1994* was a great year for music. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was. Outkast gave us their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Nas gave us his first album, Illmatic. The famous duo has been celebrating their 20 years with a summer/early fall tour at festivals around the country and world. Nas has been making his rounds, performing Illmatic with a live orchestra and recently released the documentary, Time is Illmatic.
Well, make room for the ladies of R&B and hip hop. Because you know what else turned 20? Brandy’s first album, Brandy.
Tuesday’s BET awards featured a performance of Brandy’s “I Wanna Be Down.” The remix. Remember when songs used to have remixes? Yeah, those were good times. But back to the performance. Yes, that’s right, one by one the lady MCs joined Brandy and performed their parts in the song. Yes, each one. MC Lyte. Yo-Yo. And even Queen Latifah.
Since I didn’t watch the BET Awards, it’s safe to say that I lost all my cool and senses when I watched this video. It took me right back to middle school aka my happy place. And the fact that I could still remember the words? My soul said yes. 1994 was a time when hip hop was still very much dominated by men, so it was great for a pre-teen girl like me to see women doing their thing on the mic. And doing it well.
So, let’s talk about this 2014 version and all its fabulousness. I love that the women are performing against a white screen (no bells, whistles or gimmicks) and it’s a nod to the video which was simple and classic. I love how each MC comes out one at a time so that the audience can collectively lose their minds. I love that all the ladies look so effortlessly flawless. Heyyy Yo-Yo, how you doin’, boo? I love that they all sound great. Brandy’s vocals are awesome. All the MCs have perfect breath control. They all remembered their lines. I mean this was 20 years ago!!
And can we talk about how Queen Latifah, CoverGirl spokesperson, talk show host, and Academy Award nominee, will still come out and perform at the BET Awards?! Can we talk about how that is the ultimate code switch?!
I love that they all did the Brandy, I Wanna Be Down, hand dance at the end. Lord, how many times did my homegirls and I do that?
1994 was a great time for music, but dare I say that the 90’s were the best time for hip hop and by extension, the best time for R&B that started to have hip hop tinges and collaborations with rappers? Maybe I’m just being too nostalgic, but the 90’s gave us new and different MCs with sounds from various area codes and coasts. Everyone had a distinct sound and it was good to have a distinct sound because it set you apart from the rest. The BET performance was proof of the quality and timelessness that period’s music still has today.
When it comes to award shows, BET has done a lot of things wrong, but this one they got right. This time they let Black women shine and the little Black girl in me beamed the whole time, danced and sang along.
Check the video below.
Did you watch? Did you love it?
*PS – Also, in 1994? TLC’s CrazySexyCool and Mary J. Blige’s My Life.
Diana Veiga is a Spelman woman, a DC resident, and a freelance writer. Of course, she’s also on Twitter.