Year: 1997
Label: Columbia

If Daydream was the first hint of Mariah Carey's hip-hop reinvention, "Honey" was her shiny suiting-up to co-star alongside Bad Boy during its Harlem World prime. Once Sean John and Stevie J began working with Mariah, she was never again just some effusive chanteuse.

Like most singers who've flourished across multiple decades, Mariah Carey can be broken down into phases and moods. In this case, there's Ballad Mariah, Bubblegum Mariah, Hood Mariah. Butterfly was her earliest synthesis of all three styles. As a work of R&B, pop, and hip-hop, the range between even Butterfly's first two tracks, "Honey" and "Butterfly," typifies this. Likewise, "The Roof" interpolates Prodigy's vocals and Havoc's canny "Jessica" loop from "Shook Ones Pt II." "Breakdown," a low-key favorite of homegirl's catalogue, is MC's signature whisper song paired with appropriately understated Bone Thugz vocals. After '97, she'd never again be shy about flaunting her more vulgar influences. A butterfly, indeed. —Justin Charity

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