702's Kameelah Williams

Kameelah Williams is a key member of young R&B vocal group 702. With two best-selling albums in less than five years of being a unit, their future appears promising.

Williams was born March 8, 1978, in Las Vegas. Even as a youngster, Williams had a strong singing voice with which she entertained at school and church functions. To hone her talent, Williams' parents enrolled her in the Las Vegas Academy of Performing and Visual Arts.

In the meantime, Williams was working part time at a restaurant with sisters Irish and Lemisha Grinstead. All three girls loved singing, and the Grinsteads, along with a third sister, Orish, often sang in the lobby of Caesar's Palace, hoping to be "discovered" when big events were booked at the hotel.

Comedian Sinbad heard the sisters, who began calling themselves Sweeta Than Suga, and helped them enter an annual Atlanta music talent convention, for which the girls had already missed the entry deadline. The group came in second, but more important, they approached Michael Bivins, founder of Boyz II Men, in the lobby of the hotel in which the event was being held.

Sweeta Than Suga asked if they could sing for Bivins, who declined the offer until egged on by a crowd of onlookers. The crowd cheered the group's a cappella performance, and Bivins was convinced enough to help search for an appropriate producer and songwriters for the girls' debut LP on Motown, the label Boyz II Men called home.

But Orish had decided to leave the group, so Irish and Lemisha immediately thought of their friend Williams as a replacement. Now named 702 after their local area code, the trio spent more than a year making their debut LP, No Doubt (1996). During this period, they also finished high school and made their recording debut singing on Subway's "This Lil' Game We Play."

No Doubt, including the singles "Steelo," the top-10 "Get It Together," "All I Want" and the title cut, made 702 one of the hottest soul bands in the business. They became known for their soothing yet seductive, bouncing rhythms and their mix of R&B and melodic hip-hop.

The 702-written and performed "My Friend" was featured on the soundtrack to "Men in Black" (1997). The group also opened New Edition's 1996–97 reunion tour.

Last year came their eponymous sophomore effort and the pop/R&B smash "Where My Girls At?" (RealAudio excerpt), written by Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. It also included "You Don't Know" and the Elliott-written "Tell Your Girl."

702 also have guested on Elliott's Supa Dupa Fly (1997).

Other birthdays on Wednesday: Mickey Dolenz (Monkees), 55; Randy Meisner (Poco, Eagles), 54; Mike Allsup (Three Dog Night), 53; Mel Galley (Whitesnake), 52; Dave Lambert (Strawbs), 51; Clive Burr (Iron Maiden), 43; Gary Numan, 42; Richard Derbyshire (Living in a Box), 40; Peter Gill (Frankie Goes to Hollywood), 36; and Cheryl "Salt" James (Salt-n-Pepa), 36.