Saturday, September 24, 2022

"Friends" by Jody Watley with Eric B. & Rakim

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3936
Date:  06/17/1989
Debut:  76
Peak:  9
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing, Rap

Pop Bits:  Watley's second album, Larger Than Life, got kicked off in a solid way with the gold selling #2 single "Real Love." It was her fourth Pop Top 10 and she aimed for a fifth one with this follow-up single. Indeed it would make the Pop Top 10 while getting to #3 R&B and #7 Dance. By this point the album had already peaked at #16 Pop/#5 R&B and gone gold.

ReduxReview:  As unique and influential as this song was when it first became a hit, it is seemingly ignored today. I'm certain that I haven't heard this song since it was originally on the chart. However, I guess I'm not fully surprised by that. It was a good, hooky song with solid rap sections and a good new jack beat, but it certainly wasn't a classic. It also wasn't as memorable as some of Watley's previous hits. So while it helped to usher in a new era of collabs, it didn't have long enough legs to keep it alive much beyond its chart heydays.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  These days the Pop chart is littered with rap/sung collaborations between two (or sometimes more) artists and has been for decades. However, that was not the case in the late 80s with rap still trying to make further strides in gaining more mainstream acceptance. While a few rap/sung collabs did exist at the time, none were becoming major crossover hits. An argument could be made that Chaka Khan's 1984 #3 hit "I Feel for You" was the first big rap/sung collab hit, but many folks discount it because Grandmaster Melle Mel didn't get a "featured" or "with" credit on the record and the rap was more like recited rhythmic lines that mainly just repeated Khan's name. Plus, it happened without Khan's knowledge - it was sort of thrust upon her by producer Arif Mardin - and when she heard it for the first time she did not like it, but was convinced to keep it in. Therefore, most people recognize this hit by Watley and Eric B. & Rakim as the first big mainstream rap/sung collaboration. Eric B. & Rakim were given credit alongside Watley with their rap sections coming later in the song. The tactic was kind of sly. It was a way to sort of sneak rap onto pop radio giving both the genre and the rap artist further exposure. While the floodgates were not necessarily thrown open after this hit, collabs began to slowly gain in popularity throughout the 90s. The first rap/sung collab to top the Pop chart came in 1990 when crooner Glenn Medieros teamed with Bobby Brown for the gold selling "She's Ain't Worth It." Collabs became such chart staples that by 2002 a Grammy category was created just for them. Initially called Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, the inaugural award was given to the song "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" by Eve featuring Gwen Stefani. As of 2020, the title of the award was updated to Best Melodic Rap Performance to accommodate not only collabs, but also solo work that contain both melody and rap.


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