This weekend marks 25 years since the Fugees released their sophomore LP, The Score, and if you thought that was the group’s first album, you’re forgiven. It came two years after the group’s debut album, Blunted on Reality, but that album sold a grand total of 12,000. In the grand scheme of popular music — especially in the mid-’90s — that can be rounded down to zero.
The Score improves on the group’s first outing, offering catchier lyrics and stronger melodies. Often times, the melodies are so good because they are familiar; for example, “Fu-Gee-La” samples from Teena Marie’s “Ooo La La La” while “Ready or Not” samples the Delfonics’ “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)” and Enya’s “Boadicea.” Also, the album includes some of the best covers you will ever hear, with their version of “Killing Me Softly” becoming an instant classic.
The Score is generally not thought of as a “gangsta” album, and that is perhaps because its a melodic project that includes a lot of singing. However, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll quickly realize that there’s a whole lotta gun talk on the album. In between the gun talk, the group also touches on a variety of social issues, including poverty and police brutality.
If you’re anything like me, you probably assumed that this album’s singles were all chart-topping hits in the US, but as a matter of fact, only its first single, “Ready or Not,” made it onto the Billboard Hot 100. The others were popular on the radio, but due to Hot 100 rules at the time — which required a physical single release for chart eligibility — the rest of them never charted. However, all four singles were major hits across the world, with “Killing Me Softly” reaching No. 1 in the UK, France, Sweden, New Zealand and Germany, among others.
The Score would go on to sell over 17 million copies worldwide and win two Grammys in 1997 — for Best Rap Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (for “Killing Me Softly”). Unfortunately, it would also become the group’s final album. According to Wyclef, who was married and having an affair with Lauryn Hill, the group broke up a paternity situation. They tried to reunite years later, but were unsuccessful.
In some ways, the fact that we never got another Fugees album makes The Score that much more special. The absence of a follow-up means you never have to hear about the group “falling off” or “playing it safe.” It leaves you wondering what could have been while being grateful that we got to experience that bit of magic.
Ariana Grande just released a video for the “34+35” remix, where she links up with Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion for a day of bubbly and various girly shenanigans.
The remix video reflects the sexy yet whimsical energy of the song, and if this is an apology for the clip that came with the original track, I accept it. Click play.
The beautiful and talented Kelly Rowland turns 40 today, so you already know we had to dedicate this week’s TBT post to her.
For the last 24 years, Kelly has blessed us as a founding member of Destiny’s Child and a solo star, and even though the industry doesn’t always do right by her, the work speaks for itself.
Below are my four favorite Kelly tracks. Happy birthday, Kelly!
When it comes to visuals, Cardi B don’t miss.
The rapper just dropped a new single titled “Up” and its video is simply breathtaking. From the choreo to the outfits, Cardi makes it clear that this ain’t no homemade shit.
The song sounds a bit like “Money” and is full of quotables, including a hook that declares that broke men don’t deserve pussy. The ladies are gonna love this one.
In under 14 hours, “Up” has racked up almost four million views, making it a strong candidate for a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100.
Today is Cam’ron’s 45th birthday, so it is only right that we revisit one of the best hookup songs ever made: “Hey Ma.”
The song features Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey and Toya, and includes a sample of The Commodores’ “Easy,”. With a sample that good, it’s hard to go wrong, but Cam went even further by providing us with one of the best call-and-response choruses you will ever hear.
The track peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is Cam’ron’s biggest hit. Check it out below.
Today marks 35 years since the release of Janet Jackson’s breakthrough album, Control. It was her third LP, and prior to its release, Janet was generally known as the Jacksons’ baby sister. Sure, she had been on a few hit TV shows, but with this album, she established herself as a global superstar.
Before we can discuss the music, we have to discuss where Janet was at that point in her life and career. At just 19 years old, she was year out of an annulled marriage (to James DeBarge), which was followed by the firing of her manager at the time, Joseph Jackson. Yes, her daddy.
Janet Jackson was quite literally taking control.
Janet hired a new manager, John McClain, who was a vice president at her record label at the time, A&R Records. McClain would introduce Janet to two former members of the group The Time, James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Steven Lewis, and nothing was the same. Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis would go on to form arguably the greatest creative partnership in the history of popular music.
Along with Janet, the duo co-wrote seven of Control‘s nine tracks and co-produced eight. The only track with no Jam & Lewis input is “The Pleasure Principle,” which was co-produced by Janet and whose video is among the most imitated ever.
Prior to Control, Janet had no creative input in her music. One could argue that the duo helped a young Janet find her sound, and in a way, she kinda did the same for them. Through their collaborations with Janet, the duo were able to register what a Jam & Lewis production sounds like in the consciousness of the music-buying public. And more importantly, they established themselves as the pioneers of a new subgenre: new jack swing.
Control has range in tempo and subject matter. Janet — Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty — is assertive on the title track as well as much-quoted “Nasty” and “What Have You Done for Me Lately.” But on “When I Think of You,” “You Can Be Mine,” and “He Doesn’t Know I’m Alive,” she shows us that assertive women need love too.
The biggest contrast, however, is between the eighth and ninth tracks of the album: “Let’s Wait Awhile” and “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun).” On the former, Janet is basically preaching abstinence. On the latter, which is somewhat reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “The Lady in My Life,” we get to experience a more mature and sensual side of Janet, complete with whispered sexy talk in French.
Given the generally upbeat feel of Control, a lot of people might miss the fact that it is deeply personal. The title track is about firing pops and grabbing the reins of her career, “What Have You Done for Me Lately” is about ex James DeBarge, “Nasty” is about a real-life sexual harassment incident, and even her abstinence anthem is about a conversation she had with a boyfriend in her early teens.
Control is a true classic and a reference point for a lot of the music made in the 20 years that followed. The album sold over 10 million copies worldwide and set Janet Jackson on her path to becoming the legend she is today.
My favorite track on this album also happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time (by any artist). Check it out below.
Alexis Garner returns! On this episode, we discuss the inauguration, a potential Verzuz battle between Usher and Justin Timberlake, the Chad Wheeler incident, DaniLeigh’s colorist song, and the record-breaking success of ‘Bridgerton.’
Many of the forgotten hits of the ’90s are better than 90% of what’s on radio right now. Yes, as a child raised in the ’90s, I’m totally biased, but let me have my moment.
Monifah’s “Touch It” is one of such forgotten hits. Released in the summer of ’98, the song samples Laid Back’s 1983 hit, “White Horse”, and was the lead single of Mo’s sophomore LP, Mo’hogany. It is an R&B/House blend with lyrics that are nastier than anything I can remember from a female R&B singer of that era. The song would go on to peak at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Monifah’s biggest hit — unfortunately, it would also be her last song to make it onto the chart.
“Touch It” has been on the docket for a while, but with Monifah turning 50 on today, there is no better occasion to revisit this jam. Click play.
The year was 2001 and we were in the later stages of the teen pop boom that accompanied the new millennium. It was a big year for alternative rock and an even bigger year for Murder Inc. J.Lo was doing her thing as was Destiny’s Child. In the midst of all that came a 20-year-old girl from Hell’s Kitchen who played the piano and sang traditional R&B.
Today, that girl turn 40 years old.
Considering what was happening in popular music circa 2001, Alicia Keys — and in particular, “Fallin’” — was very much an anomaly. However, with the Clive Davis machine behind her, the industry welcomed Alicia with open arms. And of course, critics can’t say no to an instrumentalist.
“Fallin’” would top the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks and was the second-biggest hit of the year. Its parent album, Songs in A Minor, would sell over 12 million copies worldwide and win five Grammys — a record for a female artist at the time.
Over the next decade, Alicia would put out hit album after hit album, and win many more Grammys. She would also earn three more No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100.
The 2010s weren’t as kind to Alicia, but with a run like had in the preceding decade, her career stands head and shoulders above most. Join me in celebrating this true icon!
Below are my four favorites from Alicia Keys’ catalog.