CAN WE TALK…ABOUT TEVIN?

As an unanticipated result of Aretha Franklin’s passing, Tevin Campbell has become a hot topic. We take a moment to give Tevin him his props.


Young Tevin grew up in Texas singing in church (of course). Through a series of auditions and meetings, he met Benny Medina, head of Black Music at Warner. Q then introduced Tevin to the world through the lead single for Back on the Block in 1990.

Starting with the maestro and a #1 song at 14 years old is crazy enough, but Tevin’s very next producer was the Purple One himself. Tevin’s first official solo single was from Prince’s Graffiti Bridge.

I need ya’ll to really pay attention to how Tevin commands the stage at this young age.

“Round and Round” did double duty as part of the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack and the lead single for Tevin’s debut album, T.E.V.I.N., the rest of which was largely produced by Al B Sure and Kyle West (lightskin production power). Tevin’s second single was also did double duty, appearing on the Boyz n the Hood soundtrack. Shoutout to Chubb Rock.

Tevin was…16 recording this album? He had such a great voice and vocal control at such a young age. I have a theory that he and Shanice’s voices were just too big… there was nothing for them to grow into.

Tevin’s very first album, and he’s already worked with some of the top producers in the game. And had BOPS…

Sixteen years old with grown ass backing vocalists and a full ass grown ass band on Leno. Also, “Alone With You” was my sh*t.

And even though Tevin wasn’t specifically making teeny bopper music, obviously he was a hit with the young’uns.

Tevin had multiple #1’s and Top 5’s, and was nominated for 3 Grammys with the first album. For his sophomore effort, he went for a more mature sound, but stayed with production heavyweights, this time working with Babyface.

Let’s recap so far: Tevin’s on his second album, he’s maybe 18, and he’s worked with/is signed to Quincy Jones, and has also worked with Prince, Al B Sure & Kyle West (the dynamic New Jack Swing duo), and Babyface. I actually don’t know if there’s another artist with that resume.

I saw some confusion that Tevin covered “Shhh”. No. Prince wrote it for Tevin, then put it on The Gold Album later. This was way too grown for Tevin or me (we’re the same age). I mean I was a senior in high school and thought I was grown, but still. “I’d rather wait ’til everyone’s fast asleep then do it in the kitchen on the table top…”?? Prince slow jams gonna Prince.

I’m skipping around a little, but I’m going to come back to the stuff I missed. Even though he wasn’t yet 20, Tevin was considered a key male vocalist. He was several years ahead of Usher, and he didn’t quite have a peer. He was put in the same category older artists.

This is older Tevin, but it’s still Tevin singing with Peabo damn Bryson. It don’t get no more urban adult contemporary than that.

Even Tevin’s younger bops were…. older bops. “Strawberry Letter 23” was an old two step classic. I mean, they hippity hopped it up a bit, but…

So before we move off the I’m Ready album, I’ll note that even though he had 2 other releases — in the 90s — this is considered by most the definitive Tevin album, and some don’t even acknowledge any music past this album. Also, all these songs are all sing-a-longable AF.

In 96, Tevin released Back to the World. By now Usher, Brandy and Monica are on the scene, and he’s at a challenging point, age and image wise. He was going for a hipper, edgier sound, and Puff and the Hitmen produce alot of the album (not this song, though), but it’s quiet.

In 99, Tevin moved into neo soul with a self-titled album. But again, it was quiet.

A few months after the album came out, Tevin was arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer, and basically disappeared from public until the mid-00s

In my opinion, Tevin’s last two albums didn’t work because he (or the label) was trying to fit a format, which was not how he became successful in the first place. How to you go from songs like this, to joints about hitting the skins?

Starting in 05, Tevin joined the Broadway cast of Hairspray, and then was part of the touring cast until 2011. I’ve seen ppl say that Tevin’s music career ended bc he was outed, but Tevin was struggling in a market of hip hop-driven R&B and neo soul. The arrest was the nail.

But as we all learned last week, Tevin is still beloved. He was part of Babyface’s tribute at the 2015 Soul Train Awards, and when we walked out on stage the entire place went crazy. I couldn’t find the performance, but it was kinda like this.

Again, I wonder if so much talent and such a big voice and such masterful production at such a young age made transitioning as he grew too hard. I mean… first of all, the pressure!

We’ll close out our Tevin appreciation with Powerline… and I def almost left this out because I was a whole a** college student and A Goofy Movie is just not in my cultural reference bank like that.

Side note, a bunch of ya’ll said Jermaine Stewart was Powerline IRL back when we talked about him, and I’m still mad at ya’ll for that.



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