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The SWV and XSCAPE Breakups and Makeups, Explained
SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B brings together two great '90s groups. What happened before that?
The '90s R&B sensations SWV and XSCAPE have reunited on Bravo for their new show, SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B, premiering March 5 at 9:30/8:30c. The series chronicles the women's work to pull together a joint live show, following the runaway success of their May 2021 Verzuz appearance, at which they paid tribute to both their own hits and their fellow female artists from the '90s.
Both groups are also reality television veterans. SWV chronicled their break-up, reunion, and current work in WE tv's SWV Reunited for two seasons starting in 2014, and then collaborated with Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella for a tour and BET reality show in 2019 called Ladies Night. XSCAPE, of course, came together for the 2017 Bravo limited series, XSCAPE: Still Kickin’ It, which chronicled their own break-up, reunion, and preparations for a new tour.
But, given the amazing music both groups created together, what actually caused them to break up in the first place?
SWV's Breakup in 1998
SWV's Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, and Leanne”Lelee” Lyons were signed to RCA in 1991 and released their first album, It’s About Time to multi-platinum success in 1992.
SWV released three more albums (New Beginning, Release Some Tension, and a Christmas album) before disbanding in 1998 for the members to pursue solo careers.
Coko released her first solo album in 1999, entitled Hot Coko, before ultimately dedicating her solo work to gospel music. Taj, meanwhile, signed a modeling contract, finished her Bachelor's degree and, in 2004, married then-NFL player Eddie George. Lelee focused on raising her two children before re-dedicating herself to music and her work as an author.
XSCAPE's Breakup in 1998
XSCAPE's Kandi Burruss, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle (now Harris), LaTocha Scott (now Scott-Bivens), and Tamika Scott were signed to musician and super-producer Jermaine Dupri's So So Def and released their first album, Hummin' Comin' at 'Cha in 1992.
They released two more albums (Off The Hook and Traces of My Lipstick) before they broke up acrimoniously after their 1998 album. Their stories differ over the source of the break-up.
Kandi has said that LaTocha left to pursue a solo career, while Tamika (LaTocha's sister) has said that there was tension over Kandi's brief relationship with Jermaine. Kandi confirmed in a 2010 interview with Angela Yee that she and Jermaine "crossed the line of friendship." Jermaine confirmed their relationship in a 2019 documentary, but implied that his interest in Kandi's voice over LaTocha's — who he said had founded the group and considered herself the lead singer — had been the real source of the tension.
XSCAPE's First Makeup in 2000
Most of the band got back together in early 2000, but Kandi declined and signed over her rights to the name XSCAPE to allow the others to continue recording. Tiny, LaTocha, and Tamika ultimately contributed to two movie soundtracks in 2000 and 2001 and then went back on hiatus.
SWV's Makeup in 2005
SWV formally reunited in 2005 and has stayed together, touring often, ever since. They released album I Missed Us in 2012 and sixth album, Still, in 2015, in addition to their reality shows in 2014 and 2019.
XSCAPE's Second Makeup and Breakup in 2005
With Kandi still absent, the group quietly got back together released one single, "What's Up," in 2005 before disbanding again.
Kandi, meanwhile, continued to insist the group had disbanded because LaTocha wanted a solo career and Tamika felt that was untrue.
"Kandi, between 2000 all the way up to 2007, she would do interviews saying Tocha broke up the group... and I'm like, that's not true," Tamika recalled in the 2015 TV One documentary Unsung. "I had to protect my sister and so I did an interview and let it rip."
By "letting it rip," Tamika meant that, in 2007, she called New York radio station Hot 97 and accused Kandi of having broken up the group by sleeping with both Jermaine and his father, and a music industry executive.
Kandi had repeatedly denied the allegation that she slept with the executive and Jermaine's father, and that her relationship with Jermaine broke up the group.
"That had nothing to do with why the group broke up," she said in 2010. "She knew that, she actually came back and apologized to me. It was really like some old hating type of stuff she was doing because, I don't know, I guess because I was still continuously doing something. So she just threw that out there trying to diss me so it wouldn't look like her sister really broke up the group."
In Tamika's Unsung interview, she apologized for making the allegations but, according to Kandi at the time, the 2007 interview doomed any chance of the group making up.
"For her to do that, it just felt like she really had hatred for me and I just didn't want to deal with that no more," Kandi said in Unsung. "I was just like uh-uh and I was done."
XSCAPE's Third Makeup and Quasi-Breakup in 2017
In 2017, members of the group discovered that there were efforts afoot to put together an unauthorized biopic of the group, and didn't like the idea of others profiting off their work. To combat it, Tiny has said, they had to work as a team.
The group reunited in June 2017 for a performance at the BET Awards and the Essence Fest and, at the latter, announced that they’d filmed their reunion and its preparation for the Bravo series XSCAPE: Still Kickin’ It. The limited series was released in November 2017, after which the group went on a 30-city tour together.
After the tour, though Kandi opted out of recording new music with the group, and Tiny, LaTocha, and Tamika opted to move forward under the moniker XSCAP3. They released an EP titled Here for It in 2018.
XSCAPE's Fourth Makeup in 2018
Kandi actually reunited with the group at Essence Fest in 2018 and then, on Mother's Day 2021, took the stage with them to battle SWV at Verzuz. That appearance led to the deal with Bravo to film SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B, which chronicles their journey to pull together a joint live performance together.
For much more about both groups, watch SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B, premiering Sunday, March 5, at 9:30/8:30c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.