"Doo Wop (That Thing)"
Single by Lauryn Hill
from the album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
B-side
  • "Lost Ones"
  • "Forgive Them Father"
ReleasedAugust 10, 1998 (1998-08-10)[1]
Recorded1997–1998[2]
StudioChung King Studios, New York City; Marley Music, Inc., Kingston
Genre
Length
  • 5:20 (album version)
  • 4:02 (single edit)
Label
Songwriter(s)Lauryn Hill
Producer(s)Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill singles chronology
"Doo Wop (That Thing)"
(1998)
"Ex-Factor"
(1998)
Audio sample

"Doo Wop (That Thing)" is the debut solo single of American recording artist Lauryn Hill. The song is the lead single from her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was written and produced by Hill. The song was initially released as a radio-only single in the United States on August 10, 1998, and no commercial single was originally intended for the single;[1] however, limited-quantity physical formats were issued two months later, on October 27, making the song eligible to appear on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.[3]

"Doo Wop" is Hill's first and only US number-one hit, topping the Hot 100 for two weeks. The track became the first single by a female artist since Debbie Gibson's 1988 single "Foolish Beat", to reach number one in the US, that was written, produced and recorded by one sole woman;[4] it debuted at number one on the Hot 100, making it the tenth song in the chart's history to do so,[5] the first debut single to do so,[6] and the first solo hip hop song to do so.[7] It was the first song by a female rapper to peak at number one on the Hot 100,[8] and the only solo song by a female rapper to debut at number one.[9] The song stayed at number one for two weeks, making Hill the third female solo artist to do so with a song that debuted at number one, following Mariah Carey and Celine Dion,[10] while also setting the record for the longest-running number one by a solo female rapper, holding that record for almost 19 years.[11]

The song was named the best single of the year by Rolling Stone.[12] It won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 1999 Grammy Awards. According to Apple Music, It is one of the most streamed songs of the 1990s.[13] NPR named it one of the 300 most important songs of the 20th century.[14] The song's accompanying music video won four awards at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, including the top prize Video of the Year, becoming the first hip hop video to win the award,[15] and made Hill the first solo black artist to win.[16] At the Soul Train Music Awards the song was awarded the Michael Jackson Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video. In 2001, VH1 placed it on their list of the '100 Greatest Videos'.[17] In 2021, the song ranked number 49 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.[18]

Background

The hip hop and R&B song is a warning from Hill to African-American men and women caught in "the struggle". Both the women who "[try to] be a hard rock when they really are a gem", and the men who are "more concerned with his rims, and his Timbs, than women", are admonished by Hill, who warns them not to allow "that thing" to ruin their lives. The chorus seems to promote egalitarianism between the sexes, but the overall message of the lyrics has been described as conservative.[19]

In terms of production value, Hill borrows heavily from elements of soul music and doo-wop, lending credence to the song's title. One such example is the opening riff of late 1960s soul hit "Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)" by Edwin Starr which Hill uses certain distinct elements of, as can be heard in the opening of this song.

In its official album and single release, several of the song's lyrics are censored, though the original words can be found in the liners.[20] The only noted semi-official release of the uncensored version is in a 12" promo labelled as "(Album Version)" (different from the 5:21 version) at 4 minutes in length.[21][22]

Commercial performance

"Doo Wop (That Thing)" became the 10th single to debut at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, and the first by a female rap artist; it stayed there at number one two weeks in the November 1998. On Billboard's R&B Singles chart, it reached number two for three weeks in November 1998, being held out of the top spot by "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" by Deborah Cox. It also peaked at number one on the Hot Rap Songs chart, making her the first female artist to top both charts simultaneously.[23] The song experienced similar success abroad, reaching number one in Iceland, and peaking within the top ten in various other countries worldwide. In the United Kingdom the song peaked at number three, debuted at number one on the UK Hip Hop and R&B Chart,[24] and has been certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry.

Awards and recognition

At the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, "Doo Wop (That Thing)" won two awards: Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.[25] The success of "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album established Hill as a success outside of her group, The Fugees. In 1999, "Doo Wop (That Thing)" was ranked at number two on The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll, after Fatboy Slim's "The Rockafeller Skank". The song is included as number 359 on the Songs of the Century list.[26] The BBC ranked the song as the 21st greatest hip hop song of all time, being one of the two only songs by female artist to make the list.[27] NPR named it one of the most important songs of the 20th century.[14]

The song's music video won four 1999 MTV Video Music Awards for: Best Female Video, Best R&B Video, Best Art Direction, and Video of the Year. In 2001, VH1 ranked it number 71 on their list of the '100 Greatest Videos'.[17] PopSugar ranked it as the 15th most iconic music video of the 90s.[28]

Music video

The song's music video was Directed by Monty Whitebloom & Andy Delaney, Bigtv, and filmed in Manhattan's Washington Heights in New York City, with the video showing two Hills singing side by side at a block party. On the left side of the split screen, the 1967 Hill dressed in full retro-styled attire, complete with a beehive and a zebra-printed dress, she pays homage to classic R&B and doo wop, and on the right side of the screen, the 1998 Hill is shown in a homage to hip hop culture.[29] Slant Magazine's Paul Schrodt praised the "Doo Wop (That Thing)" music video, stating "The resulting split-screen music video is the most flabbergasting testament to what the neo soul movement is all about."[30]

Cover versions and samples

In 2012, R&B singer Teyana Taylor, released the mixtape, The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor, which was inspired by Hill and titled after her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; one of the tracks, "Lauryn's Interlude", features Taylor performing a shortened, a capella cover of the song.[31] Devendra Banhart has covered the song at multiple live performances, including at the 2006 music festivals, Bonnaroo and Pitchfork Music Festival.[32] Singer Amy Winehouse, covered the song as part of a mashup with her song, "He Can Only Hold Her", during live concerts in 2006-2008.[33] Rihanna also covered the song while touring on Kanye West's Glow in the Dark Tour, in 2008.[34]

In 2014, the Glee episode "The Back-up Plan", includes a cover version of the song performed by Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera).[35] The 2015 film, Pitch Perfect 2, included a cover of the song by singer Ester Dean, who performed the hook of the song in the 'Riff Off'.[36]

In 2014, musician Drake sampled the song on his single "Draft Day", the song was later included on his 2019 compilation album, Care Package.[37] In 2021, Kanye West sampled the song on the track "Believe What I Say", from his 10th studio album, Donda.[38]

Track listings

Charts

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[82] 2× Platinum 140,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[83] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[84] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States August 10, 1998 (1998-08-10) R&B radio [1]
August 24, 1998 (1998-08-24) Urban radio [85]
United Kingdom September 21, 1998 (1998-09-21)
  • CD
  • cassette
[86]
United States October 20, 1998 (1998-10-20) Contemporary hit radio [87]
October 27, 1998 (1998-10-27)
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • 12-inch vinyl
  • CD
  • maxi-CD
  • cassette
[3]

References

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