1) Dream on Dreamer by The Brand New Heavies (from Brother Sister, 1994)
After Soul II Soul hit in 1989, there were a bunch of British groups that came out with the same soulful, jazzy vibe.The best among the rest was The Brand New Heavies, who had the benefit of the lovely N’dea Davenport as lead singer. This was probably their biggest pop hit. N’dea made an awesome solo album around 1999 or so, which you should definitely find if you’re an R&B fan, and the Heavies soldiered on for a while with Siedah Garrett (of MJ “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” fame) before welcoming Davenport back into the fold. Also worth checking out is the album “Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1”, which features the band vibing in the studio with a who’s who of early Nineties East Coast hip-hop.
2) Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) by The Offspring
Y’know, on one hand I find this song incredibly funny, but on the other it’s like, geez, The Offspring were kind of a one trick pony, weren’t they? Well, I shouldn’t say were, as they just took a spin at the top of Billboard’s Modern Rock charts with their latest single, but if you’ve heard one Offspring single, wouldn’t it be safe to assume you’ve heard ’em all? C’mon Dexter Holland. You have a degree in microbiology or whatever. You should be smart enough to vary your sound up a little. Then again, it still sells, so maybe he *is* the smart one.
3) Go to Zero by The Power Station (from The Power Station, 1985)
For those unaware, The Power Station was a Duran Duran side project that featured guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor joining forces with Chic drummer Tony Thompson and smooth-as-fuck Robert Palmer, under the production guidance of Chic’s Bernard Edwards. As befitting a project helmed by a bassist, this song swings from a rhythmic standpoint, and is probably the best song on their 1985 debut album. Man, Robert Palmer was the epitome of cool back in the day. Without even knowing what they guy looks like-you can hear it in his voice. Unfortunately, Edwards, Thompson and Palmer have all departed us, dashing any hopes of a reunion. Andy Taylor has also just written a book that I’m somewhat interested in checking out.
4) Streets is Watching by Jay-Z (from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, 1997)
Some days I think “In My Lifetime Vol. 1” gets unfairly maligned. Other times I think it’s a pretty crappy album. No matter how I feel, this is one of the album’s best songs. It’s probably the most recognizable opening line in Jay’s history and spawned a successful straight-to-video movie of the same name. Ah, here’s a story: apparently at the end of the movie they show some outtakes from rehearsals or auditions or whatever, and there’s a chick tonguing down another chick. Well, I used to work with one of those chicks, and we confronted her about it after someone put two and two together. AWK-WARD. I don’t think she made a lot of money off of that, either. Sucks for her.
5) Cha Cha Cha by MC Lyte (from Eyes on This, 1989)
Lyte is definitely in the Top 3 when it comes to greatest female emcees of all time. I’m glad she’s been able to find success as a voiceover artist-you’ve gotta admit that she has a pretty unique and recognizable voice. The one thing that comes to mind when I hear this song is kinda messed up, honestly. I remember when she performed this on the Arsenio Hall show. She was wearing an outfit that exposed her navel, and you could see the happy trail, which was not a good look. They had electrolysis and waxing back in ’89, right?
6) Ain’t No Half Steppin’ by Heatwave (from Too Hot To Handle, 1977)
Heatwave was a hall of a lot more than “Boogie Nights”. This song has provided the background for hits by Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh and De La Soul, among others. They made some fantastic late Seventies funk/disco, and their ballads were amazing. Keep in mind that Heatwave’s Rod Temperton was the guy who wrote songs like “Rock With You”, “Thriller”, “Yah Mo B There” and “Give Me the Night”. He was Quincy Jones’s secret weapon for most of the Eighties.
7) Oh No by Pharoahe Monch and Mos Def feat. Nate Dogg (from Rawkus Presents Soundbombing 2, 2001)
We end this week’s Seven with one of the stranger hip-hop collabos in recent years. I mean, you’d almost expect Rawkus vets Mos Def and Pharoahe Monch to appear on songs together, but gangsta mainstay Nate Dogg on the hook? And it works!! If you’re a hip-hop fan, you might want to check out Monch’s unheralded album from last year “Desire”. It’s pretty good. And get well wishes to Nate Dogg, who has suffered two strokes so far in the past year or so.