Not 'The End of the Road' for '90s R&B

The youngest Jackson also provided a visable image for African-American girls as one of the only minority artists featured on MTV.

"She did her thing in the 90s. There's no question about that," Smith said.

Today young Jackson wannabes often cite her as an influence.

"Any time you see Rhianna, Aaliyah, Ciara — all these young women always say, 'When I was growing up, I was watching Janet Jackson videos and I wanted to be her.'"



While today's tweens and teens have Ciara and Rhianna, in the 1990s another African-American singer who used only one moniker served as the young sensation.

Brandy wanted to "be down with you" and certainly fans were down with her.

"She had a lot of hits," Smith said. "Brandy has an amazing voice. She had a lot of charisma."

"Sitting Up In My Room" and "Have You Ever" were radio-friendly tunes that endeared Brandy to a wide audience.

"You didn't see a lot of black girls singing like that, really," Godfrey said.

Unlike pop starlets of today, Brandy Norwood avoided controversy including drugs, showing off her private parts or passing out in public — thanks in part to her momager Sonja Bates-Norwood.

Yet unlike some of the aformentioned stars, Brandy doesn't get as much credit for success, according to Smith.

"I always feel like R&B artist don't make a lot of noise and sometimes people forget," she said. "But you got to respect the architect."



The ladies of TLC burst on the scene "Oooooohh… on the TLC tip" in 1992 and went on to become the biggest selling female group of the decade. At first the trio embodied a playful vibe that included brightly colored, oversized clothing and a tomboy attitude.

"They were kind of like the little bad girls that get off the playground," Godfrey said. "They were basically punking dudes."

Never afraid to tackle serious issues, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez donned a condom as an eye patch in their early videos to promote safe sex, all while maintaining playfulness.

"[They were] young African-American women so cocky and self-confident and tomboy a little bit and very comfortable in their hip-hop while still being R&B," Smith said.

The combination of T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili allowed fans to have a favorite. T-Boz' deep raspy voice, Left Eye's raps or Chili's pop sensibilities combined on songs like "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" and "What About Your Friends."

While group tensions threatened to break the group apart, TLC managed to stay together — even when one of its members burned down a boyfriend's Atlanta mansion. Their career was as hot as their fire within.

"You really heard their life in their music," Godfrey said.

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