I was paying so little attention to mainstream pop/R&B when this song came out, I barely noticed it. It allegedly hit #1 in April of 1994, though I would have set its peak a bit later than that? So this is kind of a poser pick. I barely noticed it in its time. I was paying so little attention that in my mind Montell Jordan and R Kelly were the same person for a long time. My sincerest apologies, Mr. Jordan.
It was a few years ago when my home treadmill was broken and I had to use the gym in my apartment building. At this time I was mostly watching TV while exercising, which was really a non-option in the semi-public gym. As such, I needed an alternative stimulus to occupy my brain. A friend (I believe it was Natalie or Sarah, I don't remember) posted a Spotify playlist of mid-nineties exercise jams and I had a REALLY GREAT TIME working out to "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and "This Is How We Do It," among other solid bangers. I realized then that ignoring "This Is How We Do It" all these years was a grave error. Note: after thinking about it, it must have been Sarah who posted the playlist, since Natalie is notoriously a Pandora hold-out.
I realize this song is so good because it's basically "Children's Story" by Slick Rick. I know that. For those that feel at-best conflicted about corporate hip hop and R&B leaning so heavily on samples, this situation presents a particularly difficult pill to swallow. I don't know enough about the technical aspects of the practice, but to my untrained ear, its use sounds exactly like it did on "Children's Story," which samples a song called "Nautilus" by a jazz artist named Bob James, a song I did not listen to until today. And to be honest, I'm not sure "Nautilus" is even relevant in this discussion because it's not obviously similar to either song. In fact, the Wikipedia entry about "This Is How We Do It" indicates "Children's Story" was sampled, not "Nautilus." Is that ok? To sample a sample? I don't feel qualified to present an opinion. I also love "Children's Story." Ask me again next year if I like "Children's Story" better than "This Is How We Do It" and I'll give you a different answer. Anyway Slick Rick and Montell Jordan are pals, so I guess I defer to Slick Rick's being ok with this.
"This Is How We Do It's" spiritual cousin is "Return of the Mack" by Mark Morrison, a song I really don't care for, but one that Pete for some reason finds really great. When we have our video nights on Fridays these two songs must be played back-to-back. I will punch up this one and Pete responds with "Return" and vice versa.
Also notable, I can't find any evidence to cite here, but according to Pete, this song was Beck's favorite single of 1994.
It's interesting to me that this song is about South Central Los Angeles (where Montell Jordan grew up) but it's about the party scene, not about violence and social problems. I want to say that this was pop culture moving on from Gangsta rap but I have no proof to back that up. I do know that he was the second-ever R&B artist to be signed to Def Jam, which seems relevant to this discussion. I also want to mention that he went to Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. I mention this because students from my private high school in Hawaii were frequently recruited from private colleges in California, Pepperdine being one of the swanker and more expensive among them. Without judgement: it struck me, reading this. He graduated in 1989, which means he was in his late 20s when he became a superstar. What an unusual path he took. Also, Montell Jordan seems to be doing well now. He's a pastor at some big church in in Georgia. I think he's happy. I wish him well.