The year was 2000 and a 22-year-old Usher was ready to follow up his breakthrough album, My Way (1997), with what he had hoped would be another commercial success. The album, which would have been his third, was supposed to be called All About U, and it’s lead single was a song called “Pop Ya Collar,” which was written by Usher, Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs and Kandi Burruss.

Unfortunately, “Pop Ya Collar” was leaked on Napster months ahead of its scheduled release, as were at least two other tracks that were supposed to be on All About U. As a result of this, the album was shelved so Ursh could record brand new material, and said shelving meant that “Pop Ya Collar” was essentially abandoned soon after its release. Depending on who you ask, “Pop Ya Collar” was also abandoned because the song wasn’t rising on the charts as quickly as the record label had hoped, peaking at No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Whatever the case may be, “Pop Ya Collar” is considered one of Usher’s best around these parts. It is very Year 2000 in sound and content, but it slaps just as hard 19 years later because Usher was singing his ass off and good melodies age beautifully.

Calling it a classic would be flagrant lie, but it is a true gem that deserved better. Check it out below.

The hands of time never stop turning, and eventually, most things are forgotten. Many of the hit songs that seem ubiquitous today will be mere footnotes in a few years — significant only to the people who loved them at the time of their initial release. Every now and then, however, an artist strikes gold with a hit that outlives its chart reign.

On January 13, 1990, MC Hammer struck gold with “U Can’t Touch This,” the lead single from his sophomore album, Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

“U Can’t Touch This,” which samples Rick James’ “Super Freak,” wasn’t rap’s first crossover hit. However, almost all of the rap songs that had achieved crossover success at that point were either not purely rap songs or were performed partially or entirely by white artists.

“U Can’t Touch This” was rap through and through, and one might argue that it reached a new frontier of popularity for the genre. The song was literally everywhere, and with a chorus that simple says, “You can’t touch this,” everybody could sing along.

And the music video. My oh my.

The harem pants. The fade/ponytail combo. The dance moves.

The video was clearly before the days where rappers worried about being “too pop” or “too commercial,” and the absence of that burden is what makes it so special. MC Hammer was being himself, and the genre would benefit from that kind of sincerity in 2020.

“U Can’t Touch This” propelled its parent album to over 18 million units in global sales, with over 10 million sold in the US alone — making it the first rap album to be certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song won Grammys for Best Rap Solo Performance and Best R&B Song — the latter being a clear indicator of how clueless the industry was about rap. “U Can’t Touch This” also became the first rap song to be nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys.

Thirty years later, the song is still a constant — in TV shows, in movies, in commercials. And yes, in parodies too. But whatever the case may be, the song’s legacy remains untouched.

Future just dropped “Life Is Good” (featuring Drake), which is basically two songs in one. The first part is Drake blessing us with Instagram caption after Instagram caption. And the second part is basically standard Future — if you’re a fan, you’ll like it.

The video shows Champagne Papi and Future Hendrix working regular jobs and includes appearances by Lil Yachty and 21 Savage. Check it out below.

Megan Thee Stallion and Normani linked up for “Diamonds,” the first single from the Birds of Prey soundtrack.

I like both Megan and Normani a lot, but unfortunately, I find myself in the familiar position of forcing myself to like their music. “Diamonds” sounds like the kind of song that ends up on the cutting room floor. It is just…terrible.

The only redeeming thing about “Diamonds” is its video, which shows Meg and Normani wrecking shit in ways that would make Harley Quinn. Its almost good enough to make you ignore the song.

In the summer of 2003, after leading the charts for eight weeks with “Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé followed up with a single that proved that its predecessor was not a fluke.

“Baby Boy” (featuring Sean Paul) was a perfect mix of R&B, dancehall and Middle Eastern sounds, and in many ways, serves as a microcosm of what was going on in popular music at the time. Contemporary R&B was dominating the charts and Beyoncé was its new queen; dancehall was red hot and Sean Paul was its undisputed king; and Indian/Middle Eastern instrumentation could be heard throughout hip-hop and R&B.

Co-produced by Beyoncé and Scott Storch, “Baby Boy” is now among Bey’s signature chunes. The song was written by Bey, Storch, Sean Paul, Robert Waller and Shawn Carter. Yes, Shawn Carter as in Beyoncé‘s now-husband, Jay-Z. They were dating at the time, so he must have been in the studio during the Dangerously in Love sessions because he’s credited on two other songs on which he’s not featured. A songwriting king.

“Baby Boy” became Bey’s second No. 1 as a solo artist, ruling the charts for nine weeks – a week longer than the reign of “Crazy in Love.”

It’s always a good day when an artist releases a video for the best song on their album. Today is one of those days because Summer Walker just put out a video for “Come Thru” (featuring Usher).

Sampling a song as beloved as Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna…” is generally a risky move, but Summer Walker succeeds in borrowing just enough to evoke nostalgia while giving us a fresh new jam. And tapping Usher for the assist was good insurance for keeping his fans at bay.

There’s always fear that a good song will get a bad video, but Summer Walker made us proud. The “Come Thru” video has all the mood lighting, under-boob cleavage, and slow motion shots required for that particular song. And we get the classic Usher choreo and a cameo from JD. No complaints here.

Justin Bieber just dropped the video for “Yummy,” his new single that is catchy enough to keep you coming back but far from his best work. Justin rap-sings over a trap-lite beat that sounds like something you’ve heard before.

With pink hair and a pink outfit, Justin goes full hipster in this video, which is set in a restaurant. Because yummy.

This is not a video that most people would want to watch a second time. Check it out below.

In a recent post on this blog’s Instagram page, LL Cool J was forced to defend his decision to release new music in 2020.

LL Cool J is no Jay-Z, but what we’re not gonna do is disrespect one of the legends of this rap shit. Also, I think it’s important to normalize the idea of rappers releasing new music well past the age of 35.

Because too many of you young’ns seem to have forgotten, this week’s TBT post is a reminder of LL Cool J’s greatness.

In June of 1996, LL released “Loungin” (featuring Total) as the third and final single from his sixth LP, Mr. Smith. The album version is a cool lil jam that samples Al B Sure!’s “Nite and Day,” but its remix, which samples Bernard Wright’s “Who Do You Love,” is the true classic.

Both versions of “Loungin” are so different that one has to wonder why Big Elly was ever allowed to pass this new song off as a remix. Their beats, melodies and lyrics are completely different, and while I live for a remix that sounds different from its original, I’d like to be able to identify some commonalities if we’re going to call it a remix. But I digress.

The “Loungin” remix is a laid-back chune that is so ’90s that it makes you wanna throw on a Kangol hat and sip on some Alize. Kima, Keisha and Pam killed the hook and LL Cool J rapped his ass off. And like every other mid-’90s jam, “Loungin” is about creeping with another person’s significant other.

The “Loungin” video was also peak ’90s. Pool party, Lexus chip, lime green outfits, you name it. And of course, there’s LL Cool J pouring chocolate syrup down the leg of his love interest — on the sidewalk while she sits on the hood of his car, no less. The ’90s were different.

“Loungin” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the third top 10 from Mr. Smith and one of LL Cool J’s biggest hits. It was also one of the biggest songs on 1996. Respect Big Elly.

December 28, 2019, was not just a milestone anniversary for Jay-Z, it was also one for John Legend. That date marked the 15th anniversary of his debut album, Get Lifted. And for the record, it was also his 41st birthday.

After years of singing backup for everyone from Lauryn Hill to Alicia Keys to even Jay-Z, John Legend was now front and center.

Released under Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint, Get Lifted was a traditional-yet-contemporary offering that can be played from start to finish without any real urge to skip a track. Even its weakest tracks (e.g., “Let’s Get Lifted Again”) can be enjoyed under the right circumstances.

John Legend co-wrote all 13 songs on Get Lifted, with Kanye West, Dave Tozer and offering writing and production assistance on majority of the album’s tracks. Features include Yeezy, Snoop Dogg, Miri Ben-Ari and the Stephens Family, who showed us where John Legend (real name John Stephens) gets his pipes from on “It Don’t Have to Change.”

Get Lifted didn’t produce any major hits as far as charts are concerned — its third single, “Ordinary People,” was its highest-charting song and it only managed to reach No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, John Legend has the kind of adult contemporary appeal where big singles don’t matter. That very appeal will power the album to over three million units sold and earn John three Grammys in 2006, including Best New Artist and Best R&B Album.

For an album this good, selecting a favorite is tough, but “It Don’t Have to Change” (featuring the Stephens Family) edges the competition out by *this* much. Check it out below.

Jay-Z’s fourth studio album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, dropped exactly 20 years ago today.

This album has a weird place in history. It’s not widely considered to be among Hov’s best work; however, one of his signature songs, “Big Pimpin’,” comes from this album, so it has a bit of a claim to classic status.

Vol. 3‘s lead single, “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)” (featuring Beanie Sigel and Amil), failed to crack the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its follow-up, “The Thing That U Do” (featuring Mariah Carey), didn’t even chart — mainly because Hov’s record label neglected to promote the song, forgoing a CD single (which was essential at the time) and even a music video.

Just a year after having his biggest hit at the time with “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” Jay-Z attempted to recreate the magic on Vol. 3‘s third single, “Anything.” Much like “Hard Knock Life,” “Anything” samples a popular song from a musical — “I’ll Do Anything” from Oliver! — and has a hook sung by a child. It is perhaps the most nakedly formulaic song Jay-Z has ever released.

Vol. 3 finally cracked the top 20 with “Big Pimpin'” (featuring UGK), its fourth single in just four months. As far as party-on-a-boat music videos are concerned, “Big Pimpin'” is one of the greats. It also captures simpler times, when Jay-Z and Damon Dash were on good terms and Roc-A-Fella was still intact.

Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter was Jay-Z’s second No. 1 album in a row — he will go on to have a No. 1 album in each following year until 2003, and as of 2019, has an unbroken streak of 11 solo No. 1 albums. Vol. 3 sold over three million copies in the US alone and is Hov’s third-best seller.

Even though “Big Pimpin'” is the marquee track from Vol. 3, “Anything” is the clear winner. Yes, it was an obvious attempt to replicate a prior success, but we don’t care. It slaps and has aged beautifully. Check it out below.