Conceived by New Edition members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe in 1986 after the departure of Bobby Brown from that popular R&B group, but not realized for another four years, Bell Biv DeVoe opened the ’90s by popularizing the “New Jack Swing” sound on their triple-platinum selling debut album, Poison. Teaming up with New Edition producers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, as well as Hank and Keith Shocklee of the Bomb Squad (Public Enemy), BBD’s hard-edged take on R&B, funk and hip-hop helped to shape early ’90s pop. Anchored by the ubiquitous title track, Poison eventually reached #5 on the Billboard 200 Chart, and follow-up singles “Do Me!”, “B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)?”, “When Will I See You Smile Again?” and “She’s Dope!” are similarly touchstones of the era. Bivins, especially, used his clout, discovering and producing early 90s albums for Another Bad Creation and Boyz II Men.
BBD’s 1993 release, Hootie Mack, didn’t fare as well with audiences, especially as the hip-hop world axis began to tilt away from New Jack and towards West Coast gangsta rap following the 1992 release of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. The group’s 2001 effort, B.B.D. likewise failed to connect, but the intervening years have seen Bell, Bivins and DeVoe perform with the occasional New Edition reunion, and Poison forever remains one of New Jack Swing’s highwater marks.
(by Stephen Haag)