of DC knowledge. So it was like the whole venue was in on an inside joke and we all burst out laughing when he got to our word/phrase or something that was really random or hard to rhyme. I became a fan that night!! I didn’t want him to leave! I have a soft spot for funny people lol.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      I can’t do too many 90’s throwback shows. Some of those cats lived hard lives and those pipes sound like Old Eddie Kane. I want to remember them how they were.

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      Lol! I am disheartened to say that I will not go to another Bobby Brown performance. It was a train wreck from start to finish. I know he’s going through some things, but I will not allow any additional memories from the “Roni” era to go up in smoke.

                    • Overtymer Adio

                      Right. Many of them did not take very good care of themselves. Many of them sound horrible live for me to pay money to see.

                    • Another underrated group! and they could blue…

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      Yup. The piano intro of “All I Do” gets me every time.

                    • Quirlygirly

                      Me too! I had a crush on the lead singer.

                  • Melissa

                    When my parents put my childhood home on the market and I had to retrieve all my old sh*t…a Tevin Campbell cassette was found. You had to see my face when I remembered that there was no damn tape player in my car. CAN WE TAAAAAAAAAAALK?!

                    • PaddyfotePrincess

                      Tevin put out the hits for a minute.

                  • Wooooooooooo DAT WAS FIYAH!! Yo Al B….breeeeak iiiiit down! *hits the synthesizer*

            • PaddyfotePrincess

              Listen…”It’s Over” by The Gyrlz is everything.

          • KB

            That is my jam right there.

          • PhlyyPhree

            I. LOVE. THAT. SONG!!!
            Like, it still goes on all my “makeups to breakups” lists.

            • PaddyfotePrincess

              That song will have you feeling some type of way. I think it’s a Neptunes production too.

          • MY JAM!!!!!

      • Changing Faces? Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Although “Fooling Around” was my song.. but carry on.

        • Quirlygirly

          I did like G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T by Changing Faces. I put that thing on blast when I broke up with my boyfriend..

      • TeeChantel

        Sheesh, I missed this. Yes to Changing Faces.

    • NoGames

      Brownstone…FIVE MILES TO EMPTY! I scream sang this til I lost my voice at various points in time *goes to put it on*

    • Brownstone 1 or Brownstgone deux? 5 Miles To Empty STILL SENDS ME!

  • Ari

    Reminisce and Electric Relaxation were the first songs that made me fall in love with hip-hop. Later I fell in love with the Temperature’s Rising remix and the rest is psuedo-backpacker history.

    • Quirlygirly

      Electric Relaxation was another song my young self should not have known. I loved A Tribe Called Quest.

      • Ari

        Yeah I listened to the lyrics a few years ago and realized how much most of them went over my head. Especially Phife’s lyrics. Midnight Marauders was my ish.

      • Michelle

        Bonita Applebum was the song for me.

  • LaToya L

    Yes to all of this! So many memories. I rocked my It’s About Time tape until it popped.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      There were soo many groups during this time that put out a good hit or three. I was in college any my dual tape deck had two maxwell 120 tapes going strong. Picking up that tape right now could get you pregnant! I would alternate guy group / girl group. Just imagine:

      Intro – Don’t Leave Me
      SWV – Weak
      High 5 – Unconditional Love
      702 – Get it Together
      Joe – I Don’t Wanna Be Right
      MJB w/ K-Ci – I Don’t Wanna Do Anything Else

      I gotta find that tape and convert it to mp3 format!

      • Quirlygirly

        Intro- “Come inside” was a baby maker for sure

        • Sigma_Since 93

          Look here, Come Inside + Tease Me Tonight + Whose Is It = conception

      • PaddyfotePrincess

        Is the Joe song on your list titled “If Loving You is Wrong” from his debut release?

        • Sigma_Since 93

          yup

          • PaddyfotePrincess

            His best song ever.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              You could hear the hunger in his voice. He sang that song like his life depended on it.

              • PaddyfotePrincess

                Exactly.

      • Val

        Mayne, I hated 120s. They always got stuck in the deck and you’re sitting there with a pencil trying to wind all the tape back in the cassette. :-(

      • LeeLee

        I love Intro. Especially “Funny How Time Flies” and “Let Me Be The One” RIP Kenny. That man had a voice like butter!

        • PaddyfotePrincess

          I’m not a big fan of remakes, but I love their rendition of “Ribbon in the Sky.”

          • Quirlygirly

            YES!!! They killed that rendition.

        • miss t-lee

          Yes.
          Loves me some Intro.

      • Cleojonz

        I actually like Intro’s version of Ribbon in the Sky better than Stevie. That was an all around dope album.

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