Fashion forward visuals, a groundbreaking collaboration “Friends” ft Eric B & Rakim and one of MTV’s most nominated videos “Real Love” directed by David Fincher – the concept of “Larger Than Life” was the mindset of going big for your dreams – make it memorable – make it big! Some of my favorite non singles are “Something New” “For Loves Sake” “Once You Leave” .. proud of the entire album! Loved the tour as well, despite efforts behind the scenes to undermine and sabotage it – saving that for my memoir.
Happy Anniversary and here’s to always making life memorable, having a vision for yourself, making goals and exceeding expectations.
Not just one of the greatest MC’s of all time, but a humble down to earth guy that I’m proud to have this connection.
“Friends” peaked at number three on the Hot Black Singles chart in July 1989, but the big news is it managed to do what no previous R&B/Rap collaboration had done before: crossover to the Hot 100 charts. “Friends” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1989. ” – Okayplayer
I’m doing this post for this Music Monday to drop some music history and knowledge behind my groundbreaking single “Friends.” A lot of misinformation and out right lack of knowledge; it’s my duty to not only always tell my own story but to make sure those who don’t know – learn it.
“…The single was released in April 1989 and steadily rose up the charts. The video became popular on both BET and MTV, garnering a coveted spot on Donnie Simpson’s Video Soul Top 20… but the big news is “FRIENDS” with Jody Watley ft Eric B & Rakim managed to do WHAT NO PREVIOUS R&B/Rap collaboration had done before: crossover to the Hot 100 charts. “Friends” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1989. When Jody Watley performed “Friends” on The Arsenio Hall Show, Eric B. & Rakim weren’t present but she performed Rakim’s verse effortlessly.
This monumental event in R&B/Rap collaboration history has largely gone overlooked close to 30 years after the fact.”
It’s definitely overlooked, and necessary to note. Saying it louder for those in the back – it was the first to crossover on three charts Top 10 and most significantly the Hot 100…paving the way for a new collaborations, easier access to Pop and R&B radio (eventually pushing out R&B – to become primarily all rap/hip-hop) previously had before balked at playing rap music at all, so a lot of the airplay initially had the no rap edit which is why many don’t realize the significance.
The video “Club Couture” was also notable.. my concept a real underground New York nightclub where everyone came to be fabulous, dance, perform – b-boys, and hop hop dancers getting their party on with voguers and ball kids, drag queens, transgender, mixed cultures all partying together.connected through music without hate being as you are – and fabulous as I came through in Gaultier couture from Paris – people weren’t ready. It’s still my hope. Everything I do comes from a place of being authentic – ‘Friends’ directed by Jim Sonzero was another example of that.
Arriving in style for the Rakim book signing..Rakim had no idea I was coming.
Initially I stood in live very low key with the other fans..the line continued to grow.
Eventually, I was taken in by Rakim’s manager as the word got out that I was in line..it was still a surprise though. Going back to choosing Eric B & Rakim to be on my single ‘Friends’ from my second solo album “Larger Than Life: which became a groundbreaking multi-chart Top 10 collaboration to working with him again in the 1998 ‘Off The Hook’ D-Dot Remix and video.. it was great say hi and let him know I was his fan back in the day and continue to be, to which Rakim told me “..you’re family..always will be.”
While standing in line I was also inspired and look forward to signing copies of my memoir in the near future.
Get the bestseller ‘Rakim: Sweat The Technique” life and writing manual.
Video of our reunion to follow in the meantime, here’s our classic ‘Friends’ Jody Watley featuring Eric B & Rakim.
Golden era Hip Hop, a couple of my personal favorites from Eric B & Rakim.
Sony Hall New York, August 16, 2019 was phenomenal. New York is always a special place, my Mom is from Harlem,my son graduated college there and lives there. It’s also extra special to see him when I go there to work too.
I won my Best New Artist Grammy in New York’s legendary Radio City Music Hall, been inspired to write songs from the vibes of New York, filmed my ‘Friends’ video there to capture that real authentic vibe with Eric B & Rakim, club kids and beyond, trendsetting fashion shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, Saks – cover of Essence Magazine back in the day..you name it. I’ve performed in the Big Apple countless times over the span of my over 3 decade solo career and counting..this ranks as the best.
There are so many rave reviews pics and video on social media (especially Instagram) – here are two that really say it all!
Via Twitter. Love!
Jody Watley. Photography by Trudy Giordano
Jody Watley. Photography by Trudy Giordano
Jody Watley. Photography: Dara Seans
Jody Watley and John ‘Havic’ Gregory – SRL.
Jody Watley – A Music Journey, performing a few of my Shalamar classics with SRL.
Fan photo capturing a moment, Sony Hall 2019.
Real Love. Striking a pose.
I had not planned to do ‘Still A Thrill’ in this show. The setlist included rare gems like ‘Nightlife’ Soulpersonal Classic Soul mix, Saturday Night Experience, the current SRL hits, ‘Precious Love’ soul mix, ‘Skin Deep’ from ‘Midnight Lounge’ a piano and vocal only ‘Everything’, the jazz bossa nova of ‘Waiting In Vain’ and more along with classic hit staples. I ended up taking a few spontaneous requests resulting in a spirited a cappella section. Video capture by Trudy Giordano.
Jody Watley and Nate Allen Smith. Photography Trudy Giordano. Sony Hall 8.16.19
Multi-talented Nate Allen Smith, male lead – SRL. Singer, songwriter, dancer, model.
The soul collective. Jody Watley & SRL.
Jody Watley. Wattage!
Thank you to the wattage crew and everyone who came, sold-out the venue (this means so much) and made it truly a magical night of music – a night to remember full of precious love.
After New York, we were off to Atlanta for the concert with Jeffrey Osborne.
Beautiful outdoor setting. Older more reserved crowd than I’m accustomed to and as the case with older R&B audiences – there’s always an initial sense of sitting in judgment maybe skeptical of what Jody Watley was going to bring to the evening. My perception is this age demo are more of the upset I’m not longer with Shalamar though it’s been nearly 4 decades and I’ve been successfully putting it down solo for over three decades and counting – always evolving and getting better with time.
The skeptics always learn..I bring a first class, high quality soulful show with lots of style, heart and my brand of soul, full of positive messages and hits – including a couple from my Shalamar days.
Jody Watley. Photo by Bill Coker.
Photography: Norman ‘NV’ Johnson
Jody Watley – Photography: Norman ‘NV’ Johnson
Jody Watley & SRL. Mable House Barnes Amphitheater.
Up next and closing out summer 2019:
Saturday August 24, 2019 – Groove 99.3 and Pacific Concert Group Present – Summer Bash, Bakersfield, CA Stramler Park (multiple acts) – Tickets
August 31, 2019 – WorldOne Concerts Presents Rewind Funk & Soul – Thunder Valley Outdoor Amphitheater – Tickets (Multiple acts)
September 7, 2019 – Blue Note Hawaii – Jody Watley ‘UnPlugged’ – Tickets
Albumism: Happy 30th Anniversary to Jody Watley’s Second Solo Album “Larger Than Life” Originally Released March 27, 1989 – Read it Here on Albumism
Happy Music Anniversary to my second solo album “Larger Than Life” featuring Top 10 singles “Real Love” the groundbreaking collaboration with Eric B & Rakim “Friends” the ballad “Everything” as well as the beautiful “Precious Love” :: The album cover with photography by legendary fashion Steven Meisel and Art Direction by Lynn Robb and I, is also in 1000 Album Covers published by Taschen.
#TBT On The Cover of the UK Music Magazine Blues and Soul in 1989.
Celebrating 25 years of my second album. Most fans think of my solo debut as the breakthrough and it was – as well as being trendsetting in style and video. However my second album is the one that was really quietly the most pioneering and to me overshadowed. My infusion of high fashion, commercial ad campaigns and layouts – uncommon for any black artist at the time, and only by one other Madonna. ‘Larger Than Life’ ushered in a raised bar for other female artists that would follow. The pioneering “Friends” featuring Eric B & Rakim; the first to feature Pop/R&B/Hip-Hop 16 bar verses and crossing over R&B, Pop, Dance, Hip Hop – as well as a genre crossing video featuring transgender, drag queens, underground club culture, B-Boys and Girls, voguing and Jean Paul-Gaultier couture blended into a mix of high end and street chic as well as my highest charting ballad ‘Everything.” There was no press release to stir controversy and bring attention about the casting of the video – for me it wasn’t about that. Everyone in the video was real, friends of friends – not models or professionals. Tyrone Procter helped cast it. Eric B and Rakim called some of their friends. What I wanted to represent the types of clubs I liked dancing at full of of types of people united by the music and stepping out in style to get down on the dance floor. It was a real club scene in the west village on a hot summer afternoon in NYC. It went over the heads of a lot of people..my label didn’t know what to make of it, and weren’t happy with it – but let me do what I envisioned and I’m thankful.
I also found success overseas in the Japan, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom among others as well. It was always a challenge because I wasn’t the typical ‘urban black artist’ and was always in a struggle to shine on my own terms, remaining true to myself, wanting to have standards, authenticity to my artistry. 25 years later this is still true in everything I do whether on the commercial radar or not. It’s true no matter what your job or career is – be the best you.
“Real Love” which remains one of MTV’s Most Nominated Video’s and “Most of All” are featured on the Top 28 David Fincher video’s : HERE
The state of music can always be debated depending on a person’s personal tastes. That said, there’s no doubt the bar has been lowered if not obliterated completely in some genres. Today’s rap / hip-hop music is deep in misogyny, promotes violence, drug use, getting drunk, glamourizing death, overtly sexual themed lyrics, how big a woman’s ass is, pumping date rape – as if it’s cool. I’m appalled – where did it all go wrong? Some are heralded for going to prison. Really? It’s one thing to live your dream but it’s another to sell your soul so low without regard for the message or influence just to be ‘popular’ or to make millions of dollars. It’s an outrage that corporations i.e major labels put a lot of money behind these artists and their “messages”, while those with quality and a true love for music and the message languish without support. The fact that these songs are pumped up and out a full blast in shopping malls and boutiques is beyond comprehension as little ones in tow with their parents are subjected to the profanity laced obscenities. It’s a shame really and I’d go as far as to say plain evil. I’ve been an artist for 3 decades and I ask myself what’s really going on in the music business? I believe parents have the primary responsibility for the influence over their children and this goes for extended family and friends, however one can’t turn a blind eye to not just a lack of balance but to the messages being highly promoted and sponsored. An agenda? I say yes.
My song with “Friends” was the first collaboration between a Pop/R&B artist and hardcore hip-hop/rap to feature the custom 16 verse ( I called it a duet when I pitched it at the time) to crossover and become Top Ten Hot 100, R&B Soul and Dance..and all with a timeless message and zero obscenities. I just wanted to make a great song about betrayal. In my head I could only hear the tones of Rakim – it took some convincing to make my label get it. They always wanted me to be “more urban, more ghetto, more street..” – all of which I found marginalizing and insulting but couldn’t see how I related to Eric B and Rakim, I just said ‘trust me – it will work because it’s real.” Luckily, Rakim loved it and was onboard along with Eric B. That’s why I know how artists get sucked into the ‘corporate’ mindset of the imagery they’d like black artists to project. I was never having that and fought to maintain my authenticity.
The video notably blends b-boys, drag queens, and a variety of party people in unity for a good time capturing a slice of New York nightlife at the time. I’m in Jean Paul-Gaultier couture fresh off he Parisian runway that year. A great time was had by all on that sweltering summer day in the village in 1989. Fabulous and street in it’s realness without pandering, being contrived or sending a negative message, certain stereotypes or coonery. Proud.
Jody Watley is included in music’s pivotal moments from 1987 via The ROOT. Click the link to read and view the gallery with Jody, Michael and Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, Eric B. and Rakim and more, celebrating 25 years.
The quality of commercial music and artistry today just isn’t the same.