Tempted By F.A.T.E, Queen Latifah Signs Girl Group

Rapper presents new R&B singers at Saturday in-store performance in New York.

NEW YORK — Rapper Queen Latifah was holding court at the National Basketball Association store's center court Saturday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan.

She was there to support an in-store concert given by F.A.T.E, the all-girl R&B trio Queen Latifah recently signed to her Flavor Unit label.

"This is about the best in music and the best in basketball," Queen Latifah, dressed in a New York Knicks uniform, told the crowd of about 250 — a mix of sports fans, the rapper's fans, and friends and family members of the band — who all watched F.A.T.E's performance from the floor and the store's spiral staircase.

Joining the rapper at the Fifth Avenue store to talk up the band was Kym Hanson, center of the WNBA's New York Liberty.

Short for "For All They've Endured," F.A.T.E — Tiff (born Tiffany Chisolm), Shy (born Shaunesa Walker) and Precious (born Patricia McKelvin) — all dressed in basketball jerseys and jeans, performed four songs off their upcoming, self-titled album, due May 30.

Tight-Knit Sound, Friendship

Tight vocal harmonies, layered soulful melodies, plenty of hooks and stop-start rhythms characterized F.A.T.E's set, as the trio sashayed hips, raised eyebrows and pointed fingers during "Just Because" (RealAudio excerpt), the single off the recent "The Takeover" soundtrack (Flavor Unit/Ghettoworks).

As the bandmembers took turns singing the song's lyrics, "Just because I don't want to lay down with you tonight/ Don't mean that I don't want/ Just because I don't go home with you tonight/ Don't mean that I don't want to," their sound and moves recalled fellow R&B girl groups Destiny's Child and En Vogue.

Love and relationships also were the topics of slow love songs "There'll Never Be" and "I Don't Need Your Money," while rapper and fellow label mate Rowdy Rahz joined the trio to provide some lyrical raps — "You really think I'm fly/ I'm just one of a kind" — on the upbeat, hip-hop influenced "Why Am I Holding On." Rahz, who also appears on the "Takeover" album, will release his Nev-Ah album in June.

F.A.T.E, who attended high school together in New York, have been together for four years, despite their relatively young ages. Tiff, 19, and Shy, 20, both hail from Jersey City, N.J., while Precious, 20, grew up in Harlem, N.Y.

Speaking after the show, Tiff explained the trio's moniker. "We believe it takes a lot to reach your goals and overcome obstacles," she said. "But when you do reach you goals, it's God's will, it's fate."

One goal F.A.T.E will have to achieve is to distinguish themselves from the onslaught of R&B girl bands the industry has seen in recent years.

"Our musical content is more about the qualities of a relationship than the superficial things in a relationship," Precious said. "Also, we all sing lead, so you're never going to get a song that sounds the same as the other songs — you're not going to get the monotony of songs you get on other albums."

"And we base our harmonies on old-school music, old-school arrangements," Tiff added.

While touring plans for F.A.T.E still are being worked out, Queen Latifah, who was executive producer on the F.A.T.E. album, said signing the band was the easiest thing she'd done.

"We got the demo, and it was tight," she said. "And they'd been together for a long time, known each other, and we wanted a group that knew each other, that already worked well together."

Rapper Quiet About Plans

But Queen Latifah (born Dana Owens), whose Fox-TV talk show, "The Queen Latifah Show," recently was renewed for another season, kept mum about her own music plans. She would only say that her next record, which has no release date, would be released on Flavor Unit, the label she helped found in 1993.

"We've got all these wonderful artists on our label," said Queen Latifah, whose most recent album was 1998's Order in the Court. "I'll be calling them to be on the album, instead of getting someone else to do harmonies."

Also, she disclosed that she had recently been a contestant on an episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," which will air May 1 on ABC-TV. While the singer admitted she didn't rake in a million dollars, she said all proceeds from the money won would go to benefit the Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Fund, a charity set up in the memory of Queen Latifah's late brother.