June 12, 2020, marked the 30th anniversary of Mariah Carey’s eponymous debut album. As far as debuts are concerned, few are more impressive.

Mariah Carey is impressive not just because it has no skips and offers a range in tempo and style, but also because many of those songs were written by a teenage Mariah — in fact, some were written while she was in high school. As the legend goes, her then-future-husband and then-head of Columbia Records, Tommy Mottola, grabbed her demo tape as she handed it to Jerry Greenberg, then-president of Atlantic Records, and the rest is history. Tommy would end up signing and later marrying — and divorcing — her. There are few Mariah write-ups that don’t include this “Cinderella” story, but what many don’t mention is that the songs on that demo tape would end up being on her debut album. In fact, two of them — “Vision of Love” and “Someday” — would end up being No. 1 singles.

This fun fact is important because it demonstrates that she already had an artistic voice before the label assembled the industry’s finest to assist in making her debut album.

Many have inaccurately described Mariah Carey as an artist who made “pop” until she started collaborating with rappers, but not only is that false, it serves as evidence that “pop” is a vague and often-racialized term. Mariah was only considered “pop” because she was white-passing, but the truth is that her sound has always been decidedly R&B, and few songs on her debut LP could be mistaken as anything else.

Another fun fact: Mariah showed her first inclinations towards hip-hop on her debut album, where she raps on “Prisoner,” the album’s 10th track. Looking back, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard collabo should’ve been a lot less surprising, but unfortunately, she had been placed neatly in the “pop” box .

From gospel to doo-wop to quiet storm, Mariah Carey is a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary R&B sounds, and even though Columbia Records was very much going for Whitney vibes, you will come away knowing that this is an artist with an identity of her own.

All four singles from Mariah Carey — “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time,” “Someday” and “I Don’t Wanna Cry” — would reach the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, making her the second act ever (after the Jackson 5) to top the chart with their first four singles. Mariah would end up breaking that record when her fifth single (and first from her sophomore LP), “Emotions,” also tops the chart.

Mariah won Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for “Vision of Love”) at the Grammys the following year, and the album would go on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide.

Picking a favorite from an album this good can be a challenge, but on Mariah Carey, there is a clear winner: “Alone in Love.” You know an album is good when your favorite song is a deep cut and not one of its four No. 1 singles. Join me in celebrating this classic body of work.

6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj just dropped “TROLLZ,” their third collabo and easily their best one yet.

Tekashi didn’t do a whole lot of trolling, but Nicki did enough for the both of them. If you listen closely enough, there’s something in there for Lisa Raye (re: Nicole Murphy sleeping with her man) and Usher (re: rumored STD infection), among others.

And of course, as she did on the “Say So” remix, Nicki ensures to remind whoever that her real ass couldn’t keep her man at home. The target for that jab is still somewhat of a mystery.

The “Trollz” video was shot at 6ix9ine’s house because he’s still on house arrest. Check it out below.

In the fall of 1994, an all-star roster of male R&B singers got together to sing their asses off on “U Will Know,” a song about following your dreams and keeping the faith in a world determined to beat it out of you.

Written by D’Angelo with Lenny Kravitz on the guitar, the track includes vocals from Aaron Hall, Al B. Sure!, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Christopher Williams, El DeBarge, Gerald LeVert, Joe, Keith Sweat, Tevin Campbell, Tony! Toni! Toné! and Usher, among many others.

“U Will Know” is an all-time favorite, and if there’s anything to criticize about it, it’s that its video starts with black-on-black crime stats that might feel like propaganda when viewed through 2020 lens.

Watch the video below.

In a week where the world continues to protest in honor of George Floyd and the general mistreatment of black people, 2Pac’s “Changes” hits a little different. The song, released posthumously in October ’98, was a summary of the factors working against many black people in America.

I see no changes, all I see is racist faces.

With all of the police brutality we’ve seen as we protest against police brutality, and the new details we’ve learned about about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the lyrics to the song almost feels like a narration of life in 2020.

“Changes” samples “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range, and features Talent. Even though it only peaked at No. 32 in the US, “Changes” was a top 5 hit in many European countries and is arguably Pac’s biggest posthumous single. Click play.

Earlier this week, yet another unarmed black person became a hashtag after being killed by the police. And once again, we have video evidence.

Forty-six-year-old father of two, George Floyd, was in handcuffs and laying on his belly while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee into his neck for at least eight minutes — it’s unknown how long he had been doing that before a bystander started recording. It was clear that Floyd was dead within five minutes of the recording, but the officer — who was accompanied by three others — kept his knee in place.

Minneapolis has been up in smoke since the incident, and other cities have shown solidarity via protests of their own. All four officers at the scene have been fired, but no arrest has been made despite ample evidence in support of doing so.

I had another song planned for this week’s Throwback Thursday post, but following the death of George Floyd, I’m left asking one question: What’s going on?

Marvin Gaye asked the same question on the lead single and title track of his 11th studio album, What’s Going On. Written by Gaye, Al Cleveland and Renaldo Benson, the song was inspired by the social unrest at the time. It went on to peak at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

As we continue to live in the uncertainty of a global pandemic, and as George Floyd’s killer remains a free man, I have no choice but to ask the same.

“What’s Going On” has been remade four times, most recently in 2001, when Jermaine Dupri and Bono assembled an all-star cast of artists — including Destiny’s Child, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Nelly — for a remake aimed at raising money for AIDS treatment across the world. However, before the song was released, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to the proceeds of the song being split between AIDS treatment and September 11 relief.

It’s hard to remake a classic of this importance without ruining it, so I tip my heart to JD, Bono and all the artists — collectively called Artists Against AIDS Worldwide — involved. Listen to the original and the 2001 version below.

Marvin Gaye version

Artists Against AIDS Worldwide Version

Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G., would have been 48 years old today. His life and career were cut short in 1997, but by all measures, he made his time on earth count.

“Juciy,” the first single from Biggie’s debut album, Ready to Die, is among his many classics and, in my humble opinion, his single best work. Rapped over the beat to Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit,” Biggie takes us on a journey that begins with a young Chris — reading Word Up! and daring to dream — and ends with his new reality as the Notorious B.I.G., rap star who sips champagne when he’s thirsty.

The beauty of “Juicy” is that it encapsulates Biggie’s life and is yet very relatable — to people who grew up less privileged, to black males misunderstood, and to anyone with big dreams. Basically, there is something for almost everyone.

In the 26 years since its release, “Juicy” has remained evergreen and is widely considered to be one of the greatest rap songs ever. Join me in celebrating this classic and the life of the Notorious B.I.G.

Chloe x Halle just dropped the video for “Do It,” the second single from their second album, Ungodly Hour, and the people are taking notice.

For the first time, the Beyoncé signees are giving us a real banger and some choreo to boot. This is all part of the duo’s plan to show that they can give us bops along with the “musicianship” they’re known for.

Watch “Do It” below.

This past Sunday, the world lost R&B singer Bessie Regina Norris, better known as Betty Wright. If you’re not familiar with the name, I understand. And if you are, take this crown, king/queen.

Betty Wright wasn’t a big star, so even though she’d been in the industry since 1966 (at just 12 years old) and even achieved a top 10 hit in 1972, her fan base was generally limited to true R&B heads. However, so many of her recordings have been sampled in songs that went on to become major hits, including Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up.”

If there ever was an argument for sampling songs, it is that it sometimes allows for the discovery of good music that had otherwise been forgotten. At any given time, there is good music being ignored for whatever reason, but for black artists, especially black artists of a certain era, the marginalization of their work was protocol. And that marginalization is why artists as gifted as Betty Wright are denied the superstardom they so deserve.

I urge you all to take a deep dive into Betty Wright’s discography. No one did a spoken verse quite like she did, and as far as whistle notes are concerned, she was one of the best to ever do it. Word to Minnie and Mariah.

Our TBT pick is a live performance of “No Pain, (No Gain),” the first single from Betty Wright’s 12th album, Mother Wit (1988). Click play and thank me later.

There are stars, there are superstars, and then there are legends.

Today in 1950, a legend was born.

Signed by Motown Records at just 11 years old, Stevie Wonder has now giving us almost 60 years musical magic. At 13, he became the youngest artist in history to top the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200, with “Fingertips” and Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius, respectively. In the decades that have followed, he has achieved eight more Hot 100 No. 1s and earned 26 Grammys, including three for Album of the Year — a record he shares with Frank Sinatra — and one for Lifetime Achievement. Also, his three Album of the Year wins were for consecutive releases. Because he was cookin’ like that in the early-to-mid ’70s.

So many of Stevie Wonder’s songs are now standards for life events like birthdays and weddings. His music is quite literally the soundtrack of our lives and is among the most sampled in popular music.

Below are my seven favorite Stevie Wonder tracks.


“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”

“For Once in My Life”

“Isn’t She Lovely”

“You and I (We Can Conquer the World)”

“I Wish”

“My Cherie Amour”