Get Ur Freak On: Spotify playlist from R&B’s golden age
I’d never had the stomach for R&B until the mid-90s. I couldn’t be doing with all that “ooh baby” nonsense, see. But as my taste matured (that is, extended beyond Oasis), American R&B suddenly became something very different to the syrupy nonsense churned out since the heyday of New Jack (and Jill) Swing.
While it seems ridiculous to be getting all nostalgic about an era that only really ended four or five years ago, it’s worth revisiting what any right-thinking fan genuinely believes was a golden age for pop music.
Timbaland, Missy Elliott, The Neptunes, Dr Dre and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, among other producers, suddenly seemed to be in monthly battles to see who could create the snappiest, poppingest, hookiest snatch of “urban” music to hit daytime radio. Who won? Well, can you guess, readers? ‘TWAS US, DA LISNUZ.
The best tunes – not unlike in the Motown/Stax era – seemed to be fronted almost exclusively by women. Whether it was borderline filth from Missy and Mya, delirious, horny (in both senses of the word) stomps from Beyonce and Amerie, teasealicious winks from Aaliyah and Tweet or no-bullshit demands for, well, everything from Destiny’s Child and TLC; the music was bold, innovative and more compelling than any other mainstream pop on offer.
You had gurgling babies used as rhythmic backing (Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?”); apocalyptic, Omen-style interrupt-a-chants of “WHUT??? WHUT???” (Missy Elliott’s “She’s A Bitch”) and what appeared to be a mechanic’s workshop providing the backing for an entire song (Brandy’s “What About Us?”).
Oh, and in amongst all that – there were dozens of melodies so unshakeable that these forward-thinking, inspiring tunes regularly spent weeks in the Top 10. Not that you’d get many “real music” boretards giving this wave of pop refreshment any credit. It’s that word “pop”, you see. How can pop music – and pop music with hardly any guitars – be considered creative and “worthwhile”?
Other pop stars took note – Britney, Christina and Gwen all flung their handbags onto the bandwagon with varying degrees of success, and the odd British act had a (usually watered down) bash. Mis-teeq make it onto my playlist as a nod to them being the best of a fairly mediocre UK bunch.
It couldn’t last forever, but it was still a shame when Pharrell and Timbaland became more concerned with becoming pop stars themselves, Missy released albums continuously described as “a return to form” (they never were) and Dr Dre went back to hip-hop.
It’s been left to Beyonce to take the template and refine it into world-conquering magnificence – “Single Ladies” was a rare example of post-2006 R&B reaching the mind-boggling, boundary-pushing yet totally accessible heights of the previous ten years.
All of which is a lengthy prelude to me saying: I made a Spotify playlist of R&B songstresses from 1996 to 2006, and it’s brilliant. If you can’t access Spotify there’s an embed and tracklisting below so you can recreate it through other means.
- Missy Elliott – She’s A Bitch
- Eve, Gwen Stefani – Let Me Blow Ya Mind – Featuring Gwen Stefani
- Aaliyah – Are You That Somebody?
- 702 – Where My Girls At
- Mya – My Love Is Like…Wo – Main Mix/Album Version
- Christina Milian – Dip It Low
- Eve – Who’s That Girl? – Album Version With Horns (Edited)
- Missy Elliott & Da Brat – Sock It 2 Me
- Aaliyah – More Than a Woman
- Alicia Keys – Fallin’
- Kelis – I Want Your Love
- Aaliyah – Don’t Know What to Tell Ya
- TLC – No Scrubs – With Rap
- Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)
- Mya – Case Of The Ex (Whatcha Gonna Do)
- Brandy – What About Us?
- Missy Elliott – Hot Boyz
- Destiny’s Child – Say My Name
- Tweet – Oops – feat. Missy Elliott LP Version
- Aaliyah – Try Again
- Destiny’s Child – Bug A Boo (H-town Screwed Mix)
- Missy Elliott – The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]
- TLC – Unpretty – Radio Version
- Mary J. Blige – Family Affair
- Alicia Keys – Girlfriend
- Destiny’s Child – Bootylicious
- Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On – Amended LP Version
- Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z – Crazy In Love
- Mis-Teeq – Scandalous – U.S. Radio Edit
- 3LW, Sean Hall – No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)
- Alicia Keys – You Don’t Know My Name
- Lauryn Hill – Ex-Factor
- Aaliyah – We Need A Resoultion
- Kelis – Milkshake
- Destiny’s Child – Bills, Bills, Bills
- India.Arie – Video – Main
- Angie Stone – Wish I Didn’t Miss You
- Kelis, Terrar – Good Stuff
- Aaliyah – If Your Girl Only Knew
- Destiny’s Child – Jumpin’, Jumpin’
- Kelis – Young, Fresh ‘N” New
- Foxy Brown, Jay-Z – I’ll Be
- Lil’ Kim – Lighters Up – Explicit Album Version
- Amerie – 1 Thing – Radio Edit
- Brandy duet with Monica – The Boy Is Mine
- Faith Evans – All Night Long
- Toni Braxton – You’re Makin’ Me High
- Brandy featuring Mase – Top Of The World – Featuring Mase LP Version
- Amerie – Why Don’t We Fall In Love
- Brandy – Afrodisiac
- Tweet – Call Me
- Truth Hurts, Rakim – Addictive
- Mis-Teeq – One Night Stand – StarGate Radio Edit
- Missy Elliott – One Minute Man – featuring Ludacris Amended LP Version
- Destiny’s Child (featuring Wyclef Jean) – No, No, No Part 2 (featuring Wyclef Jean)
- Monica – The First Night
- Jennifer Lopez – If You Had My Love
- Toni Braxton – He Wasn’t Man Enough
- Jennifer Lopez;Jadakiss;Styles P. – Jenny From The Block – Track Masters Remix featuring Styles & Jadakiss
- Mariah Carey – Fantasy
- Amerie – Gotta Work
- Sunshine Anderson – Heard It All Before
- Kelis – Sugar Honey Iced Tea
- Nicole feat. Missy Elliott & Mocha – Make It Hot
- Cherish, Sean Paul (Of The Youngbloodz) – Do It To It
- 3LW, Sean Hall – Playas Gon’ Play
- Toni Braxton Featuring Loon, Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo – Hit The Freeway – Radio Version With Rap
- Kandi – Don’t Think I’m Not – Radio Edit
- Gwen Stefani, Eve – Rich Girl
- Blu Cantrell Featuring Foxy Brown – Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!) – Remix Radio Mix
- Lauryn Hill – Everything Is Everything
- Britney Spears – I’m A Slave 4 U
- Christina Aguilera – Can’t Hold Us Down (featuring Lil’ Kim)
- Beyoncé feat. Slim Thug – Check On It
- Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
- Destiny’s Child – Lose My Breath
- Ciara featuring Missy Elliott – One, Two Step
- Nina Sky, Jabba – Move Ya Body
- Ciara featuring Ludacris – Oh
- Amerie – Crush
- Destiny’s Child – Independent Women Part I
- Brandy – Talk About Our Love – Featuring Kanye West LP Version
- Foxy Brown, Kelis – Candy
- Beyoncé featuring Sean Paul – Baby Boy
- Britney Spears feat. Pharrell Williams – Boys – Co-Ed Remix featuring Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D.
- Missy Elliott – All N My Grill
Image: Bohman on Flickr