Almost two years ago when the pandemic had most of us confined to the house, Xscape and SWV lifted our spirits with their epic Mother’s Day Verzuz. Now the two beloved ‘90s girl groups behind such massive hits as “Weak” and “Understanding” have their own joint Bravo reality show. Appropriately titled SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B, the show follows the divas—Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, LeAnne “LeLee” Lyons for SWV and Kandi Burruss-Tucker, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, and sisters Tamika Scott and LaTocha “Tocha” Scott-Bivens for Xscape—as they attempt to take the stage together. 

It's not a development Coko and the rest of SWV saw coming after their Verzuz battle. “We thought it was a one-and-done. We had no idea that it will continue like this,” she shared. But when the idea came to them, there was no hesitation on their part, especially since they had survived doing reality before, most notably Ladies Night with Salt-N-Pepa for BET back in 2019. “We all wanted to do it. We just wanted to do a nice little collaboration with another strong girl group. We thought it would be fun,” said Taj.

As those tuned in know, this journey to stage has been anything but fun for Xscape. Instead, it’s living up to Tocha’s worst fears. “I just felt like we had already done this show before and I don't think it did anything as far as our relationship … so that was my reason,” explained Tocha, referencing their 2017 Bravo show Xscape: Still Kickin’ It and subsequent fall-outs. 

“It's like, ‘what are we doing? Are we gonna start bringing out stuff in the closet that we talked about years ago that we still haven’t resolved?’ So, it was always an issue for me,” added the singer whose solo album The Invitation from Motown Gospel is set for an April release. The reality show, which was taped over the summer, even explores some of the backstory of how it all came together.

“I know, for myself, I really didn't want to do it. And they were telling me everybody had already signed on. And, at the time, I kinda felt like, ‘Oh, God, I don't want to feel like I'm the one holding everything up,’” Kandi confessed. 

“But then I found out later that the other girls were not feeling it either. So, as always, communication is not necessarily our strongest suit in this group,” Kandi continued. “So we probably should have talked, but yeah, we all reluctantly fell into it.”

“Just seeing all the issues,” was eye-opening, shared Taj, because “when you look at them, they’re so polished, you would think they have everything together. It was a little sad to see all the things that they have to overcome.” 

Given the number of people who don’t even talk to their high school classmates, let alone work with them decades later, are Xscape’s issues not understandable? “We had a lot of things that we went through and some things that we've never really quite resolved,” Kandi admitted. “I feel like watching this show show[s] some of the behind the scenes of why it's not always so easy to just get over something.”

“It's so crazy to not even have compassion,” shared Tocha in response to the persistent social media chatter for them to just get over it. “Everybody goes through things.”

One of those huge things revealed in the second episode of the show is the tense relationship between Tocha and her sister Tamika who claims Tocha and her husband Rocky Bivins stole her royalties. Tocha touched on it this week on Baltimore’s 92 Q Jams. Kandi also shared what she knew on her YouTube show, Speak On ItSpeaking with EBONY, Tamika did not speak extensively on any subject. She does, however, address the reality show bombshell on her The Real Tamika Scott YouTube channel. 

Time, Coko feels, played a critical part in getting SWV to a peaceful point. “I think as you get older, you should mature,” shared Coko. “I was a grudge holder so just letting go is healthier. These are my girls. I’m here because of them. We started this journey out together, let’s end it together. But to get that place, you just really have to learn how to communicate, be honest with yourself and with each other. Show respect and let’s keep this train moving.”

“Right now being the age we are, you respect the job and the journey a lot more,” LeLee added. “We started so young, we had a lot of fun, and were able to travel and do things that we probably never thought we would be able to do. But at this age now, it’s work that we love to do, and we love to do together.”

Tiny was hesitant about doing the show, but not because of Xscape’s internal issues. “I did not want to mess up our relationship with SWV,” she said. “There’s never been no reason to beef, but when you come in and start talking about doing something creative and who gone go first and who gone do this, it’s just going to bring turmoil and a lot of back and forth and so that is exactly what happened.” 

Like SWV, however, Xscape is also committed to longevity. “Understand that Xscape is a legacy,” shared Kandi. “If we continue to nurture it, it can go on until we’re old.” 

The six-part series SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B airs Sunday nights on Bravo. 

Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter.