“What U Waitin’ 4” (Warner Bros. Records)
Billboard chart position: Hot Rap Singles (#19)
“Doin’ Our Own Dang (Do It to the JB’s Mix) (Warner Bros. Records)
The Jungle Brothers may be the most underrated act of their era. Afrika Baby Bam, Mike G and Sammy B helped form Native Tongues, were the first ones from that crew to score a record deal, and helped spark the hip-house fad with “I’ll House You,” their remake of Royal House’s “Can You Party?” But by 1990, they were largely ignored by hardcore rap fans, leading them to nurture more appreciative audiences in Europe.
That’s how a glossy house remix of “Doin’ Our Own Dang,” a key track from their 1989 album Done by the Forces of Nature, managed to peak at number 33 on the British singles chart — a feat that must have seemed unimaginable in their own country. Crafted by Ultimatum (who later found global pop fame as the Stereo MCs), the “Do It to the JB’s Mix” sounds impossibly bright and bittersweet. It has a verse from Baby Bam shouting out the UK soul vanguard like Loose Ends and Soul II Soul, a clear bid for clubbers’ favor. It also features the last appearance together of the original Native Tongues: by the following year, the collective splintered over ego and industry conflicts.
Meanwhile, another Nature single, “What ‘U’ Waitin’ 4,” bumps with a funky bottom. It also proved to be a smash in Britain, peaking at number 35. As Baby Bam and Mike G weave a story of a hot club night that builds to a fever pitch, the beat splits the difference between acid house and P-funk. It’s as if they’re asking us, America, what you waiting for?
Read more: The 100 Best Rap Singles of 1990