SWV – Ladies of Soul

Where Soul Begins

From the streets of New York, SWV was born. Lelee, then a Toys 'R' Us employee in Midtown Manhattan, reached out to her homegirl Coko to see if she’d be interested in forming a girl group. After Lelee eventually convinced Coko, they searched high and low for a third songstress to join the team. Eventually they stumbled upon Taj, whose vocal chemistry with Coko and Lelee was truly undeniable.

Sisters With Voices, also known as SWV, hailing from New York and comprised of Cheryl “Coko” Clemons, Leanne “Lelee” Lyons and Tamara “Taj” George, took the music scene by storm. They began their journey by sending out their demo coupled with bottles of Perrier – because they couldn’t afford champagne — to record execs. They got their big break when they were able to sing in front of execs at RCA, where they were soon signed to an eight-album record deal. Many major labels were looking to sign girl groups at the time, so the ladies had to be smart about their act. They still didn’t have a name for themselves, so they quickly came up with TLC, which represented each of their names: Tamara, Leanne and Cheryl. They were quickly hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Epic due to an up-and-coming girl group who the people now know as TLC (T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili).Having to change their name, their manager finally came up with the name SWV (Sisters With Voices), which eventually stuck.

In 1992, It's About Time, the group’s debut studio album was certified multiplatinum, a true hit by industry standards. The first single, "Right Here," snagged the No. 13 spot on the R&B charts and their second single, "I'm So into You," peaked at No. 2 on R&B and reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, "Weak," took No. 1 on both the R&B and Hot 100 charts. 

"Right Here/Human Nature," the fourth single, also ranked No. 1 on R&B and No. 2 on the Hot 100 and it stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts for seven weeks, taking the title for one of the longest-running singles of 1993.

The album peaked at No. 8 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and skyrocketed the group to superstardom. Due to the album’s major success, the group received a gig to be part of the soundtrack for the 1994 film Above the Rim. Their single "Anything" earned its spot as a top 10 R&B hit and reached No. 18 on the Hot 100 in ‘94. SWV ended the year with a release titled The Remixes, which reached gold.

In 1995, the trio collaborated with Blackstreet on their Top 40 R&B hit "Tonight's the Night." Their first single form their second album, New Beginning, "You're the One," put the group at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned SWV a top spot on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. The album was a certified platinum hit and assisted in earning SWV a spot on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack with the track "All Night Long."

SWV’s third album release, Release Some Tension, which went gold, featured guest appearances by Foxy Brown, E-40, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim, Puff Daddy and A Tribe Called Quest. A Special Christmas, SWV’s holiday album, featured not only original material but also cover versions of holiday songs. It would be the last album the trio recorded together before their split in ’98 and beginning their own solo careers.

Sisters With Voices

In 2005, SWV came back together to record a new album, which unfortunately never came together. But the group still remained bonded as they took to the stage in 2007 to perform alongside R&B legends After 7, Bobby Brown, New Edition and Blackstreet. In the summer of 2008, SWV made a unforgettable special appearance alongside TLC and En Vogue during Alicia Keys’ set at the 2008 BET Awards.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

In 2011, SWV signed a record deal with Mass Appeal Entertainment and E1 Entertainment. On June 10, 2011, SWV was featured on the official remix of Chris Brown's remake of their "Right Here/Human Nature" song, "She Aint You." From there, SWV saw more recognition, with VH1 ranking the group No. 88 on their "100 Greatest: Women in Music" list and ranking "I'm So into You" No. 18 on VH1's "40 Greatest R&B Songs of the '90s" and Billboard naming SWV the No. 7 R&B Act and the No. 2 Top Selling/Airplay R&B Female Group of the 1990s. In 2012, SWV became introduced to a whole new generation of fans with the album I Miss Us, which earned a Grammy nomination in 2013 for Best Traditional R&B Performance. In late 2012, SWV performed on Black Girls Rock! and, in 2013, the group announced their new reality series that would hit WEtv.

Thanks to the hit reality show SWV Reunited, the group was able to have a very successful reunion, pulling in millions of viewers for their show.

Love, Peace and Soul Will Be Right Here

In 2015, Coko announced that SWV's long-delayed fifth studio album would be entitled Still and set for release in 2016. In 2015, SWV continued making their rounds on TV talk shows to promote their long-awaited album and new single entitled "MCE (Man Crush Everyday)."

In 2017, they collaborated with Bell Biv DeVoe on the song "Finally," which was released as the second single off BBD's album Three Stripes. Today, the group is being honored with the Lady of Soul Award for their continued work in R&B.