On this day in hip-hop (and R&B) history, Queen Latifah’s sitcom Living Single premieres on Fox, Janet Jackson drops “Miss You Much,” while her brother, Michael, releases “Rock My World.” Plus, Kelis gets bossy on her new album and so much more.
1963 - James DeBarge Is Born
Born in Detroit, the seventh child of the DeBarge family, James was born on this day in 1963. James. He was one of the founding members of the R&B group DeBarge and has co-written songs for the quintet. But what James is mostly known for is his 1984 marriage to pop icon Janet Jackson, which was annulled a year later.
James has three children James, Jr., Tori and Kristinia DeBarge, who currently stars on WE TV’s reality series, Growing Up Hip Hop. In 2016, revealed to his daughter Kristinia that he could have a love child with Janet.
James' statement was particularly awkward because Janet, at that time, announced that she was expecting her first child with then-husband Wissam Al Mana.
1967 - Christopher Williams Is Born
Christopher Laurence Williams was born on this day in the Bronx, in 1967. Williams, who is the nephew of late jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald and the cousin of singer Al B Sure!, was a popular R&B singer during the ‘90s New Jack Swing era with hits like “I’m Dreamin’,” "Every Little Thing U Do” and more. He’s also made some strides as an actor having appeared in the classic 1991 film New Jack City as Kareem Akbar, one of Nino Brown's assistants, and the derivative action flick, Gunmen co-starring Mario Van Peebles.
In recent years, Williams has made the rounds performing on several '90s R&B throwback tours and acting in touring stage productions. Last October, Williams found himself in some legal trouble when he was arrested for shoplifting at a Kohl's department store in McDonough, Ga. According to police, he allegedly tried to steal a pair of $99 JBL headphones. In April, an warrant was issued for his arrest after his no-show for a hearing on the case.
On a brighter note, Williams recently secured a record deal with indie label RFC / Fresh Records and will drop his new single "Proud Too Long" very soon.
On this day in 1967, Gary Grice, better known as the GZA or Genius, was born in Brooklyn. The veteran rapper is one of the founding members of the illustrious hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan and is considered the group’s Svengali of the Wu members. The GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is regarded as a classic and a great example of his lyrical wizardry. A 2017 study found that GZA's has the second largest vocabulary in popular rap music.
But GZA’s rap career actually started before he became a Wu-Tang member. In the early ‘90s, he was signed to Cold Chillin' Records under the rap alias The Genius. In 1991, he released his debut album, Words from the Genius, which was produced mostly by Easy Mo Bee. Interestingly, at that same time, GZA’s cousin and Wu abbott the RZA (then known as Prince Rakeem) released his solo project Ooh, I Love You, Rakeem on Tommy Boy Records, which was also co-produced by Eazy Mo Bee. Small world, isn’t it?
After both of their albums sold poorly in the marketplace, they broke free of their respective record labels, and decided to form the Wu-Tang Clan. The rest, as they say, is hip-hop history.
Currently, the GZA is an Associate Professor in Columbia University’s Teachers College Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology where he created a science-and-rap-themed outreach program called Science Genius.
He has also lectured at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and TEDx talk. The GZA teaching science combined with his successful rap career has been a win-win for both himself and his Wu fans. "I think it’s a good transition for me," he told Complex in 2016. "You know, I’m getting older. I think it would be cool to do lectures for the next 10 years. It wasn’t anything that I planned, but it just happened."
1989 - After 7 Release Self-Titled Debut Album
After 7 is a multi-platinum R&B group founded by Keith Mitchell and brothers Melvin and Kevon Edmonds. If their last name sounds familiar, it because they are the siblings of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. On this day, the trio released their self-titled debut album on Virgin Records. With the production assists from Babyface and L.A. Reid, the collection boasts anthemic love songs like “Can’t Stop” and “Heat of the Moment.” But the group will most likely be remembered for their classic Quiet Storm-ready ballad “Ready or Not.” After 7 are among a slew of artists (like Keith Sweat, Guy, Bobby Brown, etc.) who helped put the New Jack Swing sound on the music map. “We pour ourselves into the lyrical content and the performance,” Mitchell told Albumism in 2017. “And certain songs can’t always be sung pretty. Sometimes you have to put your heart and soul into it. That was the formula. It’s a beautiful thing.”
1989 - Janet Jackson Drops "Miss You Much"
Following the success Control, Janet Jackson returned with the infectious love song, "Miss You Much,” her kick-off single from her classic album, Rhythm Nation 1814. Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production duo didn’t want to repeat the same sounds they created on Control.
“Basically, everything sonically we had done on the Control record, I got rid of everything there, except for maybe one keyboard, called the Mirage,” Jimmy Jam told Billboard in 2014. “But ‘Miss You Much,’ although the drums are different, it's kind of the same sound we used on [1986’s] 'Nasty.' I thought it was important there was something that was sonically familiar.”
“Miss You Much” became Jackson's biggest selling single at the time and ruled the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks. The song sold over four million copies in the U.S. and garnered two Grammy nominations. As for the album, Rhythm Nation 1814, it’s a genre-bending masterpiece filled with message music for our times with a couple of love songs mixed in.
“She'd always been aware of the world around her, but she then felt empowered to actually talk about it and embrace it in her music,” said Jimmy Jam. “It had a lot to do with her growing confidence as a songwriter, and obviously her confidence in us as producers. Technically, we'd gotten better at what we did as producers and writers. Coming back to Rhythm Nation, I felt like we were all firing on all cylinders. We were hungry. We felt like sonically, we had a lot of new things to say.”
1993 - Living Single Premieres on Fox
Living Single, which premiered on Fox, was a trailblazing sitcom that showcased the lives of six lifelong friends living in a brownstone in Brooklyn and sharing their experiences together of trying to make it in the big city. It’s one of the few black shows of its time that showcased characters’ dealing with love, friendship and work and made it relatable to black viewers.
Written and produced by Yvette Lee Bowser, the show ran for five seasons from August 1993 to January 1998. Recently, Hulu acquired the series and now fans can binge watch all five seasons at any time. However, fans have been yearning for a reboot of the series.
Queen Latifah, who played Khadijah James on the show, has alluded to a possible reboot. On an episode of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live. She told host Andy Cohen that it's in the works but negotiations are still ongoing. “We’re actually working on it," she said. "It’s not there yet, but hopefully we can get it happening."
Kim Coles, who played Synclaire James-Jones on the show, recently hinted that the gang will reunite for a project but wouldn't divulge any additional information.
"Listen what [I'd] love to say is that I have been neither contacted nor contracted. However, something is happening next month that I cannot talk about and that’s all I’m gonna say," she told ETOnline.
When pressed, Coles added, “That’s all I can say. The six of us together; a reboot-ish. That’s all I can say."
1994 - Aaliyah Releases Tender Ballad "At Your Best (You Are Love)"
Aaliyah's "(At Your Best) You Are Love" is from her 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. The song is actually a cover of The Isley Brothers ballad of the same name. While the Isley's version was dedicated to their mother, the late R&B songbird sang affectionately about a lover who has captured her heart. Through the years, Aaliyah's version has been sampled and reworked by other artists.
Drake sampled the Aaliyah version on “Unforgettable" on 2010's Thank Me Later. In 2014, Tamar Braxton delivered a trap&B version of the song with "Let Me Know" featuring Future. In January 2015, Frank Ocean released an acoustic version of the song on what would have been Aaliyah’s 36th birthday.
1997 - Chris Tucker Comedy Money Talks Arrives in Theaters
Before comedian Chris Tucker became a big-time action star on the big screen, he starred in a low-budget comedy flick called Money Talks. Released on Aug. 22, 1997, the movie centers on Franklin Hatchett (played by Tucker), a part-time car washer and scam artist, who is wrongly accused of murder and on the run by the police. While on the lam from both the cops, Franklin makes a deal with a TV newsman (played by Charlie Sheen) and hides out with his family. Eventually, the pair team up to clear his name and possibly scored some pricey diamonds. The film was directed by Brett Ratner who would later direct Tucker in three Rush Hour movies.
1998 - Big Pun Drops "You Came Up" Feat. Noreaga
Big Pun’s debut album Capital Punishment made him a bonafide rap superstar. After dropping “Still Not a Player” (featuring Joe), the Bronx rhymer delivered the smooth single “You Came Up” featuring Noreaga on the chorus. It wasn’t a major hit for Pun, but it did garner some major spins on urban radio.
Of course, Fat Joe was real close to Big Pun and his untimely death in February 7, 2000, left him in a state of depression. But it also motivated him to keep making music. "I saw the success from where I was gold, but I was rapping to guys in Army jackets, [with] two girls in the audience," he explained to Complex in 2017. "Then when Pun was performing, it was girls, it was guys, people were having a fun time. So I wanted to make some hit records."
"And when he passed away, I wanted to keep the Terror Squad legacy going and bringing it to the mass media," he continued. "So that’s when I started making hits like 'We Thuggin,' and "What’s Luv?" and so forth. I guess it’s an addiction making hit records that the mass majority can love."
2000 - KRS-One Releases Greatest-Hits LP A Retrospective
KRS-One’s A Retrospective is a greatest-hits album that was dedicated to his mentor and founder of Boogie Down Productions, the late Scott La Rock. The collection features songs released under the Boogie Down Productions banner with a few hits from the Blastmaster.
The LP also includes a song called “Essays on BDP-ism," which is reportedly the last track ever produced by Scott La Rock. Tragically, the beloved BDP member was shot and killed on August 27, 1987, while trying to squash a beef between D-Nice and a gang member. La Rock’s death left a major void in BDP, but KRS vowed to move forward with the group’s overall mission.
"We all planned our goals. we knew exactly what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go," he said shortly after Scott's murder. "Us as a group, we don't mourn. We had our chance for mourning. You have that one day, you cry it out--and that's it. We don't mourn and keep going and keep going. You celebrate, if anything, because we're advancing constantly."
2000 - Cleopatra Delivers Second Album Steppin' Out
The R&B/pop girl group from Manchester, England, known as Cleopatra was comprised of sisters Cleo, Yonah, and Zainam Higgins. On this day, the trio released their second album Steppin’ Out with hitmakers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Stargate, Daryl Simmons and Dallas Austin handling the productions. Despite releasing their first single “U Got It,” Steppin' Out was never released in the UK due to an internal issue with their label, Warner Bros. Plus, the label was pressuring Cleo to go solo, which led the group to ultimately part ways with Warner.
2000 - Buju Banton Gets Spiritual on Unchained Spirit Album
On this day in 2000, Buju Banton released his sixth album Unchained Spirit. What makes this LP unique is that it was released on ANTI-, an imprint of Epitaph Records, which is known for having avant-garde rock bands on their label. This would be their first and only attempt at promoting a dancehall artist. The album consists of 16 songs and features guest appearances from Beres Hammond, Luciano and Wayne Wonder. Banton is known for incorporating a spiritual message in his music. The song "23rd Psalm" features the legend singing the Bible verse with Gramps of Morgan Heritage.
2000 - Lil' Zane Releases Debut Album Young World: The Future
Lil’ Zane was a rap heartthrob from Atlanta who had the ladies in a tizzy with his boyish good looks and charismatic style. On this day in 2000, he dropped his debut album, Young World: The Future which featured the hit single, “Callin Me” featuring 112. The song spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart, while his album sold over 400,000 copies.
2001 - Michael Jackson Finds His True Love on "You Rock My World"
After a 10-year absence from the music industry, Michael Jackson returned with an upbeat new song as part of the promotion for his tenth and final studio project, Invincible. On this day, the late King of Pop released the love song “You Rock My World.” Produced by Rodney Jerkins, the song had an uptempo groove that catered perfectly for the dancefloor.
A 13-minute-long video, directed by Paul Hunter, was also released starring Chris Tucker and Marlon Brando. The clip featured Jackson and Tucker playing to friends who are trying to win a girl’s affection. They creepily follow the woman into a seedy club, which of course, are inhabited by bad guys. This doesn’t phase Jackson as he graces the stage and performs his song much to the club patrons' delight.
As for Tucker, he’s having the time of his life in the video and according to him, it was one of the best experiences he’s ever had on a video set.
"I kept on messing up the video, looking at Michael. I was like, "Goddamn, I'm doing a video," he continued. "Michael was getting mad, 'Chris, what the hell are you doing? Chris look straight. What the hell are you doing? You're messing up my video, Chris.' I'm like, 'I'm sorry. I can't believe I'm on the video with you man!'"
"'Chris believe it. Chris believe it. You're messing up my video, Chris,'" he added. "Michael, I'm sorry man. I can't believe it."
2006 - OutKast Goes In a New Musical Direction With Idlewild Soundtrack
Following the success of their Grammy-winning hip-hop masterpiece, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast went into a new musical direction with the film Idlewild and its accompanying soundtrack. The movie takes place in the 1930's Deep South during the Prohibition Era and stars Big Boi and Andre 3000 playing two childhood friends named Rooster and Percival, respectively, who have only thing in common — music. Rooster manages a speakeasy called The Church where he employs Percival to play the piano. Before long the pair are caught up in a dangerous scheme that tests their friendship.
The soundtrack features new tracks from OutKast where they mixed modern hip-hop sounds with vintage big-band jazz and Delta blues music. An example of this can be heard on Three Stacks’ guitar-charging tune, "Idlewild Blue (Don'tchu Worry 'Bout Me)." Some fans frowned at Kast's hybridization of ragtime music with hip-hop, but the duo told Blackfilm in 2006, that they have often experimented with their sound.
"Us being influenced by every musical genre, and using every aspect of music in our records, that was an advantage we had because we were never biased to one particular type of music," said Big Boi. "We listen to rock, jazz, blues, pop, country, hip-hop and the whole nine yards, so to go back and throw a little swing in there."
"I think, previous albums that we’ve had, we always had a touch of that ragtime feel, and we just had a chance to do what we wanted to do [with this film and soundtrack]," he continued. "Like [Andre] said, 'it is [the 1930's], but we can still satisfy our fans by doing what we do best."
"It’s called freakin’ it. That’s what you do," added Three Stacks.
2006 - Danity Kane Drop Self-Titled Album and Single "Showstopper"
Danity Kane was formed under the auspices of Diddy during the third iteration of MTV's reality series Making the Band in 2005. The all-girl group consists of members Aubrey O'Day, Shannon Bex, Dawn Richard, Wanita "D. Woods" Woodgett and Aundrea Fimbres. On this day in 2006, the all-girl group released their debut self-titled album and single, "Show Stopper." The album premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 1 million copies in the U.S.
Despite the group's initial success, they have gone through several ups and downs and was disbanded by Diddy in 2009. In 2014, Bex, Fimbres, O'Day, and Richard briefly reunited, with Fimbres leaving a short time later due to pregnancy. The remaining three ladies continued to work as a trio, releasing the buzz single "Lemonade," but broke up a short time later, following reports of a physical altercation between O'Day and Richard.
The album, DK3 was released with no promo from the girls. Richard went back to her solo music, while Bex and O'Day went on to for the experimental group Dumblonde.
"We have been through a journey of a lot of ups and downs. But on any journey, you know, it requires the people involved to not be willing to let go of each other and that's what we're on so, we're super grateful to be back in each other's lives," said O'Day (via E! News).
2006 - J Dilla's Posthumous Album The Shining Is Released
Several months after J Dilla’s death, Stones Throw released The Shining, a posthumous collection of music that the late producer was working on before his death. According to Dilla’s manager, Tim Maynor, the album was only 75 percent done, so he tapped fellow Detroiter and drummer Karriem Riggins to help complete the project.
The 12-song collection features guest appearances from Dilla’s longtime collaborators including Busta Rhymes, Dwele, Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought, Madlib, MED and Guilty Simpson. Dilla’s brother Illa J (real name John Derek Yancey) appears on “Won’t Do,” while Dilla’s dear friend Common is featured on two tracks, “E=MC2” and “So Far to Go.”
"J Dilla was truly one of the purest musicians I've ever met, like purest creators -- always about what felt right to him," said Common (via Billboard). "I can try to talk him into something but if it's not his thing or he's not feeling that, he's not gonna really do that."
"The dynamic of Jay Dee was that he was the guy who could pull out a jazz record...and he'd be aware of all these jazz musicians," he continued. "But then he'd wear his chain then go to the strip club and I loved that about him 'cause it was like, he never left his Detroit roots."
2006 - Kelis Is a Boss on Kelis Was Here
Kelis’ released her fourth album Kelis Was Here on Jive Records. The project arrived several months after tying the knot with then-husband Nas. The collection features production from hitmakers will.i.am, Bangladesh, Raphael Saadiq, Cee-Lo Green, Polow da Don and more. The set’s lead single is the “Diamonds on My Neck”-sampled “Bossy,” featuring Too $hort. On the bouncy track, Kelis makes it clear that she’s a trendsetter and in charge of the girls.
"I'm bossy / I'm the first girl to scream on a track / I switched up the beat of the drum / That's right I brought all the boys to the yard / And that's right, I'm the one that's tattooed on his arm," she sings referring to her hubby Nas.
"Bossy" was a big single for Kelis as it peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold 2 million copies in the U.S.
2006 - Layzie Bone Drops The New Revolution
On this day in 2006, Layzie Bone dropped his third album The New Revolution. The project features the legendary Bone Thugs-N-Harmony member delivering potent street rhymes over G-funk-style beats. With over 25 years in the rap game, Layzie credits his longevity to his fans who have supported him through BTNH and his solo endeavors.
"I think we all just making a point to really just get back involved with the fans. You get so big you forget about the little things," he told dubcnn.com in 2008. "Before email and Myspace, we were still getting fan letters and we used to answer that shit. A fan would have their [phone] number in the mail, and out of the blue, we would call that [person]."
"We are definitely getting more conscious on getting more involved with our fans because really a fan is like a friend for life," he continued. "If you don't holler back at your friend in some kind of way and don't show some type of appreciation then eventually they not going fuck with you no more. We know how to cater to those that are loyal to us."