Boyz II Men has been touted as the most commercially successful R&B group of all time. They’ve sold ludicrous numbers of records and been involved in three of the longest-running number one pop singles in history, and they’ve done it as a unit of equals. In fact, their four-part harmonies blend so smoothly that most of the general public would be hard pressed to name any of the group’s individual members. And that’s no reflection on their skill as singers; Boyz II Men were among the first male urban soul artists to adopt the sort of hyper-technical melodic embellishments that were popularized by virtuosic divas like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Their early music was indebted to new jack swing, but the group quickly found their fort in lush, soulful ballads, where their harmonies could be showcased to greatest effect.
With their 1992 debut, It’s About Time, SWV (Sisters With Voices) scored a string of Top Ten R&B hits that established them as one of the most popular R&B groups of the ’90s. SWV (their name is an acronym for Sisters with Voices) is comprised of three school friends: Coko (born Cheryl Gamble), Taj (born Tamara Johnson), and Lelee (born Leanne Lyons). All three vocalists sang in church as children, which is where they learned how to harmonize. A demo tape the group assembled caught the attention of producer Teddy Riley, a member of Guy and the father of new jack swing. Prior to SWV, Riley helped establish the careers of Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. Riley’s luck didn’t wear out with SWV — he helped the group craft their debut, It’s About Time, which went double platinum within its first year of release.