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From The Vault: Blackstreet – ‘Don’t Leave Me’

At a time where male R&B groups are a rare find, it’s almost mandatory for us to journey back and celebrate those that helped redefine the genre and put it on the global map. This week’s From The Vault pick is the wholly-heartfelt ‘Don’t Leave Me’ by Blackstreet.

Produced by ever-talented band member Teddy Riley, ‘Leave’ was released as the second single from the band’s 1997 LP ‘Another Level’ and was built around a sample of 1983’s ‘A Dream’ from Motown family band DeBarge.

Interestingly, the release never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 due to a technicality but was a huge hit overseas including the UK where it charted at #6 and #1 in New Zealand.

For the Michael Martin directed music video, the band served a “90s-boyband” masterclass, complete with lyrics-explanative dance moves and questionable CGI. Granted the visual looks like it’s been commissioned by the Cheese Factory (see: that polaroid tower), it still manages to capture the passion of the song.

Long gone seems the time where the Blackstreets, Jodecis and Dru Hills of this world were ruling the mainstream charts. Hopefully the coming year and years will see a resurgence of R&B boybands to shake things up; indeed with the genre making a comeback as of late, the time is ripe for a new slew of males ensembles to step up to the plate.

Pending then…

To the 1990’s male R&B groups, we salute you! We thank you!

Random Fact: Yes, this is the same sample used on Tupac’s posthumous hit ‘I Ain’t Mad At Cha’, which has also been interpolated by newcomers Fifth Harmony on their song ‘We Know’. Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul Mary J. Blige covered the original song in 1997.

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From The Vault: Destiny’s Child – ‘Soldier’

Echoing this week’s TGJ Replay, today’s From The Vault pick is ‘Soldier’ by iconic-trio Destiny’s Child.

The second offering from the divas’ decade old ‘Destiny Fulfilled‘ LP, and follow up to club banger ‘Lose My Breath‘, ‘Soldier’ was helmed by ‘Crazy In Love‘ maestro Rich Harrison and written by the girls alongside lyricist extraordinaire Sean Garrett.

As a nod to the founding members’ Southern foundation, rappers T.I. and Lil’ Wayne are featured on the track, which at the time helped further cement their reputation as the next-big-things in Hip-Hop.

Like its predecessor, it peaked at #3 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 – as well as its Hot Hip-Hop/R&B – but had even more longevity becoming one of the biggest songs of the following year. It was a worldwide smash too peaking at #4 in the UK and reaching the 3rd position of the charts in Australia.

The Ray Kay directed video saw the trio yet again amping up the divatude, serving glam, grit, grown, and sexy. A black-and-white affair, the clip featured appearances from a heavily-pregnant Solange, Luke James, and Ice Cube and was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in 2005.

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After rising to prominence with songs that defined girl power, ‘Soldier’ and its parent album continued the trend with a flair, maturity, and a real sense of womanhood.
With ten years having passed and the ladies now possessing their own success, “soldiers” and children, we can’t help but daydream about the prospect of new music, the themes attached, and above all how epic it’d be.
DC3 may have announced their disbandment during their last tour in 2005, yet we’re remain hopeful that a reunion could still happen. After all, their destiny may be “fulfilled” as a full-time group, but there’s no reason it can’t be revisited, celebrated, and have additional chapters added in the future.
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From The Vault: Lil Kim – ‘Lighters Up’

“You don’t know, my town is the truth. Welcome To Brooklyn”

Today, From The Vault travels back to 2005 when a certain Kimberly Jones released one of her most acclaimed singles. Our pick is ‘Lighters Up’ by Lil’ Kim.

Produced by former close collaborator Scott Storch, the Island-flavored number – which samples Damian Marley’s ‘Welcome To Jamrock‘ – was the first single from Queen Bee’s fourth album ‘The Naked Truth‘. An ode to the artist’s native neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the cut was a Urban hit in the US where it reached #31 on the Hot 100 and the 9th position of the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B charts.

Serving ghetto-fab aplenty, the accompanying Kirk Fraser video is set in various parts of Brooklyn and includes a special cameo by fellow royal Mary J. Blige, as well as comedian Katt Williams. With its documentary feel, the clip was shot a few months before the rapper’s incarceration and uses album track ‘Shut Up B*tch‘ as its introduction.

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Although the last decade has seen Ms. Jones trying to re-establish herself as a chart force, it can be noted that ‘Lighters Up’ stands as Kim’s latest chart success and quite frankly nothing she has released since this song and its parent album has been anything on-par with her classic catalog.

Over the years, we’ve stated how much we’d love to see the pint-sized diva win and we firmly believe that armed with a single akin to this one she could be on the brink of the comeback that has been eluding her for so long.

Until then, Notorious Kim, we salute you!

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From The Vault: Kelly Rowland – ‘Work’

From The Vault returns this week with one of Kelly Rowland’s signature hits; it’s the worldwide smash ‘Work’.

The third single’s off Rowland’s sophomore album ‘Ms. Kelly’, ‘Work’ in its original form was produced by Scott Storch but was pushed around the world in its Bollywood-inspired remix courtesy of British DJs the Freemasons in early 2008.

Despite not receiving a  formal US release, the cut still it made ample waves in the rest of the world. Indeed, in its remixed incarnation, it reached the Top 10 in the UK (#4), France (#4), Australia (#6) and Turkey (#3) among other territories. It is one of the stunner’s biggest hits and is considered the catalyst for the next EDM-heavy step in her career.

The accompanying diva-fied of a video, directed by Philip Andelman, used silhouettes aplenty, neon lights, as well as stylised posing from Kelly and her dancers. The result? Mysterious and sensuous mise en scene, which goes hand-in-hand with the tempting lyrics of the song.

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With mother-to-be Rowland hard at work on the follow-up to last year’s ‘Talk A Good Game’, it seems she is ready to revisit the Dance sound that gave her her most successful solo moments. We, for one, are uber excited by this latest development. Still, from our vantage point, it would be wise for Team Kelly to create a sound that has its roots in the genre, while boasting soul and grit (so as to stay true to Rowland’s R&B roots). EDM, in its pure form, is swiftly departing airwaves around the world. Something akin to this very remix could do wonders on a global scale for the diva.

In the meantime, check out the original version of ‘Work’ below…

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From The Vault: Chris Brown – ‘Gimme That (ft. Lil’ Wayne)

Way before blasting girls of world for not being ‘Loyal‘ enough, Chris Brown and Lil’ Wayne had established a winning formula of fresh music and visuals.

Today’s From The Vault is the duo’s infectious ‘Gimme That‘.

Helmed by Scott Storch with lyrics by Sean Garrett, ‘Gimme’ – the first of many Breezy & Weezy collabos to come – was the third single off Brown’s eponymous Grammy-nominated debut. It was yet another US Top 20 for the then-newcomer peaking at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. Unfortunately it didn’t fare as well as its predecessors overseas only reaching the 23rd position in the UK.

Thankfully, an inferior chart-run didn’t translate into a less impressive video than those of previous singles — quite the contrary.

Erik White assumed control of of the visualization and what a stellar job he did. The Michael Jackson-inspired affair was set in the 1920’s with Chris and his army of dancers, in a train station, engaging in electrifying choreography – including Krumping, which Brown would continue to popularize.

Using a cinematography that would become his “visual signature” – especially during the dance sequences (see ‘Wall To Wall‘, ‘Turn Up The Music‘, ‘Loyal‘) – this clip gave the world its first true glimpse of who CB is as an artist: not only an entertainer but a visionary.

Through the ups and downs of the last decade, Mr Brown’s talent and creativity remain sky-high – making him one of the most exciting acts of this generation. It is for this very reason that the TGJ-team are somewhat frustrated with Chris’ predicament. For, with his great vocals and even better dance moves, as well as his songwriting, producing and directing skills, Breezy is better suited than any other of his peers for that much desired “Legend-in-the-Making” status that seems to elude him. Why? Because of incessant personal drama and the media ready and willing amplification of it

Anyhow, we’ll continue to root for Christopher, hoping that he finally does what he’s been urging the masses to do for the past 5 years – focus on his tremendous talent first.

Breezy & Weezy

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From The Vault: The Black Eyed Peas – ‘Shut Up’

This week From The Vault journeys back to the very end of 2003 when a unique quartet was releasing one of its biggest hits. Today’s pick is the in-your-face ‘Shut Up’ by The Black Eyed Peas.

After the Justin Timberlake-assisted ‘Where Is The Love’ put them on the mainstream map, the pressure was on for the BEP to keep up the good chart-work. Clearly the Peas knew exactly what they were doing and decided it was time to unleash their wild card: Fergie.

Indeed, after using her vocals on this very track, the band formally invited her to join them as the fourth member of the line-up.

The second single from their third album ‘Elephunk’, ‘Shut Up’ is the song that helped erase any vibes of “novelty act” attached to their name while snatching them a “credible Urban-Pop band” status. With the help of Ron Fair, will.i.am produced the track and wrote its lyrics alongside band members apl.de.ap and Taboo.

Although it wasn’t officially released in the US, the tune became a huge international success claiming the top spot of the charts in many countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden, and peaked at #2 in the UK. Despite not charting Stateside, it was still included on the 15th edition of blockbuster compilation ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’

The Malloys directed the Hip-Hopera themed video where the boy vs girl lyrical content is well represented with Fergie playing characters in tumultuous relationships with Will and Taboo while Apl is leading the orchestra. Not since the Fugees a few years prior had we seen such chemistry within a group and were we presented with visuals so strong that they very much helped define the identity of the band.

Blink 182’s Travis Barker as well as future Interscope label-mates Kimberly Wyatt and Carmit Bachar of the Pussycat Dolls all appear in the visual.

After kickstarting the mainstream EDM movement back in 2009, the fantastic four became a household name bagging themselves one of the biggest hit of all time with ‘I Gotta Feeling’. While we’re more than elated about the Fergalicious one’s return, we’re excited in advance to find out where the Peas will go next. With their mantra of ever artistically bridging the gaps, they are never afraid of pushing boundaries and taking risks. We already know that from a sonic, visual and promotional tip, when the time comes, we’re in for a treat.

BEP-ShutUp
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From The Vault: Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey – ‘When You Believe’

This week, From The Vault journeys back to 1998 when Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey joined forces on inspirational track ‘When You Believe’.

After the media had portrayed them as arch-enemies for the most part of the 90’s, it came as a monumental surprise when news arose of a possible collaboration between the two larger-than-life songstresses. Indeed, what many Pop-enthusiasts had wished for – and others secretly dreaded – was happening: the vocal wonders were putting their alleged rivalry aside for one special song.

Masterminded by Babyface and Stephen Schwartz, ‘Believe’ was included on the OST for Dreamworks animated movie ‘The Prince Of Egypt’. It was also the first single off Houston’s comeback album ‘My Love Is Your Love’ and was featured on Carey’s compilation album ‘#1’. It peaked at #15 in the US and was a Top 10 smash in numerous European countries such as France (#5), Germany (#8) and the UK (#4).

The video, lensed by Phil Joanou, presented the two stunners in leather black dresses singing the track on a stage to a roaring audience intercut with footage of the two ladies interacting on set as well as projections of powerful scenes of the movie such as Moses’ opening of the Red Sea.

Two of TGJ-favorites, Mimi and Nippy delivered with this offering a statement about the importance of spirituality; they also silenced the critics through a blossoming friendship.

Whether based on solid theories or not, it is a common trait of Pop-Culture pitting artists against each other, especially women. Though we understand the need for such scenarios, we’d be lying if we ever said we weren’t daydreaming of a few specific parings ourselves. Strong and successful females coming together remains a beautiful thing that isn’t as widespread as it should.

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What is your ultimate diva pairing?

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