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Song Stories

“Ghetto Superstar (That Is What You Are)”

Pras Michel feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard and Mya | 1998

Pras' post-Fugees debut rode largely on the strength of its title cut, also included on the soundtrack to Warren Beatty's political satire Bulworth. Bolstered by a the addition of Ol' Dirty Bastard (who reportedly gate-crashed the session), the melody of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's "Islands in the Stream" with vocals by Mya and a video featuring Beatty and Halle Berry alongside the recording artists, the song went Top 20, though that didn't protect Pras from critical venom. Even co-producer Wyclef Jean weighed in, calling Pras an "eight-bar superstar." Jean added, "I told Pras, "I don't think it's smart for you to do a second [album] right now," and a notorious feud was officially begun.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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