The famous Hip hop/R&B collaboration. From Method Man and Mary J Blige's “I’ll Be There for You", to Erykah Badu and the Roots' “You Got Me, there are so many memorable ones to choose from. Still, one can't help but wonder from where they originated. These days, the formula is common, but back then, it was a unique idea that had just been discovered. So who did? None other than Chicago born singer, songwriter, dancer and trendsetter, Jody Wately.
In the spring of 1989, Watley released her second album, which would feature a pivotal piece of history. The album sold over four million copies worldwide, and produced three hit singles: "Real Love", "Everything" her first ballad release, and "Friends" featuring golden age hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. Rakim, he is widely known as one of the most prolific, influential and most skilled MCs of all time.
"Friends", a rhythmic anthem for tainted friendship is notable for being the first multi-format hit single to include the formula of a Pop/R&B singer featuring a guest rapper with the custom full 16-bar verses and bridge concept. Along with it’s powerful message about the importance of recognizing fake friends.
The core is noted in the song’s first verse and second verses
“Have you ever been stabbed in the back
By someone you thought was really cool?
Did they steal your lover or was it money?
Or was it lies they told"?
"Strangers just disguised as your friends
Never again cause now you know”
“Smiles they hide behind, never know what’s on their mind
Could be true deception
Jealousy and envy reign they never want to see you get ahead
They just hold you back”.
Flanked by the memorable hook:
“That friends will let you down, that friends won’t be around
That friends will let you down, friends won’t be around
When you need them most, where are your friends?
Oh, friends are hard to find, friends, yours and mine
I’m talkin bout your friends”.
Rakim then enters to brilliantly deliver his warning
"Friends are hard to find, so be careful
You can find them and to remind and they’ll pay you
But some ain’t that bad, but one might back stab
To get their fingertips on what one might have
Bite the hand that feeds you; leave the people who need you
For those who hold you back and mislead you"
The successful "Friends" formula is now a mainstay in pop music and was added as a category at The Grammy's under Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2002.
Jody Watley made her fist appeance on stage at age 8 with her godfather Jackie Wilson, becoming a Soul Train dancer at 14, Jody Watley was one of the most popular on the show and recognized as a trendsetter for her style and dance moves. Eventually along with fellow popular Soul Train dancer Jeffrey Daniel, Watley was selected by Don Cornelius to join R&B group Shalamar.
After a combination of lead singers, the lineup of lead singer Howard Hewett, Watley, and Daniel would be the most successful. Watley remained with the group from 1977 to 1983. The trio released several albums and scored several hits including the "Dead Giveaway", and the R&B hits "The Second Time Around", "This Is for the Lover in You", and "Night to Remember". Watley departed the group in 1983.
Post Shalamar, after two and a half years in England, Watley returned to America and secured a deal with MCA Records. Her first solo album Jody Watley was released in March 1987. The album's lead single, "Looking for a New Love", became a smash hit, and the album went on to sell four million copies worldwide, scoring the Grammy Award for "Best New Artist." The same year.
Kudos Ms. Watley and Rakim for your contributions to music history!