Here’s a question that will burst your brain cells.
There have been quite a few talented pre-teens who went on to R&B stardom. Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder pop to mind.
But in the past three or four decades, can you name a singer who started out very young and matured into a megastar? I can only think of one – Usher Raymond.
Back in 2000, I would have added 3LW to the list. I’m serious, I just knew they’d be huge. Instead, they went the way of most female R&B groups and imploded, leaving vultures to pick at the fried chicken bones that represent their legacy.
What am I talking about? Y’all must’ve forgot ’bout the 3 Little Women.
Naturi Naughton, Adrienne Bailon, and Kiely Williams formed 3LW in 1999 and dropped their first single, “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” in October 2000. Their self-titled debut was released the following month. “No More” was a decent hit, reaching #23 on the Billboard charts and performing ever better overseas.
I’m still not sure what makes “No More” so appealing. Maybe it’s the goofy, lispy lyrics, ninth-graders pretending to drive in the video, the horribly hilarious rap tacked on at the end (“here go a quarter, go call Tyrone.”) or the silly sassiness of it all but I loved it. How much did I love this song? Well, in the spring of 2001, a month or so before I graduated undergrad, I decided to use up my remaining campus bucks (or whatever they were called back then). I hit the campus bookstore and racked up on a bunch of random albums. This was one of those albums.
Yes, a grown man bought a CD with three little girls – my bad, three little WOMEN – on the cover.
I still don’t regret that decision. 3LW was filled with gems, including the “No More” remix, featuring a hilarious verse from Nas where he claims he’ll hook them up with Sammie and Lil Bow Wow. Seeing that one of those guys has vanished from planet Earth and the other is busy running 106 & Park into the ground, I hope Esco didn’t follow through with his promise.
The album is also home to 3LW’s less successful but arguably best known track, “Playas Gon’ Play.” It’s like they made that song just for ME, playas. I would make it the official theme song of this blog, if it wasn’t sung by prepubescent girls. I’m many things, but I’m not R. Kelly.
The girls were also featured on the 2002 Barbershop soundtrack with “Could’ve Been You,” the best song they’ve ever recorded, in my humble and always-correct opinion.
Yeah, 3LW enjoyed immediate success, which of course means it’s time for sudden misfortune. Word to Life After.
In 2002 the girls recorded their sophmore album, Same Game, Different Rules. Unfortunately, their label Epic wasn’t feeling it. After a bunch of tracks leaked online, the group was almost shown the door. Fans protested and helped keep 3LW alive, but their album was trashed.
Naturi claimed that she was being pushed out of the group for months when their management (group member Kiely’s sisters…hmmm…) said she no longer fit the group’s image. According to Naturi, this all culminated in a food fight when she was bombarded with KFC chicken and mac ‘n cheese.
Let’s stop right here and address this: If you wanna fight someone, use a shoe, use a purse, use your ashy knuckles for all I care. What heartless beast WASTES GOOD FRIED CHICKEN!?
Look how good this looks!
Well, the french fries kinda look like crayons but whatever. I’d still eat it.
Naturi, probably as disgusted as I am about wasting good food, left the group. Adrienne and Kiely claim the incident never happened and don’t know why Naturi left. So yeah, someone has extremely selective memory, is lying through their teeth, or both.
A Girl Can Mack was released in August 2002 (with Naturi still on the cover) and, as you probably would expect, it drowned in a sea of drama and wasted fast food. Second single “Neva Get Enuf,” featuring Lil Wayne (a couple of years before his big breakout), wasn’t enough to help. It debuted at No. 15 on the charts and dropped like a stone.
The group was now down to Two Not-So-Little Women and the name 3LW was basically false advertising. They soon brought in a new member, Jessica Benton, signed with Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label and started work on their new album, Point of No Return. Their new single, “Feeling You” was OK but went nowhere. Adrienne and Kiely probably cared less – they were off dealing with a new project, Disney’s Cheetah Girls.
For those of you fortunate enough to have missed America’s (thankfully) brief Cheetah Girls obsession, that probably means you weren’t around many pre-teen girls in the mid ’00s. The “band” consisted of Raven-Symoné, Sabrina Bryan and Adrienne and Kiely. The group starred in Disney TV movies, had loads of girly merchandise and even had concerts around the nation (Raven shied away from live performances, thank the Lord). I have never listened to a Cheetah Girls song or watched one of their movies, nor will I ever. I draw the line at 3LW albums, thank you.
While Adrienne and Kiely were off being Disney stars, I guess JD got fed up and dropped 3LW from his label. That put the nail in 3LW’s chicken-covered coffin. Poor Jessica Benton was DOA the moment she arrived in the group. 3LW was essentially gone once Naturi flew the coup. Heh.
Once people got tired of The Cheetah Girls (which surprisingly took longer than I expected), the girls pursued solo ventures:
Kiely has acted in a couple of independent films and a few years ago released a horrible music video filled with mixed messages. I eviscerated the whole fiasco here.
Adrienne has stuck mainly to TV, showing up on shows like “X-Factor” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” as a hanger-on/Rob Kardashian’s ex-girlfriend. Allegedly, she has his name tatted on her booty. Uh, I’ll take her word for it. She still dabbles in music as well, randomly singing hooks for Ghostface Killah of all people, and claims to have a new album coming.
Naturi probably has had the most success in Hollywood, appearing in films like “Lottery Ticket” and “Notorious,” where she played Lil Kim. Poor Naturi had to be fake Lil Kim having sex with fake Biggie. Eh, it’s better than being smacked around with chicken.
Should They Come Back?: HAHAHA! Playa please. I’m sure these girls would claw each other’s faces’ off if left in a recording booth together. They seem reasonably successful in their current ventures, that’s where they should stay.
I wouldn’t mind a career revival for Jessica Benton, though. I have no idea if she’s even a good singer, it’s just a shame she was a casualty of all that drama.