’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Jump”
The fifty-ninth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Jump” by Kris Kross, a Hip-Hop duo whose members were 13 when this track, their debut single, hit the top of the Hot 100. This song was a major smash. It spent eight weeks at No. 1, a duration no song had achieved since The Police in 1983 with “Every Breath You Take.”
Because “Jump” was so successful and their only No. 1 hit, Kris Kross is sometimes incorrectly described as a One Hit Wonder. But they actually charted seven times, landing in the Top 20 three more times after “Jump,” once per studio album. They last appeared on the Hot 100 in 1996, and then never released any new material. Member Chris Kelly died in 2013, a couple months after he and bandmate Chris Smith performed at a 20th anniversary concert for So So Def, Jermaine Dupri’s record label that played a giant role in ’90s Hip-Hop. Dupri produced and co-wrote “Jump” when he was only 19, which in and of itself is quite an achievement.
The popularity of “Jump” significantly moved the needle on the mainstream’s embracing of Hip-Hop. This genre originated from the streets in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but “from the streets” Hip-Hop wasn’t popular among mainstream America (i.e., Caucasians) until the second half of the ’90s, when rappers like 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy and Notorious B.I.G. had their first chart-toppers. In the first half of the ’90s, the biggest Hip-Hop hits were by white artists (Vanilla Ice, Marky Mark, Snow), “soft” artists (P.M. Dawn, C+C Music Factory) and, in this case, children. It’s not hard to cobble together a theory about why acceptance of adult male black rappers came by way of acceptance of white and underage rappers, but we’ll leave that for someone else to discuss.
“Jump” is an upbeat track blending Pop and Dance elements into the fold. Lyrically it’s about springing oneself into the air, always twice in a row, due to the enjoyment of the duo’s rapping and rhyming prowess.
Don your Air Jordans and prepare to “Jump”:
What is Old School now was innovative then, and because this was innovative at the time, not everyone got it. Why are these kids yelling at us? What’s that annoying high-pitched noise during the chorus? But in retrospect, it’s clear that this was a great jam, with all sorts of cool production elements. And the duo’s delivery is quite good, especially for being so young. Compared to what’s being released now in this genre, “Jump” sounds like Beethoven.
Was it dope? You betcha. The swagger and delivery in “Jump” made it hard enough to be cool, but the fact that these were kids made it accessible and kind of adorable. And not only did this track influence music to come, but fashion as well. Although people weren’t exactly wearing their clothes backwards, they certainly started wearing their clothes in this baggy style. And they still do. So on many fronts this was both both dope and influential.
Does it hold up? When you really think about the arc of Hip-Hop, you see how tremendously critical the success of “Jump” is to the history of the genre. So it holds up for historical value, absolutely. Do we overhear people blasting this in their cars? No. That would be wiggidy wiggidy wiggidy wack. As we understand it, this means it’s lame.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?