New Jack Swing

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It was an era of colours, bad haircut, and chunky jewellery. For all you know, it could make a come back, and when it does, you’ll be prepared. Are you ready to do the cabbage patch, running man and the K-Swiss? This is New Jack Swing. Yep Yep!

Now now there, let’s not pretend we don’t know this one. Let us take you back, way back in time, when it’s OK to wear bicycle shorts, have jheri curls, and bamboo earrings. It’s that good old days of the late 80s til mid 90s. Remember now? While you’re too busy listening to the current hipster hip hop and requesting indie at clubs now, you forget that once upon a time, New Jack Swing (NJS) was it. Sometimes, also known as swingbeat, NJS combines rhythms, samples and production techniques of hip hop with the urban contemporary sound of R&B. Just like many other R&B styles, this genre incorporates older elements with the newer styles. Vocals are usually soulful and harmonious, if sang in a group. Singing is done over hip hop style street beats created by drum machine and hardware samplers.

Almost every NJS track made had a rap somewhere in it. Drop all the instrumentation in a song, save the drumtrack and you’ll find it very easy to rhyme to. One such example is ‘Off On Your Own Girl,’ by Al B. Sure. Drop the drumtrack on that one and you’ll get a standard R&B song and melody structure.

Sounds familiar already? Well that’s because NJS was big, really big. Everybody from Michael Jackson to Debbie Gibson was doing it. MJ dropped Quincy Jones as his staple manager for a ‘fresh’ sound in Dangerous. He made the right choice, picking Teddy Riley and Bill Bottrell as the producers because that album now remains a classic NJS album. New Jack Swing also got into the movies via soundtracks. Ray Parker Jr. NJS tracks were all over the movie The Ghostbusters. Let’s not forget the legendary New Jack City.

Some even argue that New Jack Swing is not just a music genre but an era, as it not only stays as a music genre, but became a trend and even had its own slang and dance moves. Boys, remember the hi-top fade haircut? And girls, the ‘bob’ ala Salt-N-Pepa? Yes, Bobby Brown’s ‘gumby’ haircut was in too and if you need more examples, just go look at Kwame or Kid ‘N’ Play. Girls wore ‘bamboo’ earrings and biker shorts, while guys wore baggy pants with loose-fitting, colourful silk print shirts and patent leather shoes. For accessory, you have the black leather medallions.

Key NJS tracks
Poison- Bell Biv Devoe
I’ll Do 4 U- Father MC
Groove Me- Guy
New Jack Swing- Wrecks-N-Effect
Just Got Paid- Johnny Kemp

It wouldn’t have happened without…
Teddy Riley. Takes a brave soul and a creative mind to mash R&B and hip hop up.

Hip hop soul- The NJS that’s not quite it. Around this period, names like Montell Jordan and Mary J. Blige topped the charts.
Neo-soul/ nu-soul- This genre is actually a hybrid of 1970s soul-influenced music with influences from jazz, funk, hip hop and house music. The best musicians are usually underground and don’t usually achieve mainstream popularity.
Contemporary rnb- This is the usual R&B you usually hear. It’s smooth and slick. Sometimes a guitar solo is used to lend a rock feel and some other times a saxophone is added to make it a bit jazzy.

Swinging poster kids
Teddy Riley. First, Guy, then Blackstreet. He also discovered Neptunes and is working on Michael Jackson’s, Blackstreet’s and Ne-Yo’s new albums.

How NJS changed the world
It merged smooth, sweet R&B and gritty, street hip hop. Before NJS, it’s unimaginable.

Essential NJS Albums
Dangerous- Michael Jackson
Make It Last Forever- Keith Sweat
In Effect Mode- Al B. Sure
Secrets of Flying- Johnny Kemp
Guy- Guy

Tips + Balances
Gumby + Johnny Bravo + Butter= Keith Sweat
Lego figurines+ Mr. T + Traffic Light= Salt-N-Pepa

Text Ili Farhana