Personally, my favorite era of R&B happened between 1986 and 1993. That’s just from an historical standpoint. My favorite groups (you know, back when R&B still had groups) teetered on either singing love songs or being flat out bad boys who commanded for sex and attention. It was the precursor to the R. Kelly style era of R&B where sex was a weapon and dancing pretty much got pushed to the back burner. And it all starts and ends with the King — Teddy Riley.

“Yep Yep” is still one of my favorite adlibs and the man who helped give us “The Show” with Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh is also the main man responsible for an entire era of R&B that built on hip-hop breakbeats, wild fashion and plenty of bass. Seeing that this year is the 25th anniversary of what might possibly be the best solo album of the era (Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel) it would only be right to highlight the era of R&B where the gumby reigned supreme, you never trusted your girl if she had insane body dimensions and you tried your best to woo a girl with the phrase “Let’s Chill”.

These are the 15 New Jack Swing songs you either need to know or already have in your arsenal.


01. Al B. Sure! – “Night & Day”

Before “The Brow” took over Kentucky for a season and then became one of New Orleans favorite new sons, Al B. Sure held the crowd as R&B’s best unibrow owner. “Nite & Day” has been sampled constantly from Southern bounce classics to West Coast rider tracks yet the original just makes you want to run up on a girl and hit Al’s falsetto all over the place.

02. Another Bad Creation – “Iesha”

If Teddy Riley is the King of New Jack then Michael Bivins is undoubtably one of its godfathers. Seeing the success he had with Boyz II Men and his own spin off of New Edition in Bell Biv Devoe, Bivins found a group of kids from Atlanta Georgia and tabbed them Another Bad Creation. Funny enough their debut LP went platinum back in ’91 and this was the biggest hit from it, a cute bubblegum ass party record over one of the neighborhood’s baddest chicks.

03. Bell Biv Devoe – “Poison”

This doesn’t need much of an explanation. It’s easily the most known record from anybody that used to be in New Edition from the horns to the rap and things in between. I own a T-shirt that says “Never Trust A Big Butt & A Smile”. That should tell you everything.


04. Boyz II Men – “Motownphilly”

Before they started kicking prom songs off to folks left and right, Boyz II Men used their free flowing Philly scat sound to craft this rumbling trek from corner to corner. Couldn’t help but hit the Roger Rabbit to this one. Also, Boyz never made a song more fun than this — it was straight ballads about love, heartache and a combination of both for the rest of their careers.

05. Christopher Williams – “I’m Dreamin”

That’s right, the “brother from the Bank” made one of the era’s more accessible R&B tracks all while looking like Marky Mark Whalberg in the video. “I’m Dreamin” leads off like it should be a massive ballad but instead it just dances and skirts around into a two-step behemoth. It of course made plenty of noise on the definitive movie soundtrack of the time with New Jack City.

06. Club Nouveau – “Why You Treat Me So Bad”

Before it got reimagined into Luniz’ “I Got 5 On It” and Big Boi told you, “Quit spreadin’ them rumors,” Club Nouveau had a bit of traction in R&B. True, their version of “Lean On Me” tried to spice up Bill Wither’s classic but by and large, there’s a far more interesting lineage that starts after this song.


07. Guy – “Teddy’s Jam”

Dare to count the number of lyrics from “Teddy’s Jam”, the second single from Guy’s debut LP? Trust me, it’s not many but there’s enough flair behind Aaron Hall’s scatting and Teddy Riley’s board work to make it feel timeless. Dum dum dittay indeed.

08. Guy – “Groove Me”

Guy’s debut album had two gems attached to it, the above track “Teddy’s Jam” being a low BPM bounce number and then this, the high energy debut that really kicked off the New Jack Swing era. It’s true, “Let’s Chill” from Guy’s The Future album remains another of their more indelible tracks but it comes up a bit short in comparison to Riley’s debut tracks with Guy.

09. Heavy D & The Boyz – “Nuthin’ But Love”

The overweight lover was in the house throughout the late ’80s and ’90s, possibly one of rap’s first true crossover greats. He was positive, made big seem sexy and on “Nuthin’ But Love” cemented his stature as one of rap’s true greats. Plus, he made it cool for later acts like The Notorious B.I.G. and even Rick Ross to make themselves out to be sexy symbols.

10. Joe Public – “Live And Learn”

As lowkey as Joe Public was during their time in the spotlight, they did secure a hit with “Live And Learn”. And despite them fading into obscurity right after their debut album (like a lot of R&B groups in the era), they had their run with this jump around style track.


11. Jodeci – “Stay”

The bad boys of R&B had a choice number of cuts such as “Forever My Lady” and the out of era “Come & Talk To Me” but if you needed a stand alone slow jam from Devonte, K-Ci, JoJo & Mr. Davin then this was it. And if you think I’m lying, try wooing a chick over to the crib and getting her to the point where she’s cooing, “Play me some Jodeci.” Frank taught y’all, chicks love them some Jodeci.

12. Keith Sweat – “I Want Her”

Hey, another guy who benefited greatly from the NJS era. Yeah, Keith had everybody questioning how deep love was back in the ’80s but everything started with his dancefloor burner “I Want Her”. He didn’t kick into that ultra whining thing until much later.

13. New Edition – “If It Isn’t Love”

We’ve covered that “If It Isn’t Love” is the cruelest, most memorable sort of “I want her back” song in NE’s catalog, right? Thought so.

14. Michael Jackson – “Remember The Time”

Here we go, the biggest track from the New Jack Swing era made by none other than the King of Pop. A ton could go into why “Remember The Time” is one of Jackson’s top ten dance tracks but this one isn’t squarely fixated about getting your groove on. It’s a love song wrapped up in popping synths and snare drums.

15. R. Kelly & Public Announcement – “Honey Love”

Let’s keep it real. R. Kelly is a legend, even when he was in a group with a bunch of other guys who didn’t find their own bit of stardom until 1996 with “John Doe” and “Body-Bumpin'”. “Honey Love” was a slow burner to cook around to and easily figure out why Kellz went solo, that and it still ran inside the same lexicon that Riley kicked off a few years earlier with “Let’s Chill”. Start your Aaron Hall/R. Kelly conspiracy theories right about now.

And just for pure nostalgia purposes (and the main reason why this list was created)…