"Bakardi Slang," 2001

By Cheryl Thompson

The year is 2001. While it is remembered for many things, i.e., 9/11, on a brighter side, it is also the year that Toronto-rapper Kardinall Offishall dropped what many consider to be a straight up T-Dot anthem, “Bakardi Slang” from the album Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol 1. With lyrics like “We don't say 'you know what I'm sayin'/T dot says 'ya dun know'/We don't say 'hey that's the breaks'/we say 'yo, a so it go” Kardi put Toronto on the hip-hop map. While many Toronto artists have blown up since then, most notably Drake, nobody can come close to  “representin'” Toronto on the level of Kardi.

Flashback (1991-1994)

By Cheryl Thompson

For many people, the 1990s was a decade where music was not only at its best, but R&B and hip-hop co-mingled on the Top 40 Charts like never before. In this ‘90s Flashback, we’re featuring those songs from the decade that catapulted each artist into superstar category. Starting with Mariah Carey’s Emotions album in 1991 through to Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die (1994), each represents a signature sound that feels as fresh today as it did back in the day. SoulMatters has a little to say on each album but in truth, the music speaks for itself.

Mariah Carey, “Emotions” (1991)

This album was the follow up to Carey’s debut album, Vision of Love (1990). While the argument could be made that this was not Carey’s best album, it nonetheless solidified that she was not going anywhere anytime soon. With singles like the title track, “Make It Happen” and “Let It Go” you could not go an hour without hearing one of her songs on the radio in 1991.

Mary J. Blige, “What’s the 411” (1992)

We all know that Mary has gone on to have a long and varied musical career but on this, her debut album, she practically hit the scene guns blazing. The album, released in the summer of 1992 on the then rising label, Uptown Records, was one of Diddy’s (back then he was known as Sean "Puffy" Combs) first albums and well, we know where his career went after this. Singles like “You Remind Me” and “Real Love” made 1992 the year of hip-hop soul and Mary J. Blige still reigns as its queen.

Tribe Called Quest, “Midnight Marauders” (1993)

This was actually Tribe Called Quest’s third album but for many, it stands as the pinnacle of this group’s career. Released on Jive Records in the fall of 1993, it instantly became a hip-hop classic; it also solidified, for some, that the east coast reigned supreme. While the album spawned several mega hits like “Award Tour” and “Electric Relaxation” it is the definitive album that took hip-hop to a new level.

Wu-Tang, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” (1993)

It is almost hard to believe that I, among many, did not care for Wu Tang when they first came out. All those voices on the mic at one time, I just could not get into it. I listen to this album now and think, what was I smoking? 36 Chambers, released the same month as Midnight Marauders, has become the blueprint for hardcore hip-hop. Of course, as history unfolded, the likes of RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard all went on to do their own thing, but most have yet to live up to the magic of this album.

TLC, “Crazysexycool” (1994)

In 1994, TLC (T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli) seemed to be just another girl group that would have some hits but that’s about it. And then they released this album in the fall. Not only was TLC the first (and only) female group to go certified diamond, they also took the fusion of hip-hop, R&B and soul to new levels. Singles like “Creep,” “Red Light Special,” and “Waterfalls” are still frequently heard on the radio today. And while we lost Left Eye, the music of TLC and their indelible mark on the music industry remains.

Notorious B.I.G, “Ready to Die” (1994)

For many, Ready to Die was THE album of the 1990s. It was Notorious B.I.G.’s debut, and one of the first on Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy label. The three singles, “One More Chance,” “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” continue to serve as a main course to many DJ sets. While there are those who will argue that Biggie’s death in 1997 catapulted all his work to legendary status, and that the album started all the east coast/west coast battles that unfortunately destroyed the community for many years, the naysayers can eat it on this one.