Bell Biv DeVoe is looking for a major dunk with “Above the Rim,” the leadoff single from its long-awaited new MCA studio jam, “Hootie Mack,” which hits stores on June 22.

BBD scored triple platinum with its 1990 debut album, “Poison,” which spawned hits like “Do Me,””She’s Dope,” and the infectious title track. However, band members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe suffered a big miss toward the end of last year when their new album’s original first single, “Gangsta,” was released to lukewarm response.

“We got off to a false start with “Gangsta,” no question,” says Bell. “Because we were under pressure to get the album done, we ended up rushing it. And this is a very critical album.”

So critical, in fact, that “Hootie Mack” was put on hold as BBD retreated to the studio. Without deadline pressures, some tracks were remixed and several new ones recorded before MCA scheduled a summer release date for the album. Not surprisingly, the ill-fated “Gangsta” has not made the final cut.

Studio sessions for “Hootie Mack” ultimately spanned just over a year. For BBD, the creation of its sophomore set proved a “frustrating” process, with the pressure of following a multiplatinum debut rarely letting up.

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t feel it,” says Bell. “When you’re a new group, the expectations aren’t the same. People love you, they build you up. Then you reach a point like we’re at now where it’s like, prove yourself. But that’s the way the business is.”

Production credits for the 11 tracks on “Hootie Mack” list no less than eight different names. Hitmakers L.A. Reid, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Daryl Simmons worked on a ballad, but BBD generally avoided big-name producers in favor of lesser-known up and comers. “We just went for whoever sounded goods,” says Bell.

As NBA playoff fever heats up, BBD’s basketball-inspired single “Above the Rim” came out May 25. An accompanying video was recently lensed in Los Angeles with director Marcus Raboy, whose credits include Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Down With the King.”

BBD has been plugging the track and the upcoming album with bicoastal media interviews. Next up is a national promo blitz, in which the group members will be playing select basketball games in conjunction with radio stations.

The new album’s release also herald’s BBD’s return to live concerts, according to Bell. “We’ll start doing spot dates in July, amusement parks and some warm-ups in clubs with a 30-45 minute show. Then there’ll be the big tour in the fall.”