Sometimes all you need to get through the day is an excellent 90s RnB album. Oh and baby is there plenty to choose from. This was a decade that RnB didn’t come to play but decisively slay and is today regarded as the golden age for the genre. It was a period when new jack swing mixed with hip hop, icons released the best of their work and everyone was grooving to the best beats around. Here at Society 19 we just wanna go back, back to 1999! So we’ve put together a list of the best 90s RnB albums around to take you back to when the clothes were baggy, Clinton was president and the Discman was lit. Of course, we’d need 100 entries to do justice to all the classic 90s RnB albums released in this decade, so the selections below are purely personal preferences.
1.) CrazySexyCool by TLC
All I need to do is hear the opening slinky and sultry opening bars of Creep, easily the best song of all time to celebrate cheating, to know I’m in for an album that never gets old. Named after the defining element of each of the trio’s personalities, the album represents their irreplaceable energy perfectly. From the baby making moans of Red Light Special to the easy come on of Kick Your Game, the sound is one of empowered female sensuality. It sold over ten million, none of which TLC would see thanks to some evil management skulduggery. My favourite track is of course Waterfalls, which managed to bring an anti-HIV and gun crime message to millions! I’m a massive Left Eye head and think she gave some of her most poetic bars in her iconic rap on this socially aware masterwork.
2.) Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack by Various Artists
I’m bumping this right now and it really is the Avengers assemble of 90s RnB albums. Unsurprisingly, this collection was produced entirely by 90s RnB icon Babyface, who puts forward a great testament to his unique sound. The album kicks off with the No.1 Whitney Houston slow jam Shoop Shoop, who contributes two further tracks to the proceedings. Soul legend Aretha Franklin brings gospel cries direct from the church on Hurts Like Hell. My favourite track is a sweet, pining offering from Brandi: Sittin Up in My Room. It perfectly captures the longing and pain of young love.
3.) The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill
This album changed my life. I’d never heard anything like it – the former Fugees member released a collection that speaks so rawly of the human experience that it knocked me off my feet. Lauryn Hill proved herself a once in a lifetime talent, mixing her formidable rap, singing, production and songwriting talents to create a neo-soul classic. She sings beautifully about the joyful struggle of new motherhood on the excellent Zion, skillfully lays out a case against sexual promiscuity on Doo Wop and defined heartbreak on the much sampled Ex-Factor. A classic.
4.) It’s About Time by SWV
Baby, this is the sound of 90s RnB albums. A New Jill Swing masterpiece, the female crooners hit a home run with this debut. It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA for more than three million copies shipped to store, and it spawned five hit singles with I’m So into You, Downtown, Weak, a remixed version of Right Here/Human Nature and Always On My Mind. All of them are worth a listen. In fact, it’s about time you popped this album on.
5.) The Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson
Released in the wake of an emotional breakdown, this was Janet as we had never seen her before. Considered to be Jackson’s most mature recording, it is regarded as a template for pop artists transitioning to a darker or rebellious sound and as a precursor to the development of alternative R&B. From the beautiful Joni Mitchell sampling Got ’til It’s Gone to the joyful sound of Together Again, Ms Jackson (if ya nasty) earned every cent of her $80 million recording contract.