Category Archives: R&B

THE FOSTER & MCELROY COLLECTION

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Thanks to their work with Timex Social Club and Club Nouveau in 1986, Oakland natives Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy became known as one of the most innovative producer/songwriting teams in the R&B business. Along with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, they were responsible for laying the early groundwork for what would become New Jack Swing by mixing hip-hop, electro, go-go, and pop rhythms into the more traditional R&B recipe.

Their early success with singles like “Rumors” and “Situation #9” gave them the power to sign and make hits with a slew of Bay Area acts, including Tony! Toni! Toné! (Foster & McElroy produced their entire debut album in 1988), Samuelle (they wrote his #1 R&B hit “So You Like What You See”), and, most famously, multi-platinum phenomenon En Vogue.

As usual, Foster & McElroy won with En Vogue by injecting unexpected influences into their music, mixing the image and harmonies of ’60s girl groups like The Supremes with modern hip-hop. Their 1990 platinum debut Born To Sing produced the #2 pop hit “Hold On,” which made brilliant use of James Brown’s “The Payback,” one of hip-hop’s go-to breakbeats at the time. En Vogue’s triple-platinum sophomore album, Funky Divas, made them certified crossover stars, producing three top ten pop singles and garnering five Grammy nominations (not to mention the honor of performing the Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper theme song, which was also produced by Foster & McElroy). Spend some time appreciating the catalog of these R&B icons with Uggh…Nice Watch’s compilation of 30 Foster & McElroy gems…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + LINKS…

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THE HOWIE TEE COLLECTION

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New York City had no shortage of marquee hip-hop producers in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Hitman Howie Tee a.k.a. Howard Thompson often gets overlooked when discussing the golden era’s key composers. Best known for creating stars like Chubb Rock and Special Ed, Howie was instrumental in paving the way for the new wave of hip-hop that took hold of NYC in the mid-to-late ’80s. Queens had Marley Marl, and Brooklyn had Howie Tee, the borough’s biggest name brand producer at this pivotal time.

After getting his first taste of the industry in 1983 as a DJ, keyboard player, and producer for electro rap group CD III, Howie stuck close to fellow Flatbush natives UTFO and Full Force. The crew were were suddenly thrust into the spotlight when “Roxanne, Roxanne” inspired the “answer record” meme of 1984, and Howie became the DJ sidekick/producer to Full Force’s new female rapper, The Real Roxanne.

Howie developed a fruitful relationship with Roxanne and UTFO’s label, a burgeoning independent called Select Records. Thanks to his work with Select throughout the late ’80s, including classics for his cousin Chubb Rock and Flatbush teen Special Ed, Howie ushered Brooklyn hip-hop out of the old school drum machine era and into the new world of multi-layered funk and jazz samples that would epitomize hip-hop’s golden era.

He realigned himself with Uptown Records in the early ’90s, where he achieved massive crossover success with R&B group Color Me Badd and signed another Flatbush teen, Little Shawn. His clout faded in the mid-’90s, but Howie’s indelible influence on hip-hop had already been made. Experience his underrated catalog with this compilation of 30 Howie Tee bangers…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + LINKS…

THE DEVANTE SWING COLLECTION


The genius behind Jodeci has fallen on hard times over the last decade, with rumors of drug addiction (and an embarrassing TMZ video) taking the place of hit records. But none of this changes the intensity of the impact that Donald “DeVante Swing” Degrate had on the sound of ’90s R&B music in a prolific five year period. A freakishly talented instrumentalist with a freaky side, the Virginia native wrote and produced nearly every song Jodeci ever performed, inspiring a generation* with his achingly sincere, hyper-sexualized slow jams.

Before Jodeci’s breakthrough in 1991, DeVante did some co-production work at Uptown Records, including the radio version of Al B. Sure’s “Missunderstanding” that became a #1 R&B hit. He continued to make big moves as a songwriter, using the talkbox-heavy “Jodeci Sound” to create hits for everyone from a 50-year-old Al Green to a 16-year-old Usher. In the mid-’90s he developed his own training camp of artists and producers called the Swing Mob, which famously introduced names like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Ginuwine, Tweet, Static Major, Darryl Pearson, and Stevie J to the industry. He executive produced the #1 Dangerous Minds soundtrack, and before long he was being managed by Suge Knight, spending a lot of time with 2Pac, and crafting Jodeci’s ambitious third album.

In the next few years, everything fell apart—Death Row died with 2Pac, K-Ci & JoJo went solo, and the Swing Mob artists started signing with other labels. By the late ’90s, DeVante had been completely eclipsed by his former protégé, Timbaland, as mainstream R&B’s biggest innovator. His career fell into a 15 year black hole, marking a tragic end for one of music’s brightest stars. Spark one and zone out to my compilation of 30 DeVante classics…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + DOWNLOAD LINK…

THE TRACKMASTERS COLLECTION


Aside from Puffy, Poke & Tone were the most villified producers of the ’90s, synonymous with rap’s jiggy era after co-producing “Gettin’ Jiggy With It.” But their discography reveals more hip-hop and R&B classics than crossover cheese, beginning with singles from Chubb Rock, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane in the early ’90s. Tone (a.k.a. Red Hot Lover Tone) released two solo albums, while Poke linked up with Puff Daddy to co-produce a ton of early Bad Boy/Uptown classics, from Mary J.’s “Be Happy” to Biggie’s “Juicy.” But the Trackmasters name really became infamous to most rap fans in 1995 and ’96 when they produced the majority of both LL Cool J’s Mr. Smith and Nas’ It Was Written.

Golden boys in the golden era of New York rap’s glossy makeover, their reputation as hitmakers was unparalleled by the end of the decade. They started to move away from samples in the early ’00s, and things were never quite the same. Their attempt to bring Jay-Z and R. Kelly together on The Best of Both Worlds turned out to be a debacle, and in 2003 they were perhaps unfairly branded “the guys who missed out on 50 Cent.” Remember the good times with my mixtape of 30 Poke & Tone classics…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + DOWNLOAD LINK…

THE LEON SYLVERS COLLECTION

The eldest brother in the Jackson-style family band The Sylvers, Leon F. Sylvers III was 19 when he wrote the group’s first top 10 R&B single “Wish That I Could Talk To You” in 1972. By the late ’70s, Leon had really hit his stride as a songwriter and producer after Dick Griffey hired him at S.O.L.A.R. Records—The Sound Of Los Angeles. His brand of classy, soul-drenched disco-funk became known in the industry as “The S.O.L.A.R. Sound,” made famous by Leon’s string of smashes with Shalamar, along with the label’s all-star roster Lakeside, The Whispers, The Spinners, and Dynasty. Hits with everyone from Evelyn “Champagne” King to Gladys Knight & The Pips continued into the mid ’80s.

Things had slowed down for Leon by the time he released his self-titled solo debut on Motown in 1989. While his name had faded as a marquee producer, he continued to find some quality work throughout ’90s—including co-writing a slew of records with Teddy Riley like Blackstreet’s #2 R&B hit “Before I Let You Go.” He even famously hired an unknown keyboard player named Damon Riddick (a.k.a. Dam-Funk of Stones Throw fame) for his first job in 1992. Still active today in his late 50s, Leon Sylvers is a true R&B genius who rarely gets mentioned with the greats, but his catalog is full of gems. I compiled and tagged 30 of my favorite Leon Sylvers creations for your downloading pleasure…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + DOWNLOAD LINK…

THE KAY GEE COLLECTION


Eminem gives respect to Treach as one of the most innovative lyricists of the early ’90s, and Naughty By Nature’s main producer—Kier “Kay Gee” Gist—is long overdue for a similar recognition on the music tip. After debuting in 1989 as a trio named The New Style, this group of East Orange, New Jersey friends landed a management deal with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit. They soon changed their named to Naughty By Nature, got signed to Tommy Boy and started producing for Flavor Unit’s roster. The group’s classic self-titled debut featured “O.P.P.,” one of rap music’s first massive crossover hits that didn’t sacrifice hip-hop credibility.

The success of Naughty set Kay Gee up as a producer-for-hire, but even from the jump, his focus seemed to be on artist development. He found early R&B success with bald-headed duo Zhané, who he signed to Naughty’s Illtown Records. While he originally produced in collaboration with the Naughty crew, he broke out on his own in the mid-’90s and formed a new label named Divine Mill. Once again, he found R&B success with Next, and later soul crooner Jaheim. In honor of everyone driving out to Jersey this weekend for Summer Jam, I wanted to make a mix of 30 key Kay Gee-related tracks for this week’s Uggh…Nice Watch release. Enjoy…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + DOWNLOAD LINK!!

THE JIM JONSIN COLLECTION


Over the last 8 years, Miami producer James “Jim Jonsin” Scheffer has given his career a complete makeover. While local Florida music fans might know him as DJ Jealous J, a legendary DJ/rapper/producer in the state’s electro bass scene, today’s urban music fans know him as the 808-friendly pop producer behind smashes like T.I.’s “Whatever You Like,” Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” and Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”

But Jonsin’s journey began in the late ’80s, when he started producing and performing bass records under the name Jealous J for the independent Cut-It-Up-Def label, including some joints that are widely considered classics of the genre. He was particularly well known for his precise cutting and scratching skills as a DJ. Jim continued working with Heat Wave Records and Dynamix II Records through the mid-’90s, but by that time the bass scene was becoming a shadow of its former self.

During the late ’90s, he released a more trance-flavored album under the name DJ Devistada, while founding a hip-hop-oriented label under Warner Brothers called Paper Chasers that would never come to fruition. But the big change in his career came with the national crossover of Miami rap. Jim started producing a few album cuts for Trick Daddy and Trina, before linking up with producer Bigg D and forming a new production crew called The Unusual Suspects. The partnership only lasted a few years, but the hits they made together finally turned Jim into a viable mainstream pop producer. I’ve compiled some of my favorite Jim Jonsin-related joints from the last 20 years for this week’s Uggh…Nice Watch release…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TRACKLIST + DOWNLOAD LINK!!