You may know Kandi Burruss for her starring role in The Real Housewives of Atlanta, or maybe you’ve watched her as Roselyn Perry in the Showtime drama series The Chi. But the multihyphenate got her first taste of stardom as part of the ’90s R&B girl group Xscape. The quartet, formed in 1992, consisted of Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, LaTocha Scott, and Tamera Coggins-Wynn. The group released their first album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha in October 1993 when Burruss was just 17 years old and still in high school at the Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia.
Four years and two albums later, Xscape disbanded and the group members pursued their solo careers. In 2000 Burruss released her debut solo album, Hey Kandi, which featured the popular “Don’t Think I’m Not.” A decade later came Kandi Koated, though by that point Burruss was just as well-known for her acting career, reality-show stardom, sex-toy company (Bedroom Kandi), and several restaurant ventures. Still, since her earliest days in the music industry, she has been a renowned songwriter, penning some of the most notable R&B hits of the ’90s and early aughts, including Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and TLC’s “No Scrubs.”
Going down memory lane, Burruss told Glamour five stories about five songs she’s either sung, written, or cowritten that mean a lot to her.
Debuting in 1999 as the lead single for TLC’s third album, Fan Mail, the song “No Scrubs” remains one of the group’s most popular and successful hits and an anthem for women shunning partners who don’t have their life together. Alongside Burruss, producer Kevin She’kspere Briggs, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, and the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, a member of TLC, are credited as songwriters.
At that particular time, I used to put titles in my notepads that I felt would be great song titles or concepts. So I had “scrubs” written in my notepad as a title I would want to use one day. I remember I was riding down the highway with a friend of mine. She was dating the brother of the guy that I was dating, and we were both talking trash about the guys. I started freestyling over a track that She’kspere had given me. So it was really me joking with my friend, freestyling, and talking trash about this guy. I wrote the verse, the B section, and the hook right there. Because we were in the car, it was on an old envelope.
“Bills, Bills, Bills” was Destiny’s Child lead single on their second album, The Writing’s on the Wall. Cowritten by Burruss and She’kspere, alongside the group’s members, the song earned two Grammy nominations: Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals.
When I got with the girls at the studio, we were singing them the idea. I had the melody of how I felt like the verse should go, and we came together for the lyrics.
I use a lot of my past relationships as inspiration. The relationship I had been in prior to [writing the song], I took inspiration from it…though I didn’t tell them that. Now, this is the really funny part: One of the girls that was in the group was dating my ex at the time. So I didn’t tell them that some of the lyrics in there were inspired by him. The part that was a clear inspiration—using my phone and pretending like he didn’t use it, driving my car and not putting any gas in it—that was real stuff that had happened to me! But I won’t tell you who from the group was dating my ex.
The first single from Burruss’s first solo album, Hey Kandi, “Don’t Think I’m Not” was released almost 21 years ago and peaked at number 24 in the Billboard Top 100. Burruss wrote with She’kspere as well as producer Bernard Edwards Jr. a.k.a. Focus.
This was a scary time for me, because it was my first time doing something by myself outside of my group. I was working on this album, and I knew I wanted something with that uptempo beat that goes from slow into a fast beat. And the inspiration, once again, was one of my old relationships.