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From The Vault: Lil Kim – ‘No Matter What They Say’

“I’m just trying be me…”

We’re taking From The Vault back to the very early 00′s today with one of female rap’s greatest singles. It’s Lil’ Kim’s ‘No Matter What They Say’.

Masterminded by Diddy – or Puff Daddy at the time – the track is interestingly a Salsa/Hip-Hop fusion where Kim unapologetically boasts that she doesn’t care for the critics. A tongue-in-cheek ego-trip, its break goes back to absolute basics, giving a nod to The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight as well as sampling Eric B. & Rakim‘s ‘I Know You Got Soul’.

Though it’s definitely one of Kimberly’s most iconic moments, the single was only a moderate hit the world over, peaking at #60 on Billboard’s Hot 100 tally and #35 in the UK.

With good pals Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Jadakiss and mentor Diddy on board, we are presented with the “Queen Bee Show”. Indeed with as many costume (and wig) changes as there are sets, Kim does burlesque, runway model, ghetto fabulous, sexy señorita and street dancer with much gusto during the 4 minutes affair.

Directed by Marcus Raboy, the year 2000 visual has undeniably been an inspiration for all the female MCs with Pop aspirations that came after Miss Jones.

No matter what they say (pun intended, of course), Kim remains Hip-Hop Royalty. More over, it’s songs and videos like these that force the naysayers to recognize her trail-blazing status and tremendous influence on Pop Culture.

All hail Queen Bee!

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Take A Bow’

“The show is over, say goodbye”

Madonna‘s 1994 foray into R&B wasn’t as well received as she would have wanted. Still with ‘Bedtime Stories’, the icon delivered many an underrated cut. On the singles-front, we feel like one in particular doesn’t get as celebrated as it should. Of course, we’re referring to the stunning ballad ‘Take A Bow’.

Penned by Babyface (who also provides background vocals), the gem shares the same theme as Rihanna’s and Leona’s songs of the same name. Indeed, the lyrics see Madge congratulating her love interest for fooling her with flying colors and breaking her heart – urging him to take one final bow and leave.

Although it seems to be forgotten by many – including Madonna, who never performed it on any tour – it’s interestingly the diva’s longest running #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with 7 weeks at the top. Its mellow groove paired with the Babyface affiliation helped it reach the Top 40 of the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart. Unfortunately its US success didn’t translate into an overseas triumphant. Expect for a few countries, the track was only a moderate hit in Europe ending her run of 35 consecutive Top 10 singles in the UK.

A gorgeous song deserves a gorgeous video and that’s exactly what the track’s accompanying clip is… GORGEOUS.

Echoing the Spanish-flavor of the song, the visual – shot in Spain – had a Corrida theme and featured Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz. Directed by Michael Haussmann, it depicts a dysfunctional relationships between an aristocrat M-Dolla and a passionate Muñoz.

With beautiful lyrics, a solid vocal performance, and an amazing video, we don’t quite understand how this missed the “signature songs” boat; qualitatively, it sits comfortably beside classics such as ‘Live To Tell’ and ‘Drowned World’.

Either way, with Ms. Ciccone putting in motion plans for her next studio effort, we ask you to join us at TGJ HQ in a prayer circle to guaranty that she delivers tunes and videos as solid and qualitative as these. Clearly a woman who once was able to bless the world with something this good shouldn’t settle for trend-chasing and “recession videos”

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From The Vault: Lisa Stansfield – ‘All Around The World’

We’re celebrating yet another amazing talent on this week’s From The Vault.

Taking it way back to the late 80′s, Lisa Stansfield‘s classic ‘All Around The World’ is our pick.

Helmed by the songstress, husband Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, ‘World’ is a soul-dance hybrid that caught the world by storm in 1989. Chosen as the second single from the British siren’s debut effort ‘Affection’, it proved to be a wise decision as it charted inside the Top 5 of most of the territories it’s been released in. After hitting #1 on home soil, it achieved the same fit on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop tally and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A film-noir themed video by French director Philippe Gautier helped the song gain “landmark status”. A regular on music videos channels, the visual saw the short-haired diva lamenting over the loss of her “baby” while “touring” the world. A very literal take on the song’s now classic lyrics.

Proving that the amount of “Soul” you have within yourself has nothing to do with the tint of your skin, Ms. Stansfield remains a tremendous talent that surely helped the Blue-Eyed Soul movement become a ‘thing’, paving the way for the likes of Robin Thicke, Adele and Christina Aguilera.

With the songbird sounding as angelic nowadays as back then, we’re eagerly anticipating her soon to be released ‘Seven’ album. Who knows, with qualitative music – and to an extent blue-eyed soul – seemingly on the up, this very project could be the one that sees Lisa shifting similar numbers to her “students” on this side of the new millennium.

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From The Vault: Babyface & Toni Braxton – ‘Give U My Heart’

The music world has seen numerous solo artists routinely join forces resulting in legendary combos: Marvin Gaye & Tammi TerrellDonny Hathaway & Roberta Flack as well as the duo we’re saluting today: Babyface & Toni Braxton.

Their 1992 hit ‘Give U My Heart‘ is this week’s From The Vault pick.
Helmed by then-usual suspects L.A. Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons, the track served as the launching single of the Eddie Murphy-led blockbuster ‘Boomerang‘ OST. The song sees the two vocalist trade verses showcasing a similar vocal technique that borrows much from Jazz music.
‘Heart’ reached the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 (#29) and impressively peaked at #2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop, with the  track blocking its journey to the top of that tally being chart blockbuster Boyz II Men‘s ‘End Of Road‘… the second single from the ‘Boomerang’ OST… which was also written by Babyface. (Ca-Ching!)
If the song displays incredible chemistry between Toni and Kenny, its music video surely takes it up a notch. Indeed, it presents the artists coyly interacting, surrounded by spinning geometric solids upon which footage from the movie is projected. To sum up, they look as lush as they sound.
Over 20 years after they first started working together, and after much success – as a team and individually – on December 3rd Edmonds and Braxton are finally set to give the world what it has been longing for for years: a collaborative album, ‘Love, Marriage And Divorce‘.
With first single ‘Hurt You‘ already smashing Urban AC, let’s hope the duo can bring back that rich, heartfelt soul at the forefront of the industry the same way they did a couple of decades removed. One must understand that songs like ‘Un-Break My Heart‘, ‘I’ll Make Love To You‘ and ‘When Can I See You‘ left a permanent imprint on the industry, paving the way for artists such as Ne-YoElijah BlakeAdele and Emeli Sandé.
Roll out December!
babyface toni 2 e1379863009606 From The Vault: Babyface & Toni Braxton   Give U My Heart
babyface toni braxton e1379863039467 From The Vault: Babyface & Toni Braxton   Give U My Heart

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From The Vault: Usher – ‘You Make Me Wanna’

Today’s From The Vault pick comes courtesy of Usher and his breakthrough hit single, ‘You Make Me Wanna’.

The launching release from his sophomore effort, 1997′s ‘My Way’, ‘Make’ stands as the first of many touchdowns scored by the dynamic duo of Ush’ and the great Jermaine Dupri.

Released right at the tail end of the New Jack Swing craze, it became a template for what R&B would go on to sound like in the late 90′s.

Shooting straight to the #2 spot of the Hot 100, the sizzling track was only held back from the pole position by Elton John monumental ‘Candle In The Wind’ – which charted at #1 for 14 weeks. Elsewhere, it was a Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B #1 and also reached the top of the UK Singles Chart tally, it peaked at #6 in both Canada and Australia.

The music video, directed by Bille Woodruff, is a colorful affair mixing solo shots with elaborate dance moves including a chair routine. It was also quite the event because in similar fashion to Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and Destiny’s Child’s ‘Lose My Breath’ several years later, it featured multiple Usher-clones engaging in synchronized choreography. A 90′s classic.

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With Usher’s last album ‘Looking 4 Myself’ not exactly setting the charts alight and R&B seemingly on the up, it will be rather interesting to see which path the entertainer will embark on next go round. Are we in for a dance-athon in the vein of his latest hits ‘DJ Got Us Falling In Love’, ‘Scream’ and ‘OMG’? Will the talented triple-threat take us back to the pure R&B sound of ‘My Way’ and ’8701′? Is Usher about to unleash something totally different upon us? We sure can’t wait to get the answers to our questions.

What is certain is that the ‘Yeah!’ singer stands as one of the (if not the) most talented male entertainers of the last few generations; an act who always gives it a 100% and truly lives up to his stage-blazer status — hence why we’ll forever be rooting for him.

Bring it on, Ush’!

 From The Vault: Usher   You Make Me Wanna

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From The Vault: Danity Kane – ‘Showstopper’

“You ain’t never ever, never ever seen a girl like me, D-A-N-I-T-Y-K-A-N-E”

Color us excited for tonight’s VMA’s festivities; for not only are a plethora of our favorite acts taking center stage, but it will also  usher in the official return of multi-Platinum divas Danity Kane.

Indeed, as reported this morning, MTV’s Angels are back with a vengeance (#Rage).

To celebrate their vindication, we’re taking it all the way back to the beginning through this week’s From The Vault.
The ladies Genesis effort ‘Showstopper’ is today’s pick.

The Jim Jonsin produced jam was the lead single from the Making The Band alumni’s eponymous debut and featured label-mate Yung Joc as guest rapper. In a probable bid to capitalize on their Diddy/BadBoy affiliation, Team DK opted for a grittier, more Urban sound resulting in this slightly tongue-in-cheek song about automobiles.

Obviously, such decision paid off as the track went on to reach the 8th position on the Billboard Hot 100 after debuting at #17 and was an iTunes #2 single only days after its release.

The Jesse Terrero directed video saw the band “in a car, riding slow” or put simply “showstoppin” through the streets of Los Angeles and performing in the middle of a closed-down Hollywood Boulevard. Although the intro tastes a bit too “Girlband 101″ forus, it doesn’t take away from the core of the clip that testified of the charisma each member had. Juniors they may have been, but they clearly already knew how to “work the camera” from the onset.

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The ‘Lights Out’ belle are looking better than ever and we can’t wait to hear how their vocals blend together in 2013, especially after inspecting their respective evolution via solo endeavors. Even though we would have been ecstatic to see D.Woods as a part of the line-up (there’s still some hope…), we love that the girls and their team seem to make all the right moves. From a slot at tonight’s VMA’s as well as reuniting with Johnny Wright to their (almost confirmed) 51 Minds reality show, we feel like this is the perfect set-up to bring back into the spotlight the most talented female group that graced the industry in the last 10 years.

Welcome Back To The Dollhouse, divas!

danity kane 2014 e1377454929971 From The Vault: Danity Kane   Showstopper

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From The Vault: Artists Against AIDS Worldwide – ‘What’s Going On?’

This week’s From The Vault pick was released in 2001 and is quite literally what “Urban-Pop dreams” are made of. We present you Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ by ensemble cast Artists Against AIDS Worldwide.

The project, which consisted of numerous remixes of the Pop-Culture landmark (each time featuring different vocalists), was helmed in a bid to raise funds for AIDS programs in Africa and other poverty-stricken territories. Though recorded prior the 9/11 tragedy, the track was released in October 2001 and saw 50% of its profit also going to the United Way’s 9/11 fund (with the half going to the AIDS relief effort).

Featuring an All-Star line-up of 2001′s finest acts, two radio versions made the rounds. Both produced by Bono and Jermaine Dupri, they saw acts such as Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, Usher, *N’SYNC, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Nelly, Ja Rule, Jennifer Lopez, Lil Kim, Nas, Wyclef Jean, TLC, Nelly Furtado, Backstreet Boys, Diddy, Gwen Stefani, Mary J.Blige, Eve and Monica to name but a few, trade verses and lines. Marvin’s daughter, Nona Gaye, is also featured aptly singing the “father, father” line.

Without any promotion, the song managed to peak at #27 in the US and an impressive #6 on the UK charts.

The videos, cooked up courtesy of Jake Scott, depict the artists as they remove “labelled” blindfolds from their eyes, symbolizing how society is blinded by prejudice and how we need to open our eyes… which ties in perfectly with the original message of the masterpiece of a track that is ‘What’s Going On?

It’s happenings like this one that make “Pop” (in the broader sense) one of the most exciting genres in mainstream music. In addition to being a tremendous initiative to raise awareness about AIDS and give back to the American Red Cross, it had the huge selling point of featuring all the top artists of that time on a single track – in similar fashion as Bob Geldof‘s Band Aid and Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie‘s USA For Africa - providing the genre’s enthusiasts with a glimpse of what their favorites acts would sound like together, also serving up some odd pairings that, somehow, “work”.

Great track for a great cause!

With this gem being recorded over a decade ago and the industry constantly changing, we’d like to know…

Is your ‘fave’ still relevant?

Bonus: Peep the video for JD’s R&B remix after the jump…

(more…)

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