702 – 702 (review)

702album

There’s something enduring about 702. The group debuted in ’94 on the male quartet Subway’s Top 5 R&B hit “This Little Game We Play.” But while Subway was never heard from again, 702 returned two years later with the hit “Steelo,” which sampled “Voices Inside My Head” by the Police and featured an early rap cameo by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, who writes and produces the group’s new rowdy girl-fight anthem, “Where My Girls At.” And while “Where My Girls At” is one of the summer’s biggest hits, the group’s sophomore album, “702” (Motown), shows that the trio has the talent to last many seasons.

Much of the album consists of surprisingly mature yet energetic mid-tempo grooves. And overall, it has an introspective spiritual quality reflected even in the moody cover art. In “Finally,” 702 sings about accepting that “anything is possible” and that “there are things beyond their control.” The bouncy “What More Can He Do” deals with the women’s relationship with God. And in “You Just Never Know,” they convey the oft-told advice about putting things off until tomorrow because, well, you just never know.

All of these songs find the group traveling well-trodden, indeed cliched, trails, but their sweet, earnest crooning makes the numbers sound not hackneyed but heartfelt and sometimes slightly haunting. The group’s 21-year-old gospel-trained leader, Kameelah Williams, commands each track like a seasoned pro, demanding the listener’s attention from her first note. And the chemistry she generates with sisters Irish and Lemisha Grinstead makes 702 an R&B girl group to watch.

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