2. Mary J. Blige "Real Love" (1992)
Producer: Mark C. Rooney, Mark Morales
"Real Love" is a genuine, heartfelt tribute not to love, but to the feeling of yearning for it. Love is about a contradiction: in order to gain it, you must risk losing it. Mary J. Blige's "Real Love" is a a true survivor's anthem. It's a song about being damaged, and remains powerful because it shows such resistance and strength in spite of that damage. The song's power comes from its faith in possibility, against the odds.
Mary J. was the queen of hip-hop soul because her voice had the same gritty character as the production she worked with; she was spiritually of the hip-hop generation. "Real Love" is built around the distinctive drum pattern of Audio Two's "Top Billin," which in turn was an accidental flip of The Honeydripper's "Arrest the President." The song's propulsive drum break contains the optimism of a crush's butterflies, while its rough edges speak to the unavoidable costs paid along the way. —David Drake
Inspiration: Audio Two "Top Billin" (1987)
Producer: Daddy-O, Audio Two