Few songs get the party started quite like this one.

Today in 1997, “Mo Money Mo Problems” ascended to the No. 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the second single from the Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death album and his second No. 1 hit — his two No. 1s occurred in the months after his passing. The song samples the Diana Ross classic, “I’m Coming Out,” with Diddy and Mase providing a verse each and an uncredited Kelly Price providing guest vocals.

(Sidebar: I have a huge issue with rap songs that don’t credit featured vocalists because, often times, it is the sung chorus that sticks with the listeners.)

“Mo Money Mo Problems” was about the envy and hate that comes with being a young rich nigga. Its video is a marker of the Shiny Suit Era — when Diddy was on his new money shit and didn’t know how to act — and of a time when rappers weren’t ridiculed for just having fun with their music and videos. These days, everybody has to be a member of the Talented Tenth or face the wrath of the “custodians” of the culture — we’re looking at you, Mr. Budden. I consider this song one of the greatest of all time and count myself lucky for being alive at the time of its release. Check it out below.

Today would’ve been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday. Unfortunately, the King of Pop is no longer with us, and in the years since his passing, his estate has been careless in the shepherding of his legacy. However, the music he made while he was alive — songs we know he actually sung — remains evergreen, and that is what his legacy will be judged by.

In celebration of his 60th birthday, below are six of my favorite MJ chunes. Long live the King!

“Remember the Time”


“Smooth Criminal”


“The Way You Make Me Feel”


“Black or White”


“Billie Jean”


“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”

Miguel dropped the video for “Banana Clip” a few days ago, and because releasing the English version would’ve been too big of an ask, he only released the Spanish — Spanglish, if we’re being honest — version of the track. Hurray.

Luckily, the song is so good that it doesn’t matter that I barely understand any of it. Peep the clip below.

Tory Lanez is all about that PJ life in the “Kylie Jenner Music.” No #BowWowChallenge over here! The track, presumably from an upcoming album, pokes fun at social media poseurs…you know, because Tory is rich for real and he stays Gucci’d down. The video is as unimaginative as it gets, but as I always say, good videos are hard to come by, so it’s all good. Watch the video below.

Jason Derulo, David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Willy William join forces for “Goodbye,” which sounds like someone took the “Mi Gente” beat, played around with it in the studio, and then came back like “Tada! New beat.” The song is trying to be too many things — EDM, pop, rap, R&B, reggaeton– at the same time and it doesn’t quite work. Check it out for yourself.

Today in 1998, Lauryn Hill released her one and only studio album as a solo act: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In the two decades since its release, the legacy of the artist has been marred by tardiness, no-shows, a stint in jail for tax evasion, and even accusations of plagiarism; however, the music has maintained preeminence as one of the greatest of that decade — and even of all time.

Miseducation was born out of personal tribulations, so people that live for that kind of music — the critics, the voting members of the Recording Academy, fake-deep people, and hipsters at large — ate it up. However, the music was also irresistibly good, so us normal people who just appreciate a good song were able to enjoy it as well. The album touched on everything from pressure to abort the pregnancy of her first child, her troubled romance with ex-boyfriend Wyclef Jean, and social issues within the black community.

Her refusal — or, depending on who you ask, inability — to produce another studio album has almost helped preserve Miseducation‘s legendary status. She released a live album of new material (MTV Unplugged No. 2.0) in 2001, which counts as a second album in my book, but most people seem committed to pretending it never happened, and I totally understand.

Miseducation has sold almost 20 million copies and won five Grammys, which was a record for a female artist at the time (Beyoncé has since broken that record and Adele matched her two years after). It won the award for Album of the Year, which was a first for an “urban contemporary” album — I’m hesitant to call it hip-hop since half of it was sung. It was a major moment for the culture, but if you’re familiar with how the Grammys have moved since the Milli Vanilli scandal, then you understand that Lauryn Hill fits a few of their preferred prototypes.

Miseducation’s lead single, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” was only the tenth song to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for two weeks. And while its two other singles weren’t nearly as successful on the charts, their quality isn’t up for debate. Any question about their timelessness can quickly be settled by the fact that two of the year’s biggest hits — Cardi B’s “Be Careful” and Drake’s 8-week No. 1, “Nice for What” — sample “Ex-Factor,” which also happens to my favorite song from that album. Watch the video below.


PS: The discussion about love on the album version of “Doo Wop (That Thing)” is one of the best things ever.


UPDATE: An attorney for Sony Music has released a statement denying that there was an admission to the use of a Jackson impersonator.

—————————————————-

As has long been suspected, a lot of the posthumous Michael Jackson releases include songs that were not actually sung by MJ. Back in 2014, a fan named Vera Serova felt so strongly about this that she filed a class action lawsuit against Sony Music, John Branca (executor of the Jackson estate), MJJ Productions, James Porte (a supposed co-writer of a lot of Michael’s posthumous music), Eddie Cascio (a supposed longtime friend of Michael’s), and Angelikson Productions (Cascio’s production company). She enlisted the help of forensic audiologist George Papcun, who was able to conclude that it was very likely that three of the tracks — “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” — on MJ’s 2010 album, Michael, were sung by someone else. The impersonator is said to be a singer named Jason Malachi, but he denied involvement when suspicions first arose.

Sony initially dismissed the suit as frivolous, but in court earlier this week, the label finally admitted to its fraudulent-ass ways (HipHop-N-More has the 41-page court document detailing what went down). It is unclear what the repercussions would be for Sony and the other defendants, but I’m hoping they’re steep. I would actually like to see Eddie Cascio in jail if that is at all possible. He and his brother are said to have been friends with Michael since the ’80s; that kind of disloyalty deserves punishment.

It just blows my mind that even in death — and just mere months after the fact — people were looking to exploit Michael Jackson in this way. And while these people are all terrible, I feel like this is just another example of Michael not being the best judge of character. It seems there wasn’t anyone in his inner circle who truly had his best interest in their heart, and that is ultimately what killed him.

This news comes just weeks after John Branca sold MJ’s stake in EMI Music Publishing to Sony Music. Branca is slowing getting rid of all of the publishing rights Michael owned; I’m not sure what the motive is and I’m not knowledgeable enough to definitively classify this as bad, but I am very wary.

PS: I am of the belief that there are many more songs that were sung by impersonators, but this is a start. “Hollywood Tonight,” also on Michael, is insultingly obvious; and as I mentioned at the time of its release, I don’t trust the MJ-assisted “Don’t Matter to Me” (from Drake’s Scorpion).

When it comes to rap, I can’t say no to quick, clever lyrics over a danceable beat, and Positive K’s “I Got a Man” gives you just that. Released in 1992, this classic is about an overly aggressive dude who takes “I’m good luv, enjoy” as an invitation to try again — in other words, something of a creep. There has been conversation about whether or not the scenario in this song amounts to street harassment, but that’s not why we’re here today.

“I Got a Man” samples a number of songs that have sampled other songs — its Wikipedia page doesn’t quite list all of the borrowed melodies and beats — but the end-result is pure magic. The song peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 500,000 copies. Check it out below.


PS: The woman on the track is actually Positive K’s voice raised higher with studio technology.

PPS: Aretha Franklin loved this song so much that she flew Positive K out to perform it at her birthday party.

What’s the hook, then? Chance the Rapper provides an assist on Reeseynem’s “What’s the Hook,” a feel-good song about escaping jail time. The video features a whole bunch of dancing-ass niggas and I love it more than I could tell you. This song came about two months too late because my summer could’ve used this chune, but it’s okay; I’ma ride it out for this last month of the season. Watch the video below.