TV One’s longest-running and five-time NAACP Image Award-winning series, Unsung, launched its thirteenth season on Sunday, May 20 at 9 p.m. ET, kicking off with the story of the iconic musical group Mtume. The remainder of the season promises to be equally unforgettable, featuring stories from other influential musicians including hip-hop artists Special Ed and Digable Planets, songstresses Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Regina Belle, 702 and Michel’le, blues pioneer B.B. King, and R&B crooner Will Downing. Unsung will delve into the lives of trailblazing music artists whose full stories and journeys have yet to be explored.
Throughout the season, Unsung celebrates the lives and careers of artists or groups who have overcome great odds in their journey to stardom, yet their stories have yet to be fully explored. Through first-hand accounts, interviews with family and friends, and archival footage, each episode weaves a tale of the highs and lows of a life in the limelight. Unsung is narrated by actor Gary Anthony Williams and is Executive Produced by Arthur Smith and Frank Sinton of A. Smith & Co. Productions. Mark Rowland is Executive Producer. For TV One, Jubba Seyyid is Executive in Charge of Production and Sr. Director of Programming; and Robyn Greene Arrington is Interim Head of Original Programming and Production.
Upcoming new episodes of Unsung are outlined below.
Premiere: Sunday, May 20 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
James Mtume rose to musical prominence crafting albums with the iconic Miles Davis before starting his own group, named simply after him – Mtume. With a lineup that included his partner Reggie Lucas, Hubert Eaves III, and vocalist Tawatha Agee, Mtume combined the styles of jazz, funk, and R&B. The group broke into the mainstream in the 1980’s with the hit song “Juicy Fruit,” most notably sampled by Notorious B.I.G; and Top 10 hits like “You, Me and He” and “Breathless.” In this episode of Unsung, James Mtume and members of his group, discuss his decades-long career in jazz and R&B, the story behind their music and the challenges they faced in the music industry.
Premiere: Sunday, May 27 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Brooklyn native Special Ed exploded onto the rap scene in the late 1980’s with his hit song “I Got It Made.” His follow-up chart-toppers “Think About It” and “The Mission” seemed to pave the way for a long career. Still in high school, his unique flow and good looks made him a standout. However, when disputes with his record label led to lawsuits and halted the release of his music, Special Ed’s momentum took a devastating blow. Considered as one of the most respected lyricists of all time, “The Magnificent” will share with Unsung how his music continues to influence a new generation of performers.
Premiere: Sunday, June 3 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Digable Planets changed rap in the mid-90s, with distinct flows backed by jazz-infused beats. The trio’s breakout hit, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” took its members to the top of hip-hop and brought them worldwide acclaim. However, beyond catchy beats and cool metaphors, the group’s music covered provocative social themes. With gold album sales, a Grammy win and irresistible radio hits, the group appeared primed for a long run. With pressure to commercialize their sound and internal struggles among the members, the group disbanded after only two albums. In this episode of Unsung, the three members of Digable Planets come together, along with friends and family, to tell their story of their brief but intoxicating journey.
Premiere: Sunday, June 10 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Regina Belle was a college kid out of New Jersey when she burst on the R&B scene as a vocalist with the Manhattans on the hit “Where Did We Go Wrong.” She was eventually signed by Columbia Records and skyrocketed to fame with number one singles, including “Make It Like It Was” and “Baby Come to Me.” She crossed over to a mainstream audience with the Grammy Award-winning mega-hit, “A Whole New World,” a duet with Peabo Bryson for the Disney film “Aladdin.” Blessed with a soulful, pitch-perfect voice, she lived near the top of the charts for ten years until she was abruptly dropped by her label. Misfortune continued when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. How she bounced back with a renewed faith to record her first gospel album, is the inspiring story of a strong woman who overcame professional disappointment and personal tragedy to spread a message of love, family, and faith.
Premiere: Sunday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Hailing from the city of Las Vegas, 702 shot to stardom in the mid-1990’s with a handful of top ten hits and platinum album success. Originally signed as a quartet, the group debuted in 1995 with a hit duet with label mates Subway titled “This Little Game We Play.” The following year, their record label decided to re-debut 702 as a trio, teaming original members Misha and Irish Grinstead with new addition Meelah Williams. Under the production of Missy Elliott, 702 went on to earn gold certification in 1996 with the hip-hop infused single “Steelo,” followed by platinum success on a female empowerment anthem titled “Where My Girls At” in 1999. However, as 702’s music was bonding women around the world, the band was plagued by infighting, ultimately leading to their disbanding in 2003. After years of silence, the members of 702 share their long and winding journey with Unsung.
Premiere: Sunday, June 24 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Coming from a life of poverty on the cotton fields of Mississippi where he was born, the iconic B.B. King rose to become the “King of the Blues” and along with his beloved guitar Lucille, an international ambassador for the music he loved. In a career that spanned six decades, fifteen Grammys and dozens of hits, including the enduring classic “The Thrill Is Gone,” King brought the blues out of the delta and into the mainstream. However, despite his professional triumphs, he endured two failed marriages, an addiction to gambling, and the hardships of racial discrimination in America.
CHERYL PEPSII RILEY
Premiere: Sunday, July 1 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Cheryl Pepsii Riley burst on the scene in 1988 with her #1 hit single “Thanks for My Child,” a ballad that paid tribute to the love of single mothers for their children. Under the songwriting and production umbrella of the Full Force family, she seemed destined to keep rising as a star. However, after a series of singles about provocative subjects, her label struggled with how to market her, and Cheryl’s career foundered. Determined to support her family by any means necessary, she took musical back roads from session work to backup singing, while raising several children with the help of her husband and family. She eventually reinvented herself as a musical stage actress in plays by Tyler Perry and continues to stay true to her musical roots.
Premiere: Sunday, July 8 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
As the “Prince of Sophisticated Soul,” Will Downing is in the midst of a remarkable 30-year career that includes twenty solo albums, with chart-topping singles in Dance, R&B, and Jazz. However, his road to success was long and winding, as he struggled to grow his reputation abroad despite slight recognition at home. At the height of his career, a paralyzing bout with an auto-immune disease threatened his life. Now Will Downing reveals to Unsung the hard-earned achievements – and costs – of a soul survivor.
Premiere: Sunday, July 15 at 9 p.m. ET/8C
Raised in the tough streets of South Central L.A., Michel’le stormed the music scene with a voice – really two voices – like no other, as her child-like speaking voice marked a startling contrast to her strong and soulful musical delivery. As mentored by powerhouse rapper/producer, Dr. Dre from NWA, her debut album reached number five on the charts in 1989, thanks to hits like “No More Lies,” “Nicety,” and “Something In My Heart.” Michel’le had it made – or so it seemed. However, her mentorship and romantic attachments proved costly in deeply personal ways. After years of silence, Michel’le opens up to Unsung about life as an accomplished singer, and as a survivor of domestic violence.
For more information about TV One’s upcoming programming, including original movies, visit the network’s companion website at http://www.tvone.tv. TV One viewers can also join the conversation by connecting via social media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (@tvonetv) using the hash tags #UNSUNG and #REPRESENT.