PORTSMOUTH, VA. (WAVY) – Sisters with Voices lead singer Coko Gamble knows her way around Hampton Roads. She even calls 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox a legend.
“Coko’s here,” said Fox, which was followed by “Andy’s here,” said Gamble with laughter in a recent visit to the WAVY-TV studios.
Regina Mobley: You call Hampton Roads your hometown?
Coko Gamble: I’ve been here long enough; here 19 years,” said Gamble at WAVY as employees posed for pictures with R&B royalty.
The three girls from New York, Cheryl (Coko) Gamble, Tamara (Taj) Johnson, and Leanne (Le Lee) Lyons who formed Sisters With Voices, or SWV, exploded onto the music scene in the 1990s with iconic songs such as “I’m So Into You,” “Weak,” and “Right Here-Human Nature.”
Teddy Riley, the co-founder of the group Blackstreet, convinced Gamble that something really was in the water in the 757. Riley created dozens of hits with the biggest names in the business. Nearly 20 years ago, Gamble moved to Chesapeake.
SWV recorded tracks in Riley’s studio on Virginia Beach Boulevard, just yards away from Princess Anne High School.
“We would come to Future [recording studio] as much as we could, even if it was just to hang out,” Gamble said. “It was a great experience just to be part of that music. Teddy Riley [ had] the New Jack Swing [sound] and we [SWV] were the New Jill swing. So it was really good.”
So good that Riley convinced Michael Jackson to allow SWV to sample the song Human Nature for a dance tune called Right Here. A graduate of Princess Anne had a bit part in the song – just four syllables. That graduate’s name is Pharrell Williams, who loved to play the drums. Classmates say used to sit on the classroom HVAC system to bang out beats.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that Pharrell’s [contribution to] SWV Human Nature Mix is the S-W- to- V, that’s Pharrell; that’s Pharrell,” said Gamble with pride.
Coko performed at the Inaugural Something in the Water Festival, where Pharrell surprised her live on stage with the famous four syllables. She returns to the stage this weekend with SWV members Taj Johnson and LeLee Lyons.
“You are going to hear everything,” Gamble said. “You are going to hear weak of course, “Right Here-Human Nature,” and “I’m So Into You.” We will probably throw in a little bit of Patti LaBelle and Switch because we do some covers. We are going to have a good time.”