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Essential R&B and Soul Albums:

The 1990s


Back in the 1990s - particularly the early-to-mid-90s - R&B ruled the charts, and it was during this time that some of the best Soul and R&B music since the '70s was released. For a few years there was a mini-R&B renaissance that resulted in many great and eclectic acts arriving on the scene, including Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo and Jodeci. And with that in mind, your Guide to R&B presents to you his list of the essential R&B and Soul albums of the 1990s, including iconic releases by Maxwell, Lauryn Hill, R. Kelly and others.

1. "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," Lauryn Hill (1998)

This album is the cream of the crop, the standard-bearer, the measuring stick that all albums of its era should be judged by. It is to the '90s what Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor is to this decade.

1. Intro
2. Lost Ones
3. Ex-Factor
4. To Zion (feat. Carlos Santana)
5. Doo Wop (That Thing)
6. Superstar
7. Final Hour
8. When It Hurts So Bad
9. I Used to Love Him (feat. Mary J. Blige)
10 Forgive Them Father
11 Every Ghetto, Every City
12 Nothing Even Matters (feat. D'Angelo)
13 Everything Is Everything
14 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
15 Can't Take My Eyes Off of You (hidden track) 16 Sweetest Thing (Mahogany mix, hidden track)

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2. "R.," R. Kelly (1998)

R. Kelly is a musical genius. There's almost no duds here, even though there's 30 tracks between the two discs.

Disc 1:
1 Home Alone (feat. Keith Murray)
2 Spendin' Money
3 If I'm Wit You
4 Half on a Baby
5 When a Woman's Fed Up
6 Get up on a Room
7 One Man
8 We Ride (feat. Jay-Z)
9 Opera
10 Interview
11 Only the Loot Can Make Me Happy
12 Don't Put Me Out
13 Suicide
14 Etcetera
15 If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time
16 What I Feel/Issues
Disc 2:
1 Chase
3 Did You Ever Think
4 Dollar Bill
5 Reality
6 2nd Kelly
7 Ghetto Queen (feat. Crucial Conflict)
8 Down Low Double Life
9 Looking for Love
10 Dancing with a Rich Man
11 I'm Your Angel (feat. Celine Dion)
12 Money Makes the World Go Round (feat. Nas)
13 I Believe I Can Fly

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3. "Share My World," Mary J. Blige (1997)

Mary J. is another artist whom it's difficult to chose a best 1990s album of hers, but Share My World can be considered first among equals, as far as her albums go. But Mary's other '90s albums, Mary (1999), My Life (1994) and What's the 411? (1992) are all good, though.

1. Intro
2. I Can Love You
3. Love Is All We Need
4. Round and Round
5. Share My World (Interlude)
6. Share My World
7. Seven Days
8. It's On (feat. R. Kelly)
9. Thank You Lord (Interlude)
10 Missing You
11 Everything
12 Keep Your Head
13 Can't Get You off My Mind
14 Get to Know You Better
15 Searching
16 Our Love
17 Not Gon' Cry
18 (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

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4. "Brown Sugar," D'Angelo (1995)

The title track by itself makes the whole album worth the purchase price. But there's plenty of other good music here too, especially a version of "Crusin' " that's even better than Smokey Robinson's original.

1. Brown Sugar
2. Alright
3. Jonz In My Bonz
4. Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine
5. Shit, Damn, Motherfucker (Explicit)
6. Smooth
7. Cruisin'
8. When We Get By
9. Lady
10 Higher

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5. "Baduizm," Erykah Badu (1997)

From out of nowhere, Ms. Badu arrived on the scene in 1997 and blew up big time with her debut album, which was led by the single "On & On." Although she's still a relevant highly creative artist to this day, nothing she's released since has equaled the overall quality of Baduizm.

1. Rim Shot (Intro)
2. On & On
3. Appletree
4. Other Side Of The Game
5. Sometimes
6. Next Lifetime
7. Afro
8. Certainly
9. 4 Leaf Clover
10 No Love
11 Drama
12 Sometimes
13 Certainly (Flipped It)
14 Rim Shot

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6. "Forever My Lady," Jodeci (1991)

This album was considered near-perfect at the time of its release and even spawned three phenomenally successful hit singles: "Forever My Lady," "Come & Talk to Me" and "Stay."

1. Stay
2. Come & Talk To Me
3. Forever My Lady
4. I'm Still Waiting
5. U And I
6. Interlude (533-Nasty)
7. My Phone
8. Gotta Love
9. Play Thang
10 It's Alright
11 Treat U
12 X's We Share

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7. "Cooleyhighharmony," Boyz II Men (1991)

Back before they sold out - er, make that matured - Boyz II Men was a fun-loving, freewheeling group of guys. This album is their only one that's chock full of the uptempo New Jack Swing that was popular at the time.

1. Please Don't Go
2. Lonely Heart
3. This Is My Heart
4. Uhh Ahh
5. It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday
6. Motownphilly
7. Under Pressure
8. Sympin
9. Little Things
10 Your Love

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8. "MTV's Unplugged: Maxwell," Maxwell (1997)

This eight-song, 34-minute live EP, which was released a year after his debut album, is one of the best live R&B albums ever and is perfect mood-setting music for the bedroom. Check for his cover versions of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer."

1. Suite Urban Theme
2. Mellow Sumthin the Hush
3. Lady Suite
4. This Woman's Work
5. Whenever Wherever Whatever
6. Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)
7. Gotta Get: Closer
8. Til the Cops Come Knockin'

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9. "Long Time No See," Chico DeBarge (1997)

An underrated classic. Chico had just been released from prison when he recorded this album, but instead of wildin' out, he became introspective. Long Time No See is sultry, soulful and simmering. Must-hear songs: "Iggin' Me," "No Guarantee" and his cover of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man."

1. Intro
2. Love Still Good
3. Iggin' Me
4. Virgin
5. No Guarantee
6. Ms. Wonderful
7. Was It Good
8. Physical Train
9. Trouble Man
10 Love Jones
11 Superman
12 One Love
13 Long Time No See
14 No Guarantee (Remix)
15 Outro

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10. "Hits," Tony! Toni! Tone! (1997)

This group is where Raphael Saadiq got his start in the 1980s. Since all of the Tonys' album's were stellar, it's near-impossible to pick just one out of the pack. Since that's the case, their one greatest hits package is the way to go.

1. If I Had No Loot
2. Boys And Girls
3. Annie May
4. The Blues
5. Don't Fall In Love
6. Little Walter
7. Thinking Of You
8. Anniversary
9. Feels Good
10 Let's Get Down
11 (Lay Your Head On My) Pillow
12 It Never Rains (In Southern California)
13 Baby Doll
14 Whatever You Want
15 My Ex-Girlfriend

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