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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Exclusive: '90s R&B Mini-Mix by Debaser's Jamie Jams

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 1:13 PM

  • Chris Brennan
  • Jamie Jams
One thing I've always greatly respected about Jamie Jams and the other fellas that run the 'SF Weekly Best of 2010' Debaser club is their unending wealth of knowledge about the music they love. Obviously, they know their way around '90s alt-rock hits, but it's a pleasant surprise to find that they treat that era's hip-hop and R&B with the same respect to detail and back story.

So, when I asked Jamie Jams to throw together a short mix of tunes he'll be playing this Saturday at Debaser's R&B party at The Knockout, I did expect some detailed info on each of his picks. But what Jams delivered is more of an oral history of the early days of the finest in '90s R&B, complete with names, dates, and locations. Plus, his mix is fantastic. From the DJ:

I grew up on the East Coast, not far from New York City, home of perhaps the best hip-hop and R&B radio station in the world, Hot 97. Back home in Connecticut, you could dependably turn on the radio on a Friday night and hear some of the pioneers of hip-hop, like Red Alert and Funkmaster Flex, absolutely crush it, totally off the cuff, live, and in the studio with some of the premier names in hip-hop dropping in for a few words or a quick freestyle.

In the summer of 1993, hip-hop and R&B were really starting to reach mainstream audiences, and the fusion of the two sounds, which many of us have come to take for granted, served as a launching pad for a number of young artists that have gone on to be household names, like Biggie, Usher, Aaliyah, Brandy and R. Kelly. This is our [my and Debaser's] dedication to the greats that dropped hip-hop and R&B jams on hot summer nights back home, and to the now-legends that made it all happen.

Aaliyah - Back and Forth

It's hard to talk about Aaliyah without mentioning her tragic death or her illicit relationship with R. Kelly, and this track is no exception. R. Kelly helped the then 15-year-old Aaliyah get her start, and spent years trying to explain their relationship, marriage, and subsequent annulment. This was Aaliyah's break through single in the summer of 1994 with a noticeable assist from R. Kelly on the production.

Usher - Think of You

Usher was a 14-year-old gospel-choir boy when he got picked up by a LaFace music executive at a talent show in his home town of Atlanta. LaFace hooked him up with Sean "Puffy" Combs, and the resulting debut album went gold in the summer of 1994 on the heels of Usher's hit single, "Think of You". Puffy's fingerprints are all over it.

Monica - Don't Take It Personal

Also hailing from Atlanta, Monica debuted with the platinum top-ten single "Don't Take it Personal" in 1995. I hear this song is about being on your period, but damned if being on your period doesn't sound banging. This song came on the stereo at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack the other day and all the servers started dancing. I kid you not.

Brandy - I Wanna Be Down (Remix)(feat. Mc Lyte, YoYo and Queen Latifah)

Brandy wasn't just a pop and R&B phenomenon with singles like "I Wanna Be Down" and "Sittin' Up in My Room," she was also an honest to goodness TV star! Perhaps you remember her role as the title character of the acclaimed UPN sitcom Moesha, or for the youngins, her turn as Disney's Cinderella. This remix showcases her tough side, with a veritable who's-who of female rappers.

Mary J. Blige - Real Love (Remix) (feat. Biggie Smalls)

When What's the 411? dropped in 1992, critics and fans were stunned by the album's groundbreaking mix of hip-hop beats and R&B vocals. Once again, P. Diddy had a heavy hand in the albums production, and Mary J. Blige's unique blend of modern R&B vocals with edgy rap would set the template for a generation of performers. While somewhat of an obvious selection, the remix to this track stands out as the first appearance of none other than Biggie Smalls!

SWV - Anything (Remix)(feat. Wu Tang Clan)

SWV (or Sisters with Voices) rode to the top of the charts with a string of top-ten R&B hits, and were arguably one of the most popular urban and R&B groups of the '90s. The three school friends sung together in church as children until their demo tape caught the ear of Guy's Teddy Riley--the godfather of New Jack Swing. Their debut album, It's About Time, had a string of hits, including "Right Here" and "I'm So Into You." We went for a slightly more obscure smash hit, their contribution to the 1994 soundtrack of Above the Rim, with--surprise!--Wu-Tang Clan on the remix.

Mariah Carey - Fantasy

I don't know how we could make a R&B summer jams mix without putting this song on it. You all are probably wondering where all the Adina Howard, TLC, and Montell Jordan are anyway, so we'll serve you up an easy one. But it's a classic. We went with the original version because, as much as I love ODB, he can be a bit of a distraction from how rad the original track is. The video also features one of my favorite places in the world, Rye Playland, the amusement park in Rye, NY featured in the movie Big!

St. Ides Commercial - Snoop Dogg (feat. Nate Dogg)

And now a word from our sponsors. Most people think we are kidding when we say that Hip-Hop Debaser is brought to you by St. Ides' Malt Liquor, but it's the god's honest truth. We've got a palette of St. Ides 40s out behind The Knockout, and a fridge stocked to the top that would make Snoop Dogg jealous.

For those of you too young to remember, hip-hop wasn't always on the radio, and these commercials featuring some of rap's leading artists like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and King Tee were the first time many people heard hip-hop on mainstream commercial radio. The commercials were such a success that every time DJs played them in the summer of 1992, the phones would light up with requests for more.

In keeping with the R&B theme, we bring to you this forgotten gem by Snoop Dogg and G Funk soul man, Snoop's cousin Nate Dogg.

R. Kelly - Bump and Grind

To close it all out, we offer you the 1994 break-through single by R. Kelly, which, perhaps, provides the moral for this story. "I don't see nothing wrong, with a little bump and grind." R. Kelly probably spent most of his career trying to justify things like sleeping with his interns, protégés, and their younger nieces in songs, but we'll take it at face value and just say, we hope you all come out this Saturday [for R&B Debaser at The Knockout] and work it on the dance floor.

"I don't see nothing wrong..."

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @PatricFallon

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