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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Xscape Seeks Escape From Entertainer Image To Become Singers

J.R. Reynolds Billboard

For its sophomore album, “Off the Hook,” Xscape slowed down the tempo - and the recording process - to create a collection notable for its more vocally challenging songs.

“Our first album didn’t have any real love songs and we prefer midtempo and ballad songs,” says Xscape’s Kandi Buruss. “So we got to put a lot more of ourselves into this one.”

Joining 19-year-old Buruss is Tameka Cottle, 20, and sisters LaTocha and Tamika Scott, 23 and 20, respectively.

The album hits stores July 18.

Buruss says the group wants to be recognized more as true singers than merely entertainers.

“On the last album, I felt like I could sing ‘Just Kickin’ It’ in my sleep. Songs like ‘Understanding,’ which was more vocally complex, had real feeling to it, and that’s what we wanted more of on our new album.”

Xscape’s “Just Kickin’ It” and “Understanding” held the No. 1 position on Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart for four weeks and two weeks, respectively. Both were from their 1993 debut album, “Hummin’ Comin’ At ‘Cha,” which sold 1 million copies, according to SoundScan.

Tony Anderson, senior vice president at Columbia Records, says the group’s continued development can be attributed to the efforts by the quartet and album producer Jermaine Dupri.

“The music on this album appeals to people across the board,” says Anderson. “The ladies are growing up and so are their original fans, so their evolved sound reflects a growing maturity.”

Buruss says Dupri was determined to make “Off the Hook” a hit album and prove Xscape’s debut success was not a fluke.

“It took us two months to record ‘Off the Hook,”’ she says.

“That’s not long by most standards, but when you compare it to our first album, which only took two weeks to do, it was a long time.”

Xscape’s favorites on the album include “Do You Want To” and the Jones Girls cover “Who Can I Run To,” which allowed for the complex harmonies the group craves. The album also includes the funky cut “Can’t Hang,” which features rapper MC Lyte.

Xscape has matured on several levels. The quartet co-wrote six of the album’s 10 songs and has adopted a more refined fashion image.

Buruss says, “We’re still like the average girls out there, but we’ve upgraded to a little classier look. We felt that a lot of older record buyers were put off by our new jack, bandanna-and-baggy-pants look.”

A concert tour is currently scheduled to begin around the release of the album.