They come and they go. Unfortunately, some of our favorite artists from the 90s have fallen by the wayside. Talented MCs are never heard of again, songbirds share their songs no more, and a new breed of artists takes over one Billboard spot at a time. Some, however have beat the odds, still flourishing in an industry quick to dismiss veterans as old and out of touch. Here are five artists we’ve loved since day one, and we still got that feeling.
Since the young age of 14, ATL Songbird Monica has captivated pop and R&B audiences with her powerful voice, unique style, and regal presence. Even as a youngin’ you could sense Monica was wise beyond her years, and clearly had the talent of some women twice her age. With 90s classics like “Don’t Take It Personal”, “Before You Walk Out My Life”, “Angel of Mine,” and “The Boy Is Mine” with other 90s favorite Brandy, and several others she has solidified her spot on any 80s baby’s playlist. The difference between Monica and the several other incredibly talented vocalists who came up in the business around the same time is that she is one of the few still relevant. So many favorites have come and gone, and while she has no doubt had career missteps, we never questioned Monica’s talent; her determination sets her apart from those who get two good hits and become complacent. Keep it pushing, Mo! We love the new music and it’s only up from here.
If you want to talk about underrated vets in the biz, Mr. Rhymes takes the cake a thousand times over. Lyrically a beast with unique style, diverse deliveries, and a performance game that begs for a straight jacket, we wonder why his name isn’t dropped more in those “greatest rapper” debates. No matter in the end, as he is clearly one of very few MCs that came to prominence in the 90s still getting major burn. He has fans that’ve ridden with him all the way from “Woo-Haa!” to “Look at Me Now.” That kind of loyalty is no accident; he delivers in every since and never fell victim to the “fall off” phase in just about everyone’s career. Screaming or calm, hard core or party, dreads or Ceasar, Busta delivers and is still rockin’ out, so “Why Stop Now?”
Let’s be honest: Mariah has caught a lot of heat over the years. Breakdowns, questionable films, and accusations that she’s just plain crazy have been tossed around. In the end, all she has to do is show you her mantle of awards, wall of platinum plaques, and Billboard sales numbers to shut down haters immediately. Say what you want about her personal life, her voice is timeless and we get more and more impressed every album. Classics like “Vision of Love” and “Always Be My Baby” are a staple in literally millions of households. Still she’s not afraid to experiment with the new sounds that R&B is taking. Along with the aforementioned Monica, Mrs. Cannon’s longevity is a matter of raw, God-given talent, and until the rest of the world can hit those notes, they can take a seat with all the hateration.
Mary J. Blige
Speaking of hateration, you can save it if you’re talking about the Queen. Mary J. is not only the long-time reigning Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, she’s inspired a whole new generation of singers including Monica, Keyshia Cole, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and others. No one combined R&B and hip-hop quite like she did, and her style continues to permeate the industry. With the release of her last album she proved that a female artist can be strong, sexy, vulnerable, fun, scared and real without contradicting oneself. In fact, that is the key to her success, she is the every-woman, and makes every woman feel as though even through mistakes they can be queens as well. We’ve been watching the throne for years and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
We can’t talk about icons from the 90s that are still relevant today and not bring Jay-Hova into the mix. Perhaps the strongest example of the evolution of an MC, Brooklyn’s pride Sean Carter started not unlike several other rappers. By flipping street money to get a label off the ground and his music into audiences’ hands, he spit street tales that spoke to the hood and fascinated the suburbs. One thing that did set him apart however was his willingness to grow not only as an MC, but with his subject matter. There is a certain point where an audience simply doesn’t believe the street tales, because it’s pretty clear Jay doesn’t live that life. Jay knows how to finesse that very precise balance. He epitomizes the day hip-hop grew up without losing its essence. That’s just one reason why his audience has broadened, and while much of that is owed to his lovely wife, no doubt Jay’s longevity is the product of late nights, early mornings and simply having a hustler’s spirit that won’t let him settle.
Who are your favorite 90s icons that are still making moves?