What Ever Happened to: Tevin Campbell

Thanksgiving is almost here and that means the wife and I will be dining with the in-laws.

The wifey’s family is a bit nontraditional. In fact, they’re the poster children for role reversal. The wife’s dad will be spending 24 hours in the kitchen making culinary magic while the wife’s mom is off somewhere watching horror movies on DVD.

While her dad cooks, one thing is definitely for sure – he’ll be throwin’ down in the kitchen to the tunes of Tevin Campbell.

Y’all know how much I love Keith Sweat. Well, magnify that about a billion and that comes somewhat close to how much my father-in-law loves Tevin.

Roll your eyes if you like, but here’s the truth: Tevin was once the unrivaled king of R&B. Bobby Brown has been lying to y’all for years.

Don’t believe me? I bet you need a refresher.

Like most of the artists we feature in this space, Tevin developed a passion for singing at a young age and honed his vocals in gospel choirs in his home state of Texas. Where do today’s artists hone their vocals? The Burger King drive-thru intercom?

In the late 80s, a friend of the family introduced Tevin to jazz flutist Bobbi Humphrey, who then talked him to up to the big-wigs at Warner Bros. That led to a meeting with industry icon Benny Medina, and Tevin’s career was set.

Tevin made a name for himself early on by linking up with a couple of legends. His first single was “Tomorrow (A Better You And Me)” from Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block ensemble LP. Right out of the gate, that song flew to No. 1. Then, Tevin was featured on the soundtrack to Prince’s hideous “Graffiti Bridge” movie (sorry, “Purple Rain” was the only watchable movie that man filmed). The Prince-produced “Round and Round” was a solid R&B hit and actually got more play on my hometown radio station than “Tomorrow.”

As 1991 came to a close, it was finally time for Tevin to stand on his own. His platinum-selling debut, T.E.V.I.N., dropped, coincidentally, on Nov. 19 – exactly 21 years before this post was written.

Good lord I’m old.

Along with “Round and Round” this set included one of Tevin’s trademark singles, “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do.” But that’s not all – I swear, nearly every song on this album made its way to radio at some point. “Just Ask Me To,” “Goodbye,” “Confused,” and “One Song” all were on the airwaves. To this day, I STILL don’t know what “Strawberry Letter 23” is supposed to be about but it’s WAY better than Akon’s later version. *shudder.*

However, all those tracks pale in comparison to “Alone With You.” It’s absolutely CRIMINAL that there was never a video for this song. “Alone With You” and “Tell Me What You Want Me To Do” both became No. 1 R&B hits.

By 1993 I was pretty confused. Tevin was still dropping singles from his debut while also dropping songs from his upcoming album, I’m Ready. R&B was experiencing Tevin overload. But when the music is good you can’t complain.

I’m Ready‘s lead single was arguably Tevin’s biggest hit, “Can We Talk.” If you were an embryo or something in 1993 you can’t relate but, trust me, that song was GIGANTIC. Gat-toting thugs in my neighborhood were even incorporating the lyrics into their pickup lines: “Can we talk for a minute? I wanna know your naaaaame….”

I’m not exaggerating. I witnessed this as it happened (although I didn’t witness the same dude stealing my bike about a year later). Tevin was turning future offenders into romantics.

The title track and “Always In My Heart” helped Tevin dominate those ’90s “quiet storm” mixes. And don’t sleep on “Don’t Say Goodbye Girl.” The album sold more than 2 million copies, received three Grammy nominations, was critically acclaimed – Tevin was on fire and he was just 16 years old!

Ah, but every star must dim eventually.

Tevin returned in 1996 with his dreaded tarantula braids to drop Back to the World. There were few songs that incurred my wrath in 1996 more than the title track. It wasn’t a horrible song, it just was just so very mediocre. To make things worse, that song was played DAY IN AND OUT around my way. “Come back to da wuuuuuurld, come back to da wuuuuuuuuuurld.” I was not a fan. Looking back, his voice was still phenomenal but those braids and that Professor X chair? Help us.

Back to the World apparently spawned three more singles – “I Got It Bad,” “You Don’t Have to Worry” and “You Could Learn to Love” – but I don’t remember a thing about any of them. I guess my brain just shut out this phase of Tevin’s career. The album went gold and while that’s enough to hold a ticker-tape parade in 2012, that was pretty underwhelming for an artist of Tevin’s stature.

Here’s something that will blow your mind: Somewhere in New Orleans, a young Mystikal watched the “Back to the World” video and said “I wish my hair looked that good!”

Watch yo’self.

Tevin tried to reclaim his glory one last time in 1999 with, uh, Tevin Campbell. I remember there was a ton of hype around this time because Wyclef Jean was set to be one of the album’s producers. According to the always-accurate Wikipedia, the dude only produced one song, and it wasn’t even one of the singles.

“Another Way” was actually pretty good, even though it was awkward to hear Tevin talking about “hittin’ the skins.” Poor Tevin had a tough time evolving with the times. “For Your Love” sounded like a Next knockoff and “Losing All Control” wasn’t suited to his style, either.

Later that year, Tevin was arrested after soliciting oral sex from an undercover male cop and he was caught ridin’ dirty too, which kinda threw mud on his squeaky-clean image. Times have changed. In 2012, if you wanna come out about your sexuality, you hold a press conference. In ’99, you get busted by the po-po.

Since then, Tevin has been under the radar, only popping up occasionally  He was among the featured artists on the 2010 remake of “Secret Garden” and was a surprise performer on the BET Awards awhile back.

Should He Come Back?: R&B can use all the help it could get but I’m on the fence about a comeback. Tevin had a really tough time trying to revamp himself in the late ’90s. If Tevin stays true to his throwback sound, I think he could have a successful comeback, similar to SWV earlier this year. If he tries to get all Trey Songz on us with tattoos and skinny jeans, I’ll pass. But I bet my father-in-law would be happy to see him regardless.

Visit our “What Ever Happened to…” archive for more on your favorite forgotten artists



  1. You are so right about Tevin being the man. Alone With You is still one of my favorite songs of all time and I could go on and on listing other Tevin classics.

    Side note: Prince’s movie Under the Cherry Moon is awesome.

    • I’m am a older women over 50 around the corner from 60 and I love Tevin Campbell I still listen to his music I love it and I would love for him to come back make more songs I wish he would come to Oklahoma city this oldl lady would be there!! Love u Tevin God bless u

    • Strawberry Letter 23 was originally sung by The Brother’s Johnson. And on that note, I love Tevin. Still listening to him today

      • Just a clarification. Strawberry Letter 23 (track 2) was originally from the composer Shuggie Otis’ album “Freedom Flight” (the original name of the song) 6 years before the brothers Johnson made it famous. I have that album.

    • I’m sitting here at work,and Recon Campbell crossed my mind,now I’m listening to his greatest hits, those were the days..

    • I’m ready is on of my best

  2. great writeup on Tevin’s career. I couldnt agree more. Tevin should def get a solid team together and release some new material. His voice is still golden.

    You did leave out that Tevin has been on broadway since about 2006 with Hairspray up until this past year.

    He posted on his Facebook that he is working on new music and hopes to release something this year sometime.

  3. sorry try change our life beter.

  4. Excellent overview of Tevin Campbell’s career!

    For me his first album was the absolute classic. Song, after song, after song, all fantastic. Unfortunately, it seems Tevin’s success heavily relies on the quality of writers/producers he happens to be working with, and this may explain his earlier success. He has an excellent voice, but that will not be enough to put him back on the map, should he try to make a come back. Basically, he is just a voice (albeit a good one) that sings songs, which is hardly sufficient to compete in this day and age.

  5. No mention of his 1st date with Ashley on Fresh Prince as Little T?!

  6. Somebody hook Tevin up with some of today’s best songwriter’s, and we can have him back again! Too good a voice!

  7. I really still love Tevin Campbell and miss his music very much. So , I will just listening to his old stuff until he comes back. Good luck Tevin where ever you are. Love always

  8. Please make another album… The brother can sang!!!!! Make sure its for us grown and sexy people

  9. Listen to your music everyday.please come back out soon and to New York . Love ya!

  10. i wish he comeback, he was my favorite artist. i love all his songs please please!! comeback.

  11. Why not try the tom joyner cruise,he is good for restoring careers wish you well tevin

  12. I just seen Tevin perform on the “Soul Train Awards”,and he looks BAD,,,SO WHATS REALLY GOING ON WITH HIM,I mean the voice is gone too,,

  13. I have always love Tevin Campbell and still til this day listen to his music! He has a beautiful voice and i wish he will come back into the lime light and shine! We need more artist like you Tevin!! Love and God Bless

  14. No doubt, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, with that said, definitely hooking up with the right people Tevin can have an excellent comeback. Still luv his music from back in the day.

  15. .du somtin tevin.

  16. Please bring him back, who cares if he’s gay, it’s his life.

  17. Tevin’s songs have definitely made an impact in my life. I was a teenager at the time his best hits were released. I had he biggest crush on Tevin… not only because of his phennominal voice… but because i knew he sings feom his heart. And that means a lot.
    Whateve Tevin decides to do in his life… is his business. Tevin’s happiness is what matters most.
    It would be refreshing for Tevin to make a comeback.
    But whatever he chooses to do… Tevin and his songs… will be Forever in MY Heart.
    God Bless You Tevin. Much LOVE.

  18. I am in my 50’s and I love all his hit , young man had a good thing going on , so don’t let anything stop you from doing what u do best and love -SING -God gave u a voice do use it

  19. Heggstia@gmail.com
    I love his music still love listening to original clean love songs,I think he should try some gospel,

  20. Yesssssssssssss! Tevin Campbell was the shi* back in the day. I remember seeing him perform “Tomorrow” on the Arsenio Hall show when he was a little one, then years later he blew it out the water with “Can We Talk” and my all-time favorite “Alone With You”. Even Prince produced songs for him and you KNEW an artists was something special when “The Purple One” wanted to work with them.

    “T to the E to the V to the I to the N, baby” was a true force vocally. Listening to him hit that high note in “Tell Me What You Want Me to Do” was like…Whitney Who? The boy was bad, he had riffs and ad libs for days, and I’m sure he’s still got the chops. Come on back, Tevvy Tev. 🙂

  21. Tevin himself an R&B artist so handsome,sexy with a smooth angelic voice is always welcome on the airwaves to hear.His songs and voice make my heart flutter.It would be so great for him to comeback.loveuTevincampbell.

  22. One of if not the greatest talents ever his choice of life shouldn’t matter I would like to hear more Mr. Campbell!!

  23. would like to see Tevin Campbell make a comeback! I feel the right songwriter would be the key! What a voice!

  24. Please come back I love you and your music

  25. Definitely miss Tevin’s music. Just go record! You have numerous ways to distribute your music without a contract!! Thank the internet for that.

  26. Definitely on a TEVIN CAMPBELL high right now. We need to hear more from you, Tevin!! You were meant to be heard. Your voice is amazing. 😍

  27. Tevin Campbell was the bomb in my growing up years. Amazing voice and he was sooooo cute, we all crushed on him for days.

  28. My oldest son’s name is Tevin. His initial persona (image, vocals, lyrics and production) were more than impressive.
    Ahead of his times and largely unappreciated.
    Great article, THANKS.

  29. Hey Tevin. I want you to know that Jesus loves you. You have a gift from God that was given to you to direct mankind back to God. I love you man and Ill be praying for you my brother.

  30. Bring tevin back we need more like him his voice is like gold they need to do a movie about him

  31. I still listen to Tevin’s songs. I absolutely love’em. Your article made me laugh a bit when you said the tarantula braids🤣.

  32. Am years old and I love tevin songs I still listen to his music and I sing it out loud when I go for a walk every day tevin do me a favor don’t stop let me die listening

  33. Ok. I’m confused. “The wife’s morher… ” but he’s gay? Wouldnt the be the husband’s mother? ijs.

  34. Thanks for an amazing article! Tevin’s songs are evergreen. He was here @ South Africa a few months ago, got radio interviews & didn’t perform. I’d once heard “Dandelion” on a Hi-Fi music player, the bass was haunting me! As I write this I’m listening to “Dandelion” on my Android phone, on repeat for the past 24 hours, the bass guitar sound with the drum on the song are magic to me even when this handset fails to reproduce it! I “hear” that bass even on this phone even when it fails @ that, which always is the case!

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