’90s No. 1s Revisited: “No Diggity”
The one hundred second No. 1 song of the 1990s was “No Diggity” by Blackstreet f/ Dr. Dre. This track was Blackstreet’s only chart-topper. The group’s success was specific to the decade, as they sent 10 tracks onto the Hot 100 from 1994 to 1999, “No Diggity” being the fifth. Their biggest other hits were predecessor “Before I Let You Go” (peak: 7) in 1995, and successor “I Get Lonely” (peak: 3) in 1998, a Janet Jackson single on which they were a featured act. It’s also worth noting they followed the success of “No Diggity” with a big radio hit, “Don’t Leave Me,” which was ineligible to chart because a single wasn’t released. “No Diggity” also gave Dr. Dre his second of three No. 1 hits as a performer; in all three cases, he was a featured artist.
Blackstreet (often stylized BLACKstreet, in case you assumed they were Norwegian) was one of many, many all-male R&B singing groups to find success in the ’90s, alongside relatively interchangeable acts like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Jagged Edge, Next, Portrait, 112, Dru Hill, Bell Biv DeVoe, Az Yet, Take 6, After 7 and Mint Condition. Of notable difference, perhaps, is that Blackstreet was co-founded by Teddy Riley, an influential New Jack Swing writer and producer who was relatively famous even before Blackstreet was born. Therefore many of us who lived through the ’90s can identify one of Blackstreet’s members by name, which is more than can be said for most of the other groups just referenced.
“No Diggity” is a mid-tempo R&B serenade to a woman who has piqued the protagonists’ interest due to her class, style, street smarts and entrepreneurial acumen. Therefore, the singers want to “bag it up,” which we interpret to mean “achieve our objective of meeting this woman and taking her home,” although in modern tongue “bag it up” specifically means “wear a condom.” It won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
Let’s take a few minutes to listen again to “No Diggity”:
This is an essentially flawless recording across all aspects — songwriting, lyrics, production and delivery. Many R&B songs in the ’90s had great choruses but throwaway verses that served as filler; R. Kelly, for example, was a particular offender in this area. But “No Diggity” puts in 100% effort from start to finish, delivering verses with a very catchy melody and well-considered lyrics, building to a simple but smartly written chorus that features one of the most memorable hooks of the decade. Even Dr. Dre’s contribution here elevates the whole thing, and he’s hardly our favorite emcee. All in all, bravo to Blackstreet for contributing this to our cherished high school memories.
Was it dope? Yes, “No Diggity” was fun for the whole family. In a sea of somewhat similar-sounding music of the time, “No Diggity” stood out largely because of its groovy piano riff and undeniable beat. Its content was edgier than that of Adult Contemporary staples like All-4-One, but far from inappropriate a la groups like Wreckx-n-Effect, best known for “Rump Shaker,” a No. 2 peaker that Teddy Riley co-wrote and co-produced in 1992. “No Diggity” came off as more sophisticated and mature, but still fun and perfect for a dance floor or car-ride singalong.
Does it hold up? Yes, and in fact we’d say it’s improved with age. As of this writing, the video for “No Diggity” has 130 million views on YouTube, which is tremendous and exceeds even Boyz II Men’s most popular video, “I’ll Make Love To You,” by 30 million views, as a point of comparison. (Both were published eight years ago, so these metrics are fair to compare.) The song also appears regularly on nostalgic lists of the best songs of the decade. Despite being representative of a genre that is otherwise dead and buried, “No Diggity” has managed to sustain surprising success and recognition over the past 20 years, perhaps due in part to its Pop influence. Lyrically, it’s worth noting that the song avoids some of the physical objectification that was popular at the time and tends to date songs of this genre.
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?