While the ’90s were dominated by male R&B groups like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Bell Biv DeVoe, and more, there was a little room for a solo male vocalist to squeeze his way into the charts. Hailing from South Central, Los Angeles, Montell Jordan held everyone’s attention with just one single that would forever, for better or worse, define his music career. After searching for a record deal, Montell quickly found a home in Def Jam. The label’s walls were lined with hip hop and rap acts like LL Cool J, Public Enemy, EPMD, Foxy Brown and Warren G, so it was only right to add the 6’8″ tall R&B crooner to the roster, making Jordan the first male vocalist on the label. Montell earned his keep with his debut album This Is How We Do It and made 1995 his musical playground. The title track and his debut single, topped the R&B charts before the album was even released.
This Is How We Do It was essentially a reflection of 1995: house parties, honeys and sex. Montell sang and rapped his way into just about everyone’s parties and bedrooms with his album equipped with a selection of party tracks and romantic ballads that served as the soundtrack for plenty of bad decisions. With the perfect production, Montell’s unique, yet not spectacular vocals, were paired with great instrumentals and clever hooks that would make the singer interesting enough and help This Is How We Do It top the R&B charts.
“This Is How We Do It” was the first time anyone heard of Montell and he made a big entrance with his Cali accent, infectious percussion and party anthem chorus. With nine songwriters assigned to the track (including Montell) and his smooth vocals, it’s no wonder the single made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Hot R&B Singles list. The single, which sampled Slick Rick‘s earlier Def Jam hit “Children’s Story,” was the label’s first R&B release. They were playing no games with their reputation, and it proved to be the perfect move for the label and for Jordan.
Following the success of “This Is How We Do It,” the first track on the album but the second to be released, “Somethin’ 4 Da Honeyz” was smoother than the party hit and catered to Montell’s growing female fan base. The remixed track featured labelmate Redman and added a little street to Montell’s somewhat clean R&B persona. Keeping his smooth groove going, “Payback,” which featured Coolio, was another track where Montell discussed his game and played up how hard he could be despite his smooth delivery. Montell turns the temperature up a notch, lighting candles and finessing his way into a woman’s bedroom again in “I’ll Do Anything.” With “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” Montell declared he wasn’t playing games in the sultry ballad, where he showcased his gospel-bred vocals. While Montell was a solo artist, he made use of powerful background vocalists for perfectly placed harmonies throughout his debut.
Mid-album, Montell took it back to the streets of LA with “Comin’ Home.” With an electric guitar sampled from B.B. King, the single invoked country and rock more than G-funk. He made up for it later by adding the signature West Coast sound to the track “Introducing Shaunta.” Featuring female emcee Shaunta, the rapper later became one of Dr. Dre‘s protégés after shining on Montell’s album. Montell then took it back to checking women on the track “It’s Over,” where he again sampled Slick Rick, this time using him and Doug E. Fresh‘s “La Di Da Di” as a bed for his chorus. Speaking of beds, in “I Wanna” Montell enlisted his harmonious posse to decorate the track about getting laid. “Down On My Knees” followed suit, as Montell described all of his skills to create another single for the ladies where he sweetly sang, “Tell me you like it.” You could tell Montell took a few pages out of R. Kelly‘s raunchy playbook, his lyrics promising women all kinds of entertainment behind closed doors. Towards the end of the album, Montell went back to his LA roots again in “Gotta Get My Roll On,” singing about his hood and his signature honeys. Things did end on a more romantic note again when he went back to pure R&B with his cover of Teddy Pendergrass‘ “Close The Door.” The last song, “Daddy’s Home,” was a nod to fathers and their sons, reminding listeners that Montell did have more feelings than just the ones in his pants.
This Is How We Do It made Montell a staple in ’90s R&B, and the title track a staple on any party playlist across the globe — to this day. “This Is How We Do It” is number 95 on VH1’s list of “100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s” and Montell received a GRAMMY nomination for the single in the Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance category. After his debut, Montell capitalized on his newfound fame and went on to release six more studio albums. While they never matched the success of his debut, he still earned a place among the best in R&B, even writing and producing for other artists like Christina Milian, 98 Degrees, Deborah Cox, Lil’ Mo and Sisqó. While he decided to go back to the church and dedicate his life to Jesus instead of music, Montell Jordan left his mark and sits tall with the rest of SoulBounce’s Class of 1995 because he showed us how to do it, and he did it well.