Treat U Right – Blackgirl (1994)

Treat U Right album cover
Treat U Right album cover

In the mid ’90s R&B was going through some big changes. The New Jack Swing movement had matured and a growing number of girl groups were cashing in on the success of SWV. One of those new girl acts was Blackgirl. While Pam Copeland, Rochelle Stuart and Nycolia Turman may have sounded like SWV on the surface, they had their distinct own look and sound. The group made of point of having short-cropped hair as if it had some musical virtue. They went as far as to portray themselves as gangsters on their debut album Treat U Right. By no means were they gangsters in that rap kind of way, but as throwbacks to the 1920s and ’30s, complete with baggy men’s suites (just like Madonna in the video for Express Yourself).

Aside from the look Blackgirl, was slightly out of step with the rest of R&B, which was increasingly becoming more hip-hop influenced. A talented production team including Teddy Reilly gave the trio a retro soul sound rooted in the ’70s like on the song “Ooh Yeah” and the Curtis Mayfield cover “Let’s Do It Again”. Like many R&B albums of the day, Treat U Right worked better as a collection of singles, despite its vaguely retro theme.

New Jack Swing was still the go to style of the day and Treat U Right had its share of concessions to the moment like “90’s Girl”, with its Cheryl Lynn “Encore” sample. Hits like “Zrazy” with its fluid synthetized bass was boosted by its SWV-like sound, but the album featured other great songs that emphasized the groups ability to harmonize. Blackgirl toured with R. Kelly and made the rounds on Soul Train, bt never really took off. In reality their style of R&B was a few years too early.

As with many projects that seemed created as a response to something popular, Blackgirl never stayed together long enough to fulfill their promise. They disbanded in 1996 with at least one of the former members going into gospel music, a style of music hinted to on the beautiful but all too short “Home”.

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