Today hip-hop and R&B have become so intertwined, the genres are almost interchangeable thanks to artists like Drake and Lizzo. But that wasn’t always the case and for this entry in our #CultureClassics series we throw it back to the very first R&B song to feature bars from an MC, the iconic “I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan.
The song actually began it’s life as a record written and performed by the legendary creator for The Culture Prince and appeared on his 1979 self-titled album. But the most successful and well-known version is Chaka’s which dropped in 1984 and helped re-launch her career. Khan’s version featured a more upbeat club/hip-hop infused beat with harmonica playing by Stevie Wonder and the use of vocal samples from Wonder’s song “Fingertips”.
But The Culture changing aspect of the record was the rapping from Melle Mel (of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five). The combination of two of the most prominent voices from rhythm and blues and rap blew listeners away and made “I Feel For you” a certified hit. The song sold more than one million copies in the US and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 26 weeks and became one of Billboard‘s five biggest pop songs of the year. The single also reached No. 1 on both the US dance and R&B charts and remaining atop both for three weeks each.
The commercial success was followed by critical acclaim as it took home two Grammys, one for Best R&B Song (with Prince as its songwriter) and the other for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for Khan. There is no doubt it is a great song but it’s historical significance cannot and should not be overlooked or forgotten. And for being the first to marry the two most popular music genres in The Culture (and for being fire), “I Feel For You” by Chaka Khan is a certified #CultureClassic.
The now iconic calling card of the record, the repetition of Khan’s name by Melle Mel at the beginning of the song, was a mistake made by producer Arif Mardin, who then decided to keep it because it sounded so dope. The Pointer Sisters recorded the song in 1982 on their album So Excited! Rebbie Jackson (Michael Jackson’s big sister) recorded it for her 1984 debut album Centipede. And in 1993 even Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake performed a rendition of the song on The Mickey Mouse Club.
Check out more of our musical content:
- #MusicMondays – Lizzo
- Interview – Hip-Hop Weekly Editor-In-Chief Kim SoMajor
- #CultureClassics – “Daer Mama” by 2Pac
Written by @TalentedMrFord