The collaboration elevated what could have otherwise been a throwaway track to classic status. Rumoured to be about everything from weed to masturbation, the suggestive lyrics were cleverly buried under a poppy, danceable, uptempo beat that borrowed from the burgeoning electronica movement. Is she hip-hop? Is she soul? Badu answered by being all that and more.
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Where are the love ballads? Why don't men plead for their love while singing in the rain anymore? Who are the powerhouse singers of today? During that decade, music fans were gifted with a surplus of groups with distinct styles, the emergence of subgenres such as New Jack Swing and neo soul and classic songs being crafted by producers and songwriters such as Babyface, Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to name a few. There is no doubt that Mariah Carey was a ruler of the '90s as one of top-selling artists of all time. In the mid-'90s, Aaliyah experimented with new sounds, thanks to the likes of Static Major, Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Timbaland is known for making sounds out of anything, and this single from the "Dr. Doolittle" soundtrack showcased a young Timbo in his prime — not to mention, the "Are You That Somebody?
Lelee, Coko and Taj were gospel choir-honed singers who crafted sweet, melismatic harmonies, with Coko's nasal, almost Martian soprano giving them an inimitable edge. TLC's early sound was classic new jack, but with a rowdy, girl gang edge: Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas harmonising sweetly with Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins's alto while Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes dropped feisty, nasal rap verses about safe sex and sisterhood. This new form of collaboration required singers who could hold their own next to their MC peers, and Kima, Keisha and Pam — the New Jersey trio who'd made their debut on the hook of Notorious BIG's Juicy — proved they were up to the challenge with No One Else, weaving their voices around a typically rambunctious verse from Da Brat. While TLC were swaggering around in baggy jeans and Dr Martins, Total were rocking pre-Matrix chic: sleek leather trench coats, slick, cropped hair and black shades. Their eponymous debut album was tender, romantic and occasionally filthy, and while No One Else proved Total could sample one of hip-hop's cornerstones — Boogie Down Production's South Bronx — and make it their own. Ruthless Records' artist Michel'le had lain the groundwork for hip-hop soul with her self-titled debut, but Mary's debut — What's the ? There were elements of swing, but Blige radiated a melancholic Lady Day vibe that set her apart from her peers. But in Mary Jane All Night Long , Blige offered a joyously retro-sounding respite: warm, booming drums, soft funk bass, breezy flutes and a playful, lover's call. Howard's single set a new benchmark in urban raunch pop; Freak Like Me was hood romance at its most graphic, a pheromone-fuelled G-funk anthem for the ladies — empowering or degrading, depending on which feminist set you claimed.