I Love an Old School All-Star Jam

Were all-star jams a phenomenon that peaked in the Eighties?

Of course, there was We Are The World and Do They Know It’s Christmas, but the songs were never catchy to me. I just grew up loving the all-star jams on Video Soul, like Self Destruction (LOL at Kool Moe Dee’s stunna shades) and We’re All In the Same Gang — which, by the way, is an awesome song. I missed that bass line, and I need to download that STAT. When’s the last time you heard Michel’le sing that hook? And what the heck happened to Michel’le anyway? Nicety was the jam back in the day! (So funny to see Dr. Dre and Eazy-E up in that video).

There’s just something cool about seeing a bunch of celebrities and musicians come together to collaborate on a project. But I can’t think of any truly outstanding all-star jams in recent years.

There was that wack cover of What’s Going On, I guess. (Britney + Ja Rule + N’Sync = an insult to Marvin Gaye’s vision). That very slick Johnny Cash video for God’s Gonna Cut You Down also comes immediately to mind, but doesn’t count because Johnny Cash is the only singer. But that video’s got more star power than any other I can think of. And that’s just a flat-out great Johnny Cash song. (surprise, I’m a Johnny Cash fan! I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, too. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little classic country music).

But a late night watching VH1 Soul reminded me of an all-star collaboration I had all but forgotten about. Freedom was originally featured on the soundtrack for the movie Panther in 1995. The group includes a veritable black female who’s who of Nineties music industry players: Mary J. Blige, Monica, Meshell Ndegeocello, Zhane, TLC, SWV, Aaliyah, Brownstone, Vanessa Williams, Salt N Pepa, En Vogue, Queen Latifah, Joi, Xscape, and a room full of talented sistas, some of whom I don’t even recognize.

I watch this video and I’m all like, wait, was that Karyn White? Who is that? Des’ree? Whatever happened to Patra? It’s kind of amazing to think of how much life has changed for the participants of that video. Some have become A list stars, some have faded into obscurity. Some are struggling to stay relevant, some are doing reality television, some are very sadly no longer with us.

Still, while watching it I love the feeling of empowerment that I get from this video. Imagine the vibe in the room, everyone pumping fists in the air and remembering the struggles of our ancestors. That’s a beautiful thing, and makes a great throwback jam with an inspiring message.

Enjoy, bellas! Happy Friday!

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Comments

  1. Sweet merciful crap, I’m old.

  2. See, this is why I love your site. :)

    I was just thinking about this song the other day! But I couldn’t remember who sang it! When I was in 6th grade and the Black Panther movie came out, we used to dance to this song at events within my community. Thanks for bringing me back afrobella. :)

  3. Mona B. says:

    Great one, Bella!!
    They don’t make ‘em like this anymore, do they? *Sigh*
    Random thoughts: The intro to this song…isn’t it a song from Sweet Honey in the Rock? Anyways, this was definitely a throwback! Does anyone remember “You will know” from Black Men United?? I think it was from Jason’s Lyric…

  4. I have been watching this video and “You Will Know” for the past few weeks on YouTube! I loved this song!

  5. Ah! Good call, Mona B! I was trying to remember the male equivalent of this song. “You Will Know.” Good to remember! Any of you remember any other all-star jams I forgot about? I know there are others…

  6. sisreese says:

    Bella! Thank you… that truly was a throwback, an empowering throwback! I must agree with Missy Miss, I had to be in the 6th grade or junior high when Panther came out… I remember telling my mother that if I was alive during that time period, I would have become a Black Panther :) However, I became a sociologist and that’s kind of close, depending on the topic I’m working on…

    Also Kirk Franklin’s Lean on Me is somewhat of an All Star Jam, I absolutely love it… it had Mary, Crystal Lewis, Bono… to name a few…

    Be blessed, Be beautiful…

  7. Whoa, I had completely forgotten about this song and the movie. Geez, 12yrs go by really fast.

  8. HaitianRoots says:

    I’ve been enjoying your site for weeks now, but for some reason, this post compelled me to drop a line. The pure nostalgia i feel when i watch this video…man,i think i was a sophomore in high school…anyway, it’s posts like these that have me coming here daily. Thanks for taking us back. Appreciate all you do here.

  9. Oh my!! I haven’t seen this video but every so often when I get my urges I crank up this mp3. GREAT throwback!!

  10. I must be really young because I never heard of any Black Panther Movie. And I don’t remember this song at all. It was nice to hear, though.
    Is the movie just called “the Black Panthers”?
    Enlighten a young sista please!

  11. Dang it, I’m old too! I was 20 when the movie “Panther” came out. Candy, check it out. It was a really good movie that came at the very tail end of the early-90s “Afrocentric” craze. My fellow ‘oldsters’: Remember the leather medallions, ‘X’ baseball caps, HBCU hoodies, crayon colored Karl Kani jean outfits, cowrie shell necklaces, “Jodeci boots”? Holla if you hear me! LOL

    Bella, one collabo you forgot about was the “King Dream Team”, the song about the MLK holiday with everyone from New Edition, Stacy Lattisaw, DeBarge Whitney Houston to (inexplicably) Menudo (with little Ricky Martin) in the video. The chorus was “Sing, celebrate/Sing Sing Celebrate”. That was a Video Soul classic for sure.

  12. I like this a lot. This was very empowering for me. It’s true that they dont make unity songs like this anymore…..That “whats going on” song that they did a couple of years back was really weak lol…I remember being so disappointed. Anyhoo thanks so much for posting this bella! And I remember that “YOu will know” song too!!! I loved that!!

  13. YYYEAAHHH and i saw that MLK drem team song the other day!!!! That was soooo good too!! Whitney was soooo on fire in that song!!

  14. afrobello says:

    Wow, I don’t remember this song AT ALL. And I know for sure that I never saw the movie. It’s a drag, realizing how many of the participants saw their fortune change, and not for the better. Some of my favorite artists growing up, just vanished on the path of music industry roadkill. Thinking back to the talent of the day, it seems like Toni Braxton nor Brandy got the call for this gig. I always hoped Patra would come back, having loved her 2nd album. Then again, her Showtime at the Apollo appearance with detectable lip syncing was a bad sign!

  15. Niki, back in those days I was rocking the Cross Colors teeshirts, too! I just saw an old Aaron Hall video where all the girls were dancing in their bright Cross Colors gear and African medallion necklaces and it took me back. And Afrobello, good point – where was Brandy? Monica got some of the spotlight…

  16. You’ve created such an amazing and positive online community here. You’ve made my day with this track – I was doing the same thing scanning the faces going ‘oh my goodness, there’s brownstone, xscape, n’dea davenport…’ That really was a great way to start the week-end. Who would be in today’s all-star jam line-up? I’d put Alice Smith in there for sure!

  17. I forgot that back in those days, when I wasn’t rocking my salon-fresh “Halle Berry” cut, I wore the big dukie braids puled on top of my head like the girls in the group Jade. I didn’t go as far as to put the little gold balls on the end of them though…

  18. grownnsxc says:

    God I love this song. My favorite part is when EnVouge harmonizes at the end.
    “You Will Know” is an example of one of those inspirational songs that R. Kelly wrote that I want to not like because of his personality but I can’t help but like it cause it is so good!

  19. BellaAnais says:

    That was beautiful post Bella. Thanks for brightening my friday with that song. What an amazing collaboration of beautiful black women.

    Oh and Niki I remember all those things from early on in my life. I remember my family rockin them I was a bit young. My dad has his leather medallion from back in the days hanging up in his office.

    FREEDOM

  20. indigolovely says:

    Its been awhile, and when this video came out there was such a vibe in the air, a vibe of change-then hip hop changed and the masses went right along with it.

    thanx for bringing back sweet memories tho’
    (do it again :~}.

  21. Hi afrobella, you have an amazing site. This is by far one of the greatest natural hair care sites as well as a wonderful site for black women in general. I have recently started transition (about 4 months) and I am haveing seriouse issues right now. It is to the point where I am not so sure about this anymore. Perhapse I could have your emial or something so that I could send you a message explaining my frustration and perhapse could give me a bit of advice. I checked the ask afrobella section but I didn’t really find what I was looking for.Thanks in advance.

  22. Mona B. says:

    Hey grownnsxc, D’Angelo wrote “You will know.” So feel free to enjoy it guilt free!

  23. I love that one. Thanks for posting it.
    Closet Johnny Cash fan here!!

  24. @Mona B, they still make them like that, but they are not getting the record deals or they are relegated to singing silly songs. The industry is a business, so money making is the primary endeavor. It is kinda sad that we have to scrounge around for good music, but it is out there. I remember during that time, I was buying CDs left to right because the music was very good, now I tap my fingers, until something good comes out or I find something on 1xtra. I am waiting for Maroon 5…it better be good. ;D

  25. R Kelly didnt write You wil know…. De Angelo did. I actually listened to it yesterday. Great post afrobella, I live in Nigeria and lurrrrrv the way similarities in upbringing bw Trinidad and Naija appear eg. my american firends are horrified to know country music was part of our musical landscape and that I know who Don Williams is. Back to the topic – I would love a “what theyre doing now” post (lotsa research lol!) based on these kind of collabos

  26. Wow-I love this! This made my morning, thanks for posting that.
    I was in middle school when this came out-
    Now I have to go rent the film.
    FREEDOM!

  27. WOW! I can’t even recognise half these people! But what an empowering song. Just what I needed – a little reminder that when people try to push you down you should shoot right back up to the top.

  28. Regina Harris says:

    NOBODY has hair as tightly coiled as me. The back grows long (8-10inches) and the top stays about 3 inches. So I keep it twisted with ‘hair’ to even out my look. I don’t want to wear `hair’ anymore What can I do about the top of my head, or what kind of naturals stlyes have you seen for someone with my lenghts?

  29. I have seen alot of people make an effort to discus and write about this subject…and i have seen a lot of failures…but you have hit the nail on the HEAD….I agree totally and am looking forwardto your view on other subjects

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I miss the kind of multicolored feminism that was so popular in hip hop music in the early Nineties. It was definitely embodied by many of the participants in Freedom, that all-star soundtrack song I featured last week. So many of those musicians came to blossom in an era when female pop stars could make their debut in big, baggy clothes, while doing goofy dances. And no group wore their clothes baggier or had goofier videos than TLC. [...]

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