Golden Oldies: John Legend

John Legend needs little introduction so I’ll keep this short and just list his career achievements in bullet points.

  • 10 Grammy Awards
  • 1 Golden Globe
  • 1 Academy Award
  • Sung with/for Kanye West, Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Lauryn Hill, and more
  • Reached Billboard 100 #1 with single All Of Me
  • Married to swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen
  • Super into charity

I could go on, but the general idea is that he is an amazing, successful, talented human being, and we should all listen to more John Legend. Especially before, during, and after sex.

Save Room

OK, fine. This isn’t really an unknown song, and I’m a little biased because this is one of my favourite songs ever and has been since I was a kid. The opening baseline gets my feet tapping every time and the crisp organ is groovy as hell. This song makes me wish I was Chrissy Teigen, so I could spend my life being serenaded by John Legend.

Let’s Get Lifted Again

Most casual John Legend fans know the song Let’s Get Lifted, but this deep cut is also essential. Short, sweet, and sexy. You can barely hear what John Legend is saying under the slow funk guitar riff, but it doesn’t matter. His perfect falsetto is breathy and his voice goes on these high wandering notes as he croons, “So much, so much I want to show you.”

This Time

Another track off Legend’s legendary album Evolver. The lyrics are bittersweet and melancholy as Legend asks for a second chance in a relationship he messed up. Stuff about wasting love and taking a chance. It’s a bit sappy, but anyone who’s ever been too afraid to commit to a relationship fully will relate to the song. With swelling violin in the background and John Legend’s voice at the forefront, this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

 

Golden Oldies: Will Smith

In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
She said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air’
 
And so a legend was born. Will Smith is one of the greatest gifts humanity has ever received. In 2007, Newsweek called him the most powerful actor in Hollywood. He’s tailed off a little this decade, but his children Willow and Jaden have carried on his legacy nicely. The thing that makes him so great is that nobody doesn’t like Will Smith. Some people don’t love his movies, or never really got into Fresh Prince, or don’t like rap. But you can’t not at least like Will Smith. Here is proof, from his Wikipedia page: “He is the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office, eleven consecutive films gross over $150 million internationally, and eight consecutive films in which he starred open at the number one spot in the domestic box office tally.”
 

Just The Two Of Us

Watch the music video and tell me you don’t want Will Smith to be your father. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are probably the best Hollywood couple, and they’ve raised two strong kids who aren’t afraid to express themselves and step out from their parents’ shadows. This heart melting song has a great jazzy/bassy backing track and Will Smith raps clearly as if he’s making sure even a five year old kid could understand the lyrics. There’s advice on how to treat women and other people; chivalry; love; heartbreak; pretty much everything. 
 

Get Jiggy With It

From his debut album Big Willie Style, this song is pure nostalgia. The iconic “na na na” sample in the back, the ’90s flow, the collab with DJ Jazzy Jeff. It’s like being transported to the vapourwave-y early ’90s. It’s refreshing to hear Will Smith today because he’s a rapper who didn’t have to swear/brag/be sexist to find success. His songs are upbeat and poppy and sometimes funny, and that’s what good rap should be.
 

Summertime

Is Will Smith low-key the most family-friendly artist of all-time? Look at this music video! Kids hugging and blowing bubbles, Smith cooking up meat on the grill and popping in a CD, old ladies clapping on chairs. Obama should make a law that all copies of The New Kids On The Block’s “Summertime” should be destroyed and replaced with Will Smith’s “Summertime”. Maybe that would get him re-elected for a third term. Here are some key GIFs from the music video. Now go watch an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! 
Bust a move!

Bust a move!

PHAT!

PHAT!

That's gotta hurt!

That’s gotta hurt!

Golden Oldies: Mario

Be honest, you had completely forgotten about Mario until clicking on this link. Well, Mario hasn’t forgotten about you. In fact, he hasn’t stopped thinking about you for one second, and he’s ready to sing his way back into your blissfully ignorant life. The 29-year-old Mario Dewar Barrett, Billboard’s 98th best artist of the 2000’s, wants your attention.

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Just A Friend

Biz Markie did it first, but Mario’s rendition of this classic is on point. It was one of his first releases (2002) and set the tone for his career of singing songs about girls not realizing how good he is. The talent is just oozing out of this fresh-faced yung Mario as he complains about the worst thing there is in life: The Friendzone. The voice, the swag, the moves. It’s all on POINT.

"Girl stop playing games with me / And let's get it on tonight"

“Girl stop playing games with me / And let’s get it on tonight”

Let Me Love You

Yeah, there’s definitely a theme in Mario songs. He just wants to love you, girl. Why won’t you let him? This is his biggest hit for a reason. The beat is fire, the looped vocal sample in the background gives it a Shakira feel, and Mario’s vocals are incredible. Best lyric: “Fistful of diamonds (handful of rings).” Here’s a great rework of the song by talented producer Sllash.

How Could You

“How could you let somebody lay were I lay.” Yeah, sh*t gets pretty real pretty fast in this one. It’s not clear whether he caught her cheating, or whether he can’t come to terms with her dating someone else after a breakup, but it’s a vulnerable and tender track that’s perfect for going through heartbreak. And towards the end of the song there’s a triumphant key change and Mario seems to be getting over it, so it’s not all sad. Best lyric: “How could you put him up to the Ghetto Kama Sutra.” Whatever that means.

 

Golden Oldies: Queen Latifah

Disclaimer: I’ve been a huge Queen Latifah fan ever since watching Last Holiday. It’s the perfect movie: it has LL Cool J, Gerard Depardieu as a french chef, Queen Latifah snowboarding and skydiving, and some hilarious scenes. 

But it wasn’t until last year that I realized that she started out as a rapper. I immediately went to Youtube…and was completely blown away. Her toughness, her no-nonsense flow, her throwback swag. It was all captivating. In addition to being one of the only female MC’s in the game in the late 90’s, she was also gay, which makes her success and determination all the more impressive. Move aside Queen Bey, there’s a new Queen in town.

Queen Latifah

U.N.I.T.Y

This is probably the most serious Queen Latifah track, but the way she tackles the difficult subject matter of domestic abuse with swag and toughness is what makes her one of the most underrated and fearless MC’s of all-time. So many good lines, but this one takes the cake for me: “Huh, I punched him dead in his eye and said ‘Who you calling a bitch?'”

Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here

This old school track is a great example of the Queen’s unique flow.

Flipped back visor on fleek.

Flipped back visor on fleek.

The title says it all: Rappers in the game were dissing Latifah for trying to make it as a female MC in a male-dominated game, and also talking behind her back about her sexuality. And Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here with those “rappers.” My favourite line: “Here’s more from a woman/ All woman / Keep the rumors / To Your / Self”

Go Head

The beat is on another level in this song. It sounds like a mix of Missy Elliot and early Timbaland with Native and Arabian influences going on in the background. This is a #squad song, and Latifah rolls out with her biker gang for the music video with Lil’ Kim sitting in the backseat. It’s a mix of happy and don’t-mess-with-us, and the sound is way ahead of it’s time. 

#SQUADGOALS

#SQUADGOALS

Golden Oldies: Fat Joe

Look up “Fat Joe Underrated” on Google right now. Literally thousands and thousands of articles on rap blogs and music websites. Hundreds of unanswered questions on Yahoo! Answers. Full videos breaking it down. Something ain’t right here. Sure, he hasn’t released any great music since the 2000’s, and maybe you’ve completely forgotten about him, but when Lean Back comes on in the club you sure as hell can’t forget his Biggie-like flow and easy coolness.

A few facts about Fat Joe before we jump in and take a look at some of his most underrated songs.

  • His real name is Joseph Antonio Cartagena
  • He was born in August 1970, making him 45 years old today
  • His debut album Represent, was released all the way back in 1993
  • He released the music video Drop A Body in 2011, which unveiled his shocking weight loss over the late 2000’s. He claimed to have lost 88 pounds off his peak weight of 350 lbs.

Alright, let’s get into it. Here’s Week 6 of Golden Oldies!

Fat Joe

We Thuggin’

The Big Pun influence is strong in this track, and R. Kelly singing about something other than his girl cheating on him is refreshing to hear. This is a classic “Our Squad Is Dope” rap (reppin’ Fat Joe’s Terror Squad) and it throws you back to a time when rap beefs were a dime a dozen. Best part of the music video is the puffy powder blue parkas.

I Won’t Tell

To me, this is the last song of Fat Joe’s prime. The flow on this is almost exactly like Biggie’s, and J. Holliday takes it to another level on the hook. Fat Joe promises a secret life of straight ballin’ with his squad to all those girls who are curious about what it’s like to get down with a fat bald man, and he’s so smooth I almost find myself wishing he would sing this one to me. Also, yet another DJ Khaled sighting. Illuminati confirmed.

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What’s Luv

This is a hilariously dated music video. It starts out with Ashanti finding out her man is fooling around by coming across a stack of incriminating Polaroids. The pairing of Fat Joe and Ashanti pretty much sums up squad goals, and is a huge nostalgia trip for anyone who was into early early 2000’s R&B. Fat Joe is seriously underrated.

Golden Oldies: J Lo

J Lo is one of the most recognizable and famous celebrities in the world. I’m guessing 100% of the population could pick her face out of a crowd, and 99.9% of the population could pick her butt out of a crowd. Even if you don’t know her music, you’ve seen her picture in People, on a billboard, or a poster for Maid in Manhattan. (While we’re on the topic of underrated songs, that is a very underrated movie. Ralph Fiennes is amazing in it, and J Lo does the Pretty Woman shtick to perfection.)

So this week, we’ll be looking at three of J Lo’s songs that most of the population wouldn’t recognize if it was played on the radio. But if you’re a die-hard J Lo fan, you should know these tunes by heart.

Week 6: Jennifer Lopez

Feeling So Good

This is one of the most feel-good, positive-vibe tracks I have ever heard. The video starts with the sun shining on J Lo’s face. Then she walks out on to the street and finds a dollar bill on the pavement, and her day just keeps getting better.

What could be bad when you're double-fisting cellular phones?

What could be bad when you’re double-fisting cellular phones?

With a bumping beat, Fat Joe and big pun on the verses, and J Lo looking amazing as usual, this is a go-to pick me up song.

Ain’t It Funny

The ultimate “F*ck you I’m done” song. J Lo isn’t even mad that the guys who treat her bad want her back, she’s more amused. Like they could ever just stroll back and get a girl like her after messing around. Ain’t it funny. Ja Rule also has a great verse, which is reason enough to love this song.

I’m Glad

I’m putting this one on here more because of the music video than the song itself. J Lo had more than enough talent to pull of an incredible version of Flashdance, and how she executes those booty-shakin’ dance moves on a wet stage without slipping is mind blowing. This video is definitely not safe for work, but it’s safe to say you should watch it first thing after getting home from work.

Golden Oldies: Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake

I’m not saying Justin Timberlake is underrated. He is perfectly rated. He can’t be overrated because he is a five-tool musical threat that can dance/sing/act/love. He is one of the greatest poets of our generation, and nobody is denying that.

Still, with so many hits under his belt, there are always going to be a few gems that get buried down the list when people go to make their significant others JT mixtapes for Valentines Day. Here are three songs you shouldn’t overlook next February if you know what’s good for you.

Week 5: Justin Timberlake

Until The End Of Time

We’ll start things off with the mother of all collaborations. If Justin Timberlake and Beyonce put out a song together today, it would break the internet in approximately two seconds. So tell me how this song has existed for almost 10 years and still doesn’t get the love it deserves? If you close your eyes it almost sounds like a Prince jam from the ’80s, and Beyonce’s vocals really push it over the top.

Dead & Gone

I was legitimately shocked when I saw this only 22 million views on Youtube. Pour one out for the millions—no BILLIONS—of poor souls who haven’t heard Justin Timberlake’s chocolatey sweet voice on this chorus: “I’ve been travellin’ on this road too long / Just tryna find my way back home / The old me dead and gone, dead and gone.” Damn Justin. That hits home hard.

LoveStoned / I Think She Knows

The first part of this song would fit perfectly in any James Bond soundtrack. The  glitchy driving beat is heavily overproduced in the classic Timbaland style and makes you want to floor it down a highway in an Aston Martin. The second part is vintage JT: a Southern boy crooning about sex and girls. I personally prefer the upbeat A-side, but the B-side is also incredible and hugely underrated.

BONUS: Justice Remix

 

Golden Oldies: Mary J. Blige

There are so many things to love about Mary J. Blige. That she is a radiant goddess, that she revolutionized the way we thought about lip gloss, that despite the fact that she has a middle initial in her artist name, she is known simply as “Mary.”

As 2000’s R&B artists go, Mary J. Blige is in no way underrated. She has nine Grammys, and a record 30 Grammy nominations. She is one of a very small group of artists who have had eight or more albums go multi-platinum. Her 1994 breakthrough album My Life revolutionized hip hop by infusing it with a soulful, real, and tough sound. Her vocal range sounds amazing whether she’s singing along with Wu-Tang or with Mariah Carey. She is the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.

So without further ado, lets get into some of her lesser known songs that deserve to be played from the rooftops today.

Week 4: Mary J. Blige

Everything

Full of beautiful harmonies, sweet island vibes, and truthful lyrics, this song makes easy listening whether you’re relaxing at home or on the bus. After the chorus Mary sings “You are everything/And everything is you” and you wonder who she’s so madly in love with. Close your eyes and try to imagine a man good enough for Mary J. Blige.

Also, check out this sweet teardrop jewelry. Very 1997.

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You Don’t Have To Worry

We’ll get to how great this song is, but first: Check the swag!!!

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The lyrics are about placing your trust in an undeserving man, but it’s soulful and happy because she’s glad to be washing her hands of this scrub. The old-school beat and chorus (“You don’t have to worry/I won’t waste your time/I ain’t satisfied”) is the heart of this track. OK, one more GIF for good measure:

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We Ride (I See The Future)

The piano hook draws you in and then the snare kicks and she opens with the line “Everybody askin’ why Mary ain’t mad no more.” The lyrics are about her settling down with her husband and letting her anger and troubled history melt away into the past as she rides into the future with her true love.

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A fun fact is that the video actually features her real husband, Kendu Isaacs, who has been married to Mary since 2003.

BONUS TRACK: One (ft. U2)

Just listen to her voice dominate this track and turn it into an instant classic. Bono doesn’t even try to sing over her. A lot of hip hop soul vocalists wouldn’t be brave enough to touch a U2 cover, but Mary just went for it. I can’t think of any other vocalist who could do with this song what Mary did. It gives me chills.

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Golden Oldies: Akon

Akon is best known for his sun-soaked summer bangers and being the soundtrack to every middle-school dance from 2006-2008, but most people don’t know that Akon has recently stepped away from making beats in order to focus on philanthropy.

In 2014, the St. Louis native launched Akon Lighting Africa, a project that aims to bring solar electricity to all of Africa. Since then, Akon has brought energy to 11 different nations across the continent.

Obviously Akon is too busy to be worrying about music, so let’s do the worrying for him. Here are three Akon classics that you need to dig out of the bottom of your iTunes and bump this summer!

Week 3: Akon

I’m So Paid

This is just a classic brag track from Akon, and the T-Pain style auto-tune chorus is on point. Lil Wayne and peak-Young Jeezy drop Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps references in their verses, and the James Bond video is so 2009 it hurts. Also, hello DJ Khaled. Fancy running into you here!

Cameo in an Akon video? Major key.

Cameo in an Akon video? Major key.

Locked Up

This was the debut single off Akon’s first album Trouble, and yeah, it doesn’t really sound like anything else Akon has done. It’s a throwback gangster rap track with verses from Styles P, but the chorus sung by Akon is where this song really shines. According to Akon’s producer Knobody, the plan was for Akon to start his career out as a street rap/R&B dual-threat before crossing over to poppy R&B. Thank god he made that crossover sooner rather than later.

Dangerous

OK, this one is technically a Kardinal Offishall song (shout outs to T-dot), but Akon is the reason this song is famous because he absolutely slays on the chorus. The heavy Timbaland beat is still stuck in my head to this day, and Chanta Patton is looking fiiiiiine in the video.

Also, DJ Khaled is that you again???

Illumaniti confirmed.

Illumaniti confirmed.

Golden Oldies: Usher

Take a moment to guess how old Usher is.

….

Did you guess 29? 31? Trick question because he is an ageless demi-god sent from Heaven to make love in this club?

The correct answer is 37.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This column is called Golden Oldies, but Usher, if you’re reading this, I promise that’s not a jab at your age. The world just needs to hear your underrated songs. So without further ado…

Week 2: Usher

Lay You Down

If I had one song to convince someone that Usher had the sexiest falsetto of any man on earth, this would be the song. This is a classic old-school Usher song, the kind of song that comes on when you’re driving alone in a rainstorm and you get all tingly inside. To any younguns who think Usher’s all about the upbeat club bangers, listen up.

You Remind Me

This is an all-time 2001 R&B classic, and even made it to #1 on the charts that year, but it still doesn’t get the love it deserves today. It’s got a catchy riff that sounds like its being played on steel pan, a great chorus, and Usher’s beautiful voice. It’s also one of the first videos that Usher really shows off his insane dance moves.

U Don’t Have To Call

This funky tune is my favourite Usher song besides Love In This Club. The way he stretches out the “Iiiiiyaiyaiiiiayayayaiiii”, the bass line in the background, the upbeat mood, it’s a song you can never get tired of.

usher

The song is rumoured to be about Usher’s breakup with TLC’s Chilli, and he’s pretty much saying he’s too hot and fly to stay at home moping about getting dumped. Next time you’re fresh off a breakup, queue this song up and you’ll stop feeling sorry for yourself.

BONUS: A great song by Mura Masa that samples “U Don’t Have To Call” beautifully