dirty martini

old music for new people

90s r&b – i collaborate therefore i am August 22, 2007

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there’s power in numbers. in fact, the perfect hook-up with the hottest property can launch (or relaunch) a lacklustre career.

in the mid 90s, duets and artist collaborations became less of an event. naturally, you would collaborate with labelmates, but a strategic feature spot could mean opening up your music to a whole new audience. the most popular hook up was r&b and hiphop, but some puff daddy collabos in the late 90s saw hiphop push the boundaries by mixing it up with rock bands, a trend jay-z has carried into the 00s.

so, for the r&b girls and boys looking forsome instant street, the most ubiquitous featured rappers of the 90s? jay-z, ll cool j and biggie by a mile, although a young foxy brown gave them a run for their money.

and if a hiphop act wanted to smooth things down? total, swv and mary j blige at your service.

the idea hasn’t slowed down at all, in fact, the standard r&b album has at least four collaborations and some albums (timbaland) are built entirely around that principle.

90s hook ups – download here

blackstreet and swv – can’t get you out of my mind

two of the biggest r&b bands of the 90s – worked so well they did it twice.

blaque and destiny’s child – she ain’t got that boom

how much hair can you fit in one room? one more member and they could have been an 80s jheri curl soul act. a subdued performance from beyonce on this one.

busta rhymes and zhane – its a party

not the most obvious hook-up to spring to mind but it worked.

jay-z and foxy brown – sunshine

jay-z and foxy collaborated so often you gave up trying to work out who was guesting for who.

junior mafia and aaliyah – i need you tonight

a mishmash of r&b, hiphop and 80s throwback hook and sample. shouldn’t have worked quite so well.

keith sweat and kut klose – get up on it

inevitable feature spot. on occasion the whole r&b don with cooing girl group could seem a little mysogynistic. there were worse examples though.

ll cool j and boyz ii men – hey lover

ll likes it both ways – guest features and inviting others on to his tunes, I mean.

mase and total – what you want

individually, not great. together it worked.

method man and mary j blige – you’re all i need to get by

one of the originals and a good example of how an r&b feature spot doesn’t need to water down the proceedings.

smooth and 2pac – p.y.t.

proto jay-z and foxy. 2pac must have rated young ms stokes as he didn’t guest spot with just anyone.

 

mr loverman….shabba! August 11, 2007

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so, i thought i should get this one in sharpish before the weather collapses! 

by the time it was the 90s I was old enough to enjoy my summers unsupervised. ibiza and uk club culture were kicking off and novelty summer records were more likely to be one off pop crossovers from reggae artists than grown men in animal suits. thank GOD.

i haven’t included any of said tracks, as at the time, i wasn’t so keen. now i can appreciate ‘sweat’ by inner circle for its escapist genius, but back then it was part of comedy hour in the dismal local nightclubs i was forced to frequent before i ‘escaped to london’. an oxymoron if i ever heard one. still, i will do a reggae pop post at some point, as an excuse to post ‘shy guy’ by diana king.

 i was 14 in 1990 and 23 in 1999 so the early summers of this decade were spent chasing boys, getting pissed on one can of super strongbow (later archers, then came the alcopops invasion) and trying to secure myself as much time in the sun as possible. late 90s,  trying to wangle time outside the office when it was hot and being pissed off at those tinted office windows that make you think its cloudy, until you go outside at lunchtime and realise its blazing. i seem to remember the weather being pretty good most years. not as steaming hot as 2006, but hot enough and sunny, not humid.

don’t laugh at the glenn medeiros track – bobby negates any cheese factor, and anyway, glenn is hawaiian and therefore IS summer. st etienne are a dancey indie act but i love this tune – 1991 was balearic its pointless trying to avoid that fact. the janet and luther track is the r&b soundtrack version which didn’t see the light of day in the UK. the version of ‘dreamlover’ i’ve posted is a r&b remix that was overshadowed at the time by the huge david morales house remix. and the lighthouse family track is also a funkier remix, not the plodding original. enjoy!

 the sounds of summer in the 90s – download here

1990 – bobby brown and glenn medeiros – she ain’t worth it

1991 – st etienne – only love can break your heart

1992 – janet jackson and luther vandross – the best things in life are free

1993 – mariah carey – dreamlover

1994 – joe – i’m in luv

1995 – lighthouse family – ocean drive

1996 – ll cool j and total – loungin’

1997 – puff daddy, mase and notorious big – mo money mo problems

1998 – next – too close

1999 – destiny’s child – jumpin jumpin

 

90s girl bands – premier league May 12, 2007

though the pop decade would be dominated by boy bands such as nkotb, take that and the backstreet boys until girl power hit, on the r&b scene, girl bands were always big business in the 90s.

after the spice girls, many tried to emulate their cartoony characteristics to achieve crossover success, but the truly talented chose credibility over advertising deals.

the integration of hip hop beats into r&b tracks was first heard on en vogue’s hold on in 1990 and the influence of the grittier hip hop scene saw some bands adopt a more casual or comedy image, notably tlc and jade, mostly via their clothing, to identify themselves with the more credible hip hop scene.

by 1995, it became more acceptable for girls to be girls and a more glamorous side emerged, eventually becoming the perfect complement to bad boy’s patented late 90s bling scene. despite this, many of the girls were tied to bad record deals and failed to recoup much of the reward for their success.

but this is the a list. you can check out the b list and the one-hit wonders too. imagine how much cash these girls didn’t make. and how much fame these z listers didn’t get.


these girls were on top of their game in the 90sdownload here
en vogue – lies
in 1990, en vogue sounded like nothing else. slickly manufactured 80s soul had given way to new jack swing but some were finding the music over-produced. enter four girls, looking like the supremes, but singing over the kind of beats associated with bands like nwa and public enemy. in a rare faux pas, smash hits labelled en vogue one hit wonders in their round up 1990 – quote “…their second single currently ‘lies’ (arf) in the discount bin at woolies…” I think the only reason I remember this is that it was actually quite funny. but wrong.


tlc – ain’t too proud to beg
colourful, cute and individual, tlc burst onto the scene in 1992. condoms flying. their first album ‘oooh on the tlc tip’ was slightly overshadowed by their loud image, but by the time ‘crazysexycool‘ was released in late 1994, the girls were all grown up. if it were possible to wear out a cd i would now be on my 25th copy. though chilli and t-boz tried to carry on without left eye, it was visibly painful and they’re now working on solo projects.

destiny’s child – show me the way
hands up who preferred destiny’s child back in the day? beyonce‘s voice is natural and the four girls harmonise perfectly. this track is from their debut, at age 15, and letoya is rumoured to be singing on the first verse. it does sound like her. maybe one day all six members will reunite, dreamgirls style….or not.


swvi’m so into you
inspiration of many of today’s current female r&b singers and the crown queens of new jill swing. swv were young, but looked older due to some hard times growing up. famously sampled wacko on ‘right here’ and went on to release five singles from their successful first album. band member lelee has recently alleged that they left their contract penniless in 1998, mirroring tlc‘s experience with laface.


jade – i want cha baby
game attempts to look sexy in lumberjack shirts five sizes too big paid off for jade, whose worldwide hit ‘don’t walk away’ put them up there with swv for a time. for years, the intro to that song featured on many an answerphone. after a second successful album, like swv and tlc, jade suffered from mismanagement and split in 1994 with little financial return.


702 – steelo
in the mid 90s, 702 tried to fill the gap left by financially ruined girl groups before them. against the odds, and with scant vocal ability, they have survived well into the 00s, partly due to the clout of longtime compadre missy elliott. still, they are responsible for some nice tracks.




eternal – stay
when they arrived, eternal were revered in the uk as a band the american record buying public would lap up. their success, whilst sizable, remained slightly more local so it was rumoured that single white member louise was offloaded to improve their chances in the us r&b market. unlikely, but in any case it turned out in her favour and she’s the only member still getting work. unless you count kelle bryan’s appearance on celebrity love island. which is precisely the opposite of being in demand.


xscape – understanding
underrated girl group who favoured mid and slow tempo jams that allowed their vocals to shine. another young group, the then mid-teens sang at jermaine dupri’s birthday party in 1991 and got a contract for their efforts. split in 1998 but now regrouped.


total – no one else
total were a bad boy project, originally singing choruses on hip hop joints for artists such as biggie smalls and ll cool j. had they stuck with this strategy, they could have disguised the fact that neither kima keisha or pam can actually sing. their debut album was painful listening and i dread to think what the untouched demo sounded like. the beats of course, were bad boy’s, and wasted on them.

brownstone – if you love me
this group managed to negotiate the obvious pitfalls of being signed to wacko‘s label and became reasonably successful with this track in 1995. after replacing a member who left due to bronchitis (read: girlfght) they failed to recover.