Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

It's no secret that Nine Lives/Epic trio 3LW is minus one member. But with several projects on tap, remaining members Adrienne Bailon (18) and Kiely Williams (16) are busy looking ahead -- especially to spreading the word about their sophomore album, "A Girl Can Mack," which was released on Tuesday (Oct. 22).

Sporting songs written and/or produced by Montell Jordan, Full Force, P. Diddy (featured with Loon on first single "I Do"), Mario Winans, and Beau Dozier, the set also includes a cameo by Lil' Wayne, who appears on second single "Neva Get Enuf."

At this juncture, the duo does not have any plans to change its name or replace the absent Naturi Naughton, whose image and vocals appear on the album. Naughton recently filed a lawsuit against the two teens -- alleging that she was forced out of the group -- as well as 3LW's management firm, Big Cat Management, which includes two of Williams' sisters, Michelle and Tse.

In a statement after the filing, the pair says it was "not surprised to see that Naturi has filed a lawsuit, given the tone she set from the outset in her numerous radio and television interviews. We look forward to addressing her claims in a legitimate, professional, and non-sensational forum."

Prior to the lawsuit, while rehearsing in Los Angeles for the summer 2003 Disney film "The Cheetah Girls" (based on the popular book series), Williams observes, "[Naturi] participated on the album just as much as we did. So we didn't feel it would be right to not have her. This album is coming out just as it would be if she was sitting here with us."

Lawsuit aside, it's a more grown-up 3LW that emerges two years after the success of its eponymous 2000 debut, which has sold 1.3 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. Evidence can be heard on the ballad "Good Good Girl" and the uptempo "I Need That (I Want That)" with Lil' Kim.

"This album definitely shows a lot of growth," Bailon says. "On the first album, there weren't any love ballads because that wasn't something we had experienced. We're able now to interpret things that have deeper meanings."

"The album still shows the innocence we have, that we're normal girls who like to hang out with our friends," Williams adds. "We wanted to keep that element but also talk about empowerment, that a girl can do anything a guy can."

Having notched a between-albums hit with Naughty by Nature ("Feels Good"), along with scoring a No. 25 hit with first single "I Do," and completing a major summer radio promotion tour, Williams and Bailon will film "The Cheetah Girls" in Toronto in November. During that time, they'll also see their first holiday album -- "Naughty or Nice" -- arrive in stores Nov. 26.

"I'm excited yet a little nervous about what our fans are going to say this time," Bailon says about "A Girl Can Mack." "But I hope people come away knowing Kiely, Adrienne, and Naturi a little better."





Excerpted from the Oct. 26, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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