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From The Vault: Toni Braxton – ‘Another Sad Love Song’

From The Vault time-travels 20 years back this week with a Grammy winning single from a TGJ favourite: our pick is ‘Another Sad Love Song‘ by Toni Braxton.

The first single from the diva’s 1993 debut self-titled LP, ‘Song’ was helmed by former dynamic duo of LA Reid and Babyface - who played a crucial role in Toni’s earlier career. With those silky smooth vocals, Braxton tells the tale of a girl who is not over her ex yet and is reminded of that every time a love song is played on the radio.
Launching the album’s campaign with this track proved to be a wise decision as not only it was a chart smash – #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and #15 in the UK – but it also scored her her first of many Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy awards. (Side note: she won the Best New Artist gong on the very same night)
The video, directed by Ralph Ziman, conveys a similar classy vibe as the track and sees a short-haired Toni singing in the rain on a vintage New York-like street. Kudos to the ‘Un-break My Heart‘ belle for looking as stunning today as in this visual.
Clearly one of the saddest news to hit the headlines this year was Ms. Braxton’s impending retirement from music after “falling out of love with it”. When we think about it we kinda sorta get where she’s coming from. With the industry being a far cry from how it used to be two decades ago, now prioritizing trash over class, it must be rather difficult for the vocal gemstone to fit in and find excitement especially when she already has a full plate on the personal side, as evidenced with WeTV’s Braxton Family Values.
Still, we remain optimistic at the (slim) prospect of future releases from our favorite contralto. And in the event that new material really isn’t on the horizon, at least we will always have her impressive catalogue to cherish.
Be it fast or slow, it doesn’t let go and it’s all because of you and your talent, Toni!

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From The Vault: 702 – ‘Where My Girls At?’

Next up on From The Vault is a R&B gem ‘Where My Girls At?’ – courtesy of the ladies from 702.

The track, produced and written by Keybeats and TGJ favorite Missy Elliott, was the first single from the ladies sophomore set, the aptly titled ’702′ released in 1999.

At a time when mozzarella-Pop from the likes of Britney, Christina and N’SYNC was the tastiest genre for radio programmers, ‘Girls’ managed to reach the higher tiers of the Billboard Hot 100 and Hip-Hop/R&B charts peaking at #4 and #3 respectively. Though statistically not a worlwide hit -albeit hitting #22 in the UK – we firmly believe it is a classic and no 90′s R&B themed party would be complete without this.

Like many at the time, the single’s promotional video directed by Billie Woodruff was highly inspired by the “Matrix craze” that was only in beginning stages back then.

{Sidenote: we really dig this vid, but the dancer’s outfits during the last sequence remain a big NO!}

With R&B seemingly on the up, could 2013 be the year where vocal harmony groups make a comeback in the mainstream charts? Nothing would make us happier. The likes of MKS and Stooshe are flying the flag in the UK, now we’re keen to see who will carry the torch for girl groups in the US and serve up tunes as enduring as ‘Where My Girls At?” in this day and age.

While we wait, we have to hit “replay” on this one.

 From The Vault: 702   Where My Girls At?

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From The Vault: The Fugees – ‘Fu-Gee-La’

From The Vault is back this week with a yet another classic. We’re taking you back to the year 1996 when a one of a kind trio released their breakthrough single. We’re talking ‘Fu-Gee-La’ by the exceptional Fugees.

The first single from their magnum-opus and Hip-Hop landmark ‘The Score’, the tune was largely based on an interpolation of blue-eyed-Soul master Teena Marie’s ‘Ooh La La La’ as well as a clever sample of ‘If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right’ by Jazz man Ramsey Lewis. Produced by ever-present Salaam Remi, this is the song that introduced the three lyricists’ impeccable flows as well as Ms. Hill’s smooth vocals to the general public.
Charting at #29 and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts respectively, the single managed to garner some worldwide recognition placing at #21 in the UK and peaking at the 6th position of the German charts.
Those chart positions might not be as impressive as their next single ‘Killing Me Softly’ (which went on to hit #1 practically everywhere it was released), yet ‘Fu-Gee-La’ remains the dynamic trio’s best selling single in the US.
For its accompanying video, the band turned to director Guy Guillet which resulted in a cinematic visual set in the island of Jamaica where Pras, Wyclef and Lauryn all portray robbers on the run.
The shots showing the artists interacting and just vibing of each other leaves us with a bittersweet taste of nostalgia. For unlike many of today’s act’s, the Refugee Camp’s output has always been of such musical and lyrical substance, yet petty squabbles and personal drama makes a reunion highly unlikely.
Still with ‘The Score’ sounding as fresh today as 17 years ago (we know; time flies right?) we are positive it will remain an inspiration for music lovers of today and tomorrow.
The Fugees, we thank you, we salute you!
fugees fu gee la how many mics 12 e1364762790223 From The Vault: The Fugees   Fu Gee La

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From The Vault: Whitney Houston – ‘Run To You’

February 11th 2012

Sadly, this date will stay a crucial one, not only for the music industry alone but the world at large. For, that fateful day last February saw the silencing of iconic songbird Whitney Houston – aged just 48.

Although it is still incredibly difficult to come to terms with the tragic loss, we dedicate this week’s From The Vault to the most impressive vocalist in recent memory and arguably of all-time.

The haunting ‘Run To You’ from 1992′s monumental ‘Bodyguard OST’ is a vocal tour de force and stands as an ever-enduring  masterpiece as well as a masterclass for any and every singer that followed. Its accompanying video beams iconic shots of an angelic Houston “running to us” in an immaculate setting – shots, in light of recent events, make for emotional viewing.

As words could not describe the immensity of her talent and statistics could not measure the enormity of reach, we figured it be best to let the music speak for itself.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston, we thank you for sharing your God-given talent with us. You will forever be The Voice. Rest In Peace.

Whitney run to you e1360532125499 From The Vault: Whitney Houston   Run To You

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From The Vault: R. Kelly – ‘Bump ‘n’ Grind’

“My mind is telling me no… but my body’s telling me yes”

This week’s From The Vault comes courtesy of the King of R&B himself, R.Kelly and his 1994 classic ‘Bump ‘n’ Grind’.

Released as the second single from the crooner’s solo debut and R&B landmark ’12 Play’, it was produced, written and arranged by the musical genius that is Kelly himself. As it is the case with the great majority of its housing LP, ‘Grind’ deals with Robert’s favorite subject: sex!

The mother of all slow jams, this song is iconic for so many reasons – namely its acapella intro (album mix), unabashed lyrics as well as its suggestive choreography.

Released when R&B actually charted on major tally’s, the jam proved to be a hit for Kellz and claimed the ever-so-coveted #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as spending an impressive 12 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B count. It was also a smash in the UK where it peaked inside the Top 10. It remains a staple of American urban radio with numerous stations still playing it in all its over-4-minutes glory.

The track’s live-performance themed visual, directed by Kim Watson, saw Robert (armed with two female dancers) showcase his best “bedroom moves” to an audience of screaming fans. (Side note: Where have the “live-performance” music videos in the vein of this one, TLC’s ‘Diggin On You’ or Janet’s ‘Black Cat’ gone?)


R.Kelly is undeniably the master when it comes to sensual jams, yet what set him apart from his past rivals as well as the new crop of R&B crooners is his ability to tap into other themes and being excellent at it too. The Pied-Pipper is a man of many tricks.

With the next installment of his ‘Trapped In The Closet’ as well as his new LP ‘Black Panties’ set to drop this year, the year 2013 looks like a busy on for R., and we definitely “see nothing wrong” with that!

rkelly e1359318530936 From The Vault: R. Kelly   Bump n Grind

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey & Nicki Minaj – ‘Up Out My Face’

“If we were two Lego blocks even the Harvard University graduating class of 2010 couldn’t put us back together again”

Back in 2010, those were the very words Mariah Carey cooed on her then-single ‘Up Out My Face’ - which featured a then-rising Nicki Minaj. Fast forward 3 years and we’re sure the premium diva is directing those lyrics to the rapper…for quite different reasons (see: beef). Nevertheless, the American Idol judges’ release is this week’s From The Vault pick.

Originally included on MC’s 2009 opus ‘Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel’ sans Minaj, the version which featured the femcee was rolled out as as the first single (alongside ‘Angel’s Cry’ feat. Ne-Yo) from her scrapped remix album ‘Angels Advocate’. Musically, the release was helmed by Mimi, Tricky Stewart and The Dream – the team behind the totality of the song’s parent LP.

Criminally underrated, the single didn’t exactly set the charts alight – charting at #39 on the US Hip-Hop/R&B and only at a mere #100 on the Hot 100. Still, we feel it was wholly deserving of the “single treatment” as it was a true highlight on an album that, despite its cohesive-quality, wasn’t front-loaded with “hits”. Unusual for a “Mariah Carey” album.

Still, its accompanying video served up many an entertaining moment, packing with it enough to ensure ‘Up Out My Face’ serves as a memorable Mariah moment, regardless of chart placings (or lack-thereof). Mr Carey aka Nick Cannon took charge of directorial duties, delivering a vivid, colorful and, humorous clip. Channeling the ‘Roman’s Revenge’ artist’s recurring “Black Barbie” theme, the girls are painted as bootylicious, larger-than-life dolls whose wardrobes are as all sorts of scanty.

This chemistry the Pop stars shared on its video make their current feud all the more ironic.

In any case, Mimi and Nicki will have no other choice but to stay in each other’s faces for the next few months, as they search for the next music ‘Idol. And while we’re all for peace, love, and all that good stuff, we’ll be enjoying all the .gif moments they keep serving up each week on FOX.

#Team Mimi? #Team Nicki?

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From The Vault: Kelis – ‘Bossy’

“You don’t have to love me, but you will respect me, cause I’m a boss!”

She was the first girl to scream on a track, she switched up the beat of the drum and brought all the boys to the yard: yeah we’re talking Kelis and her hit single ‘Bossy’. The 2006 release is this week’s From The Vault selection.

After branching out from the masterminds behind her first three LP’s – the Neptunes – Kelis mixed things up, and begun working with different producers and writers, including Bangladesh and the ever in-demand Sean Garrett. Together the trio cooked up this gem of track.

 The 808-driven cut (like its housing album, ‘Kelis Was Here’) was a marked departure from Ms Rogers’ previous material, aiming for a more “contemporary” sound in a bid to capitalize on her previous worldwide smash ‘Milkshake’.

Released in Spring 2006 as the launching single from ‘Kelis Was Here’ album, ‘Bossy’ managed to chart inside both the US Hot 100 and Hot Hip-Hop/R&B tallies at #16 and #11 respectively. It failed to achieve the same feat in the UK where it peaked at #22 but got to the 18th position of the Australian chart.

Though not as successful as the aforementioned ‘Milksake’, it remains one of the artist’s most recognizable songs and wouldn’t sound out of place alongside some of today’s Urban hits such as Rihanna‘s ‘Pour It Up’ or Kendrick Lamar‘s ‘Swimming Pool (Drank)’.

For the video, director Mark Klasfeld made the former Mrs Nas embrace her inner glamour diva, and she can be seen enjoying a pool party with her posse as well as rocking a cocktail reception all the while displaying some high-fashion clothes including THAT swimsuit. Put simply, the clip serves up edgy, tasteful, all the while looking like a magazine editorial.

With the Harlem-bred singer hard at work on her sixth album, the follow-up to 2010′s ‘Fleshtone’, we must admit that having loved her more electronic offerings, we’re praying she re-embraces, even for a few songs, the very musical style that brought her to our attention in the first place – hard-hitting R&B.

Either way it’s a given we’re in for a tasty treat whenever she’s ready to embark on the next phase in her career.

Bossy kelis cover e1358103021518 From The Vault: Kelis   Bossy

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From The Vault: Beenie Man & Mya – ‘Girls Dem Sugar’

Our very first From The Vault of the New Year journey’s back over a decade, to a time where “King Of Dancehall” Beenie Man heated up the charts with R&B belle Mya for the infectious ‘Girls Dem Sugar’.

The track, which was released in late 2000, is loosely based on Beenie’s international breakthrough hit ‘Who Am I (Sim Simma)’ and was produced by dynamic production duo The Neptunes for the Jamaican star’s studio album ‘Art And Life’.

A Reggae-R&B fusion, the track manages to juxtapose the Grammy winner’s Caribbean drawl with Mya’s soft delivery on the mesmerizing production. The overall sound might have been ‘pop-ier’ than his previous material, but still it didn’t prevent the 39 year from remaining a figure-head of Dancehall music.

Considered a minor hit in the US, ‘Girls’ charted at #54 on the Billboard Hot 100 but fared better on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts where it reached the 16th position. In the United Kingdom, it peaked at #13 on the Official Singles Charts. Despite its commercial shortcomings, we dare you to find an Urban house-party where this song isn’t played.

Its neon heavy promo visual was helmed by Little X and serves up a PG rendition of exactly what goes down during Jamaican bashes. Ms Harrison’s whining deserves a special nod of approval too.

Color us crazy, but a certain air of “they don’t make them like this anymore” inhabits us whenever we play that song. Maybe it’s the nostalgia or perhaps it’s simply the truth. Either way, we’ll be patiently waiting for songs of this variety to make a splash on the mainstream tallies again. As the saying goes, trends run in cycles and until tracks like this re-surface in a Top 40 context, we’ll keep hitting replay on this undeniable gem.

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