“Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest (1990)

There were hip-hop love songs before “Bonita Applebum”, and then there was “Bonita Applebum”. In my opinion, it was the jam that began to set ATCQ apart from the other Native Tongue groups. The Jungle Brothers could’ve maybe done a song like “Bonita”, but they didn’t have Q-Tip’s voice or production. De La’s love songs (see: “Eye Know”) weren’t as smooth, they had more of a nerdy quality to them. “Bonita” is Spike Lee icing Rosie Perez up in Do The Right Thing. It’s nag champa and head wraps seven years before Baduizm. It’s confident without being hyper-masculine. It’s sweet and sincere, not aggressive or slimy. It celebrated fat asses two years before “Baby Got Back” and got the jump on apple bottoms by a decade. And it doesn’t feel like an obvious sop to an R&B (read: female) audience like “I Need Love” or Heavy D’s “Don’t You Know” or Big Daddy Kane’s “The Day You’re Mine” or *shudder* MC Hammer’s “Have You Seen Her?” It’s natural.

“Bonita Applebum” was such a good song, it got remixed twice and both remixes are dope. The first, more conventional remix, took the original song and replaced the jazzy beat with a sample of Carly Simon’s Chic-produced dance hit “Why”. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. The other remix (subtitled “The Hootie Mix” and having absolutely nothing to do with Darius Rucker) contained different lyrics and was the first major hit to sample The Isley Brothers’ “Between The Sheets”. I almost prefer it to the original.

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