This #1 R&B hit was Bell Biv DeVoe's first single. The group was comprised of New Edition members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe. New Edition split up in 1989 after touring to promote their Heart Break album - they went out on a high note, with the album selling over 2 million copies and the tour very successful. The split was instigated by former member Bobby Brown's solo success, which New Edition lead vocalists Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill were looking to replicate.
Bell, Bivins and Devoe were mostly background singers in New Edition, and when they group ended they didn't have big plans until producer Jimmy Jam suggested they make an album together (Jam was already working with Tresvant and Gill). The trio agreed, and Bell Biv Devoe was formed. Bell was the lead vocalist, with Bivins and DeVoe handling the rapping and background vocals. This sound fit the new jack swing template that Bobby Brown was using so effectively. This genre was a blend of R&B, hip-hop, and urban contemporary, typically with an unapologetically prominent drum machine (usually an SP-1200 or a Roland 808). The term itself was coined by writer-filmmaker Barry Michael Cooper, who also wrote the script for the film New Jack City.
Bell Biv DeVoe used several songwriters and producers on the Poison album, including Hank Shocklee and the Wolf & Epic team. This track was written and produced by Elliott Straite, who goes by "Dr. Freeze." Straite, who was making a name for himself in New York City, also wrote the Color Me Badd hit "I Wanna Sex You Up."
Straite wrote the song about five years before submitting it to New Edition - he was planning to use it on a solo album. He explained the lyrical inspiration in the Billboard Book of #1 Hits: "Most of the girls out there with nice shapes, they take advantage of that and they take a lot of people's money. They use a lot of guys and that's why I call them 'Poison.' Poison might look like a piece of candy and look really good, and when you bite into it, you're dead."
At the end of this song, the guys give shout-outs to their pals from New Edition: Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill (Ralph-T, Johnny G, and Bobby Brown). They stayed on good terms, and the group would reunite from time to time in the ensuing years.
This tale about a dangerous and unfaithful woman is driven home by two key lines in the song: "Never trust a big butt and a smile" and "Me and the crew used to do her." The former became a catch phrase in the '90s.
Media usage of this song include the films Pootie Tang and Pineapple Express, TV shows A Different World, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Scrubs, Glee, and the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - on the New Jack Swing radio channel!
The video was directed by Lionel C. Martin, who was the top dog when it came to hip-hop and R&B videos. Other clips he did from this era include Bobby Brown's "Humpin' Around" and Boyz II Men's "Motownphilly." Martin's videos were often shot outdoors on streets, playgrounds and basketball courts, showing the artists in a relaxed atmosphere.
In Syracuse, a rumor spread that Michael Bivins uttered the line "Rob Moore, you're dead" in this song as a message to Syracuse University football player Rob Moore, who later played wide receiver for in the NFL for the Jets and Cardinals. The story went that Moore stole Bivins' girlfriend, and that Bivins retaliated with this lyrical hit. Bivins wore Syracuse gear in the video and was a fan of their football and basketball teams, but he claims that he never knew Moore and that the rumor is unfounded. According to Bivens, the line is, "Wrong move, you're dead."