#RSFlashback: 25 Years Of ‘No Diggity’? No Doubt!
Blackstreet, Dr. Dre and Queen Pen’s Grammy-winning song has been immortalized and adapted by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Kygo, The Klaxons and more
Hard to believe that 25 years ago this week, R&B group Blackstreet hit number one with “No Diggity,” their first single off their second album, Another Level featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen (thankfully dethroning Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” from the top spot! A collective sigh of relief). Hailed today as one of the greatest songs of the Nineties and arguably of all time, the song continues to pop up on many all-time lists everywhere. And with good reason.
The song was originally intended for the band Guy as they prepped a reunion. But when lead singer Aaron Hall refused to do it, Teddy Riley, the co-writer and co-producer of the track decided to offer it to Blackstreet, his new band. While initially a tough sell, Riley championed the song and “No Diggity” emerged…well, sort of.
While the song is credited to Riley, the actual beat came from Dr. Dre. The hip-hop master producer had initially offered 2Pac the beat as the rapper was prepping his All Eyez On Me debut for label honcho Suge Knight at Death Row Records. But with growing beef and Dre wishing to leave the label, he ended up selling the beat to Teddy Riley. And with that, “No Diggity” actually came together.
The song was a massive hit, crossing over to pop radio seamlessly and becoming a global chart success. The song itself is classic new jack swing – a Nineties style Riley had already nearly perfected but with “No Diggity,” they perhaps created the perfect single. Lyrically, the song talks about movin’ on up, money and sex in tow. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen’s rhymes add further grit to the fire making for one of the best early rap/sung collaborations of the time. 25 years later, the song has truly gone on to define the modern hip-hop era.
The song was so big that immediately upon its release, 2Pac and Death Row Records released a diss track with a barrage of insults targeted at Dr. Dre. Blackstreet’s label Interscope Records were able to get a cease and desist for the track due to copyright infringement. But the rapper would update the production under his Makaveli alias and Death Row Records released “Toss It Up” featuring Guy vocalist Aaron Hall, just days after 2Pac’s death.
“No Diggity” was nominated for two Grammys, including R&B Song Of The Year and went on to win the band and the featured artists the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo/Group. While many songs become a signature hit of an era, “No Diggity” has managed to stay relevant and has continued to be reinvented over the past 25 years. It has been forever immortalized across film culture most memorably in Pitch Perfect with Anna Kendrick.
Beyond that, British Indie band The Klaxons did a live version for BBC Radio One that became so popular that the station had to release the song.
Ed Sheeran and Passenger memorably performed a mashup of “No Diggity” and “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Lewis which then became a sleeper tropical house hit for Norwegian DJ Kygo.
And most recently, Dutch DJ duo Lucas & Steve released a house version of “No Diggity” and actually got the former Blackstreet members to re-record their vocals for the updated mix.
All in all, “No Diggity” is no doubt one of the biggest singles of the past 25 years. It’s unlikely that its legacy won’t continue to be honored through different versions over the next 25!
PS: Just in case you were wondering, the song actually uses portions of the song “Grandma’s Hands.” So before we give all the credit to Blackstreet and Dr. Dre, let’s show some respect for the late great Bill Withers whose “Hmm-mmh’s” are such a memorable part of the hit.