There was no better era of music than the 90’s and early 2000’s R&B scene, and that is a statement I am prepared to swear by.
I’m as partial to Oasis as the next Manc, I’ve witnessed (and cried at) a Take That concert, and I’m even head-banged at a Kasabian gig, but my heart will always belong to old school R&B.
I was brought up on a random jamboree of music throughout my childhood, but none as prominent as the genre that has inspired this article.
My childhood consisted of my Dad religiously playing Galaxy 102 radio station in all of its R&B glory on every single car journey for a good 10 years, and so, such music is especially close to my heart.
While most kids my age were listening to Spice Girls, I was rapping every single verse of Busta Rhyme’s latest hit alongside my Dad. I was bought up treasuring lyrics that actually
spoke to the listener, told stories, made them really feel something. I wasn't raised on ‘pop,’
or the desire to belt out mediocre, meaningless wording.
They don’t make R&B like they used to.
They don’t make passionate, steamy love songs like the ones from back in the day.
They don’t make powerhouse women - their songs etched with sass - as was the case a decade or so ago.
A few of the women in question include the legendary likes of Lauryn Hill, Mary J Blidge, Sunshine Anderson, Aaliyah and Blu Cantrell.
They sing songs of love, but also of heartbreak and deceit, yet they do it in such a classy, sassy way. There’s none of this whiney ‘he cheated on me and ruined my life but I still want him back’ rubbish. The ladies scream their lyrics straight to the point, naming and shaming, with a subtle hint of revenge.
Their accusations are raw, ripping their exes to shreds in the form of songs that we all like to shout aloud to inspire and empower us. They preach the kind of sentiments we all want to feel brave enough to proclaim after a breakup. They’re songs to get back up to; songs to hold your head high to.
I was raised with the blissfully influential voice of Lauryn Hill filling the house, a factor that
I strongly believe helped to shape the woman I am today.
These ladies are effortlessly beautiful, oozing self-confidence and self-assurance, showcasing such in the form of their words, sang out loud and proud for woman on the other side of the stereo across the world for years and years to come.
There was of course another type of woman on the R&B scene, and this included women like Jennifer Lopez, Ashanti and Mariah Carey. Unquestionable queens in their individual divine rights. I don’t think there was a track in the early 2000’s that J.Lo didn’t at least appear in the video of.
A friend of mine once famously said, ‘If a man doesn’t love me like a 90’s R&B song, then I’m not interested.’
I think of lyrics belonging to seductive love songs from the era in question, and I think of lyrics from love songs today, and there really is no comparison.
Can you really question the contention between Busta Rhyme’s ‘I Know What You Want?’ and JLS’s ‘Everybody in Love?’
The bar was set very high in terms of romance and passion.
I love the way 90’s R&B men sing about their ladies, with admirable respect and obvious lust, all the while staying on the right side of cool, credible romance. The sort of love every girl desires.
90’s/00’s R&B details love, desire and heartbreak in just the right amount of realism, making their songs comfortably relatable.
The early 00’s were arguably Kanye and Jay-Z’s best years too, back when they made stunning soul rap purely for the love of it; their endless hits laced with such fervour.
While I enjoyed Watch The Throne and Magna Carter, I can’t help but peer back wistfully at the classics: The Black Album, Hard Knock Life, Kingdom Come, College Dropout, and Late Registration.
Those particular discs produced some absolute tunes, and nobody can deny it!
Bring Me Down (from Kanye’s Late Registration) combined the raw presence of Kanye’s lyrics with the sensual vocals of Brandy. The result was sensational, and although a lesser known hit from the album, it remains to be one of my all time favourites.
When I was 14, my Dad took me to my first Jay-Z concert: The American Gangster Tour. I
can honestly say that it was the best musical display I have ever been lucky enough to encounter. It was the most spine-tingling and incredible example of soul rap.
Memories of that concert have enthralled me for over a decade.
When Jay-Z announces a ‘concert,’ boy does he put on a show! While so many artists
thoughtlessly storm the stage, belt out a few tracks off their latest album, and then depart, Jay-Z made his performance all-singing and all-dancing, quite literally.
Undeniably a crowd pleaser, Jay-Z’s oh-so-cool and almost nonchalant manor charmed his audience with hits from past and present. He pin-pointed and complimented random members of the crowd between songs, making it feel like quite the personal affair.
I distinctly remember watching a young couple romantically slow dance with one another at the back of the standing area to a mellow number. Moments like that – music that influences and enchants a crowd into indescribable love and harmony – that’s what it's all about.
The whole evening was magical, beautiful, and uniting.
A humble man with disarming intelligence and breathtaking observation, Jay-Z is my ultimate musical idol.
He raps in such a unique way that makes him stand out from any other artist of our time. Combining his cheeky personality, touching personal experiences, and often surprisingly gentler tones, Jay-Z is in a class of his own on the scene.
I’ll forever remember those early 00's long summer’s afternoon drives around the city with my Dad, windows down, shades on, collaborating father-daughter duets of Big Pimpin’ and Hard Knock Life.
The simplest of memories like such can send shivers of nostalgia down my spine, alongside a longing to experience those scorching afternoons once again. I’d appreciate every song on the radio, every artist, every second of a time that passed by far too fast.
The sounds that engulfed my ears could be heard in every shop, in the background of every television program, drifting out of the entrance of every pub and club... It seemed as though the whole world was breathing the essence of those history-making tracks.
During my college years, the spirit of the old-school R&B scene was kept alive by becoming
the theme to every house party I attended. Nothing made a party and got people talking and dancing like an array of legendary R&B beats.
Nelly's Hot In Here ended every single Saturday night at my local club, and ensured that
everyone relished every second right until the very last.
I’ve always found it incredible how music can stir such thought-provoking and unfathomably comforting memories in one’s mind. The simple opening chords of a once loved song behold the power to send you hurtling back in time to a phase so treasured and tentatively stored...
The Ultimate 90’s/00’s Playlist –
‘What’s Luv?’ – Fat Joe feat. Ashanti
‘Hit ‘em Up Style’ – Blu Cantrell
‘Always On Time’ – Ashanti feat. Ja Rule
‘Heard it All Before’ – Sunshine Anderson
‘Uh Oh’ – Lumidee
‘Family Affair’ – Mary J Blidge
‘No Scrubs’ – TLC
‘That Thing’ – Lauryn Hill
‘Oops, Oh My’ – Tweet feat. Missy Elliott
‘Love Like This’ – Faith Evans
‘I’m Real’ – J.Lo feat Ja Rule
‘Through the Wire’ – Kanye West
’21 Questions’ – 50 Cent
‘I Know What You Want’ – Busta Ryhmes feat. Mariah Carey
‘Breathe’ – Sean Paul feat. Blu Cantrell
‘Livin It Up’ – Ja Rule
‘King of the Dance Floor’ – Beanie Man
‘It Takes More’ – Ms Dynamite
‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ – Gwen Stefani feat. Eve
‘Move Ya Body’ – Nina Sky
‘So Into You’ – Tamia
‘Beautiful’ – Pharrell Williams
‘Hey Ma’ – Cam’Ron
‘All I Have’ – J.Lo feat Ja Rule
‘No Letting Go’ – Wayne Wonder
‘Hot in Here’ – Nelly
‘Get Busy’ – Sean Paul
‘Bonnie & Clyde’ – Jay-Z feat. Beyonce
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©