Today in 1991, Mariah Carey released her sophomore set, Emotions, which came just 15 months after her self-titled debut album. She was fresh off a four-No.1 streak on the Billboard Hot 100 and had sold 15 million copies (and counting) of Mariah Carey. She had also won two Grammys earlier that year, including one for Best New Artist. In summary, Mariah Carey had arrived.

After the success of her debut album, Carey was granted a little more creative control. As she did on the previous album, she co-wrote every single track on Emotions (and was the sole lyricist), but this time around, she also produces all of the album’s 10 tracks. On this album, we see a deepening of Carey’s partnership with Walter Afanasieff, with whom she had first worked on “Love Takes Time,” which he produced. The two co-produced half of the album’s tracks — four of which Afanasieff also co-wrote — including “Can’t Let Go,” the LP’s second single. Four of the remaining five tracks were co-produced with Robert Clivillés and David Cole (together known as Clivillés & Cole), the latter of which inspired the writing of “One Sweet Day” after his passing in 1995.

Emotions is by no means a gospel album, but there are gospel influences on a number of tracks, most audibly on the Carole King co-write, “If It’s Over,” and the decidedly religious “Make It Happen.” Sonically, the album leans heavily on older, more traditional styles of R&B, and even samples a few songs from the ’70s, including Alicia Myers’ “I Want to Thank You” (on “Make It Happen”) and The Emotions’ “Best of My Love” (on “Emotions”), the latter sample was initially uncredited and the subject of a lawsuit, which led to an out-of-court settlement.

The throwback style of Emotions indicated a somewhat impressive disregard for what was happening on the radio in 1991. However, in the midst of all the throwback-ness, MC keeps it very current on two standout tracks: “To Be Around You” and “Can’t Let Go,” which samples Keith Sweat & Jacci McGhee’s “Make It Last Forever.” On these tracks, we are reminded that — despite the very mature-sounding voice — we are listening to a 21-year-old woman.

Speaking of vocals, Carey is generous with the whistle notes on Emotions, most notably on the album’s lead single and title track. “Emotions” would become her fifth No. 1 in a row, making her the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 with their first five singles, breaking the previous record set by The Jacksons in 1970.

While Emotions bears similarities to its predecessor, MC shows a willingness to chart new creative territory with the freedom she was granted. And in doing so, she allows us to gain a better understanding of her musical identity. Conventional wisdom (courtesy of white music journalists) may suggest that Emotions was one of her many pop albums before she did the “Fantasy” remix and discovered R&B, but the truth is that it is arguably one of the most soulful albums in her catalog.

Carey suffered the dreaded sophomore slump on Emotions, but one artist’s sophomore slump is another’s best seller. The album sold over eight million copies worldwide and spawned three top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (include the aforementioned “Emotioned,” which topped the chart).

I want to sit here and lie to you that the best song on the album isn’t “Emotions” (because that would be too obvious), but dammit, she ate that.

Earlier this week, we watched Ja Rule put Fat Joe in the washing machine during the utter mismatch that was Tuesday night’s Verzuz. The obvious and more fitting opponent for Ja, 50 Cent, would never do a Verzuz with him because he knows he will lose, so I guess we’ll take what we can get.

As exciting as it may have been, the biggest headline from this last Verzuz had nothing to do with either Ja or Joey Crack. Jermaine Dupri — songwriter, producer, label exec, legend — who was in attendance at the Madison Square Garden (where the matchup went down) challenged Diddy to a Verzuz battle, to which Diddy responded with disrespect, explaining that JD’s arms were “too short to box with God” and that he didn’t have enough hits. He also added that Dr. Dre was the only worthy competitor for him.

I would’ve thought Diddy was too rich to smoke crack, but here we are.

A cursory review of all three men’s production discographies (here, here and here) will quickly reveal that JD not only has enough hits but has more than Diddy and Dr. Dre combined. And I won’t even bother discussing the gratuitous and not-so-veiled heightism that accompanied that ridiculous claim.

It is unclear why Diddy said what he said, but in honor of the gawd that is Jermaine Dupri Mauldin, this week’s TBT selection is the very first No. 1 hit he wrote and produced. Released in February 1992, “Jump” was the debut single by rapping duo Kris Kross, who were 13 years old at the time. The song would become a global hit, topping the chart in multiple countries and ruling the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks — a record for a rap song at the time.

Nearly 30 years later, “Jump” is a staple at career, in movies, and in commercials. And in that time, JD has crafted countless other classics.

In other words, stop playing with Jermaine Dupri.

September 11, 2001, is not a day that brings good memories for most — for obvious reasons. However, that horrific day also represents a day of artistic achievement for arguably the greatest rapper of all time. It was the day Jay-Z released his sixth studio album, The Blueprint.

The Blueprint is important not just because of its place in Jay-Z’s catalog but also because of the careers it launched. The album marks the first time Hov worked with a then-little-known producer named Just Blaze, who produced and co-wrote three tracks on the album, including top 20 hit “Girls, Girls, Girls” and the hip-hop ballad, “Song Cry.” The album was also the first time Jay-Z worked with another up-and-comer at the time, Kanye West, who produced and co-wrote four tracks on the album. Kanye was responsible for the album’s lead single and biggest hit, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” and the Nas takedown, “Takeover,” which is arguably the most quoted album track on the album.

From the Timbaland-produced “Hola Hovito” to the Eminem collabo, “Renegade,” The Blueprint offers a kind of range — sonically and thematically — that we rarely get on hip-hop albums today. And as if that versatility isn’t impressive on its own, the entire album was written in two days.

In an album full of classics, picking a favorite should have been a bit more challenging, but there’s something about “Song Cry.”

Now that Certified Lover Boy has had a full week of scoring, Drake has broken and tied a number of records on the Billboard Hot 100, including:
-Most top 10 hits from a single album (nine) — breaks the previous record (seven) held by Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Janet Jackson and Drizzy himself
-Most simultaneous top 10 hits (nine)
-Most simultaneous debuts in the top 10 (nine)
-Second act in history to occupy all (after The Beatles in 1964)
-Extends record for most No. 1s among rappers (nine)
-Extends record for most top 10 hits among all artists (54)
-Ties record for most debuts at No. 1 (five, record shared with Ariana Grande)
-Extends record for most debuts in the top 10 (39)

As you can imagine, CLB debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 613,000 equivalent units — the biggest debut of the year so far, the biggest debut in over a year, and almost twice the 309,009 equivalent units sold by Kanye West’s Donda.

(Sidebar: Donda didn’t get a full week of scoring for its debut due to its off-cycle release.)

The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber — who own the only non-Drake entry in the Hot 100’s top 10 this week — continue to rule the global chart. Because both Bieber and Drizzy are Canadians, this week’s top 10 has the distinction of having a Canadian performer on all 10 songs.

When we speak of “understanding the assignment,” this is precisely what we mean.

Ari Lennox just released a song and video that are, together, simply the best thing she’s ever done. Based on a sample of “Blessed Is the Woman” by Shirley Brown, “Pressure” gives every single thing that needed to be gave: A strong melody, tight production, and lyrics that make you want to sing along on the first listen.

Co-written by the singer herself along with a dream team that includes Johntá Austin, Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox, “Pressure” is what R&B in 2021 could be if everybody stopped playing. It is simply spectacular.

And as if the song wasn’t magical enough on its own, the video for “Pressure” pays homage to Diana Ross, Donna Summer and — in Ari’s words — “every fine ass woman in the 2000s.” Click play and give praise to the music gods.

After a good two months of teasing and promo, Chlöe just dropped her first single as a solo artist, “Have Mercy.”

The danger of a very long runway ahead of a release is that the potential for disappointment is high. Anything short of groundbreaking will be met with a “meh.”

“Have Mercy” is not groundbreaking, but it is a decent first outing for the newly solo singer. It has a hook that could grow on you if you listen to it enough times.

The best thing about “Have Mercy” is easily its music video, which has all the gloss, choreo and high fashion you’d expect from an artist mentored by Beyoncé. The clip shows Chlöe playing something of a modern-day Medusa, turning her love interest (played by Rome Flynn) into stone. Throughout the video, you hear news reports about a missing man, and we even see an investigator (played by Tina Knowles) surveilling Chlöe’s crib.

Watch the video below.


Earlier today, Nicki Minaj’s husband, Kenneth Petty, pled guilty to failure to register as a sex offender. He had been convicted of attempted rape in 1995 and served four-and-a-half years in prison. As part of the condition of that conviction, he is required to register as a sex offender everywhere he moves. When he moved to California in 2019 (the year he married Nicki), he failed to register as a sex offender.

Petty’s sentencing is scheduled for January 24. He could face a maximum 10-year sentence in federal prison, a lifetime of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Coming up as a nigga in the cash game living in the fast lane indeed.

This week 25 years ago, we lost one of the greatest rappers ever, Tupac Shakur. He was shot four times on the evening of September 7, 1996, in Las Vegas. Just six days later, he would succumb to his injuries.

2Pac’s death, much like his life, left an indelible mark on popular music. Many speculate what hip-hop would look like if he got to live longer, but unfortunately, we will never know. What we do know is that he had an incredibly impactful albeit tragically short career, and remains one of the most influential rappers of all time.

2Pac’s last single before his passing was “How Do U Want It” (featuring K-Ci & Jo-Jo). The song samples “Body Heat” by Quincy Jones — who happened to be the father of Kidada Jones, Pac’s girlfriend at the time of his death.

“How Do U Want It” was 2Pac’s second and final No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the world of popular music, there are one-hit wonders, and then there are musical acts who are erroneously remembered as such because one song in their catalog has such an outsized legacy that people forget they did anything else. One of such acts is British group Spandau Ballet, who had a string of hits in the early-to-mid ’80s. The group logged 10 top 10 hits in the UK, but in the US, they only managed three top 40 hits. Of those three was a song called “True.”

Released in April 1983 as the third single and title track of the group’s third album, “True” is what happens when a synthesizer is put to good use. Written by the group’s lead guitarist, Gary Kemp, the song is peak “new wave” (an dodgy term) and “blue-eyed soul” (an even dodgier term) — basically, it is an R&B song performed by white people in a very specific early ’80s kinda way. Kemp says he was inspired by Al Green and Marvin Gaye, the latter of which is mentioned in the song.

I don’t have any memories of “True” before watching The Wedding Singer, so I will assume that was my introduction to it. Starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, the movie was set in the early ’80s and features many hits from that era. The spoofy nature of the movie colored my perception of the songs featured in it, and for years, I would think of “True” only as the humorous soundtrack to the final scene of the movie — in fact, I hadn’t even listened to it from start to finish until very recently. When I finally did, I discovered new parts of the song I’d never heard and fell deeper in love with it — and this time, it was a serious kind of love.

“True” is an absolute masterpiece and Gary Kemp was most definitely in his bag when he wrote it. As you can imagine, the song was Spandau Ballet’s highest-charting song in both the US, where it peaked at No. 4, and the UK, where it topped the chart.

Entrepreneur and brand influencer Emmanuel Egolum stopped by to talk about Sha’Carri Richardson’s abysmal performance at the Prefontaine Classic, the “Essence” remix, the Verzuz between The LOX and Dipset, and Kanye West’s never-ending obsession with Drake.

(Note: This episode was recorded on August 22, 2021.)