5 Reasons We Love Erykah Badu

erykah-badu

Erykah Badu is without a doubt a music legend. From “Window Seat” to “On&On” and beyond, Badu has proven herself to be not only a musical genius but also a powerhouse throughout other aspects of the culture like fashion, healing practices, education and so much more. From the release of her 1997 classic album Baduizm all the way to 2015’s But You Caint Use My Phone, Badu has continued to bring the illest and most soulful vibes while entertaining us in almost every other aspect of her life simultaneously.

“I’m free. I just do what I want, say what I want, say how I feel, and I don’t try to hurt nobody. I just try to make sure that I don’t compromise my art in any kind of way, and I think people respect that” — Erykah Badu

Here are Rated R&B’s five reasons to love Erykah Badu.

Russell Simmons And Steve Rifkind Host ADD52 Live in LA

Musically, she’s more than just a singer.

Badu’s smooth and unique voice has helped her reach great heights in the music business, no doubt, however, her work as a DJ, rapper, producer and songwriter have shown that she is an overall force in more than one part of the music business. One of Badu’s other “personas” of sorts is DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown. She DJs at music festivals, award shows and so much more. Her work as a DJ, as well as a producer, has shown that she can be at both the forefront and the background of music.

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What a Time: 20 Memorable ‘Sessions @ AOL’ Performances (R&B Edition)

Sessions @ AOL may have launched in 2002, but its presence was felt more in 2003 as the way we hear and see our favorite artists online started changing at a rapid speed. From the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) going to legal war with individual music file-sharers ( Napster, Wake.Princeton.edu ) to the launch of Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the options for consumers to follow their beloved artists started to become more difficult. But Sessions @ AOL made this easier.

Brought to us by AOL Music, the mini-concert experience became an outlet for artists to perform their past and presents hits in a more up-close and intimate way. Similar to MTV-Unplugged, many artists have sung acoustic and stripped down versions of their popular songs and album gems. Artists even sat down to dish on their latest albums ahead or after its release.

After 10 years of special performances, exclusive interviews and some name changes (AOL Sessions, AOL Music Sessions), the intimate concert series ended abruptly in 2013.

While others (Walmart Soundcheck and Yahoo! Pepsi Smash) have attempted to capture their own exclusive studio performance moments, nothing beats holding the house phone hostage so no uses it so you could use dial-up to watch your faves spill the tea on their album and sing your favorite cut track.

In the spirit of nostalgia, we compiled a list of 20 memorable performances from the online music concert series. (Sidenote: Can you guess how we ranked the list? The answer is at the end)

Mario – “How Could You” (2005)

Mario brought his underrated vocals to Sessions @ AOL to perform his top-20 hit “How Could You” from his Turning Point album.

Keri Hilson – “Let Me Down / Beautiful Mistake” (2011)

Following the release of 2010’s No Boys Allowed, the singer-songwriter stormed Sessions to sing cuts off the new album including “Beautiful Mistake.”

Chrisette Michele – “Be Ok” (2009)

Fresh off the release of her album Epiphany, Michele revisited her I Am era with a sensational performance of “Be Ok.” The uptempo number won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Keyshia Cole – “Love” (2005)

Sporting her signature orange hair and a casual outfit, The Way it Is singer belted her powerful ballad “Love” for online viewers.

Monica – “It All Belongs to Me” (2012)

While this Rico Love-written track is a duet with Brandy, the New Life vocalist stripped down the record and took it on alone with some help from three backup singers.

Jennifer Hudson – “I Remember Me” (2011)

There are not many artists who can sit on a stool, sing their hearts out and still be on key. Jennifer Hudson is one of them. She delivered a stellar performance of “I Remember Me,” the title track of her 2011 album.

Tyrese – “Stay” (2012)

Tyrese accepted an Open Invitation to AOL Sessions in 2012 where he performed his soulful tune “Stay.” The song spent 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart.

Ashanti – “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” (2003)

The then-Murder Inc front-women was on point with all aww babies for her first time at Sessions. And catch how Ashanti barely opened her eyes during this performance of “Rock wit U (Awww Baby).” We love a dizzy queen.

Faith Evans – “I Love You” (2005)

The First Lady had viewers in their feelings with “I Love You” from her 2001 album Faithfully. Did you peep Meelah, lead singer of 702, singing backup?

Toni Braxton – “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (2005)

The sultry tone diva came to Sessions to promote material from her Libra album. She also revisited The Heat era and sung “He Wasn’t Man Enough” alongside her sisters Trina and Tamar Braxton.

Fantasia – “Bittersweet” (2010)

Donning a black dress with silver shoulder embroidery, the Back to Me singer left it all on stage with her mind-blowing performance of “Bittersweet.” She reprised the emotionally charged ballad with more personal lyrics.

The-Dream – “I Luv Your Girl” (2013)

The Radio Killa paid a visit to AOL Sessions in 2013 to promote IV Play. While there, the versatile musician dropped the auto-tune and bared his natural singing voice for his wavy performance of “I Luv Your Girl” off his debut album, Love Hate.

Ne-Yo – “So Sick” (2006)

The singer-songwriter had us “So Sick” with his first-ever AOL Music Sessions visit. The heartbreak song topped several Billboard charts including the Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks.

Chris Brown – “Winner” (2006)

The young Breezy had girls all over the world screaming at their computer screens with his performance of “Winner” off his self-titled album.

Brian McKnight — “Back to One” (2003)

Brian McKnight was one of the first R&B artists to grace the AOL studio. He performed his classic song “Back at One” from his 1999 album under the same name.

Earth Wind & Fire – “The Way You Move” (2005)

Supported by a full band, the legendary group got us out our seats to dance along to “The Way You Move” from their 2005 Illumination album.

Kelly Rowland – “Like This” featuring Eve (2007)

Ms. Kelly invited rapper Eve to perform their fierce collaboration “Like This.” Hopefully, no one hurt themselves trying to reenact this dance number.

John Legend – “So High” (2004)

Seated behind his instrument of choice, Legend had us levitating as he wonderfully sung “So High” from his debut album, Get Lifted.

Alicia Keys – “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – (2010)

Alicia Keys rarely steps from behind her piano to perform music. But she did for the majority of her 2010 Sessions to perform past and present tunes including “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” from The Element of Freedom.

Mary J. Blige – “Take Me As I Am” (2005)

It was all or nothing at all with the Queen of the Hip Hop Soul’s moving performance of “Take Me As I Am” from The Breakthrough.

Rihanna – “Unfaithful” (2007)

The Unapologetic artist starred on the Sessions for three album eras: A Girl Like Me, Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R. Her amazing performance of “Unfaithful” in 2007 is a standout though.

Beyoncé – “Me, Myself and I” (2008)

Although she was there to promote B’Day and its singles (“Irreplaceable”), it was Yoncé’s breathing performance of “Me, Myself and I” alongside her incredible background singers The Mamas that stole the show.

Give up yet? The list of performances was ranked by the artists’ number of Grammy nominations. Beyoncé has the most (63) nods out of all the artists featured on this list while Mario and Keri Hilson have the least (2).

Monica’s ‘The Boy is Mine’ Album: Every Song Ranked 20 Years Later

On July 14, 1998 — just three days shy of the third anniversary of her debut album Miss Thang — Monica released her sophomore effort The Boy is Mine. The album was named after her uber-successful duet with fellow R&B teen Brandy who had released her second album a month prior.

While the title track was issued as the lead single for both vocalists project, they both followed up quickly with their own respective solo singles. “The First Night,” Monica’s second (first) single, was sent to radio a day before LP’s release date.

For The Boy is Mine, the 17-year-old singer defined the new batch of songs a “natural progression” from her debut. “I was 13; the themes weren’t as mature,” she told Billboard in a 1998 interview. “I’m trying to portray a more assertive young female. It’s fine to be a teen female, but there are certain decisions they must with assurance. I’m 17 now; my lyrics aren’t sexually explicit but are about love and being in love. I speak on those subjects for what I know them to be.”

Monica’s newfound maturity, enhanced confidence and tender outlook on relationships resonated with those in and out of love. The Boy is Mine entered the Billboard 200 at No. 8, selling 91,000 copies in its first week sales. The 13-track LP garnered multi-platinum success and a grand total of three number one singles (“The Boy is Mine,” “Angel of Mine” and “The First Night”) on the Billboard Hot 100.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Monica’s album The Boy is Mine, Rated R&B has ranked the songs from minimal rotation (worse) to heavy (best) rotation.

13. “Take Him Back”

Every album has its fillers and I guess this dull recording slipped through the track list cracks.

12. “‘Cross the Room”

Out of the LP’s 13-tracks, this party-starter anthem is definitely one that finds the crowd telling the DJ to turn it all the way down.

11. “Gone Be Fine” featuring Outkast

Even with tight production and a brief appearance from Outkast, something is still missing from what was supposed to be a bomb collaboration.

10. “I Keep It To Myself”

It’s a good song but the melody and chilled production of this dreamy slow jam sounds too similar to records from Xscape’s catalog.

9. “Right Here Waiting” featuring 112

Evidently, Monica’s then-label Artista had a point to prove to listeners and critics with a second cover of another classic. To be honest, it wasn’t necessary. It was an enjoyable remake, though.

8. “Misty Blue”

Monica deserves an applause for her stirring rendition of Dorothy Moore’s signature selection.

7. “Ring Da Bell”

Before Beyonce rang the alarm, Monica made noise with this Dallas Austin-produced track. On the verses, she used a slow and deliberate vocal approach to get her point across to her disrespectful lover.

6. “Inside”

On this emotionally-triggering ballad, Monica does a fantastic job flaunting her vocal range as she discusses the matters of the heart.

5. “Angel of Mine”

After listening to Monica’s two other covers on this album, this remake is in a league of its own. Her vocal poise almost shares similar singing moments of big-name vocalists.

4. “Street Symphony”

Like first impressions, the opening track on an album can set the tone for the rest of the project. As expected, Monica kept fans interested in hearing more of the album but not without getting us to press repeat on this underrated gem.

3. “The First Night”

Jermaine Dupri was in his bag with this one and Monica knew it. That’s why she rode the So So Def beat with a level of sophistication and street edge.

2. “The Boy is Mine” duet with Brandy

Yes, collecting numerous accolades and going number one is great but the question has always remained: who won the vocal catfight on this record? Let’s just say, “The song might be yours, but the album title is mine.”

1. “For You, I Will”

Ahead of Monica’s duet success with her teen counterpart, Monica had already bagged her own crossover hit. The Diane Warren-penned ballad, from the Space Jam soundtrack, solidified her place in pop culture.

Did we get the order right? Let us know.  Follow An’Twane on Twitter at @9thwonderofPR.

5 Reasons We Love Faith Evans

Faith Evans is undoubtedly one of the greatest gifts to music. For more than two decades, the Grammy-winning artist has released an impactful catalog of music that has touched many hearts in all the right places with tender ballads like “You Used To Love Me,” and “I Love You.” Not only has Evans pulled our heartstrings, she’s gotten us out our seats and made us dance with party-starter anthems such as “Love Like This” and “All Night Long.”

As we get ready to dance ‘all night long’ for her 45th birthday, Rated R&B has compiled a list of reasons why we love Faith Evans.

1. She has killer background vocals

Evans has served up iconic background harmonies and melodies for many of our favorite R&B artists. From Hi-Five and Usher to Jon B and LSG, Evans has contributed her mesmerizing soprano notes to their discographies. Remember Mary J. Blige’s song “Don’t Go” from her My Life album? Evans brought her gospel influence (and elements of the New York Restoration Choir) to the ending reprise of the record.

2. She keeps the legacy of The Notorious B.I.G. alive

Since the untimely death of The Notorious B.I.G in 1997, Evans has made it her mission to honor his memory every chance she gets. Whether it’s recording a tribute song (“I’ll Be Missing You”) or bringing his life to theaters (Notorious), Evans wants us to know ‘we’ll always love you big poppa.’

In 2017, she released a duets album (The King & I) with previously released and rare vocals from her late husband. The LP also featured guest appearances from several hip-hop artists including Jadakiss and Lil’ Kim.

3. She re-introduced us to R&B legends.

Evans brought a nostalgic moment to television when she executive produced TV One’s hit reality series R&B Divas: Atlanta in 2012. The show told the current, real-life stories of multi-talented artists including Nicci Gilbert, Monifah Carter, Syleena Johnson, Dawn Robinson and Keke Wyatt.

In addition to the hit show, Evans spearheaded a full-length album (R&B Divas) that heard many of the stars voices for the first time in years. The project earned a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album in 2014.

4. She’s more than a singer, she’s a musician.

Evans brings more than just a voice to the studio. She possesses versatility in all areas of a recording process including songwriting, producing, engineering and vocal arranging. She’s lent her musicianship to several artists such as 112, Robin Thicke, Keyshia Cole and Q Parker to name a few.

Evan has also served as the executive producer on many of her projects and film soundtracks like Keep The Faith, Faithfully, Notorious, R&B Divas and The King and I.

5. She’s an ageless beauty.

Faith Evans’ unchanging good looks have followed her from the beginning of her career to now. She’s had the ability to rock a myriad of hairstyles. She can pull off the around the way girl look without having anyone to question why she has it on. Lastly, she doesn’t even have to wear makeup. She’s can proudly say, “I woke up like this.”

Follow Faith Evans on Instagram at @therealfaithevans and wish her a happy birthday!

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