30. Ginuwine “Pony” (1996)

Writers: Ginuwine, Timbaland, Static Major | Producer: Timbaland | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

Man, this was a game-changer.

By the mid-90s, the new jack sound was more or less played out. There were still some hot tracks coming from LaFace and Uptown, but shit was mostly pretty stale. Middle-of-the-Road instrumentation… goopy, insincere ballads… things were so slow, people were like “Mint Condition? They’re amazing!” (they were good…just). Then along came “Pony” and “If Your Girl Only Knew.”  Timbaland had arrived. Nothing on the radio sounding anything like these tracks.

Ginuwine, more a cipher than an artist, was used perfectly by Tim and Static Major. “Pony” is the libidinous early peak, while  100% Ginuwine is the best (Timbaland-produced) album (evah). Go get it! (Carlos Halston)

29. Jodeci “Forever My Lady” (1991)

Writers: DeVante Swing, Al B. Sure! | Producers: DeVante Swing, Al B. Sure! | #1 R&B (3 weeks)

Jodeci actually made their debut on the scene with the hyper new jack swing of “Gotta Love,” a song that wound up underwhelming on the charts. Once the tempo slowed, though, it was showtime. Continuing a long tradition of artists who can’t make a dance record for shit but shine brightly on the slow jams, “Forever My Lady” rose straight to the top of the charts. Expressing devotion to a lady who is giving birth to his child, K-ci’s emotional delivery made a legion of R&B loving females melt and gave the fellas a song that they could dedicate to their women without seeming like too much of a pansy. Al B. Sure!’s production fingerprints are all over this track, and even though it’s one of the more dated Jodeci tracks, it’s also one of the most meaningful. (Big Money)

28. Johnny Gill “Rub You The Right Way” (1990)

Writers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | Producers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | #1 R&B (1 week)

Growling like a ‘90s version of Teddy Pendergrass, Johnny Gill officially announced himself as a grown man with “Rub You The Right Way.” Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis gave JG a hyped-up dance track that a lesser vocalist would have gotten swallowed up by. However, even with the production bells and whistles, Johnny’s voice is what shines. The man had been recognized as a talent for over half a decade prior to this, his breakout solo track, but there were concerns that his voice was too “adult,” and it wasn’t until he replaced Bobby Brown in New Edition that he got his proper due. N.E.’s Heartbreak album not only gave Johnny some long-overdue props, but it introduced him to Jimmy & Terry, then one of the hottest production teams in R&B. Sensual and funky, “Rub You The Right Way” remains one of Johnny’s best known hits-whether in it’s original incarnation or in the form of the popular Untouchables remix, which introduced the world to a young C.L. Smooth.

27. Tevin Campbell “Can We Talk” (1993)

Writers: Babyface, Daryl Simmons | Producer: Babyface | #1 R&B (3 weeks)

A vocal prodigy who was scoring hits before he even exited puberty, Tevin Campbell scored his biggest hit with 1993’s “Can We Talk.” Navigating the tricky divide between puppy love and something more with aplomb, this midtempo track was perfect for a fall stroll around campus with your boo. Composer Babyface cleverly references one of his earlier songwriting triumphs (Bobby Brown’s “Roni,”) and young Tevin sells the shit out of this song. After he’s done begging you to talk to him, what other choice do you have but to listen? (Big Money)

26. R. Kelly “Bump ‘N Grind” (1993)

Writer: R. Kelly | Producer: R. Kelly | #1 R&B (12 weeks)


When R. Kelly & Public Announcement came out in 1991, me and my friends goofed on them-calling them a ripoff of Teddy Riley’s Guy, to the point where we changed the lyrics of their first single, “She’s Got That Vibe” to “We Sound Like Guy.” It wasn’t until “Bump ‘n Grind” came out at the beginning of 1994 that R. Kelly became “R. Kelly.” The song became his first #1 (and so far, his only) on the pop charts and spent an incredible 12 weeks on top of the R&B list. Adding to the song’s appeal was a stunning remix that turned the sexual heat up even further. Y’all think Puffy invented the remix, but “Bump ‘n Grind” is more in line with the remix template that would dominate through the late Nineties and early Oughts. Over guitar strums that echo The Isley Brothers, Kells goes hard, only retaining the chorus from the original version. Same song, two classic versions. Many, many babies made. (Big Money)

25. Guy “Let’s Chill” (1990)

Writers: Teddy Riley, Bernard Belle & Keith Sweat | Producer: Teddy Riley | #3 R&B

The father of the New Jack Swing produces a break up to make up chartbuster for his former R&B trio Guy. Teddy Riley, along with lead vocalist Aaron Hall, and his brother Daman Hall, climbed the top of the charts with “Let’s Chill”. In the intro of the song, Aaron immediately admits to having trouble forgetting about a relationship with his ex. He knows that he must make amends with her in order to fill the emptiness he feels without her. Throughout the body of the song, Aaron attempts to convince this woman that he is beyond ready to fulfill his responsibilities in the relationship by loving her forever. (June.)

24. Boyz II Men “Motownphilly” (1991)

Writers: Dallas Austin, Michael Bivins, Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris | Producer: Dallas Austin | #4 R&B

Have you ever felt the complete and total necessity to do the running man. That rhetorical, everyone has felt that. Especially if you have EVER heard Motownphilly. Also, I wanna point out how I think Boys II Men is one of the first to say their name a bunch in a song, and make it work. This song also makes me want to do the following: crimp my hair and use scrunchies, put on Zubaz pants, the Cabbage Patch, and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Shoot girl, look at that fly nylon tracksuit, you know she’s breaking it down to Motownphilly. (Bridget)

23. 112 (featuring The Notorious B.I.G.) “Only You” (1996)

Writers: Sean “Puffy” Combs, 112, The Notorious B.I.G. | Producers: Sean “Puffy” Combs & Stevie J. | #3 R&B

“I thought I told you that we won’t stop, thought I told you that we won’t stop”… Puff Daddy aka Diddy and his roster of artists on Bad Boy Records were huge in the 90’s. To add fuel to the fire, the label introduced a quartet of male R&B lead vocalists hailing from Atlanta Georgia, known as 112. Sampling KC & the Sunshine Band’s “I Get Lifted”, the young crooners teamed up with then Hip Hop King of New York Notorious B.I.G. and rocketed up the charts with their debut single, “Only You”. Adding more bounce to the original version, immediately following was the remix featuring the commercial debut of Harlem Rapper, Ma$e. (June.)

22. Michael Jackson “In The Closet” (1991)

Writers: Michael Jackson, Teddy Riley | Producers: Teddy Riley, Michael Jackson | #1 R&B (1 week)

This was certainly a different look from The King of Pop. Originally conceived as a duet with Madonna, this song is fraught with a sexual tension that’s much more commonly associated with The Queen of Pop. Grunting, squealing and breathing heavily as he sings about a forbidden affair, it did something that was almost impossible back in the days of Neverland Ranch and oxygen chambers-it made MJ (however briefly) sound (somewhat) sexy. The “Mystery Girl” vocals were rumored to be everyone from Madonna to sister Janet (gross) and turned out to be Princess Stephanie of Monaco. How many people can get an actual princess on their record? All that subtext aside, “In The Closet” is a stone groove, and both Michael and producer Teddy Riley are at the top of their respective games here. (Big Money)

21. Jodeci “Come And Talk To Me” (1991)

Writers: DeVante Swing, Al B. Sure! | Producers: DeVante Swing, Al B. Sure! | #1 R&B (2 weeks)

As I zip through the songs on this list, I have thoughts. My latest thought: is it possible that Tevin Campbell’s “Can We Talk” (located a few positions up) was inspired by Jodeci’s “Come And Talk To Me?” Both songs cover similar ground lyrically. Boy meets girl, boy is too shy to talk to girl, boy begs girl to talk to him. It’s as innocent as Jodeci (commonly known as the bad-boy alternative to freshly scrubbed Boyz II Men) ever got. It’s an exquisitely composed and performed song. Hell K-Ci doesn’t even start getting his vocal rocks off until the bridge!! Group overseer/mentor Sean ‘Puffy” Combs began the “beat jacker” phase of his career here, with a remix that liberally sampled EPMD’s “You’re a Customer.” It gave Jodeci some extra thug appeal and (unfortunately) kicked off Puff’s career as an emcee. (Big Money)









Incoming search terms:

  • bLISTerd: The 100 Best R&B Songs
Be Sociable, Share!