In 19976, the R&B group Blackstreet recorded a song with Dr. Dre and Queen Pen that Wikipedia tells me ended the reign of the Macarena on the music charts. “No Diggity” hit the number one spot on several US Billboard charts including the Hot 100 and R&B. The group continued to record music, switching new members in and out, but never got as much attention for any other song. In 2014, original founding member Teddy Riley declared that the group was pretty much over.
“No Diggity”, however, continues to endure. The phrase “no diggity” is supposed to be another way of saying “no doubt”. The song is mostly sung to a woman about how great she is at dancing and how great the guys are at making music she wants to dance to. So in other words, its the perfect party song. There’s no deeper meaning, no groundbreaking visuals, just pure clean fun. Do a quick search on YouTube and you’ll find it is a favorite acoustic choice for TV singing contests, from Sweden to New Zealand, and was featured in the acapella girl group movie Pitch Perfect, sung awkwardly by Anna Kendrick.
The video was directed by Hype Williams, who come to be known for a number of other big name music videos for Beyonce, Cold Play, and Kanye West. He was awarded a Video Vanguard award at the 2006 MTV VMA’s. The No Diggity video is by no means one of his memorable, but it does seem to mark the beginning of a fairly lucrative career for Williams. If you want my personal recommendation, go watch every Missy Elliott-Hype Williams video because nothing rocked the music video scene of the 90’s quite like those two. (Missy would go on to rock the 00’s scene with Dave Meyers.)
Featuring dancers, a beach house party, and coordinated outfits for the band, its not the most visually remarkable video. But Wikipedia also tells me that the marionette who plays the piano in the video is a metaphor for society, so there’s that.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite Hype Williams creation is.
Prince and Chance Howard
If you don’t care to listen to any of the other covers, you can go ahead and stop here. This video comes from a live concert in Washington, DC circa 2003. According to the fan site PrinceVault.com, Prince would cover the song during several of his concerts with the last known performance being in 2007.
YouTube stars Postmodern Jukebox have made a great career for themselves doing retro covers for a number of top pop songs. Lead by Scott Bradlee and featuring a rotating cast of singers and instrumentalists, the band has achieved great success offline as well, even performing at the Kennedy Center. I had the chance to see one of their shows when I was living in DC and they do not disappoint. They bring old school live performance into a new generation. You’re probably going to see a lot of them on this series. So check out their slow, jazzy cover of “No Diggity” above.
Trivia piece: Bioshock fans may recognize Bradlee’s sound as he was hired to contribute to the game’s soundtrack.
This artist is much lesser known, but the cover caught my attention because (a) it is British, (b) not acoustic, and (c) they actually made an interesting video for it. I have a penchant for music that brings back the trip hop era, and this one falls into that category. Plus cool guys doing tricks on roller skates.
Ugggh. Folk Covers.
If you absolutely MUST have a British acoustic performance, you can have Ed Sheeran and Passenger mixing “No Diggity” with Macklemore’s Thrift Shop but zzzzzzzzzz. I don’t mind folk covers of R&B/hip hop songs but they are just so ubiquitous and when the singer has such a thick British accent it just feels pretentious.