If you’re a fan of late ’90s/early 2000s hip-hop and R&B – and if you’re reading this site, I know you are – it’s a safe bet to say you’re a fan of So So Def Recordings.
Jermaine Dupri’s Atlanta record label was home to some of the biggest stars of the era and cranked out some of the game’s most memorable albums and remixes. While many ’90s record labels are still revered today – Bad Boy, Cash Money, Roc-a-Fella, No Limit, and the like – So So Def rarely gets the accolades its deserves.
Today we’re changing that.
Let’s look back at the 20 biggest songs to fall under the So So Def label’s umbrella, both singles and JD’s incomparable remixes. These songs – ranked by quality, sales, impact and legacy – span So So Def’s birth in 1993 to the mid ’00s.
(Sorry, Kris Kross fans: Although “Jump” would have been a lock for the top 5, that song was produced by JD in 1992, a year before the official So So Def label was founded, so it’s not eligible here.)
20. Xscape, “Do You Want To” (1996)
Get ready to see a LOT of Xscape on this list. Xscape were the brightest jewels in Jermaine Dupri’s crown and this sultry single added to that legacy.
19. Bow Wow featuring Xscape “Bounce With Me” (2000)
Yeah, I know, it’s Bow Wow. He sucks. But even my ever-present Shad Shade can’t overlook the fact that Bow Wow’s debut single was a huge hit, a star-making vehicle, and, yes, infectiously catchy.
18. Xscape, “My Little Secret” (1998)
Leave it to Xscape to make a song about infidelity sound so enticing. Actual lyrics: “I like being in the same room as you and your girlfriend/The fact that she don’t know, that really turns me on.” It’s sleazy, but sounds oh so sweet.
17. YoungBloodZ featuring Lil Jon, “Damn!” (2003)
The Southern crunk phase certainly wasn’t my favorite era of hip-hop, but its success is undeniable. YoungBloodZ and Lil Jon were the perfect Drankin’ Patnaz, and that chemistry created a frenzied single that has been tearing up clubs for a decade.
16. Bone Crusher, “Never Scared” (2003)
In 2003, Bone Crusher came out of nowhere, bursting on the scene like a force of nature, only to quickly and quietly fade away. His was basically the Godzilla of the game – loud, threatening and inescapable. At least he left us with this banger.
15. Xscape, “Who Can I Run To” (1995)
Cover songs tend to be a dicey ordeal – topping the original track can be next to impossible. But Xscape’s take on the Jones Sisters’ 1979 was masterfully done. Xscape not only lived up to the original, they made it their own.
14. INOJ, “Love You Down” (1997)
Back in ’97, I just knew INOJ would be R&B’s next great voice. She never quite became a breakout star, but her upbeat version of Ready for the World’s “Let Me Love You Down” has stood the test of time.
13. Jermaine Dupri featuring Ludacris, “Welcome to Atlanta” (2002)
Leave it to JD and Luda to create the ultimate Dirty South anthem. North or south, east or west – no matter where you dwelled in 2002 this one was inescapable.
12. Jagged Edge featuring Nelly, “Where The Party At” (2001)
JE was always a force on the R&B charts, but this single pushed them all the way to the mainstream. The master balladeers quickly became the life of the party and this track became a staple of feel-good R&B.
11. Mariah Carey featuring Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz, “My All/Stay Awhile (So So Def Remix)” (1997)
I know that Puff Daddy is regarded as the ’90s remix king but he needs to scoot over and let JD share that throne. Dupri turned Mariah’s Latin-themed ballad into a sweaty hip-hop banger. The original is great, but this is next level.
10. The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Faith Evans, “Big Poppa (So So Def Remix)” (1995)
This is probably the most obscure song on the list but trust me, it’s a worthy addition. In a brilliant move, JD added Faith’s heavenly vocals to accent Big’s new closing verse. It’s every bit as good as its predecessor. This one may be overlooked but it’s never forgotten.
9. Jagged Edge, “Promise” (2000)
Tender ballads were always JE’s forte, and “Promise” is at the top of that heap. It’s the kind of heartfelt R&B that is sorely missed on today’s airwaves.
8. Jay Z featuring Jermaine Dupri, “Money Ain’t a Thang” (1998)
Late-90s Jay Z could do no wrong, and this ode to excess was no different. This one landed Jay and JD a Grammy nomination, a foothold for Jay’s eventual mainstream dominance, and yet another notch on JD’s hitmaking belt.
7. Mariah Carey featuring Da Brat and Xscape, “Always Be My Baby (Mr. Dupri Mix)” (1996)
Another Mariah remix, another JD hit. The So So Def interpretation of Mariah’s ’96 smash single swapped the pop vibe for a more sultry R&B groove. Da Brat’s gritty bars perfectly complemented the smoothed-out atmosphere.
6. Anthony Hamilton, “Charlene” (2003)
Of all the latter-day So So Def hits, “Charlene” stands tallest. Anthony Hamilton’s signature track is the epitome of sorrow, but that pain is so relatable. It’s Hamilton’s finest work, and one of So So Def’s best entries in the realm of R&B.
5. Da Brat, “Funkdafied” (1994)
In 1994, Da Brat became the first solo female artist to go platinum. It’s all thanks to this song, an audacious debut that has become one of the most recognizable songs of the 1990s.
4. Jagged Edge featuring Rev. Run, “Let’s Get Married Remix” (2000)
If you’ve been to a wedding this century, chances are pretty good that you heard this blaring from the dance floor. Adding Rev. Run was a stroke of genius – he is the perfect dash of nostalgia that makes this track appealing to all ages. Grandmas are gonna get turnt to this track for years to come.
3. Xscape, “Just Kickin’ It” (1993)
This list has essentially been an Xscape’s Greatest Hits playlist, so the roundup wouldn’t be complete without their greatest claim to fame. “Just Kickin’ It” was the perfect mesh of soul and hip-hop, all while oozing 90s attitude.
2. Dru Hill featuring Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri, “In My Bed (So So Def Remix)” (1997)
Dru Hill’s “In My Bed” was already a smash before JD got his hands on it. But once again, he proved he can make great tracks even better. His high-octane remix extended the life of Dru’s single and proved they had no problem conquering dance floors.
1. Ghost Town DJs, “My Boo” (1996)
Nope, it’s not Da Brat, it’s not Xscape or Jagged Edge, or any of JD’s stalwart artists who get top billing here. Instead, it’s a random Miami bass group that has produced the greatest song to bear the So So Def emblem. “My Boo” has become a cultural phenomenon – just look at its resurgence during those goofy running man challenges online, two decades after this song became a party staple. “My Boo” has been going strong for 20 years and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. Thank you, JD.
Which songs did I miss? Let us know below.