Monday, October 29, 2012

Late-'90s R&B Wouldn't Have Been the Same Without Natina Reed of Blaque (R.I.P.)

The first thing I thought about last night when I read that Natina Reed, a member of the R&B trio Blaque, had been killed after being struck by a car on a highway outside of Atlanta was my mother. Not because Mom is a huge fan of turn-of-the-century R&B vocal groups. My mother has lived in Atlanta since 1987, and I always worry about her on the road. She's the safest driver I know, but when you get behind the wheel of a car, you're at the mercy of other people's recklessness.

According to the Gwinnett County Police, recklessness was not the cause of the accident that killed Reed -- at least not the driver's, and they are still trying to determine why Reed was on the road. The saddest part of the end of Reed's too-short story is that she leaves behind a 10-year-old son (his dad is the rapper Kurupt), and she passed away on October 26, just two days before what would have been her 33rd birthday.

We'll never know what the future may have held for Reed, who'd recently reunited with her Blaque groupmates to record another album. Though none of the recent comebacks by '90s hitmakers have resulted in major hits, perhaps Blaque finally would have delivered on the great promise of "808," the trio's debut single, which hit No. 8, fittingly, in 1999. The song was written and produced by R. Kelly, and the video featured a cameo by TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who, eerily, was killed in a car accident in Honduras 10 years ago.

More than 13 years after "808" was released, I still regularly listen to it on repeat, usually when I'm working out. It might be the sexiest hit to emerge from the pop era that brought us Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, whose JC Chasez appeared on Blaque's second Top 10 single, "Bring It All to Me," the group's Hot 100 swan song, which was followed by an appearance in the 2000 film Bring It On.

The '90s may be long over, but thanks, in part, to the creative contribution of Reed, they'll live on in my iPod, in much the same way that her memory will live on with her son and the people who loved her.

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