Throwback Single: Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen 'No Diggity'
In the early ‘90s, music of black origin was seeing the emergence of a multi-genre hybrid, New Jack Swing. Infusing contemporary R&B with elements of Jazz, Electronica, Hip Hop and Funk; New Jack Swing needed little jostling for a place on the Urban mantle. Appealing to a cross-section of music appreciators, the genre saw R&B producers duly experiment. Hip Hop beats were layered with soulful R&B solos, tight harmonies and instrumental samples; producing a contagious and edgy Urban sound.
A key producer propelling the genre was Teddy Riley.
The singer, songwriter, musician and producer began his career in the mid ‘80s and is credited for impacting contemporary R&B. By 1995, Riley had no less than thirty-one Platinum and nine Gold certified records. A co-founder of Blackstreet, the band helped refine New Jack Swing.
The American R&B group entered the music arena in 1993 with their first single “Baby Be Mine” being featured on the soundtrack for the comedy CB4. Their self-titled debut album was very well received, capturing mainstream attention with tracks such as “Tonight’s the Night” with SWV and “Booti Call.” Smooth vocals, a strong stage presence and critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, Blackstreet were shining effervescently amidst their contemporaries and built up a cult following.
Blackstreet’s second album ‘Another Level’ raised the band’s visibility. Spawning a number of hits including “Fix” and “Don’t Leave Me,” it was their 1996 summer release that went on to become their signature song.
“No Diggity” was an instant success, reaching the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and enjoying similar success beyond North America. The track with its distinctive opening sample of Bill Withers' “Grandma’s Hands” featured Dr. Dre and Queen Pen, adding lyrical weight to a track that was as reminiscent of the Deep South as it was of California. A hearty amalgamation of R&B, Jazz and West Coast Hip Hop, the track was New Jack Swing at its finest and sold in excess of a million copies to go Platinum. In 1998, it received a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
The Hype Williams directed video for the Blackstreet modern classic has the slick visual opulence of a Williams’ video. Opening scenes of dancers gyrating on wet tarmac in front of limousines are followed by shots of Dre in front of a beach house and scenes of revelry inside. The video makes a Pop culture reference through its clever use of marionettes. After Nike created a commercial featuring NBA star Penny Hardaway as a puppet in 1996, “No Diggity” features marionettes of Teddy Riley and Chauncey Black playing instruments. Denim overalls, dark shades after dusk, a bevy of hot women and the fantastic Dr. Dre- the memorable video is the epitome of ‘90s R&B swag.
With line-up changes over the years, one facet of Blackstreet remained constant- the R&B act’s ability to sonically serenade. Could 2012 be the year we receive a spanking new Blackstreet studio album? Who knows but in the interim, let us take it back to July 1996 and put those hands high up in the air in unison...