Speech was inspired to write the song after meeting up with his brother at his grandmother's funeral in Tennessee. Shortly afterwards, his brother died suddenly from a bad asthma attack, and Speech wrote the song about the experience of losing two loved ones so close together The song uses a sample from Prince's "Alphabet Street" which was not cleared ahead of time. Prince's lawyers waited until after the song sold well and then charged the group $100,000 for the use of said sample.
"Tennessee" topped the US R&B chart for one week and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also charted in the UK in 1992 for a 7 week run, stalling at #46, but after the Top 10 successes of both "People Everyday" and "Mr. Wendal", it was re-released in 1993, charting for a further 6 weeks and peaking inside the top 20 at #18.