How’d I miss this? The eighth season of TVOne’s documentary series “UnSung” starts TODAY. The news somehow slipped past me.
As regular readers of this site (or friends of mine) know, I am a huge fan of this show, which is sort of a “Behind The Music” documentary that profiles successful rap and R&B artists who never got their real due from the mainstream audience. Over the previous 7 seasons, I don’t think I’ve missed more than three episodes (including the Eric B. & Rakim episode, which I must correct.)
Here are the artists being profiled this season.
HEAVY D & THE BOYZ: The rotund rapper (and his DJ/dancer crew) emerged on the scene in 1986 and immediately resonated with the R&B audience. He was the first signing to Uptown Records, the label that eventually spawned Al B. Sure!, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci and Guy, among others. He was able to bounce easily between hip-hop, new jack swing & reggae-a tribute to his Jamaican heritage. He was also a deft dancer and something of a sex symbol, despite his large size. Former Uptown intern Sean “Puffy” Combs was definitely thinking Heavy D when he decided to turn The Notorious B.I.G. into a lady-killer. In addition to singing and dancing, Hev crossed over into acting, landing a co-starring role on the short lived “Tracy Morgan Show.” He also produced tracks for artists including Jay Z and Nas, discovered singing quartet Soul For Real and even served as the head of Uptown Records for a time. Each of Hev’s first six albums went Gold or Platinum. Hev is the only rapper to appear on a track with both Michael (“Jam”) and Janet (“Alright”) Jackson. Sadly, he passed away in 2011 from a pulmonary embolism.
LISA LISA & CULT JAM: Discovered by Jheri Curl-laden hip-hop/R&B crew Full Force, Lisa Velez and her sidemen Spanador and Mike Hughes scored a string of huge hits in the mid Eighties. “All Cried Out,” “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” and the #1 pop records “Head To Toe” and “Lost In Emotion” were some of the trio’s biggest smashes. Lisa was one of the few artists to receive equal love from fans of Latin freestyle, hip-hop and R&B. Of course, let’s not forget that Lisa was one of the biggest sex symbols of that time period. She’s gone on to an intermittently successful solo singing and acting career, most notably appearing as the title character’s mother on the Nickelodeon series Taina.
GETO BOYS: The Geto Boys were the first rap group from Texas to obtain major success. The linchpins of the group were Scarface and Bushwick Bill. Their music was a particularly eerie strain of gangsta rap, given extra gravity due to Scarface’s bouts with severe depression and Bill’s drug and alcohol problems. They achieved their biggest success with 1991’s “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” one of the most legitimately frightening (and super unlikely) pop hits in history. Oh, and Bill is a one-eyed dwarf. Other members cycled in and out over the years-Geto Boys might have had more personnel changes than any other major hip-hop group in history. Almost all of the Geto Boys have had concurrent solo careers, with Scarface emerging as an influential solo artist who was briefly the president of Def Jam South.
THE DELFONICS: Philadelphia soul group with a lengthy string of hit singles that included “Ready Or Not (Here I Come)” “La La Means I Love You” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time?)” Thom Bell was their primary songwriter, and, somewhat strangely, by the time Philadelphia soul blew up in the mid-1970s, the group was already on the wane in terms of commercial success. Nevertheless, The Delfonics have reunited periodically ever since and recently released a brand new album with the help of producer Adrian Younge.
CE CE PENISTON: Coming at the tail-end of the “dance diva” craze of the early Nineties, the unfortunately-named Peniston scored a mega smash with “Finally,” which neared the top of the pop and R&B charts while hitting #1 on the dance charts. She alternated between dance-floor anthems and R&B jams over the next several albums, courting the new jill swing market with the hit “Keep On Walkin'” in the summer of 1992. Five of her songs hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Dance chart. Also, a former beauty queen. Was briefly in a relationship with Joel “JoJo” Hailey of Jodeci & K-Ci & JoJo.
THE EMOTIONS: The Hutchinson sisters are best known for their #1 pop and R&B hit “Best Of My Love,” but The Emotions were scoring hits on the R&B chart a full decade before that breakthrough. The Chicago-based trio scored a series of soul hits through the late Sixties into the early Eighties, but achieved their greatest success with a series of albums produced by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White. While The Emotions haven’t recorded since the mid Eighties, their legacy lives on via remakes and sampling. Their early ’70s hit “Blind Alley” has become a sampling staple, forming the musical bed for hits by Big Daddy Kane (“Ain’t No Half Steppin’), LL Cool J (“Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Being Crushed By Buildings)” and most notably, Mariah Carey, whose “Dreamlover” soared to the top of the charts in 1993.
Heavy D’s installment kicks this season off tonight at 10 PM Eastern. Make sure you’re watching! I will!!
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