Although it's commonplace now, Left Eye was among the first artists to speak openly about contraception. She was also the original R&B bad girl, publicly beefing with her group mates and boyfriends. Be glad Twitter wasn't around in 1999. Also, she was way ahead of the curve on radio's current marriage of R&B and pop. Her 2001 solo album Supernova, which was released overseas, sounded like a prototype Nicki Minaj album. Except it wasn't, you know, an embarrassing pile of garbage.
The most overlooked part of Left Eye's legacy is her group, Blaque. Much like their mentor, they were way ahead of their time, for better or worse. Remember them?
Thanks to a chance meeting, Blaque was introduced to stardom. Natina Reed, Shamari Fears and Brandi Williams united to form Blaque Ivory in the late 90s. While singing jingles to make ends meet, Natina met Ronald Lopes, who introduced her to his sister, Left Eye. Blaque hit pay dirt.
Blaque's self-titled debut dropped in the summer of '99 and their mentor's influence was apparent. Look at that album cover, they look like the Sour Patch Kid version of TLC. The album was a surprise hit, eventually selling 1.5 million copies.
The secret to their success? Mind-numbingly catchy singles.
Have you really listened to the lyrics of "808?"
'Cause I'll be goin' boom like an 808
Be makin' circles like a figure 8
You know it feels good from head to toe
Now hold on to me baby here we go
Sounds like a toddler wrote these lyrics. The song was actually written by R. Kelly, so that's pretty close - they have the same bladder habits.
Goofy lyrics didn't stop "808" from going gold in June 1999. Even I admit it was mighty tough to change the radio station when it appeared. I barely recall the remix but others remember it fondly.
Their most prolific (i.e., overplayed) hit was "Bring It All To Me." Good lord, they wore it out on the radio in Va. Ever disliked a song during the first 500 listens but it eventually you gave in and started tolerating it - even, gasp, liking it? Yeah. The radio/album version featured J.C. Chasez of N'SYNC but I guess he couldn't be bothered to show up for the video.
(Side note: Listening to "Bring It All To Me" reminded me that J.C. could SING. He needs to get off America's Next Dance Crew and get in the studio.)
The hyperactive "I Do" wasn't as memorable as Blaque's first singles but it did reasonably well. The success of their debut should have springboarded Blaque to long-term success.
But if that had happened, I wouldn't be writing this blog post.
In 2001, Blaque geared up to release their sophomore effort Blaque Out, with the lead single "Can't Get It Back."
Then boom, the drama hit like an 808.
Blaque Out was shelved at the last minute by Columbia Records. Around this time, Natina and her boyfriend/future babydaddy, West Coast rapper Kurupt, started feuding with Kurupt's ex, Foxy Brown. Remember this gem?
Foxy fired back, claiming to be the reason Natina was kicked out of Blaque, but Natina said she was just on hiatus to give birth. Again I say, be glad Twitter wasn't around then to document this foolishness.
To make matters much worse, Blaque's biggest inspiration died in a car crash in Honduras months later. The chilling footage is here, but I warn you, it's very disturbing.
Blaque Out was eventually released in Japan in 2002 and finally made it to iTunes in the U.S. in 2007. It was then removed from iTunes soon afterward but just recently reappeared. The girls just can't catch a break.
Blaque went back to the drawing board in 2003 for Torch. Despite the album title, the singles "I'm Good" (which also appeared on the Honey Soundtrack) and "Ugly" failed to catch fire. Yet again, another album was shelved.
I guess the ladies saw the writing on the wall and soon explored other projects. Natina apparently went into ministry and was replaced during overseas performances by Erica Pulliins. Shamari signed with Darkchild and um, didn't do too much. She did appear on this horrible song, however.
The original trio has since reunited and are trying to get a new material released. No luck yet.
Should They Come Back?: Geez, after all the depressing research I've conducted, I almost want 'em to come back just so they can experience SOME good news. I'm on the fence about their success in 2012. On one hand, they would have no problem infiltrating today's "pop disguised as R&B" radio playlists. But Blaque really lost their mojo when they lost their muse. If they can rekindle that spark, they'll be baby-talking their way back into your earbuds.