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Nineties R&B

Today is Janet’s birthday!

The most popular r&b group of the nineties was probably Boyz II Mej3y64t.,huy

Sorry. My head hit the keyboard. Just typing that group’s name puts me to sleep. I find their music devoid of personality, emphasizing vocal histrionics over soul-felt passion. They should call themselves Boyz II Meh! Am I right, people? Tip your waitstaff.

Much of nineties r&b suffers from the same. Technique over feeling. Not all, though. I’m not damning a whole genre with a wide paintbrush, or whatever that expression is.

Today’s playlist showcases twenty of the best r&b hits from last millennium’s last decade, the decade being 1990 to 1999, for the purposes of this post. Nothing obscure this time. All of these songs received a fair amount of airplay back in the day.

If I missed any of your favorites, let me know in the comments section, unless it’s a song by Boyz II Mebg;hev.

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Throwback Thursday – 1997

Randy Badazz Alpert received many requests to license “Rise,” a song he co-wrote that became a #1 hit for his uncle Herb in 1979, as a sample in hip hop tracks. He said no to Ice Cube, Vanilla Ice, Eazy-E, and the others who requested permission. However, when he received a cassette from the producer then known as Puff Daddy of a new song utilizing the sample, he consented. He loved the new tune and felt it could make his song go to #1 again.

He was right. The new recording was “Hypnotize” and it was performed by the Notorious B.I.G. “Hypnotize” topped the Billboard Hot 100 in May of 1997, less than two months after the rapper was killed in Los Angeles.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the best of 1997, kicking off with The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize,” which uses a sample from a songwriter whose middle name really is Badazz.


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Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8 is International Women’s Day. Here is your soundtrack:


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Throwback Thursday – 1999

Eminem has often been accused of being homophobic. Maybe it’s because he rapped “I’ll still be able to break a motha-fuckin’ table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half.” Maybe it’s because he rapped “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That’ll stab you in the head whether you’re a fag or lez.” And “All you lil’ faggots can suck it / No homo, but I’ma stick it to ’em like refrigerator magnets.” And “Little gay-looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy / ‘Oy vey, that boy’s gay,’ that’s all they say looking-boy / You take a thumbs up, pat on the back, the way you go from your label every day-looking boy.” And “You fags think it’s all a game.” Anyone can see how the artist born Marshall Mathers got labeled a homophobe, even if he pretends he doesn’t see it.

So it’s ironic that in his first hit single, the song that put him on the map and into the international consciousness, the music bed is based around a sample from an openly gay singer-songwriter.

“My Name Is” became Eminem’s first single to crack the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #36. Its music is taken from a 1975 release called “I Got the…,” written and performed by Labi Siffre. Siffre, who was born in England in 1945, says he knew he was gay since age four. He met his life partner, Peter John Carver Lloyd, in 1964. They remained a couple for 49 years, until Lloyd’s death in 2013.

Before Siffre would allow Eminem to use the sample, he made the rapper change some of the words on “My Name Is.” The lyric “My English teacher wanted to have sex in junior high / The only problem was, my English teacher was a guy” became “My English teacher wanted to flunk me in junior high / Thanks a lot, next semester I’ll be 35.” The lyric “Extraterrestrial killing pedestrians, raping lesbians while they’re screaming, ‘Let’s just be friends!’” became “Extraterrestrial running over pedestrians in a spaceship while they’re screaming, ‘Let’s just be friends!’”.” Said Siffre, “Dissing the victims of bigotry – women as bitches, homosexuals as faggots – is lazy writing. Diss the bigots, not their victims. I denied sample rights till that lazy writing was removed. I should have stipulated “all versions” but at that time knew little about rap’s “clean” & “explicit” modes, so they managed to get the lazy lyric on versions other than the single and first album.”

For Throwback Thursday this week, Tunes du Jour revisits some of the musical highlights of 1999, kicking off with Eminem’s “My Name Is.”


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U Should Know D’Angelo

You should know D’Angelo’s music. His debut album, Brown Sugar, turns twenty this summer. It’s a landmark in neo soul that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1995.

D’Angelo’s second album, Voodoo, celebrated its fifteenth anniversary a couple of weeks ago. It builds on and surpasses his debut, with D’Angelo’s singing, writing and production stretching beyond what his contemporaries were doing.

He surprise released his third album, Black Messiah, this past December. The Village Voice annual music critics poll placed it at #1 for 2014 album releases.

Today D’Angelo turns 41. Here is an introductory playlist. You should know D’Angelo’s music.

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Keeping The Music Of Curtis Mayfield Alive

Ringo + Curtis 004
In my role as the Vice President of Licensing at Warner Music Group I oversaw the licensing of “samples.” A sample is when a newer song uses a portion of an existing recording. A prominent example is Puff Daddy’s sample of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in his “I’ll Be Missing You.”

One of the most popular catalogues for sample licensing is that of Curtis Mayfield. Elements of his records have been used by many well-known and respected rap acts, including Kanye West and Beastie Boys. I’d run the requests by Curtis’ son Kirk, who was always a pleasure to work with.

Many complain of hip hop’s dependence on samples, and while often times samples are used in a lazy and uninspired way, there are many examples where the samples complement the new song perfectly. It can also be argued that samples keep the music of great acts of the past alive and introduce this music to younger generations. Where else might a teenager hear Curtis Mayfield or James Brown other than via a new Kanye jam?

Today, the third day of Black Music Month, we celebrate the birthday of the late, great Curtis Mayfield with some of the classics he had a hand in – as a solo artist, as a member of The Impressions, as a writer/producer, or via a sample. Click here for the playlist.

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My Top 74 Songs Of 2013 – You Know You Want It!

In 2013 I found religion. I praised Yeezus. I listened to the words of Lorde. I hailed the resurrection of The Replacements. I danced apocalyptic. This year’s music fed my spirituality, though my year-end list also has sacrilege and unbelievers.

Much like I did with God, before 2013 I dismissed Robin Thicke. I never thought I’d ever see his name on my year-end song lists, let alone at #1, but “Blurred Lines” is my choice for record of the year. The song is about wannabe players hitting on a woman with awkward come-ons, though some chose to think the song celebrate sexual assaults. They coined a term for it – rapey, after Snow White’s least popular dwarf.

I never thought I’d see Daft Punk or Nile Rodgers again in Glenn’s Ten, but this year they returned on the same record. Their “Get Lucky,” which, like “Blurred Lines,” also features Pharrell Williams, is my #2 song of 2013. Daft Punk, who are French and therefore crepey, was last in Glenn’s Ten in 2001 with “Digital Love.” Nile Rodgers was in the great disco band Chic, whose hit-making days preceded the creation of Glenn’s Ten. After Chic he worked with a lot of great artists and Duran Duran. The last time he was in Glenn’s Ten was in 1990 as the co-producer of The B-52s’ “Deadbeat Club.” The Daft Punk/Nile Rodgers/Pharrell Williams combo also turn up at #8 with “Lose Yourself to Dance.” Daft Punk are also at #67 with “Doin’ It Right” and Pharrell is also at #24, assisting Azealia Banks on “ATM Jam.”

Kendrick Lamar is all over my year-end list, placing more songs on it than any other act. Besides several tracks from his terrific debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city (#3 – “Swimming Pools (Drank),” #10 – “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” #39 – “Backseat Freestyle” and #44 – “Poetic Justice”), he guested on singles from Miguel (#51 – “How Many Drinks”), ScHoolboy Q (#72 – “Collard Greens”) and A$AP Rocky (#7 – “Fuckin’ Problems”). On the subject of the latter, the way A$AP talks about women is his fuckin’ problem. It’s the first time I ever purchased the so-called “clean” version of a song. The explicit version is very misogynous, though I would stop short of calling it rapey, mostly because that word is stupid (no offense to the dwarf).

While “Get Lucky” evoked the 70s disco sound, that era’s laid back Cali rock vibe was heard in Haim’s “The Wire” (#4), whose introduction sounded a lot like Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight.”

The recipient of the kiss-off that is Icona Pop’s “I Love It” (#5) is from the 70s, but she’s a 90s bitch. She’s loud. She’s angry. She’s possibly psychotic. I don’t care. I love it.

Mariah Carey has released around 75 singles during her career. I’ve enjoyed approximately none of them. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my satellite radio display to see the song I was enjoying was credited to Mariah, all the more unexpected because it was a guy singing. I prefer to think of “#Beautiful” (#36) as a Miguel track.

Like Mariah, the last time Shabba Ranks was in Glenn’s Ten was never, but he was there this year, not as an artist, but as a song title/inspiration for an A$AP Rocky/A$AP Ferg’s collaboration (#43 – “Shabba”).

Kanye West is too humble and reserved to say it, but his Yeezus is the year’s best album. It produced three Glenn’s Ten hits (#27 – “Black Skinhead,” #66 – “Blood on the Leaves” and #69 – “Bound 2”). My other favorite albums of the year are Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, Janelle Monae’s The Electric Lady (#16 – “Dance Apocalyptic,” #30 – “Q.U.E.E.N.” and #35 – “Primetime”), Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City (#13 – “Diane Young” and #68 – “Unbelievers”), Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (#21 – “San Francisco” and #42 – “No Destruction) and Beyoncé’s self-titled album, which she snuck out two weeks ago, too recent for any of its tracks to make this year’s list.

Check out the tunes and let me know if you make any discoveries.

1) “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell
2) “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
3) “Swimming Pools (Drank)” – Kendrick Lamar
4) “The Wire” – Haim
5) “I Love It” – Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX
6) “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake
7) “Fuckin’ Problems” – A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2Chainz and Kendrick Lamar
8) “Lose Yourself to Dance” – Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
9) “Put the Gun Down” – ZZ Ward
10) “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” – Kendrick Lamar
11) “Wicked Games” – The Weeknd
12) “Thrift Shop” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
13) “Diane Young” – Vampire Weekend
14) “Royals” – Lorde
15) “Man” – Neko Case
16) “Dance Apocalyptic” – Janelle Monae
17) “Just Give Me a Reason” – P!nk featuring Nate Ruess
18) “Default” – Django Django
19) “Lightning Bolt” – Jake Bugg
20) “High School Lover” – Cayucas
21) “San Francisco” – Foxygen
22) “Lysandre” – Christopher Owens
23) “Right Action” – Franz Ferdinand
24) “ATM Jam” – Azealia Banks featuring Pharrell
25) “Hard Out Here” – Lily Allen
26) “Do You…” – Miguel
27) “Black Skinhead” – Kanye West
28) “Stare at the Sun” – Eleanor Friedberger
29) “Sacrilege” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
30) “Q.U.E.E.N.” – Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu
31) “Mama Told Me” – Big Boi featuring Kelly Rowland
32) “White Walls” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring ScHoolboy Q and Hollis
33) “Y.A.L.A.” – M.I.A.
34) “I’m Not Sayin’” – The Replacements
35) “Primetime” – Janelle Monae featuring Miguel
36) “#Beautiful” – Mariah Carey featuring Miguel
37) “Stompa” – Serena Ryder
38) “Bubble Butt” – Major Lazer featuring Bruno Mars, Tyga & Mystic
39) “Backseat Freestyle” – Kendrick Lamar
40) “Applause” – Lady Gaga
41) “Reflektor” – Arcade Fire
42) “No Destruction” – Foxygen
43) “Shabba” – A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky
44) “Poetic Justice” – Kendrick Lamar featuring Drake
45) “Sunset” – the xx
46) “Wenu Wenu” – Omar Souleyman
47) “Change” – Churchill
48) “Hang Loose” – Alabama Shakes
49) “Dark and Stormy” – Hot Chip
50) “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton
51) “How Many Drinks” – Miguel featuring Kendrick Lamar
52) “The Ceiling” – The Wild Feathers
53) “Love is Blindness” – Jack White
54) “Dream Baby Dream” – Bruce Springsteen
55) “I Won’t Be Long” – Beck
56) “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” – Ylvis
57) “Super Rich Kids” – Frank Ocean with Earl Sweatshirt
58) “Here We Go” – Christopher Owens
59) “Afterlife” – Arcade Fire
60) “Song for Zula” – Phosphorescent
61) “FUCKMYLIFE666” – Against Me!
62) “Do I Wanna Know?” – Arctic Monkeys
63) “Blowin’ Smoke” – Kacey Musgraves
64) “Don’t Swallow the Cap” – the National
65) “Perfume” – Britney Spears
66) “Blood on the Leaves” – Kanye West
67) “Doin’ It Right” – Daft Punk featuring Panda Bear
68) “Unbelievers” – Vampire Weekend
69) “Bound 2” – Kanye West
70) “Lies” – Chvrches
71) “Work Bitch” – Britney Spears
72) “Collard Greens” – ScHoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar
73) “Ain’t That the Way” – Divine Fits
74) “You’re Not the One” – Sky Ferreira


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