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‘This Is How We Do It’: Montell Jordan’s R&B Classic

The album is full of songs that exude a relaxed, feel-good atmosphere.

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Cover: Courtesy of Rush Associated Labels

The title track to singer Montell Jordan’s 1995 debut album This Is How We Do It reigns as one of the decade’s most anthemic R&B moments. Settling somewhere between a sample and an interpolation of iconic golden era rapper Slick Rick’s cautionary “Children’s Story,” Jordan’s upbeat calling card captures a moment when the hip-hop and R&B worlds intertwined in a mutually appreciative way.

Montell Jordan - This Is How We Do It (Official Music Video)

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Singing in a honeyed and nimble lilt of a voice, Jordan lavishes the song’s bumptious production with an ode to a Friday night in his native South Central Los Angeles. “It feels so good in my ‘hood tonight/ The summertime skirts and the guys in Kani.” The song takes on extra resonance when you remember that this was a locale so often associated with internecine gang-related activity at the time. “All the gangbangers forgot about the drive-by/ You gotta get your groove on before you go get paid.” Nodding to the hip-hop heritage of the song’s sample source, Jordan breaks out into a brief rap at one point that’s based on the structure and tone of Slick Rick’s original narrative.

Listen to Montell Jordan’s This Is How We Do It now.

The runaway success of “This Is How We Do It” naturally casts a triumphant shadow over much of Jordan’s career. The track topped the Billboard charts and earned the singer a Grammy nomination. But there are plentiful other moments on Jordan’s debut that point to his knack for songs that exude a relaxed, feel-good atmosphere. The project’s second single, “Somethin’ 4 da Honeyz,” is a carefree slice of summertime bliss hooked around Jordan’s search for a romantic tryst. The song also highlights the singer incorporating cocksure hip-hop braggadocio into his lyrics. “While the beat is bumping/ From South Central to Compton, a little somethin’ somethin’,” trills Jordan, before casually comparing himself to soul music royalty: “Could very well be the next Aaron Neville/ Sounding like nobody ’cause I’m on another level.”

Montell Jordan - Somethin' 4 Da Honeyz

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Jordan shows a fondness for infusing similar MC-style personal brags into his lyrics across the album, but key moments on This Is How We Do It also gesture toward the broader influence of hip-hop on the R&B scene at the time. “Payback” takes the form of a relationship revenge plot that drafts in Coolio for an extended verse; “Introducing Shaunta” is effectively a showcase for the rapper Shaunta (who’d go on to sign with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment imprint); and deep album cut “Comin’ Home” resonates like a slice of bluesy G-funk with sinewey synth lines twisting around lonesome plucks of electric guitar. “No matter where I go/ I will always let you know/ That I’m singing this South Central LA style,” beams Jordan towards the track’s climax, conveying a hip-hop chest-out regional pride. It’s a testament to Jordan’s skill that nods like this never sounds anything less than natural.

Listen to Montell Jordan’s This Is How We Do It now.

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