This feature was originally published in 2012.

The R&B of the ’90s has never left our hearts. It’s still there in form of nostalgia-tapping playlists, and in the music being made today. Even as we creep further from the golden era, acts like Brent Faiyaz, Snoh AalegraGivēon, and more have set the stage for a new, burgeoning fan base of the still-bustling genre. Still, it’s always important to pay homage to those who came before.

For the fans who can recall Changing Faces album cuts and name each member of Subway, this is a vindication. It’s an enshrining of an insanely fertile and formative chapter of black music, one that yielded classic albums and singles, and expanded the framework of pop songwriting and production (and thus, the entries on the Billboard Hot 100), thanks to the next-level genius of artists like Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Boyz II Men, and Chucky Thompson. The era deserves its accolades; it is some of the best American music ever. We do have a list with The 50 Best R&B Albums of the ‘90s, but these are the best ‘90s R&B songs.