In 1993, Tony! Toni! Tone!’s “If I Had No Loot” featured a sample of Ice Cube rapping “and you can new jack swing on my nuts!” It was a repudiation of the dominant Black music style of the early ‘90s, and that song and its parent album (the absolutely perfect Sons Of Soul) found the Wiggins brothers (and their cousin Timothy Christian Riley) planting the flag for “real” soul music and (inadvertently?) creating an ethos for what would become known as “neo-soul”.
There was no acknowledgement, though, of the fact that the band’s breakthrough hit was as new jack as new jack swing gets.
By the time “Feels Good” came out in the late summer of 1990, TTT was already sitting on a grip of top five R&B hits. For all those hits, though, the Oakland-based band had only grazed the pop top 40 once (with their previous single, “The Blues”.) The jubilant, energetic “Feels Good” did the trick, landing the trio in the top 10 of the Hot 100 for the first of four visits.
What was the X-factor that broke “Feels Good” through to a wider audience? That irresistible dance groove, for starters. It added just enough soul flavor to the dance-crazy pop tunes that were ruling CHR radio (by the likes of Paula Abdul and the New Kids), “Feels Good”’s other standout element was the B-chorus, which prominently features a woman moaning “ooh, ooh baby”. That slightly risque element scandalized my friend group (and I’m sure a bunch of other people in my age range…I was 14). Remember when just the sound of someone moaning was enough to send people into a tizzy? I can’t imagine that sound causing anyone to even bat an eyelash these days.
I would also imagine that a few years later, they’d have been able to get a much better rap cameo than “Mo-Cedes The Mellow”, who would reinvent himself a half decade later as MoPreme of Thug Life. Mo-Cedes/MoPreme is 2Pac’s (birth) brother! Oaktown Strong!
Raphael is the epitome of cool these days, but man did he look like an R&B Jimmie Walker as JJ Evans back in the day.