“No Diggity” by Blackstreet
The title of this song (“No Diggity”) is a colloquial term which, most simply translated into plain English, means “no doubt”. And it was commonly used back in those days as an affirmation. And who the vocalists are directing this statement to, based on the chorus, would be some females whom they are admiring carnally as they dance.
But Dr. Dre, who leads off verse-wise, is pretty much dropping your standard braggadocious verse. That is to say that he personally doesn’t stick to the established topic.
Teddy Riley and Blackstreet
But Riley does with his solo passage that follows. And his lines reveal that the “playettes” Blackstreet are addressing would perhaps be someone like strippers. Or let’s say that said term describes an attractive woman who hustles and in the process generates a significant amount of income. And as intended, this song serves as an ode to such ladies, whom Riley and his homeys are strongly attracted to.
Thus the next verse, which is credited to the entire band, illustrates some of a playette’s attributes. She is knowledgeable of the street but at the same time possesses “class and style”.
And it is here where it is made more evident that Blackstreet are in fact singing about a lady that uses her outstanding physical attributes (i.e. “the phatness”), as in her sexuality, to generate income.
Meanwhile Queen Pen is portraying the role of a “playette”. Now back in those days, it wasn’t really chic for female rappers to present themselves as sex objects. So she focuses more on her cashflow and more so the fact that, by all indications, she and her clique are street smart, being fully immersed in the game.
What “No Diggity” is all about
So at the end of the day, we know that type of ladies that the main vocalists desire. That would be ‘playettes’, i.e. female playas, and they even apparently call out a few by name in the outro. And they are also encouraging those whom they are not personally familiar with to “play on”.
So in a way “No Diggity” is actually a female-empowerment song, even though that sentiment doesn’t particularly come through when listening to the track. And concerning the titular phrase, as used in the song it serves as a re-affirmation of the notion that the Blackstreet boys really like playettes, who can be said to be strippers or something of the sort, in a romantic kind of way.
Blackstreet and “No Diggity”
Blackstreet is a band that was founded by Teddy Riley and Chauncey Hannibal in 1993. Even though they’re still extant as into the 2020s, the 1990s served as their heyday. And “No Diggity” is undoubtedly their signature song.
For instance, it represents the only time that Blackstreet has been able to top the Billboard Hot 100 (in addition to three other Billboard lists). It also bested the UK Dance Chart and achieved platinum-status across the pond, overall representing itself on music charts in almost 20 different nations. And to note, “No Diggity” reappeared on the UK Singles Chart in 2013.
This song also holds a historical-chart significance as it was the last single to reach number 1 on the Cash Box Top 100, a former rival of the Billboard Hot 100. And that occurred on the date of 16 November 1996.
“No Diggity” is also one of those kinds of tracks that has ended up on quite a few ‘best songs’ lists. A couple of honorable mentions include VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the ‘90s” and the “Top 100 Pop Songs Since 1963”. The latter ranking was compiled by MTV and Rolling Stone in the year 2000.
This track also resulted in what will likely remain as the only Grammy Blackstreet has ever won. And that was in 1997 in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
The music video to this track is arguably just as memorable as the song itself, featuring a puppet version of Teddy Riley and all. And it is actually a product of Hype Williams, the top hip-hop music video director of that era.
There are a number of credited writers of this song. Foremost would be Teddy Riley, who originated it. In fact as he tells the story, “none of the guys” was feeling “No Diggity” at first. This includes his bandmates from another outfit called Guy and that group’s lead singer, Aaron Hall, whom he also offered the song to in a solo capacity. And this would apparently be why Riley, who is not traditionally a lead vocalist, recites the first verse himself.
His Blackstreet bandmate, Chauncey Hannibal (aka Black), is acknowledged as an author also. And it is in fact Hannibal who is still leading Blackstreet as of the writing of this post in mid-2021. (Riley opted not to re-participate after the group broke up in 2003 and then reunited in 2014.)
Then there is Dr. Dre, who on this track participated only in a vocal capacity. In fact being released on 9 September 1996, technically “No Diggity” was the first single Dre took part of after bouncing from Death Row Records during March of that same year.
His co-vocalist, Queen Pen, also gets writing credit.
Bill Withers (1938-2020) is also listed amongst this song’s composers. He’s actually a classic African-American vocalist. And he is acknowledged because No Diggity samples one of said classics, that being 1971’s Grandma’s Hands.
Then the last two writers on the list are Richard Vick and William “Skylz” Stewart. The latter, of which there appears to be virtually no information about online, also co-produced the track. And he did so in conjunction with Teddy Riley.
A couple of Dutch DJs called Lucas & Steve released a remix of this song in 2021, which featured re-recorded vocals by Blackstreet.
Who is Queen Pen?
Queen Pen is a rapper, being from Brooklyn actually, who popped up on the scene out of nowhere and vanished just as mysteriously. Or put differently, “No Diggity” is really the only notable song in her catalog, though she did have a milder hit in 1997 with a track entitled “All My Love”.
Queen Pen dropped a couple of albums, “My Melody” in 1997 and “Conversations with Queen” in 2001 and has since then become a novelist.