In the summer of 1992, there was a major soundtrack album to a popular urban comedy that was dominating the charts and the airwaves.
That was the Boomerang Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
But there was another soundtrack that was really, really good, too. And that soundtrack was the soundtrack for the Damon Wayans action-comedy Mo' Money. A vehicle for Wayans when he was at the start of his never-fully-realized "next Eddie Murphy" early 90s peak, the movie also featured a then-fairly unknown Stacey Dash and Damon's younger brother Marlon in his very first film role. But the movie, a mixed bag of action, romance and In Living Color-style comedic setpieces, isn't as memorable as Boomerang, Murphy's classic rom-com that was released three weeks earlier in mid-summer 1992.
The soundtrack was a different matter. Executive produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it features the pair's songwriting/studio talents as paired with some of the top hip-hop and R&B stars of the time; including Johnny Gill, MC Lyte, Mint Condition, Big Daddy Kane and Caron Wheeler.
Released on July 24, 1992, the Mo' Money soundtrack would go on to sell over a million copies. Over time, it would become overshadowed by some of the 1990s other major soundtracks, but this classic compilation warrants some revisiting. So here's a quick look at an underrated gem from the discography of Jam & Lewis.
"Mo' Money Groove" Mo' Money All-Stars: Damon Wayans, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, Krush, and Lo-Key?
Featuring some of the cast and a whole lot of musicians from the soundtrack, this lackluster track is the album opener, but with its by-the-numbers groove and no discernible melody or lyrical focus, it's inevitably the weakest song here. Sounds like everybody was having fun in the studio, though.
"The Best Things In Life Are Free" Janet Jackson & Luther Vandross
This catchy duet was a huge hit and a great showcase for both Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross. It hit the Top 25 in the early summer of 1992. With contributions from Ronnie DeVoe and Mike Bivins of Bell Biv DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant, it was one of Vandross' few major forays into new jack swing.
"Ice Cream Dream" MC Lyte
After making her name as a brash, young battle rapper in the late 1980s, a more mature Lyte had emerged in the 1990s--and she wasn't afraid to embrace R&B. One of her most underrated cuts was this ode to something sticky and sweet (hint: it ain't Baskin Robbins) produced by Jam & Lewis.
"Let's Just Run Away" Johnny Gill
Johnny Gill was putting in soundtrack work throughout 1991 and 1992, having appeared on soundtracks for popular films like New Jack City and Boomerang. One of his more slept on soundtrack cuts was this stellar ballad--another winner from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
"I Adore You"Caron Wheeler
Wheeler had broken big in the U.S. with Soul II Soul in the late 80s and netted a solo No. 1 dance hit with 1990s "Living In the Light." Also included on her sophomore album, Wheeler scored a significant R&B hit in 1992 with this steamy ballad penned by Jam & Lewis.
"Get Off My Back" Public Enemy
A standalone showcase for Flavor Flav, P.E.'s infamous hypeman got to be his typical zany self, shouting non sequiturs that vaguely reference drug abuse over a grooving, guitary heavy production. With production courtesy of the Bomb Squad, its one of the few tracks on this release that wasn't produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
"Forever Love" Color Me Badd
Depending on your taste, Color Me Badd could mostly be a trivia question or a punchline in your pop culture memory. But the early 90s boy band had a handful of memorable songs, one of which was this syrupy ballad that hit No. 15 on Billboard in '92.
"Money Can't Buy You Love" Ralph Tresvant
New Edition's lead singer delivered one of the best songs on the soundtrack–a supremely catchy midtempo track from Jam & Lewis. The song would be a No. 2 R&B hit for Tresvant--his last significant charting single as a solo artist to date.
"Let's Get Together (So Groovy Now)"Krush
The British dance outfit proved to a potent mix with Jam and Lewis' signature grooves on this underrated single. A slice of 90s club magic, this was another dance monster that sounds like its era in all of the best ways possible.
"Joy" Sounds of Blackness
One of the 1990s most underappreciated acts, Sounds of Blackness enjoyed some stellar work from Jam & Lewis--including this uptempo track that warranted a better showing as a dance single.
"The New Style" Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
A great club track that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Madonna album from the same period, it's another moment that shows Jam & Lewis could produce house-influenced dance tracks with the best of the era.
"A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work" Big Daddy Kane
Kane always embraced new jack swing--with varying degrees of success. One of his last forays into the genre was this Jam & Lewis-produced dedication to an employment-free lifestyle. Backing vocals are provided by new jack swing band Lo-Key?
Mint Condition were new jack swing's young torchbearers for the Minneapolis Sound in the early1990s and Jam & Lewis' proteges delivered one of the best ballads of their storied career with this quiet storm classic.
"A Brother Will" Harlem Yacht Club
A funk rock rave-up that deserved more attention than it got in 1992, this aggressive track featured Jam and Lewis along with former Time guitarist Garry Johnson and Stokley Williams of Mint Condition on drums as rock outfit Harlem Yacht Club.