I fell down a rabbit hole of 90s videos, and it inspired me to present…WE DANCED HARD AS F*CK IN THE 90s: A REVIEW
This started with a friend posting a clip of Mary J Blige’s “Real Love” video in honor of What’s the 411’s 25th anniversary. Knee pads, ball caps with ponytails, and Big Lez behind the moves.
Big Lez (Leslie Segar) is also the dancing silhouette in the iconic 90s Living Single intro. Apparently there’s been a rumor that it was Erika Alexander, and I just don’t even know how…
Sure Aaliyah, Usher, Missy, etc gave us great 90s /early 00s dance moments, but this isn’t just about the dance artists/dancers. EVERBODY DANCED. To EVERYTHING. Let’s explore…
People usually think of “Rump Shaker” with Wrecks in Effect, but “New Jack Swing” is an early 90s dance primer. It’s everything: the moves, the looks and the energy. Anything you need to know about the early 90s can be found in this video.
And we really got it in like that at parties. Holding up the wall was strictly forebodden. This “House Party” scene wasn’t a reach; you and your bestie(s) had routines ready, because even if a challenge didn’t pop off, you still needed to be ready to flex and show your stuff (see Girl’s Trip)
A rare clip from the ultra slept-on “Strictly Business” (shout out to #Uptown) that introduced us to young Halle Berry.
Speaking of Uptown, that was a party label. Music to make you move, all day. And at the forefront, the Bum Diddly Heavy D.
But to the whole point of this discussion, we didn’t just dance to uptempos. I did say everything. Special Ed’s “I Got It Made” probably sounds like a head nodder…nawl.
Greeks were dancing hard as hell in the 90s, too, and Chubb Rock loved to feature BGLO (Black Greek Letter Organization) members in his videos. Shout out to Hot Dogg & the NYC brothers of Omega Psi Phi.
You couldn’t even be an R&B group without full out choreography, not even for mid-tempos and ballads, and Troop was good for burning all the calories. I don’t even know if all these moves fit the beat, but they were gettin’ it in.
There was also a lot of club and house infuence in early 90s music, part of the heavy dancing influence. Check young CeCe Peniston serving every single thing.
The energy was reflected not just in music, but in TV, like with the Living Single opening, and with everything In Living Color.
It was also reflected in film, specifically in New Jack City.
I know said I wasn’t going to talk about the obvious dance artists, but I have to include Hammer, because we clown him now, but when I tell you MC Hammer concerts were a jam?! You left hot, sweaty, and tired. And happy.
“Poison” is, of course, the hard-dancing national anthem, but it wasn’t an isolated moment. What we do have to discuss about “Poison”, though, is Str8 Ahead, better known (at least to a young Naima) as the BBD Girls. They were responsible for both the choreography and the “mental” look BBD rocked. ICONS. I wanted to be one of them when I grew up.
We didn’t just dance harder with choreography, our overall chill had movement & rhythm, as demonstrated in two of the best party videos ever:
One: Up Top flava with the “Big Poppa” video (which is one of a few Big videos that was an actual party).
Two: ATL Style with Da Brat’s “Give It 2 You” video.
Word up, hayyy… waves hands.
Also, shout out to the days of massive video cameos (again, real parties).
Remember I mentioned R&B groups having choreography for mid-tempos and ballads? “Candy Rain” coulda just had some two steps, but nope.
We also have to give credit to the late 80s artists that ushered us into this hard dancing era, because it started there. Father MC paid homage to “My Perogative” here (and peep young Mary J Blige).
Eventually we came into the bling era, and Bad Boy took the party element to a whole other level. BUT. WE. STILL. GOT. IT. IN.
Side note: I’d really be ok with bringing back videos on helipads with 8–12 background dancers. I would.
I had to think for a minute about how to close this out. We went from baggy clothes (and/or tight and bright clothes) and dancing at house parties, to flossy designer gear and dancing on top of tables in the club. Bottle service was taking over, shit was getting ready to change.
We were about to enter the era of spending the whole night watching whose watching you at the spot, eventually hitting this current moment: Doing everything for the gram.
But I think I found the right representation of that time right before the change over. It’s 1999, and it’s still mad fun outside. We cute, we’re dancing, we’re pouring up and drinking up, we going to eat after the club.
Shouts to Tip, Hype, and every drop dead stunning woman in this incredible video. This joint was straight inspirational.
So shout out to every Gen Xer with bad knees but incredible memories. We had an incredible run.