It's been eight years since they last recorded a studio album as Bell Biv DeVoe -- the 1993 MCA set "Hootie Mack." Now members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe have finally scratched their

It's been eight years since they last recorded a studio album as Bell Biv DeVoe -- the 1993 MCA set "Hootie Mack." Now members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe have finally scratched their recording itch with the Dec. 18 release of the trio's Biv 10/Universal Records debut, "BBD."

"I've just been waiting for the day to get back into the studio," says an enthusiastic DeVoe, who notes that the group spent a couple of years extricating itself from its MCA contract before moving over to Universal. "Figuring how to get out of that situation without too many hassles was the most challenging part of this [journey]. But being in the studio and recording again was a whole new energy. Singing, being on stage, and doing videos runs in our blood."

For Bell, the main challenge was finding the right musical groove. "We know the elements of a hit," he says about the group who notched such R&B/pop crossover smashes as 1990's "Poison," "Do Me!," and "BBD (I Thought It Was Me)?" "So we began throwing ideas in the pot, knowing that once we got a couple of tracks done, we'd be on our way."

The trio's 11-track outing features lead single "Da Hot S... (Aight)," a pulsating collaboration between co-writers BBD and producer Rockwilder (Janet Jackson, Destiny's Child). DeVoe says, "This first single has an energy that's not out there right now."

Bivins adds, "We just made sure we had the right rhythms and lyrics. We wanted to keep it simple but leave room for others to work with us and make a record that will also appeal to the younger [generation]."

In addition to Rockwilder, others stepping up to the production plate include DJ Twinz ("Sic Wit It"), Heavy D and Tony Dofat ("Breezy"), Junod Etienne ("Pesos" and "Dance B****"), and Them Damn Twins (Jagged Edge's Casey brothers on "In My Crib").

Bell describes the overall sound of BBD as "very reminiscent of the flavor of 'Poison.' I think we've done a good job of reinventing ourselves without going too far from what we're known for musically: being straight-ahead and funky. Lyrically, we're still controversial and daring. Musically, we're right there with what's happening now."

Jim Ogletree, head buyer for Music Network in Atlanta, agrees. "I think a return to [musical] substance is happening, which is refreshing for both the industry and consumers," he notes. "And I feel that with this album, Bell Biv DeVoe will help contribute to that in a big way."

Armed with a video for the single produced by the Brothers Strause (Linkin Park), Universal Records' director of marketing Katina Bynum coordinated a promotional tour that kicked off in mid-November, as well as a national club tour, various TV appearances ("Soul Train," "The Ricki Lake Show," BET's "106 & Park"), and online fan chats and interviews. Bynum observes, "The idea is to let old fans familiar with the BBD legacy know the group is back and also introduce BBD to new fans."

Part of the BBD legacy is the trio's stint as members of the pioneering '80s boy band New Edition ("Candy Girl" and "Cool It Now"), which also included Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant in its original incarnation before Johnny Gill replaced Brown in 1988. All six members reunited in 1996 for a tour and the MCA album "Home Again."

"New Edition is still very much in our plans," Bell says. "We're going to do a movie, book, the whole nine. It all has to do with timing." A step in that direction can be heard on the new album: The aforementioned track "In My Crib" sports guest vocals by Jagged Edge and New Edition cohort Tresvant.

In the meantime, however, Bell Biv DeVoe is concentrating on getting "BBD" heard by old and new fans alike. "There's a lot of pressure now to sell a lot of records," Bell says. "But if we're not having fun, the mission isn't accomplished. With every track we said, 'Let's put our best into it and have fun.' If you do that, you'll win and be successful. We're giving the best we can give."