Classic album releases, a crazy concert revival and the loss of one of the world’s pre-eminent hip-hop savvy torch singers defines our day in history.
July 23, 1980: Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child Is Born
Born in Rockford, Ill., Tenitra Michelle Williams is a best-selling gospel artist and Broadway actress and singer, but she’s best known as one-third of Destiny’s Child, who joined the group in 2000 after LeToya Luckett and LaTa Roberson departed.
Struggling with depression since she was young, Michelle revealed to the cast of The Talk in October that she has felt suicidal and wanted out of the group when Destiny’s Child was on top.x`
“I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time, suffering with depression,” she told the hosts. “When I disclosed it to our manager [Mathew Knowles] at the time, bless his heart, he was like, ‘You all just signed a multi-million dollar deal. You’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?'”
Michelle publicly shared that she recently checked into a treatment facility to seek help for depression, and that it was very helpful for her well-being. Her honesty about mental health will definitely help others.
"I feel the [love]!” she wrote on her Instagram story. “I just wanted to let you guys know I'm better.” She described it as “Progress not Perfection!”
July 23, 1989: Babyface Releases Tender Love
Three years after his debut album Lovers dropped, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds avoided the sophomore slump with Tender Love, a No. 1 R&B album that hit the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 and racked up three Grammy nominations. The album also introduced urban slang into the mainstream pop world the sultry top 10 hit “Whip Appeal,” which he called “a key song for my artist career” in 2015, when the Songwriters Hall of Famer brought back the feeling with Return of the Tender Lover.
July 23, 1991: Main Source Releases Breaking Atoms
Canadian DJs/producers Sir Scratch and K-Cut and American producer and MC Large Professor came together as Main Source, which released two studio albums, beginning with Breaking Atoms, now considered one of the major breakthrough albums built on soul and jazz samples. The album took about a year to produce.
“It was just a lot of sporadic layering going on,” Large Professor told Rap Is Outta Control on SiriusXM in 2012 of the album’s production technique. “Just mad, sporadic spontaneity — just mad, like, ‘Yo this, right there, throw this in there. Session is over, nah, just throw that in there’. . . sparks would come out of nowhere!”
July 23, 1991: DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince Release Homebase
The fourth album from Jeff Townes and Will Smith unleashed the classic seasonal anthem “Summertime” (which was also a Top 20 hit) and the Anita Ward-sampling “Ring My Bell,” solidifying their image as — well, not exactly gangster.
“It was always difficult to hear people say I was soft and my music was cotton candy,” he recently told the Rap Radar podcast.. “I always wanted to fight to prove myself. Fighting yourself to maintain positivity is the hardest fight you’re ever going to have … that struggle to stay my course, be the person in the world that I wanted to be no matter what people said.”
July 23, 1991: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch Release Music for the People
The first of two hip-hop albums by actor Mark Wahlberg in his Marky Mark guise was certified platinum largely on the back of the relentless No. 1 hit “Good Vibrations,” featuring the vocals of disco diva Loleatta Holloway.
With many years of serious acting under his belt, he can now make fun of that era.
“They give Justin Bieber a hard time,” Wahlberg said on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in 2014. “I was an absolute train wreck. Wow.”
July 23, 1993: Poetic Justice Is Released in Theaters
After the triumph of his 1991 film Boyz N the Hood, which nabbed him an Oscar nomination for Best Director, John Singleton wrote, directed and produced Poetic Justice, which opened at No. 1 in the box office and gave us the improbable onscreen meeting of Janet Jackson as hairstylist Justice and Tupac Shakur as postal worker Lucky.
Tupac later stoked rumors that Janet wanted him to take an HIV test before kissing her onscreen.
“I did not disagree if we were really going to make love,” he told MTV that year. “But if I’m gonna do a love scene with her just like somebody else did and they didn’t take a test, I’m not taking a test.”
But Singleton shot that whole rumor down just last year.
“No, that was not serious,” he said on the Drink Champs podcast in 2017. “That was a joke that we used to have on set, because the real talk is Tupac was attracted to Janet, I was attracted to Janet. We’re on the set, we’re both trying to flirt with her and then I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should have him kissing on my actress when you’ve been fucking around, because you know 'Pac was just coming and going then.’ Then, I was like, 'Better yet, you gonna have to do an AIDS test before y’all do this love scene.' [But] it was a joke.”
July 23, 1999: Woodstock ‘99 Kicks Off
After a July 22 pre-show with acts like 3rd Bass and G. Love and Special Sauce, Woodstock ‘99 officially kicked off on July 23 in Rome, N.Y., with performances by the Roots, Insane Clown Posse, George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars, James Brown, Moby and DMX, to name a few. Unfortunately, the 30th anniversary of the classic peace and love Woodstock of ‘69 had many moments of darkness. By the time it was over on that Sunday, there would be fires and several reported incidents of rape and violence amongst concertgoers.
July 23, 2002: Public Enemy Releases Revolverlution
Public Enemy’s eighth album Revolverlution features live performance recordings of anthems like “Fight the Power” and “Public Enemy #1” interspersed with beats found on the Internet. Unknown producers competed for the chance to make beats for one of the most famous voices in hip-hop.
“For the Revolverlution project, we put up four acapellas on slamjamz.com last August,” PE frontman Chuck D said in an interview with KPFA. “They were downloaded 11,000 times. 462 mixes came back. Our virtual staff of 50 people on slamjamz had to go and diagnose 462 mixes to come up with four winners and that was how history was made.”
July 23, 2002: Cee-Lo Drops Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections
The debut album from Cee-Lo, the singer and rapper who came up as part of Atlanta’s Goodie Mob and the Dungeon Family crew, features cameos from GM’s Big Gipp (with Dungeon Family rapper Backbone) and Blues Traveler’s John Popper and made waves with the songs “Closet Freak” and “Gettin’ Grown,” the latter receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. The album pushed him further into the exploratory space where electronic music, gospel, rap, funk and soul collide, which he has carried on to this day.
Goodie Mob later released One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show in 2004 to defiantly show that they could move on without him.
July 23, 2002: Mack 10 Releases Mack 10 Presents Da Hood
Dedrick D'Mon Rolison (aka Mack 10) is best known as having been one-third of the rap power trio Westside Connection with Ice Cube and WC and for procreating with TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins. A lesser-known collaboration is with this album as part of Da Hood, with rappers Deviossi, Skoop Delania, K-Mac, Cousteau and Techniec. The collection hit an impressive No. 2 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.
July 23, 2002: Lil Wayne Drops 500 Degreez
Cash Money had a big hit in 1998 with rapper Juvenile’s album 400 Degreez and when label head Baby wanted to put out something hotter four years later, 19-year-old Lil Wayne’s third album 500 Degreez was the prescription. But some received the title and move as shady, and not a boon to his career.
“With most child stars, they go through those growing pains. And he definitely went through that whole thing,” New Orleans radio personality Wild Wayne told Fader in 2017. “When Juvenile left, and Baby put [Lil Wayne] up to doing that 500 Degreez album, it just about killed his career. Juvenile was a god at that time. For Wayne to go at Juvenile — that turned off a lot of the base around the country, but it turned off a lot of New Orleans people, too. He said in an interview I did with him a few years ago that he still had love for Juvenile during that time, and I think it was something that he got pushed into doing. Really, it was more for the label than it was for Wayne, because they wanted to make sure that the world knew that they could still stand on their own without Juvenile. But it backfired, and Wayne didn’t get his legs back under him until the Sqad Up mixtape series started to catch on. Sqad Up was on the front end of the mixtape craze. It didn’t get radio play, but people in New Orleans knew every word to every one of those records.”
July 23, 2009: Whitney Houston Releases “I Look to You”
The single from Whitney Houston’s final album of the same name was written by R. Kelly (who sang it at her 2012 homegoing) and produced by Tricky Stewart, Emanuel Kiriakou and Harvey Mason, Jr. The “You” in the title refers to God, who is praised throughout the lyrics: “After all my strength is gone / In you I can be strong / I look to you.”
“R. Kelly, with his genius, wrote the song for me many years ago,” she said in an interview for the album’s release a month later. “He wanted me to do it many years and it never got to me. Clive [Davis] held it for a long time. When I heard the lyrics, spiritually it connected with me very much. I also didn’t know that R. Kelly wanted to work with me for a very long time.”
July 23, 2011: Amy Winehouse Dies
27-year-old English singer Amy Winehouse, a worldwide darling for the tortured old soul she infused into her songs, died in her London home, with two empty vodka bottles found beside her bed. Two inquests into her death determined that she died of alcohol toxicity, and her doctor believes it was accidental.
“She specifically said she did not want to die,” her general practitioner Dr. Christina Romete, who saw Winehouse the night before she died, said in a written statement to the court.
In 2013, her older brother Alex Winehouse ventured that Amy’s bulimia was as much to blame as the alcohol.
"I think that it left her weaker and more susceptible,” he told The Guardian. “Had she not had an eating disorder, she would have been physically stronger."