By Frank Donovan
It’s hard to believe in retrospect that huge creative forces like P!nk, Missy Elliott, and Usher could have contained themselves as part of group acts. It must have been obvious to their bandmates that these artists would one day break from the pack and rocket into solo stardom. Makes you want to go and collect some autographs at the local talent show just to be safe, huh? Check out these 10 major solo stars who started in small-time groups.
Fergie was in Wild Orchid
We definitely associate Fergie with The Black Eyed Peas and her subsequent solo success, but Stacy Ann Ferguson started on the children’s show Kids Incorporated before joining the group Wild Orchid. They had moderate success in the ’90s, opening for Cher and touring with ’Nsync. In 2001, Fergie met will.i.am when Wild Orchid and The Black Eyed Peas were both performing at a local radio station concert, and the rest is history.
Missy Elliott was in Sista
It’s hard to imagine Missy as anything but a solo force of pure creative genius, but she had her beginnings as part of the female rap group Sista, which was signed to Swing Mob Records. They put out just one album before the label folded in 1995. But Missy marched on and made a name for herself when she co-produced Aaliyah’s debut album One in a Million with Timbaland.
Timbaland and Pharrell were in SBI
Back when they were teenagers, Timbaland and Pharrell started out as DJ Timmy Tim and Magnum in a collective called SBI, or Surrounded by Idiots. There are some unreleased tracks floating around the internet, including this one, where you can already hear their penchant for sampling.
P!nk was in Choice
Before she was P!nk, Alecia Moore sang in the R&B group Choice from 1995 to 1998. When they broke up, all wasn’t lost. She stuck with the same label, changed her name, and made a splash as a solo singer in 2000.
Beyonce was in Girls Tyme
It takes years of practice to become Beyonce. Even before Destiny’s Child, she and Kelly Rowland were in another lineup-changing group called Girls Tyme (you know them from the Star Search sample in Beyonce’s “***Flawless”). After that loss, Beyonce’s father became their manager and they eventually opened for SWV and Dru Hill before changing their name to Destiny’s Child.
Britney Spears was in Innosense
Bet you didn’t know that before she went solo, Britney Spears was in a band managed by ’Nsync manager Lou Pearlman, and Justin Timberlake’s mom Lynn Harless! The group broke up in 2003 when Britney was already lightyears away. There seems to be barely any record of Brit with Innosense, except this hilariously staged slumber party with her former bandmates.
Usher was in NuBeginning
Before Usher dominated music the 2000s, he was a little boy in Chattanooga, Tennessee in a group called NuBeginning. They had some regional success and released an album in 1993, but Usher was destined for bigger things.
Ne-Yo was in Envy
When he was in the boy band Envy, Ne-Yo was just one of the many artists who had a rough go of it at the Apollo before proving everyone very wrong years later.
Kehlani was in PopLyfe
Not as much of a throwback as the others on this list, Kehlani started out singing in the Oakland-based cover band PopLyfe which went on to win fourth place on America’s Got Talent in 2011. In the years since, Kehlani broke out on her own and as we know, is taking the music world by storm.
Rick James was in The Mynah Birds
Ever wonder what Rick James was doing in the ’60s? Before he was the “king of punk funk” Rick James ditched the draft, went to Canada, and joined a band with a changing lineup that included Neil Young.
Watch Fantasia, Monica and Tweet pay tribute to Missy Elliott with a medley of ’Free Yourself,’ ’So Gone,’ ’Oops, Oh My’ and ’Lady Marmalade.’