90s Flashback: The Fugees // Ready Or Not
As part of me starting up this blog again I thought I’d post the 90s flashbacks that appear in the gif at the left hand side of the page. I’ll be updating the picture every now and again, so keep your eyes peeled for new single covers.
We’ll start with one of the best. The Fugees success was short, but man was it great. “Ready or Not” is possibly the best example of what put them on top. It shows Lauryn, Pras and Wyclef working together as a team; combining political lyrics with faultless vocals and melodies.
That Enya sample that got them into a little trouble is so haunting, and was pretty spooky when combined with the memorable music video when I was a kid. I don’t want to ramble on too long, as you’ll probably be busy listening to the song instead of reading all this. But please listen to this live version of the track, which the trio did for Trevor Nelson at Radio 1. It’s special to say the least.
90s Flashback: Aaliyah // Are You That Somebody?
Timbaland was a complete genius up until his repetitive and often unremarkable releases from the last few years. He completely pushed the boundaries in regards to production, ultimately re-defining R&B for the the next decade.
Timbo’s work ultimately peaked in the late 90s-early 2000s, when he was closely working with Missy & Aaliyah. “Are You That Somebody?” is an obvious example of how magic was created when he teamed up with Aaliyah. With a bouncy, eclectic instrumental containing baby coos from Prince’s “Delirious”, Timbaland created an outlandish landscape for Aaliyah to place her vocals. However she rose to the challenge, effortlessly crooning over the crowded beat with her smooth ad-libs and sultry tone.
Never one to follow the crowd, Aaliyah had already pushed the boundaries of R&B with her Missy & Timbaland produced “One In a Million”.”Are You That Somebody?” bridges the gap between that album and her self titled 2001 record, which took things to an ever more futuristic level, with it’s technical, almost melancholy sounds. It’s hard to believe this was released way back in 1998, I guess some great songs really do stand the test of time.
90s Flashback: Jay-Z // Can’t Knock The Hustle [Feat. Mary J. Blige]
Jay-Z was amazing at Radio 1’s Hackney weekend. Seriously wish I was there. The whole set
should be is now uploaded here if you missed it. On top of that enjoy this classic piece of 90s Jigga, from his 1996 debut “Reasonable Doubt”. It’s a real smooth one.
90s Flashback: 2Pac // Temptations
I’ve been listening to 2Pac’s “Me Against the World” album quite a bit recently, and after watching the humorously sexy video for “Temptations” a few days ago I decided it would make a suitable 90s flashback.
With a trio of samples, the track has that laid-back mid 90s type instrumental, which serves as a perfect backdrop to match Pac’s flow. A heavy drum beat, muted keys and scratching keep things chilled before those smooth horns come in for the chorus. And those horns are good.
With a song title like “Temptations”, it’s only natural that Shakur speaks on the topic of commitment on this track. However it’s not all about relationships, with Pac mentioning keeping commitments with people in his busy life alongside struggling to stay faithful to his girl. All this is well portrayed in the video, which features loads of cameos from the likes of Salt-N-Pepa, Ice-T and Coolio. There’s no 2Pac, as he was incarcerated at the time of the video shoot; but with Coolio’s comedic references to him and his voice providing the soundtrack, it’s almost as if he was there watching over the whole thing. But he wasn’t.
90s Flasback: TLC // Waterfalls
Man this song takes me back. Just like my post on Oasis’ “Supersonic”, I remember “Waterfalls” being used in one of the many episodes of Top Gear I watched on repeat from I was two years old.
It was used during the JD Power Survey of 1996, when Quentin Wilson was talking about a either the Peugeot 106 or 306 having leaking problems. That was pretty fitting considering the song’s title, with images of the car going through car washes and the like being shown as the song was playing. It’s strange how you remember all the little those little things as a child, and that great nostalgic feeling you get when you remember or rediscover it.
Anyways, less about my childhood oddities and more about this TLC classic. The slinky, laidback R&B vibes of this track really resonate with me. I love the slight hint of jazz it gives, with those muted horns that, which combined with the song’s lyrics remind me of water somehow.
And those lyrics are pretty impacting. The trio warn against chasing your desires which will ultimately lead to harm. Giving examples of a mother’s reaction to her drug dealing son’s murder and a man’s lust leading to his health fading due to AIDS, “Waterfalls” is a truly cutting track with an equally memorable video to match.
T-Boz’s smoky vocals give the lyrics real meaning, with everything combined making this a definite highlight of the 90s. However it’s Left Eye’s rap which is my favourite part of track, with her quirky delivery containing clever lyrics that bring a message of truth. “Dreams are hopeless aspirations, in hopes of coming true, believe in yourself, the rest is up to me and you”.
90s Flashback: Mobb Deep // Shook Ones, Pt. II
"Shook Ones, Pt. II" is a track you won’t forget once you’ve heard it. Released off Mobb Deep’s second album "The Infamous", this track is the sequel to "Shook Ones", which was a promotional single the year before this was released in 1995.
With a heavy drum beat and a straying piano loop, “Shook Ones, Pt. II)” sounds particularly sinister. There’s an ominous sound about the track, with the crackling horns creeping in at certain points giving the song quite an unnerving feel. There’s undertones of repressed anger in that beat alone - you could feel the tension of this song even if it was only an instrumental; that’s just how atmospheric this track is.
The lyrics are equally as dark, dealing with inner city violence from the perspective of struggling youths. This track no doubt has some of the best verses of 90s rap, as it manages to create a story which seems as unbelievable as it is realistic. Combined with that genius instrumental, which has been sampled by the likes of Mariah Carey and even Cassie, and this song just can’t help but be barefacedly dark and gritty.
90s Flashback: Dr. Dre // Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang [Feat. Snoop Dogg]
I’ve been listening to this track loads lately as I patiently await the release of ‘Detox’
in 2026 later this year. Hopefully Dr. Dre will take a break from making headphones and finally give us his third album, but I won’t hold my breath. Until then I’ll listen to ‘The Chronic’ and ‘2001’, the former being a soundtrack for much of 2012 for me so far.
"Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang" must be the epitome of West Coast hip-hop. With samples from Leon Hawywood, Public Enemy and Kid Dynamite, it perfects the sounds of Los Angeles. Its laidback sounds surely make it a better representative of early 90s hip-hop than most others.
Snoop and Dre are the perfect partership, they just work so well on tracks together. It must be their smooth delivery, but whatever it is, they definitely sound good together. Hopefully they’ll give us another to ball around Los Santos to….that is if Dre can get his album out before Grand Theft Auto V hits the shelves.
90s Flashback: 2Pac // Changes
A year has come and gone and a lot has happened in that time. There’s been a lot of good and bad, and as well as the fact that I don’t feel like posting a party song as I’m not having the New Year celebrations I’m really excited about until Monday, I thought Pac’s ‘Changes’ was a fitting song considering how different things are at the end of 2011 compared to how they were at the beginning.
A posthumous release from his 1998 Greatest Hits, “Changes” was originally recorded in 1992, and also uses lines from the track “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto” which was recorded in the same year. An interpolation of Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s “The Way It Is”, the way the two songs fit in together lyrically as well as musically combined with the impact of 2Pac’s fairly recent death are what made it such a classic.
Dealing with topics such as racism and how the government concentrating on a war against drugs while ignoring the war on poverty, Shakur wishes for a better world on this social commentary. This song really puts things into perspective, as well as and making you realise that while you may want to live in a utopian world that “some things will never change”.
90s Flashback: SWV // Right Here (Human Nature Remix)
2011 was a good year in music. Sure it had it’s low points, but there were many highlights if you just looked hard enough. One of those which wasn’t so difficult to spot was the return of Chris Brown, who provided us with his best album to date, “F.A.M.E” this year.
On that album is my favourite Chris Brown single, “She Ain’t You”, which samples Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ and in particular the Human Nature remix of SWV’s ‘Right Here’. A 90s classic, “Right Here” contains everything which is good about early 90s R&B. It’s laid back, summery, with great vocals and perfect harmonies. There’s that distinctive 90s drum beat in the background, coupled with some percussion and that infamous Michael Jackson sample which really makes the song perfect. Add a shoutout from a young Pharrell Williams and you might as well classify this as a star studded collaboration.
Speaking of collaborations, the SWV remix of Chris Brown’s “She Ain’t You” was definitely a highlight of 2011, and while I haven’t paid much attention to the band’s return, hopefully 2012 will see a resurgence in the amount of classic R&B on our airwaves.
90s Flashback: Mariah Carey // The Roof [Feat. Mobb Deep]
'The Roof' would have to be my favourite Mariah song of all time. It's just so intense, yet understated and sultry, representing a time when Mariah was at her peak and had just gotten her first real taste of freedom with the album 'Butterfly'.
Built around a sample of Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones part II”, the song saw Mariah further into the world of Hip-Hop and R&B as she broke away from her controlling ex-husband Tommy Mottola, who continued to make her career difficult by refusing to release her singles in the US as head of Sony. Nevertheless, this newfound independence of sorts saw Mariah create her best material, as her restrained vocals suiting the slinky feel of the song while still retaining that strength that she was so well known for.
Downbeat, gritty R&B really suited Mariah. This song has such a low-fi sound, allowing Mariah could hold back a little vocally and let her songwriting skills do the talking. All that combined with a great verse from Mobb Deep, which suited the clever sample, make this a definite highlight of 90s music for me.