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Xscape: Perfect Package

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Talk to any connoisseur of fine wine, and they will tell you that ‘to perfect is to age’. If that’s the case, there are four ladies in particular who would probably tell you they have a lot in common with a bottle of 1959 Chateau Margaux – although you would know them better as the Atlanta group Xscape.

The soulful foursome who dominated the airwaves in the early ‘90s are ready for another shot in the spotlight. You cannot make a bona fide comeback without having made a huge impression in the first place – and Xscape had a successful run their first time around.

Shortly after signing to Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label, the R&B quartet recorded their first album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha. Thanks to hits like “Just Kickin’ It”, the LP went multi-platinum in 1993. It didn’t take much time for them to record follow-up album, Off The Hook, which also earned multi-platinum status. The ladies of Xscape went their separate ways shortly after recording Traces of My Lipstick in 1998.

Over the years, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle teamed up with member Kandi Burruss, writing hits for groups like TLC and Destiny’s Child. Tamika Scott got the acting bug and began working on television and film projects. LaTocha Scott embarked on a solo career. They each took on new phases of their personal lives, most notable to the public being Tiny’s longtime relationship with Atlanta emcee T.I.

Now that the group is back together – with a new member, a reality show, and a new album, entitled Unchained in the mix – they have got a lot to tell AllHipHop.com Alternatives!

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: What recent events led up to the reunion of Xscape?

LaTocha: Well, actually the fans…they did it. Everywhere we went, it was like, “When are you guys going to come back?” We just thought about the state of R&B and where it was going and knew there was a void. Tiny called me one day and she was like, “Yo, we got to do this because everywhere I go…I can’t go into a store…nowhere without people saying Xscape needs to come back!” With that in mind, we would listen to the radio and we were like, “Let’s do it!” We always knew that we would come back and do this because it was always in our hearts. Now was the perfect time.

AHHA: So you’re saying there’s a void? Are you not feeling what’s out there as far as the genre is concerned?

LaTocha: Realistically, there’s no soulfulness in R&B. I just feel like it lost its flavor. There were other [soulful artists] out, then all of a sudden everybody just disappeared. So now is the time for us to come back because I feel like people are looking for that. You know, you have John Legend out there. You got Alicia Keys who’s holdin’ it down. And you have Usher. But at the same time, there’s not a group bringing it soulfully like Xscape. That’s why I said that void hasn’t been filled. I just feel like this is a better time for us because R&B is coming back.

AHHA: Since the group split, you all embarked upon solo careers. Individually, was going solo more challenging than you expected?

Tamika: I don’t think it was challenging for me because I’ve always wanted to act. I’m an actress just for life. Ever since I was born, I was born to act in anything. When it comes to entertainment, it’s always easy for us because that’s our destiny. I guess the only thing that bothered me was not being with my girls. Standing on your own and not having that support…you’re out there by yourself…out there on an island by yourself. Usually in a group, you have someone that says, “Come on, you can do it!” If you get tired, they’ll be like, “I have it, I’ll take control and you can relax.” When you’re by yourself, you have to be strong on your own.

Tiny: Most of the time when I was gone off the scene, me and Kandi were doing things together. We were writing together. You know, we wrote “No Scrubs” for TLC and then we started working on the project we were working on together called KAT [which stands] for Kandi and Tiny. So we were writing, I was being a mother and just relaxing. It was challenging because the rest of the girls weren’t there. Just everything was new, because before it was four and now there were only two of us. And the whole two girl thing is like a big myth. You know, like two girls can’t make it. It was very challenging actually to try to get something going.

AHHA: Tiny, congrats on the birth of your baby boy. With you and T.I. so busy with your music careers, how do you juggle the role of being a mother with your professional role?

Tiny: As with everybody in the group, our parents are very, very supportive. They help us with our kids a lot. My mom and my dad, they have my kids and take great care of them when I’m gone. As far as me and T.I.’s schedules, right now mine is just starting to pick up. It’s a little different and it’s a little challenging for us, because when he comes home, we’re used to being together. So now that I’m gone and he’s gone, it’s like the timing of the schedules has to get right. We don’t want to neglect the relationship, but at the same time we’re both working and trying to do what we do.

AHHA: Speaking of T.I., I hear you’ve been really instrumental in his success. How much involvement have you had in his career growth?

Tiny: I guess you can say it’s a lot of inspiration. I give him inspiration to write songs. Basically he was a man before me and his talent was just there. I think I was just inspiration for a lot of his songs. Well, I know I was! [laughs].

AHHA: How did you hook up with your new member, Kiesha Miles?

Tamika: We grew up together. We all grew up in the same church and she was just the one. She’s been doing a lot of writing and she sings very well. She’s not egotistical and we all have the same goals. She was just ready, so it all went well. My parents literally used to whup her! She got a whuppin’ by my daddy! [laughs]. So we’re like family. But she’s not in the group because she’s like family. She’s all herself. She’s beautiful…she’s talented…soft spoken. She fit right on in with us.

Kiesha: Tocha called me and asked what I was doing. I told her I was focusing on writing and she said she wanted to hook up and we hooked up and talked about me joining the group. I prayed on it and the next day I just knew. I knew that was what I was supposed to do. This is what I’ve wanted since I was a little girl, so it’s amazing. They just welcomed me right in. It’s beautiful.

AHHA: Do you all stay in touch with Kandi? I understand she’s been busy with her production company. Is that why she’s decided not to rejoin the group?

Tiny: I talk to Kandi all the time. We’re still good friends. She has been real busy with the group she’s working with and everything. We just had some creative differences that we couldn’t work out as far as what she wanted and how we wanted things to go. It was just the wrong timing. Her focus was on other things then just this. Being that we’re coming back in a new time again, we need everybody’s full attention and focus. It’s just bad timing, I guess. But as far as the friendship, we’re still cool and we talk all the time.

AHHA: I can imagine how exciting it must’ve been to perform together again. Tell me about what was going through your minds at The View in Atlanta in January, where you performed for the first time since the reunion.

Tamika: It felt real good to be on stage with them again. You know, I used to have dreams that we’d be together again. I’d call them and tell them I had a dream and we were performing and Jermaine [Dupri] was in the audience. I’d tell them everybody was in the audience. I had dreams of us getting awards and I’d always call them and tell them. They were like, you so crazy! I never lost hope of us getting back together. It’s just something we love to do. We would do this even if we weren’t getting paid.

Kiesha: It was kinda crazy because my family was all there and it was the first time I’d been on stage in about five years.

AHHA: I hear you all are gathering footage for a reality show. Can you tell us about the project?

LaTocha: Actually, our manager came up with the idea. We were all sitting down and he was like you guys are silly…you crazy. If I can tape this everyday, this would be hilarious. And then my sister, [Tamika] was like, “We should do that!” So he made some phone calls and people started calling back. I know UPN was very excited about it and other people too. We’re trying to see what direction we want to go with it, but at the same time people were like that’s a great idea. It shows the closeness…the things we go through as women. I think people will be inspired by it, especially people who are trying to get into the industry.

Tamika: It just shows us in our everyday lives…just getting back together as a group. It just shows us how we are individually. It allows our fans to be nosy. People love to see other people in raw form. Believe me, this is going to let people see Xscape in raw form! Without the makeup, without your hair looking good. Just that type of thing.

AHHA: Do you plan on doing more television work?

Tamika: Oh, most definitely! Me personally, I have about three sitcoms I’m working on and three different movies. You’ll hear a lot of things. I know I will be into television.

AHHA: A lot of your fans from the ’90s are a little older now and still crave the music from that period. Do you plan to build on that same fanbase, or try to attract a whole new audience?

LaTocha: We want to appeal to everybody. We have a couple records we wrote that teenagers will really love. We also have the ballads for the older people that respect it. At the same time we got the ups for the club. You know, for the guys that love the bass-driven tracks, of course with the vocals. I think it’s a well-rounded album. We’re not focused on appealing to this person or that person. We’re just trying to write songs that everybody can relate to. We write records about how we feel, what we’re going through and what people are going through. We’re giving them the reality of our lives, whether it’s love, children, or family. It’s a real well-rounded album.

AHHA: So now that Xscape is back and in effect, what else should fans know about you now?

LaTocha: Beyond the album, we have become business women. We also have a foundation that we’re bringing to life now called Project Xchange. It’s giving back to those who are less fortunate, whether it’s us sitting down with kids in high school and letting them know as far as singing what regimen we have to go through. The foundation consists of so many things. My cousin passed away from leukemia, and that [cause] is really close to our heart. So we’re going to make sure we donate money to those who are suffering from the disease.

There are so many things in the works for us. We want people to know we’re business women. We’re seasoned veterans now, and can’t nobody tell us nothing. We worked so hard. People don’t know we’ve been in the game for like ten years. To us, it’s all love. It’s work too, but we do it because we love it. We thank our fans for their loyalty. The response we’ve been getting…it couldn’t be better.

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