Editorial – After the success of our first two lists of forgotten near-classic Hip Hop songs, we started to consider all the R&B and R&B-leaning Hip Hop tracks that also fit the bill and deserve the same hindsight love.
Here at HipHopDX we’ve compiled a list of 20 tracks you may not have heard for a while (if at all) that arguably deserve their roses. So strap in, turn the volume up and enjoy a healthy dose of nostalgia.
Juelz Santana f. Chris Brown – “Back to the Crib” (2009)
This Polow da Don-produced radio smash (which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Rap chart) was the second single from Juelz’ third studio album, Born to Lose, Built to Win — which was ultimately shelved.
In an interview with RapFix Live in 2013, he revealed that Def Jam chairman (at the time) L.A. Reid wanted the Dipset MC to scrap Chris Breezy in favor of Trey Songz, largely due to the well-publicized abuse case involving singer Rihanna.
Juelz stuck to his guns, pledging allegiance to Brown. The two had first collaborated four years earlier on the singer’s triple-platinum debut single “Run It.”
Isyss f. Jadakiss – “Day & Night” (2002)
This single, which peaked at No. 52 on Billboard’s Hot R&B chart, helped propel the foursome’s (which included the sister of singer Meagan Good, La’Myia Good) debut album The Way We Do. Though, the album would be their only release before breaking up due to creative differences while crafting their sophomore LP.
One of the group’s members, Ardena Clark, left first (shortly after the album dropped). She was replaced — and after the label severed ties with the group, three of the remaining members formed a new group named Bad Gyal; however, despite a handful of singles, a full-length project never materialized.
Allure f. Nas – “Head Over Heels” (1997)
Allure was the crown jewel of Mariah Carey’s short-lived Crave Records, which existed under the Sony umbrella from February 1997 until July the following year. Their self-titled debut, which peaked at No. 108 on Billboard’s Hot 200, had a handful of gems — but this Trackmasters-produced flip of Mc Shan’s “The Bridge” has aged exceptionally well.
Appropriately featuring Queensbridge luminary Nas (fresh off It Was Written), this song peaked at No. 23 on the Hot 100. It was the group’s second highest-charting single behind their 112 duet, “All Cried Out.”
Nicole Wray – “If I Was Your Girlfriend” (2004)
This was Nicole Wray’s second highest-charting single following the title track of her Missy Elliott-produced debut LP, Make It Hot (which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100). This was meant to be the lead single from LoveChild, which was going to be her debut release on Roc-A-Fella Records. It even had a Peedi Crack and N.O.R.E remix that garnered a lot of mixtape love in the summer of 2004.
Though this single reached No. 57 on the Billboard R&B chart, the album was shelved. It was the second time it had happened to in Nicole’s career; her planned sophomore album Elektric Blue was scrapped by Missy’s The Goldmind imprint just three years prior.
Ryan Leslie – “Diamond Girl” (2009)
After landing a placement on the 2003 Bad Boys II soundtrack — and subsequently, a management contract with Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment — Ryan Leslie saw a slew of success with singles like Cassie’s “Me & U.” However, label politics kept him from dropping his own body of work until three years later (his original debut album, 2005’s Just Right, ended up shelved).
This single (which landed at 95 on the Billboard 100) was his grand debut — and the lead single from his self-titled debut that peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard 200.
Chris Brown “Forever” (2007)
Longtime supporters of Chris Brown would declare “Forever” a flat-out classic, but we don’t agree. The song was indeed poised to usher in the next level of his superstardom:
1. The track featured futuristic production from Polow Da Don, who was arguably the it Hip Hop producer at the moment.
2. It was nabbed as the official jingle for a Wrigley Spearmint’s gum campaign; a synergetic pairing that felt like an original composition for the marketing.
3. “Forever ” also went viral before the term caught on. In 2009, a Minnesota couple used the song for their wedding entrance, amassing millions of views and ultimately making TIME magazine’s 50 Greatest YouTube Videos list.
But as his domestic violence incident with Rihanna began to gain awareness, Brown’s reputation was sullied for several more years. He endured half-empty venues and mixed receptions on his music as he grew in the public eye. This shunning also included the “cancelation” of his tunes and “Forever’s” legacy was a casualty as a result.
702 – “Steelo” (1996)
Discovered and developed by Mike Bivens (New Edition, BBD), the trio –which was briefly a foursome — 702 blasted out of the gate with this timeless gem. Written and featuring vocals from Missy Elliott, the song peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself, No Doubt, reached No. 82 on the Hot 200, supported by two additional singles. It also won Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year – Group, Band or Duo at the 1997 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.
It wouldn’t be until the 1999 self-titled sophomore that the ladies achieved platinum status. Still, something about this debut LP (which actually has four songs total written by Missy) has helped it age remarkably well.
Ty Dolla $ign f. Wiz Khalifa – “Irie” (2013)
Ty Dolla $ign’s Beach House 2 — hosted by DJ Drama — was the singer’s stepping stone to ultimate mainstream success. Dropping some months before the Beach House EP (which included the double-platinum “Paranoid” featuring B.o.B), it truly cemented his new situation at Taylor Gang.
This single from the mixtape, an often overlooked weed anthem featuring Wiz Khalifa, still stands tall.
Mariah Carey f. Mobb Deep “The Roof – Mobb Deep Mix” (1998)
This song is an absolute gem, built around a sample from Mobb Deep‘s iconic “Shook Ones (Part II). Co-produced by Carey and the Trackmasters, this version took it next level, getting Hell on Earth-era Deep (including rapper Big Noyd) to bless it with vocals. It was the third single from the Billboard chart-topping, five-time platinum LP, Butterfly. So why didn’t it chart or receive the shine it deserved? As with many such inquiries, the answer is the same: label politics.
With Carey experiencing conflict with her label (and more personally with Chairman & CEO of Sony Music Entertainment CEO Tommy Mottola, with whom she divorced that same year), this single was only given a commercial release in Europe.
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz f. Fat Joe, Trick Daddy & Oobie – “Play No Games” (2002)
This song appeared on the fourth LP by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, Kings of Crunk — a double-platinum album that peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 200 (and included the first mainstream appearance of multi-platinum MC, Pitbull).
This R&B tinged bop was the third single to be released from the LP, and in 2003 spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 6 — making it the second most successful single by the group.
Adrian Marcel f. Sage The Gemini “2AM” (2014)
Straight out of Bay Area, Adrian Marcel is the protégé of Grammy-winning musician Raphael Saadiq, who hosted his debut mixtape, 7 Days of Weak back in 2013. It wasn’t until the following year, though, when he truly broke out with this single featuring Sage The Gemini, who was fresh off the success of his double-platinum single “Gas Pedal.”
Produced by multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated producer Chrishan, “2AM” peaked at No. 29 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, where it spent 19 weeks. It stands as his only release to chart via Billboard.
Houston f. Chingy & Nate Dogg – “I Like That”
This song was inescapable throughout the spring and summer of 2004. Featuring Chingy, arguable at his prime, and West Coast legend Nate Dogg, it was a certified dance-floor hit, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelling his debut album It’s Already Written to number 14 on the Hot 200.
Unfortunately, his time in the spotlight was short-lived. While on tour in London during January of 2005, he attempted to leap from his hotel balcony while high on PCP. He was stopped by his entourage and subsequently locked in a first-floor room, where we gouged out his left eye with a plastic fork. Not surprisingly, that was the end of his run, as his label later dropped him.
Lil Mo f. Snoop Dogg – “Gangsta (Love 4 the Street)”
2001 was an excellent year for Lil Mo, who won a slew of awards for her appearance on the chorus Ja Rule’s “Put It on Me” featuring Vita. She also released her debut LP Based on a True Story that year, which included the breakout hit Superwoman Pt. II (mostly responsible for giving Fabolous his first real mainstream push).
This song was the third and final single released from the album. Featuring Snoop Dogg, and performed over a sample of Snoop’s iconic “Gin & Juice,” it peaked at No. 57 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and No. 39 on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart.
Mary J. Blige f. Lil Kim – “I Can Love You” (1997)
Mary’s career is illustrious, and with so many hits under her belt, it’s understandable how this track often gets lost in the shuffle. It was the second single from her third LP, Share My World — which was her first album to debut at the top of Billboard’s Hot 200.
The track has a sample of Lil Kim’s “Queen Bitch,” as well as a verse from the Queen B herself, which was intuitive. 1997 was a massive summer for Kim, who a month later dropped her “Not Tonight” remix featuring Da Brat, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Angie Martinez, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
The track peaked at No. 28 on Billboard’s Hot 100, where it spent 19 weeks.
Jaheim – “Could It Be” (2000)
Jaheim came out of nowhere and shut down the summer of 2001 with his platinum-selling debut LP, Ghetto Love, that included the single “Just in Case.” However, the world got their first taste of the singer the previous fall when he dropped this gem, which serves as his official debut single.
Peaking at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 the week the album dropped, this song remains his highest-charting — followed by “Anything” featuring Next and “Fabulous” featuring The Rayne, both of which peaked at No. 28.
Mack Wilds – “Own It” (2013)
After launching his imprint, Louder than Life, Salaam Remi went all-in with actor turned music artist Mack Wilds — whose Grammy-nominated debut album New York: A Love Story was the label’s first release.
This single remains his most successful, peaking at No. 35 on Billboard’s R&B chart. He did release a follow-up LP, AfterHours, though it failed to replicate the success of his debut.
Ro James – “Permission” (2015)
Though he first started his buzz with his three-part EP Coke, Jack and Cadillacs in 2013, it wasn’t until he dropped this single in 2015 that Ro broke through, finding himself at No. 37 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. He dropped his full-length LP Eldorado the following year, which peaked at No. 71 on the Hot 200 and earned him a Grammy nomination (ultimately losing out to Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky”).
Montell Jordan f. Master P & Silk The Shocker – “Let’s Ride” (1998)
An enduring, timeless classic like “This Is How We Do It” is a hard act to follow — but this was the closest he came to replicating that chart success. It was his second highest-charting single, hitting No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Master P, Silk, and No Limit as a whole (which had ten platinum releases in 1998) were arguably in their prime here as well — in fact, P dropped his highest-selling LP that year.
The full album, Let’s Ride, peaked at 20 on the Hot 200, though it only sold gold, failing to match his debut’s platinum sales.
Miguel – “Sure Thing” (2010)
The title track off his debut LP All I Want Is You may have been his first taste of commercial fame — but “Sure Thing” was undoubtedly his crown jewel. This triple-platinum selling single peaked at No. 36 on the Hot 100, and until he dropped “Adorn,” it stood as his most successful song.
Notably, it also landed at No. 16 on Billboard’s decade end Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, which was compiled just this past year. The only thing about this song that hasn’t aged well was the futuristic look he rocked in the video.
Diddy & Dirty Money f. T.I. & Rick Ross – “Hello Good Morning” (2010)
This served as the second single from Last Train to Paris, the sole collaborative project between Diddy and his group Dirty Money — the duo of Dawn Richard and Kalenna Harper. While it was the most visible single during the promo run for the LP, peaking at 27 on the Hot 100 (supported by some high profile television performances), it was commercially buried by “Coming Home” featuring Skylar Grey, which ultimately sold double-platinum.
Last Train to Paris peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 200.