BEST LOCAL R&B GROUP (1999)
While countless bands earn a steady living by moving the weekend crowds with more traditional R&B, pop hopefuls with dreams of radio stardom and more contemporary tastes often find themselves scrounging for attention at community talent shows and other less-prominent venues. That's how Next's R.L., T-Low, and Tweety started out. In fact, even after this hometown group scored the number one single in the nation with the apologetically lascivious "Too Close," they remained virtually unknown to a large segment of the local music cognoscenti for whom KDWB, let alone KMOJ, is stylistically off limits. Such a reception says something about a prejudice that's more rockist than racist: Crews like Abstract Pack gain notice because hip hop is acknowledged as art, whereas R&B is written off as disposable "pop." In case you weren't paying attention, "Too Close" tells the story of an unplanned dance-floor erection in such a sweet murmur that the casual listener could miss the song's subject matter entirely. It remains to be seen how much of a career the trio can parlay out of its current success. In any case, the ties that all three members maintain here in the Cities demonstrate that an act can indeed be national and local at the same time.