Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday : Bell Biv DeVoe, Three Stripes

Six years after breaking television records with their miniseries biopic, it’s still perplexing that legendary R&B super group New Edition didn’t strike while the iron was hot and release a new album. Seeing a prime opportunity, NE group members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ron DeVoe decided to drop a new project for their spin-off group Bell Biv DeVoe, Three Stripes, in the winter of 2017.

When it comes to solo output from the New Edition family tree, no one is more active than Bell Biv DeVoe and Johnny Gill. While the Thriller effect played a part in BBD’s follow-up releases not seeing the sales of their debut album, the group’s stage presence and die-hard fan base allowed them to go anywhere in the world and perform.

It had been sixteen years since the trio released an album, so naturally, one couldn’t help but wonder about the style they would put out on their fourth album. “Run” was the album’s first single, and BBD started promoting the song a year before releasing the album. Erick Sermon produces the track, which samples the late great Frank White’s Hypnotize, which sampled Herb Albert’s “Rize.”  

All members get a chance to sign on to the song, and it has a modern R&B without going too far left. Kay Gee of Naughty By Nature provided his production skills to the albums second single, “I’m Betta.” Once again, all three members get a chance to display their talents on the track, with Ricky Bell singing while Ron & Mike trade raps.

The essence of “I’m Betta” is the assurance and self-confidence that arises from healthy and nurturing relationships. The lyrics exude a feeling of empowerment, with the singer declaring their superiority over others due to the love and encouragement of their partner. Like most releases from novelty acts, BBD would only release two singles from the album. However, there were other strong album tracks on the project.

Ricky Bell shines on the slow jams “All Dat There” and “Incredible,” while Doug E. Fresh provides some beatboxing on the album’s opener, “Ready.” Other guest appearances include SWV on the sweet duet “Finally” that harks back to sixties Motown and Boyz II Men adding their buttery vocals to the funky “One More Try.”

If memory serves, during the initial promo for the album, Ricky Bell mentioned that song for song, he felt Three Stripes was neck and neck with the group’s debut Poison. While I wouldn’t go that far, Three Stripes does validate that in the 21st century, BBD still has what it takes to appeal to both new and old fans.

Final Grade: B

Three Stripes is available on all streaming platforms.

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