In Praise of The Superfriends: An Introduction | Shay B.


Every angle of my squareness was formed in reaction to my boisterous (ten years, one month and seven days) older sister. I met her booming voice with a quiet nature. Her painted-on Tommy Girl jeans with my flowing maxi dresses. Her uninhibited Notorious B.I.G. with my saccharine Hanson.

I didn’t quite understand her teenage hijinks, sometimes innocuous and sometimes life altering.  I didn’t get her. That is, until around 1997, when an eerie bass heavy tune prompted both of our heads to bop in harmony. We finally agreed on something, Timbaland and Magoo’s “Up Jumps Da Boogie” was special.  We were instant fans.

We waited for and watched the video featuring Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, and Genuwine, together. We pinned Word Up posters with the artists embodying every bit of 90’s cool to our bedroom walls.  We soon learned most of this crew, like us, hailed from Virginia, our Virginia, Tidewater Virginia, the 757.  Tidewater Virginia isn’t a cultural hub. We are military bases, strip malls, historical landmarks, and shipyards. When I speak of Virginia, my points of pride are one of two things, the uninterrupted night sky and those who hail from the state.  Timbaland, Missy, and Magoo fit that bill.

In deference to “The Superfriends” who turned a sister, reluctant chauffer, babysitter and overall barrier to fun into my friend, here’s an introduction to and list of notable tracks produced by the clique at the end of the millennium and in the early aughts.

A fan of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 experience? Body rolled to Nelly Furtado’s sultry 2005 comeback?  Sung along to the guilty pleasure that is Empire? This guy is responsible.  These production tracks hardly scratch the surface.

Total -“What About Us”
Nicole Wray- “Make it Hot”
Nas- “You Owe Me”

Missy Elliot
Afrofuturist Visionary
She graced the stage at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, but eons before that she proved herself to be the queen of the music video.

“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
“Work it”
“Hit Em Wit Da Hee”

The Partner
With a distinct, bouncy approach, the lyricist possessed the perfect vocal to Timbaland’s bursting tracks.

“We At It Again”
“Indian Flute”
“Luv 2 Luv Ya”

The Multi-Hyphenate Angel
She was a pioneer in the youthful R&B movement, elusive, soulful, an awe-inspiring dancer and budding actress. She left us with a blueprint for modern R&B in the Aaliyah album, that would go on to influence the careers of artists like Drake and Beyonce’.

“Hot Like Fire”
“Are You That Somebody”
“Don’t Know What to Tell Ya”

The Crooner
Donna Meagle’s cousin, easy on the eyes and a standout in a crop of hugely talented male R&B singers during this era.

“Same Ol’ G”
“None of Ur Friends Business”

“The Superfriends’ was never a formal group, but more of a collective of young artists from Virginia, Michigan, and Maryland, whose musical collaborations and friendships bled together to create something dope.  From 1997 to 2001, “The Superfriends” gushed about each other in interviews, made music, and starred in the illest videos together.

Aaliyah passed away in 2001, and took with her much of the soul of the group. The collaborations slowed down and the music came intermittently, the bright spot being Missy Elliot’ efforts, Under Construction (2002) and This Is Not a Test! (2003). With the exception of Magoo, everyone’s still making music.  There’s a history about these kids who infiltrated our Walkmans nearly 20 years ago, that has yet to be given an in-depth exploration.

Still, thanks to “The Superfriends,” rides home from school weren’t as tense. The bass of the tracks substituted the quiet in my sisters 94’ Nissan Maxima. Their music flooded our conversations, and the discovery that this crew hailed from our area made us beam and gave way to a bond that exists today. “The Superfriends” turned a sister into my friend.

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