10 Things To Know About R&B Group, 702, And Their Rise To Fame
This has been the year of reunions for R&B groups. En Vogue released their new album Electric Cafe, Xscap3 dropped their EP Here For It, Destiny’s Child surprised us all with a reunion during Beyoncé’s Coachella set, and now 702 is back. Although the group is not often remembered as much as some of their ’90s counterparts, the singing trio had a huge influence on the culture of R&B music. If you’re unfamiliar with 702, they had ’90s music lovers singing the anti side-chick anthem “Where My Girls At?” or in their feelings telling their spouses to “Get It Together.”
Some of your favorite R&B singers were influenced and inspired by their music. In a 2014 NPR interview, Solange Knowles reflected on the group’s influence by saying, “I know that there’s no way to really explain the emotional and physical and mental reaction when you’re at a party in seventh grade and a 702 record comes on.” Their music, often mid-tempo jams, struck the perfect balance between soulful pop and mature fun.
Now that the trio is preparing to head out on tour this year, here’s what every millennial should know about the R&B girl group.
1. 702’s Origin
While in high school at the Las Vegas Academy of Arts, Irish Grinstead, Kameelah Williams, and Lemisha Grinstead formed 702, one of the most successful R&B groups of the ’90s. Originally, the group was a quartet before Orish Grinstead, Irish’s twin sister (who passed away in 2008), decided to leave the group. Despite her departure, her vocals can still be heard on the group’s debut album.
2. About Their Big Break
Irish, Orish, and Lemisha Grinstead were determined to have their talents noticed. Before their classmate Kameelah Williams joined, the sisters often performed in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas before major events. One day, they auditioned for comedian Sinbad who encouraged them to go to Atlanta to participate in Jack The Rapper’s music convention for unsigned talent. Reflecting on the experience of the music convention, Lemisha told Billboard in 1997 that the members of 702 “were so young we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. But our parents really believed in us and let us go to all of these events.” The Jack the Rapper convention would become the group’s big break. Under the direction of Sinbad, they called themselves “Sweeter Than Sugar” and won second place in the music competition.
3. From Sweeter Than Sugar To 702
Although the ladies did not win the talent showcase in Atlanta, they caught the eye of Michael Bivins, who was a member of New Edition, Bell Biv Devoe, and the mastermind behind the career of Boyz II Men. After an impromptu audition for the music mogul, he signed them on the spot to Biv 10 Records. After hearing them sing, Bivins stated “he had found his Supremes.” In preparing them for commercial success, Bivins changed the group’s name from Sweeter Than Sugar to 702, which is Las Vegas’ area code. They also made their debut on Subway’s “This Lil’ Game We Play” in 1995, which was a Top 20 Billboard hit. The commercial success of the record helped launch their career.
4. The Big Leagues: Motown Records
702 first signed to Biv 10 Records and Motown through a joint venture deal. The group released three studio albums; No Doubt (1996), 702 (1998), and Star (2003) and experienced the type of commercial success that made them a household name in the ’90s and early 2000s. The group had four singles reach the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, with two singles, “Get It Together,” and “Where My Girls At?” peaking in the Top 10. Their debut album, No Doubt, was certified Gold by the RIAA in November 1997 while their self-titled album 702 was certified Platinum in November 2002. The group sold millions of records before they disbanded in the mid-2000s.
5. “Get It Together”
No Doubt hit the airwaves on October 8, 1996. The album debuted at No. 82 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on the U.S. HeatSeekers chart, and No. 24 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart. The second single, “Get It Together,” became the album’s standout track. It dominated the charts throughout 1997, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 on the R&B charts, and No. 7 on the U.S. Rhythmic Top 40 chart. The single went on to sell 800,000 copies in 1997, prompting Billboard to name it one of the best selling records of that year. The RIAA certified the single Gold on April 1, 1997, less than three months after its release. The song, written by Donell Jones, not only provided 702 with a hit record, but it also helped launch Jones’ career as an up and coming R&B singer and songwriter.
6. Cousin Skeeter And The Longevity Of “Steelo”
While “Get It Together” dominated the airwaves, 702’s lead single “Steelo” was not only a hit record but also re-fashioned into a Nickelodeon theme song. The song was certified Gold on February 28, 1997, and reached No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 12 on the Top R&B charts. While fans may remember listening to the Missy Elliott penned track on the radio or by watching the video, 702 recorded an alternate version for Bill Bellamy’s Nickelodeon show Cousin Skeeter, which starred Meagan Good and Robert Ri’chard. If you’re a millennial, chances are you were singing along to 702 while watching that popular show. Throughout the 90s, 702 made guest appearances on TV favorites such as Moesha and Sister, Sister.
Their song, “He Rules,” also found placement on 1999’s Stuart Little soundtrack.
7. “Where My Girls At?”
If 702 dropped “Where My Girls At?” today, I guarantee it would still be a hit. The song’s beat and chorus are so infectious that you have to rewind it multiple times to fully experience the joy the track exudes. The latter is why the song is 702’s most commercially successful song to date. Written by Missy Elliott, the track was originally intended for TLC’s Fan Mail album. After the group passed on the track, 702 recorded it and the rest became history. “Where My Girls At?” was one of 1999’s biggest selling singles with over 600,000 units sold. The track peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts, and No. 1 on the Billboard Rhythmic charts. For over four months, the song remained in the Billboard Top 20, making it one of the most played songs of 1999. The song was not just popular in the United States; it impacted the charts in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland. Due to the popularity of the song, 702 was asked to sing “Where My Girls At?” to begin the 1999 WNBA season. The song helped catapult the ensemble’s career and ranked as the 46th best song by a girl group of all time by Billboard.
8. The Star Era Crafted By Pharrell And The Neptunes
After the success of their self-titled sophomore album, the group took a hiatus before the release of their third studio album, Star in 2003. The album debuted at No. 45 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums roster and No. 22 on the Top R&B Albums chart. While Star did not perform as commercially well as the group’s previous discography, Pharrell Williams wrote several of the songs on the album and The Neptunes produced its two lead singles: the title track featuring The Clipse and “I Still Love You.” In a 2004 interview with The Washington Post, Pharrell listed 702’s “I Still Love You’’ as one of his top ten songs because “it takes him on an emotional ride.” This may be one of the reasons “I Still Love You” is often listed as one of 702’s best songs even though it didn’t reach the same heights as the other tracks in the group’s discography. The song was also featured on the soundtrack of the movie Empire that starred John Leguizamo, Treach from Naughty by Nature, and Fat Joe.
9. The Sample History Of “All I Want”
The third single off of 702’s first album was 1997’s “All I Want.” The song was the promotional single for Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell’s classic comedy film, Good Burger. The track sampled The Jackson 5’s “It’s Great To Be Here” song off of their 1971 album, Maybe Tomorrow. The song was a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 35 on the chart. Fun Fact: the song was later sampled by J. Lo in 2002 for her No. 1 Hot 100 hit “I’m Real” featuring Ja Rule and Ashanti. You can listen to the similarities here.
10. Life After 702 And The Reunion Tour
Kameelah Williams, the group’s lead singer, remained more visible than the other members due to her solo career and television stint. She went on to work with artists such as Macy Gray and Raphael Saadiq. In 2014, she joined the cast of R&B Divas Atlanta and also became an advocate for autism awareness after her son Zac, with fellow singer Musiq Soulchild, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2013. Although we have not seen much of Irish and Lemisha Grinstead in the media, similar to many music groups, 702 disbanded so that they could all focus on other aspects of their lives and solo careers.
Now, if you never had the chance to get your entire life at a 702 show, you will finally have the opportunity to live out your ’90s dreams. In November 2017, the group reunited for the first time to perform at the Soul Train Music Awards, which prompted whispers of a reunion similar to that of their peers Xscape (now Xscap3) and SWV. Although the last time 702 released new music was in the early 2000s, the group decided to reunite and go on tour in the upcoming year, giving fans the chance to relive their greatest hits or experience them new for the first time.