Adopting the charming, if clunky backronym ‘Believing in Life and Achieving a Quest for Unity in Everything’, American R&B group Blaque emerged out of Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1990s, with their founder, Natina Reed, having formed the group during her high school years. Taking the shape of a trio, with Shamari Fears and Brandi Williams completing the group’s most recognisable lineup, they soon piqued the interest of TLC member Left Eye, who took them under her wing as songwriters. In 1996, the three-piece secured a record deal with Columbia Records, and by 1999, they had completed a self-titled debut album. Preceded by a hit single, the R. Kelly-produced “808”, which reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, the LP landed in June, peaking at #53 in the US and gradually working its way up to platinum certification. Packed with recognisable samples of LL Cool J, Sting and Boyz II Men, the album represented a simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking spin on poppy R&B. Its second single, “Bring It All to Me”, arrived in July 1999. Aided by a guest appearance from JC Chasez of superstar boy band *NSYNC, the song marked a career high for the trio, reaching #5 in the US and #7 in Canada. Blaque’s follow-up album, Blaque Out, was ready to go by 2001, but the group was suddenly dropped by Columbia prior to its release. The LP soon made its way onto the internet nonetheless, and eventually emerged through official channels in 2007, with several tracks sounding discernibly different from their leaked versions. The group had in the meantime begun work on a third album, Torch, which would too be held hostage due to industry politics before materialising years later. Tragically, Reed was accidentally struck and killed by a driver on October 26th, 2012 at 31 years old, and the trio’s two surviving members parted ways shortly thereafter. However, Williams and DeVoe subsequently reunited in 2019 to self-release the long-awaited Torch, with Reed appearing posthumously on the LP.

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