Mariah Carey's seamless and groundbreaking blend of hip hop and pop is a reminder that you should bend the rules
March 27th is music icon Mariah Carey’s birthday. To celebrate, HG contributor Mika honors MC’s role in bringing hip hop features to pop music.
Looking back, I feel fortunate to have grown up in an era when music wasn’t at my fingertips via a phone or a laptop. I had to physically dig for an album, so once I found it, I felt the music on a spiritual level. As a child, one of my favorite activities was rummaging through my parents’ CD collections for hours until I stumbled upon music to call my own, and the first CD that I remember taking from them was by Mariah Carey. It was her 1998 compilation album, Number 1’s, featuring 13 of MC’s Billboard Top 100 hits. I listened, and felt as though I’d struck gold.
Mariah Carey’s Number 1’s album includes some of her critically acclaimed ballads like “Hero” and “When You Believe,” featuring Whitney Houston—but it also has some of her more upbeat hits such as the remix to her 1995 track, “Fantasy,” featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan.
When I heard two of my favorite genres—hip hop and pop—rolled into one, I felt seen.
This collaboration not only revealed MC’s range outside of her vocal ability—it showed me that I could enjoy the Spice Girls and Wu-Tang Clan simultaneously. The pairing of Mariah Carey’s five-octave vocal range with ODB’s gritty, melodic rapping style was no mistake. Rather, it was a match made in heaven. MC, who has been vocal about maintaining creative control over her music from the beginning of her career, fought for this remix after being laughed at by her label. Mariah Carey grew up in ’90s New York, aka the mecca of hip hop, and knew the track would be a hit. She was right.
For me, the best part of this collaboration was that it was authentic. It was not done to be “cool,” as Mariah stated in an interview with V Magazine. Mariah has said that, as a biracial kid, she never quite felt like she fit into any category. These feelings influenced her music and her fight to prove that two genres of music didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. It goes without saying that Mariah Carey helped bring rap to a pop audience.
Mariah Carey’s effortless fusion of hip hop and pop didn’t stop with this one iconic remix.
Throughout her career, Mariah Carey has teamed up with some of the most iconic rappers from every coast, including Bad Boy, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Cam’ron, Jermaine Dupri, and more, successfully using her apparent recipe for musical success. In true diva fashion, she’ll take the spotlight alone with no features on a song. Then, she’ll heat up the charts once again, but this time with a twist—spicing it up with a rap feature on the remix.
I’ve never dreamt of being a recording artist, but Mariah Carey’s need to combine her varying interests is something that I deeply connect with.
When I first began writing professionally, I thought I had to write about one topic, like beauty, and never step outside of it. Lately, I’ve started exploring more of my personal interests and fusing them together in my assignments. And I think Mariah would approve of my refusal to stay inside one box. I know that my interests in beauty, music, writing, and reporting can be merged together in an innovative way. There is no script I have to stick to. For someone like me who gets bored rather easily, this is golden.
Mariah Carey has paved the way for artists who comfortably blur the lines between genres.
Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga are just a few of the many pop artists that have followed in Mimi’s footsteps, bringing the two very distinct worlds of pop and hip hop together. Even as a child, I understood that musical artists had a signature sound to reel fans in, and Mariah was the first artist I heard who blended different kinds of music together seamlessly to make her own signature sound. The fact that she did it with the two kinds of music I loved so much as a child—laying the groundwork for everyone after her—is something I will be eternally grateful for.
If it wasn’t for Mariah Carey and her love of rap, who is to say what the state of pop and hip hop would be like? In honor of the elusive chanteuse’s birthday, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revel in some of Mariah Carey’s other chart-topping hip hop-fused hits, shall we?
1Honey (Bad Boy Remix) ft. Mase, The Lox
Only Mariah Carey can enlist some of the most thorough rappers of the ’90s and make them melt like honey all over this addictive track.
2Boy (I Need You) ft. Cam’ron
Mariah sought out Harlem rapper Cam’ron for this song, featuring a sample from his successful single “Oh Boy.” As expected, the Mariah track was a hit.
3Don’t Forget About Us (Remix feat. Juelz Santana & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony)
Mimi merged old school and new school hip hop for the remix of her #1 hit, “Don’t Forget About Us.” A true icon.
4A No No (Remix) ft. Stefflon Don
Mariah’s sings over an iconic rap sample, Lil Kim’s “Crush On You,” and brings along U.K. based raptress Stefflon Don for the ride. In 2019, she still reigns queen of hip hop features.