Tuesday, May 25, 1999 | 11:40 a.m.
The title of the latest hit single by Las Vegas-bred rhythm and blues group 702 couldn't be more appropriate.
"Where My Girls At" is skyrocketing up Billboard's music charts. It finished last week in second position on the R&B singles chart and at No. 5 on the Pop singles chart.
Meanwhile, one member of the female trio, 20-year-old Lemisha Ginstead, is indeed wondering where her gal pals are.
While she's at home in Las Vegas preparing for the birth of her son in July, her bandmates are traversing the globe, promoting 702's upcoming sophomore, self-titled disc, due out June 15 on the Motown Records label.
Her sister Irish, 18, and singer Kameelah Williams, 21, recently spent several days in the Bahamas filming interviews and performances to air on MTV later this summer.
(Filling in for Lemisha during her maternity leave is Orish, fraternal twin sister of Irish, who performed previously with an early incarnation of the group, when it was called Sweeter Than Sugar.)
But that doesn't mean that Lemisha hasn't been keeping up with the band and the single's progress.
"I'm just hearing some great things," she says. According to Lemisha, the video for "Where My Girls At" was recently "the second most-played video" on cable's Black Entertainment Television.
"It's just a blessing from God. I was just watching videos, and this is the second time I've seen it in like an hour. I'm happy."
Still, the excitement of motherhood aside, "I'm ready to get back out there" on the road, she says. "I miss the excitement of performing." If all goes as planned, Orish will step down when Lemisha rejoins the trio later this summer.
A bit of background on the group: Lemisha and Orish attended Las Vegas High School and Kameelah is a Las Vegas Academy alumna. The threesome was given its musical break earlier this decade by Michael Bivens, of the hip-hop group Bel Biv Devoe, who also discovered the mega-hit R&B group Boyz II Men. Bivens is also responsible for naming the group after -- of course! -- Las Vegas' area code.
In 1996, for 702's debut CD, "No Doubt," the then-teenagers traveled after school to Los Angeles for recording sessions. They took study breaks between tunes and caught flights back to Las Vegas to attend high school classes during the day.
The disc produced the singles "Get It Together" and "Steelo," which was penned and produced by rapper Missy Elliot, who also lent her vocal stylings to the song.
The following year, the group won "Soul Train's" Lady of Soul Award for best album by a group. Since then, 702 has toured with Boyz II Men, New Edition (Bivens' first group), BLACKstreet and Keith Sweat.
Their song, "All I Want" was featured on the soundtrack of the teen comedy "Good Burger." They sang the theme for the Nickelodeon series "Skeeter," and have made cameo appearances on the UPN series "Moesha," the WB's "Sister Sister" and, most recently, in the ABC movie "Double Platinum," starring Diana Ross and Brandy.
Working with Ross was a bit ironic given that 702 has been compared to Ross' legendary group, the Supremes.
Although she's flattered by the comparison, Lemisha says, "I just can't see it because we look up to them. ... I just hope we can fill those shoes if people seem to think that's what we are."
When it came time to record the latest disc, the process worked differently than with their debut CD. Besides being older, Lemisha says, the trio is certainly much wiser these days.
"Basically, we've learned a lot of things from the last album to this album," she says. "We're learning a lot more about the music side and what we need to focus on as far as being in control of our own business."
She credits Elliot, who also wrote and produced "Where My Girls At" as well as the song "Gotta Leave," with providing some insight into music's business side. She advised them to "pay attention to who we have working us. ... That's just important. She's just taught us (about) a lot of stuff to focus on -- our money and issues."
Several other notable producers worked on the album including Soul Schock & Karlin, who previously worked with Whitney Houston, on the track "You Don't Know"; Greg Charley (formerly with Regina Bell) on "Make Time"; and Rick "Dutch" Cousin (Ice Cube) on the attitude-smacked "Tell Your Girl."
Larry Flick, of Vibe magazine, wrote of the group in its June/ July issue: "Teen act 702 has matured into a clique of assertive young women. ... They have gathered the experience and confidence needed to divorce themselves from the pack of factory-stamped one-album wonders."
"What we wanted to do was just make sure we liked the songs," Lemisha says of the selection of tracks, as well as the producers, "and once we heard the demos, it was just inevitable what we would do."
Surprisingly, the next single scheduled to be released, "You Don't Know," was not among their top choices for inclusion on the disc.
"Honestly, to tell you the truth, when we heard the demo, we didn't like the song," she says. But at the urging of Motown President Kedar Massenburg, it made the cut.
"We had a really bad vibe about the the song ... and Kedar ... was like, 'Well, you guys are doing the song.' And that's when we had to trust people who know more (about the music industry) than us and who we're trying to learn from," she says.
The disc also reveals a deeper, hidden meaning behind the 702 name in short "interludes" featured between tracks. According to theories of numerology, those numbers also hold significant meaning in the trio's private lives.
While reading a book about the subject, Lemisha says she and her bandmates were "just amazed" at how similar the numbers' supposed characteristics were to their own personalities.
The number seven, she explains, "has always been Irish's number, only because she was the seventh child" born to their mother.
"I don't know much about numerology," she admits. "All I can say is ... what we read just fit us so much that we wanted to share it with our audience" on the disc.
Turns out Kameelah was two, which made Lemisha a big fat zero -- which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Being a cyclical number, "it kind of stands for ... keeping everything flowing together," she says, "and I've always tended to play that role in the group -- to hold everybody together."