Various Artists

Essential R&B: 90's Anthems

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Taking in new jack swing, ragga, funk, hip-hop, and nu-soul, Essential R&B: 90s Anthems is a comprehensive overview of the decade where urban music became the world's most successful genre. Featuring superstars Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, and Usher, one-hit wonders Tony Rich Project, Luniz, and Ini Kamoze, and several obscurities from Fu-Schnickens, Groove Theory, and Eric Gable, it combines both the era's commercial chart tracks and underground anthems. The hit-laden first disc contains a string of classic girl group singles from TLC, En Vogue, and Destiny's Child, Missy Elliott's breakthrough "Supa Dupa Fly," and Luniz's influential "I Got 5 on It." An impressively consistent track list, every song is a bona fide classic, with Faith Evans' disco-inspired "Love Like This," Toni Braxton's seductive "You're Makin' Me High," and Lauryn Hill's retro-inspired "Doo Wop" the particular standouts. From the more male-oriented second disc, Maxwell's effortlessly classy "Ascencion," DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's chillout anthem "Summertime," and Q-Tip's frantic "Breathe and Stop" provide the highlights. The third disc will be the least known to U.K. audiences, containing just four Top Ten singles, and unfamiliar tracks from A Tribe Called Quest, Xscape, and Jagged Edge, with the choice cuts coming from Busta Rhymes' chaotic "Woo Haa (Got You All in Check)," Notorious B.I.G.'s bass-driven "Hypnotize," and Zhané's underrated party jam "Hey Mr DJ." The lack of Blackstreet, Janet Jackson, and Boyz II Men is surprising, and apart from Shola Ama, British acts are completely and unfairly ignored. But as the first major urban compilation to focus solely on the decade that introduced Jay-Z, J-Lo, and Fugees to the world, Essential R&B: 90s Anthems is a representative and consistently strong collection of songs from an exciting and inventive genre.

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