Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Top 10 New Jack Swing Anthems of All Time

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 8:38 AM

This Thursday, onetime New Edition member and new jack swing icon Johnny Gill will be performing a set at Yoshi's. Credited as the creation of Teddy Riley, New Jack Swing saw R&B vocals being fused with uptempo beats coated in the bumptious attitude of hip-hop. At the subgenre's height in the '90s, it even had everlasting King of Pop Michael Jackson drafting in chief swing architect Riley to craft him a hit ("Remember the Time"). And despite curmudgeonly ol' Ice Cube once proclaiming "you can New Jack Swing on my nuts," the music sums up an era when the worlds of R&B and hip-hop started to commingle to mutually beneficial effect. So with Gill's gig on the horizon, here are 10 feel-good New Jack Swing anthems.

10. Johnny Gill, "Rub You the Right Way"

After spending a chunk of the '80s dropping solo albums and a project in tandem with Stacy Lattisaw, Johnny Gill saw his career receive a boost when he was drafted in to replace Ralph Tresvant in New Edition. His peak contribution to the New Jack Swing canon remains his 1990 solo single "Rub You the Right Way," a Jam & Lewis-produced track that saw him boasting how a tryst comes with a "customer satisfaction" guarantee. Solidifying the hip-hop and New Jack Swing nexus, a remix appeared featuring Pete Rock's MC foil, CL Smooth.

9. Guy, "Groove Me"

An R&B supergroup pivoted around New Jack Swing wunderkind Teddy Riley and also featuring the talents of Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling, Guy's "Groove Me" is a cornerstone of the genre, and a standout on the trio's platinum-selling self-titled album. For bonus corny kicks, there's copious keytar action in the official video, too.

8. Christopher Williams, "I'm Dreamin'"

Bronx-born Williams might not have exactly endured himself to the late great Frank White -- "This ain't Christopher Williams," vowed Biggie on "Machine Gun Funk" -- but his contribution to the New Jack City flick was an unqualified smash. A must for any Summer of '91 playlist.

7. Bobby Brown, "My Prerogative"

The self-anointed king of New Jack Swing (as differentiated from Teddy Riley's status as its creator), Brown's brash and ballsy "My Prerogative" still resonates like a swaggering statement of intent -- even if its lyrics have taken on an unfortunate hue considering Brown's subsequent personal problems. Also, there's another fine keytar cameo in the video.

6. Johnny Kemp, "Just Got Paid"

Teddy Riley's work behind the boards helped hand Bahamas-born crooner Johnny Kemp his biggest hit. Less convincingly, the album that the song's culled from, Secrets of Flying, also contains a far-from-convincing New Jack Swing cover of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)". (Rap note: Adding to the Pharcyde's unlikely new jack swing footnote status (they're Egyptian dancers in Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" video), the group once rhymed Kemp's name with "bomb hemp.")

5. Samuelle, "So You Like What You See"

Ex-Club Nouveau warbler Samuelle secured his status as a one-hit New Jack Swinger with the sultry "So You Like What You See." Smartly setting himself apart from his peers, the canny singer nixed the notion of featuring a keytar in the song's video and instead granted a costarring spot to a young Tyra Banks.

4. Al B. Sure!, "Nite and Day"

With a commitment to annoying nomenclature punctuation, Al B. Sure! became a New Jack Swing heavy-hitter thanks to his 1988 album In Effect Mode and its opening single, "Nite and Day" (which is reputedly record industry tastemaker Andre Harrell's all-time favorite swing anthem). Outside of his solo career, Sure! also had a hand in kickstarting the careers of Jodeci and Tevin Campbell. Improbable fact: Al has a son who performs as Lil B. Sure!

3. Wrecks-N-Effect, "New Jack Swing"

The '90s party-starter "Rump Shaker" may be Wrecks-N-Effect's biggest selling song, but '88's "New Jack Swing," from the group's self-titled album, is the subgenre's grand mission statement, not least with rapped shout-outs to Keith Sweat, Heavy D, Al B. Sure!, Bobby Brown, Guy, and Redhead Kingpin (who also produced songs on the project). (Consistency note: The group switched up its name to Wreckx-N-Effect after original member Brandon Mitchell was shot and killed.)

2. Keith Sweat, "I Want Her"

An early number one on the New Jack Swing chart hit, Keith Sweat's 1987 release "I Want Her" also holds the distinction of being released on Vintertainment, a label at one time renowned for putting out early-'80s hip-hop songs, including the B-Boys' much sought after "Two, Three, Break" and Joeski Love's instructional "Pee Wee Dance." As with about 50 percent of all New Jack Swing songs ever released, Teddy Riley's mitts are all over "I Want Her," with him adding a coproducer credit to his discography.

1. Bell Biv Devoe, "Poison (Remix)"

More bountiful goodness from the fallout of New Edition, this time with former members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe forming an alliance with onetime Public Enemy noise merchants Eric Sadler and the Shocklee brothers to craft a storming New Jack Swing anthem. To this day it's apparently impossible for any wedding reception to take place without this song being played, although it's unknown how many drunk dancing bridesmaids are aware that the recurring "Poison" vocal snippet comes from Kool G Rap, a rapper who once made a song titled "Break a Bitch Neck."


Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Phillip Mlynar @PhillipMlynar, and like us at

  • Pin It

Tags: , ,

About The Author

Phillip Mlynar


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"