’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Here Comes The Hotstepper”
The eighty-fourth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Here Comes The Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze. Here on “Was It Dope?” we’re reliably and predictably quick to defend those who are falsely accused of being a One Hit Wonder. But in this case, Kamoze fits the bill, even by the strictest parameters.
The definition of a One Hit Wonder varies, but we offer this one, at least for U.S. music: An artist who charted on the Billboard Hot 100 once. By this most restrictive of standards, it’s extremely unlikely that someone would be a One Hit Wonder if their one hit was a No. 1 song, because successful singles tend to buoy their follow-ups. And, as it turns out, our research revealed that Ini Kamoze is the only One Hit Wonder from the ’90s to “accomplish” the feat, unless you count The Heights, with 1992’s “How Do You Talk To An Angel.” We don’t, because lead singer Jamie Walters went on to have a Top 20 hit under his own name. But if you want to, we won’t draw our weapons.
“Here Comes The Hotstepper” is a Pop/Dance recording featured in the film Ready to Wear (Prêt-à-Porter), about the fashion industry. Its beat and tempo, therefore, are more appropriate for a runway walk than … whatever dances club-goers were doing in the ’90s. “Hotstepper” was the ninth and final song to ascend to No. 1 in 1994, and was the only one besides “The Sign” that was even vaguely up-tempo. It also is noteworthy for briefly interrupting Boyz II Men’s chokehold on the top spot; they’d been there for 16 consecutive weeks prior to “Hotstepper,” and would reclaim the throne for four more afterward.
Put on your most fashionable ensemble and revisit “Here Comes The Hotstepper”:
The opening and chorus of this song, “Na na na na na …” is borrowed from an early 1960s song called “Land Of A Thousand Dances,” covered by several artists and popular today among marching bands. The instrumental of “Here Comes The Hotstepper” contains samples too numerous to list. It works pretty well, but unfortunately the initial excitement from the opening ends after about 30 seconds, and the track struggles to maintain its magic amid a mess of unmemorable verses and lyrics that are generally meaningless to anyone poorly versed in ’90s Jamaican slang. “Hotstepper” is in many ways a poor man’s “Informer,” which had superior writing, production and delivery. “Hotstepper” does briefly bring back some great memories, but it’s not an especially well-executed piece of recorded music.
The movie Prêt-à-Porter was, how do you say, un flop? But this song hit at the peak of the supermodel craze, so its glamorous attitude was widely respected. In addition, reggae-tinted Pop was very popular at this time, with acts like Big Mountain, Mad Cobra, UB40, Diana King and Inner Circle all muscling onto Top 40 radio playlists. So it was dope to some degree.
Does it hold up? Not especially. Anyone who hears this for the first time today would quickly place it in a bygone decade.
Dopeness: 3 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?