Kindergarten is a special time in most anyone’s life. You had questions about EVERYTHING, your decision-making was probably at its funniest and the world seemed so big mainly because you were at max four feet tall. Not to mention kindergarten, for many people, was the last year of school before academics became unbearable.
Kindergarten also signaled some of my earliest memories of listening to music. The following records served as my soundtrack to my trouble-making days when the running man was cool and I perfected tomahawk jams on my MJ hoop. It’s another case of good times gone too soon but thankfully the music’s still with me. Now leave me alone while I feel ancient rummaging through this playlist.
1. Kriss Kross – “Jump” — You couldn’t escape this track in the early ’90s and it hit you twice as hard as a child. It had all the ingredients for the crossover hits rap nerds like me love to hate now but, for once, let me revel in hypocrisy. “Jump” could do no wrong while anything from ABC wasn’t allowed in my circle. Go figure.
2. Naughty By Nature – “O.P.P.” — I had no idea what O.P.P. meant but I always said the hook with my chest. Then I found out years later and I felt like the guy who’s always last at figuring out jokes. Either way “O.P.P.” kicked off my appreciation of Naughty By Nature and, for that, I’m grateful.
3. TLC – “Aint 2 Proud 2 Beg” — You’re starting to see a trend of songs with sexual overtones flying over my head like Vinny Testaverde passes. Either way, I have to give TLC and Dallas Austin credit for creating a booming record AND the thristy chick anthem in one fell swoop. On another note, it’s hard to believe this is what Atlanta’s music scene sounded like 20 years ago.
4. Joe Public – “Live And Learn” — It’s plain as that day New Jack Swing had my full attention back then. The sub-genre dominated airwaves but, like any other sound, lead to a gang of formulaic records. Odds are the name Joe Public won’t ring bells with that in mind. I’ll wait and see how many people caught epiphanies when they press play.
5. A Tribe Called Quest — “Scenario” feat. Leaders Of The New School – They had me as soon as the beat dropped. Loud, belligerent, funky, this song had all the elements a rambunctious five-year-old craved in a song. “Scenario” got me hooked on The Tribe and, 20 years later, I don’t see signs of my fandom slowing down.
6. Arrested Development – “People Everyday” — Their smash hit might as well be the Boho Republic’s national anthem. Arrested Development stands as one of those groups heads are embarrassed to say they enjoyed. I, on the other hand, proudly rock my imaginary kufi whenever this track hits my ears.
7. Michael Jackson feat. Heavy D – “Jam” — This song had too much awesome. It was already one of the hardest pop singles ever. Then they HAD to through Michael Jordan in the video too? I don’t care if I sound like an old man but you will NEVER have another combo like this ever again! Today’s equivalent would be a Lady Gaga smash with NorBel on the visuals: a whole lot of TRASH no one wants see, not even Tinsley.
8. Hammer – “2 Legit 2 Quit” — I have no shame in admitting MC Hammer was THE MAN in my younger days. No other pop-rapper worked harder than that man in all of show business. “2 Legit 2 Quit” was the last hit of his I supported before everything went downhill for him. However he still gets -5 for putting Isiah Thomas in the video.*
* – The song starts at 4:35 by the way.
9. Das EFX – “They Want EFX” — All I heard was a bunch of syllables and make-believe words put together. All that nonsense you’re hearing now is just what the song needed to click with me.
10. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – “Good Vibrations” — Might as well keep it 100 while I’m at it. Modern wisdom suggests you’re either really brave or foolish to admit liking any Marky Mark song. Yet I can’t make this list and lie about my appreciation for this record at five years old. Mark Wahlberg could win thousands of Oscars and he’ll still be Marky Mark to me. John Cena owes him a couple of checks too.
11. Heavy D & The Boyz – “Now That We Found Love” — The Heavster took some risks with this track’s production and it turned into a crossover success. Funny how a record like this would get hated on these days but lauded at the time.
12. Positive K – “I Got A Man” — There’s a whole lot of pop rap on here, huh? Anyway, Positive K’s sole smash was the soundtrack to many battles of the sexes. Then, I found out he rapped to himself the whole time…messed me up, man.
13. Black Sheep – “The Choice Is Yours” — “You can get with this, or you can get with that” stuck with me anytime I had to choose between a burger or chicken nugget happy meal. Those were simpler times indeed. Oh yeah the song is great too: perfect for supposedly mischievous youngins like myself.
14. Shabba Ranks – “Ting-A-Ling” — Growing up in the NY Metro area will expose you to dancehall in one way or another. “Mr. Loverman” stood more as a joke thanks to Fresh Prince and In Living Color. So “Ting-A-Ling” filled in as my gateway to the genre. I don’t know where Shabba Ranks is now but, after watching the video, I think he’s Mickaël Piétrus‘s father. Once you see the resemblance it CAN’T BE UN-SEEN!
15. Boyz II Men – “Motown Philly” — The song dropped earlier in ’91 but got plenty of burn into the next year thanks to having BET and two older sisters. Don’t confuse the observation for complaining though. The East Coast family couldn’t contain what would become one of R&B’s biggest acts.
16. Mary J. Blige – “Real Love” — The older sisters/BET combo struck again for Mary’s breakout single. Looks like she’s the last person standing on a mainstream level out of this lot. I bet Father MC is either happy or tight as hell at her success.
17. Pete Rock and CL Smooth – “They Reminisce Over You” — What else can be said about this classic? And yes I actually first at vibed with this song when I was 6. That’s what you get when your older family members chip-in to shape your tastes at an early age.*
*Anecdote time! I VIVIDLY remember my cousin trying her hardest to get me into “Check The Rhime” on BET one Saturday morning in Coney Island. I was in preschool and my MC Hammer fandom stood at an all-time high i.e. I wasn’t having it. Thank God she and everyone else kept with me.