Crossover: 10 Songs White Folks Grabbed And Won’t Let Go

January 23, 2013  |  

I’m sure black musicians get into the game wishing and hoping for that crossover money. It’s one thing to have a hit in the black community, but when your songs go mainstream, that’s a wider audience and even more money. Whether these artists wrote these songs knowing they would go over well with all audiences, we can’t tell. What we do know though, is that after a while, this songs became just as, if not even more popular with white folk. Now you’re more likely to hear these songs at your company Christmas party than in the…more racially homogenous clubs some black people frequent.

No Diggity- Blackstreet

For a while I was surprised when I’d hear white people sing all the lyrics to this song, considering much of Blackstreet’s fan base was primarily black. But back in the ’90’s black groups had the pop radio stations on lock. And this song was in heavy rotation. It’s no wonder it became something of an anthem, a karaoke classic. The song is still popular with white folk, as I just recently heard it the the new movie, Pitch Perfect.

I Believe I Can Fly- R Kelly

This song was made epic by the film, Space Jam. A hit with the kiddies, Michael Jordan fans and cartoon heads alike, the song was exposed to people who’d probably never even heard of R. Kelly. But if there’s one thing we know about Kellz, it’s that he knows how to write an inspirational ballad. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find an American of any race, who doesn’t know “I Believe I Can Fly.”

September – Earth Wind and Fire

This one is for the older white folks, the ones over 40 who get down to this one at wedding receptions and family gatherings. It’s really not surprising that this song crossed over, because it’s a good one; but when you look at Earth Wind and Fire’s entire catalog, there are so many songs that are better than “September.” It was featured on several movie soundtracks, including Night At The Museum, Lost & Found and Get Over It. It was used in Subway’s anniversary commercial and Al Gore chose this song for his 2001 presidential campaign.

Celebration- Kool and The Gang

White folks have been riding with this one for years. I can’t tell you how they wore this song all the way out back in the days when we used to have birthday parties at Chuckie Cheese. It was in the 1983 Alvin and Chipmunks episode, used during the NBA playoffs in ’83 and appeared in the 1999 movie, Muppets from Space. And for whatever reason, people are not ready to let it go. You’ll still hear it at local sporting events and it was recently featured in the Disney’s latest film, Wreck It Ralph. Like, Earth Wind and Fire on the last slide, “Celebration” is a huge crossover hit but one of Kool and the Gang’s weaker songs.

Why Can’t We Be Friends- WAR

This song was a huge hit for WAR. When it was released in 1975, it shot up to number six on the charts.  It was so popular that NASA astronauts played it from space when they were interacting with the Soviet Union’s cosmonauts. It was revitalized when  it rolled during the ending credits of the 1998, box office hit, Lethal Weapon 4. Sadly, nothing else in WAR’s catalog sounds like this. Their lyrics are usually pretty deep and their instrumentation complex; but this song with its  simple melody and repetitive chorus is what WAR is best known for. It’s kind of sad, actually.

It Wasn’t Me- Shaggy

This song was everywhere back in 2001. So much so that it got kind of annoying after a while. Honestly, we almost didn’t get to hear it on the radio waves. Initially, the studio never planned to release it as a single. But it did and became Shaggy’s first number one single. His second was “Angel. The message was so strong, there was a phrase named the “Shaggy Defense” to describe the way a man denies his involvement in shady, seemingly incriminating situations.

I’ll Be Missing You- Puff Daddy & Faith Evans & 112

It’s interesting to me that the mainstream picked up on this song, considering folks never even really tried to figure out who killed Biggie. But that’s a story for another day. Either way, the song, with a sample from The Police’s, “Every Breath You Take,” went on to become one of the most popular singles of all time.

Gold Digger- Kanye West and Jamie Foxx

On the heels of his successful, future Academy Award winning portrayal of Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx teamed up with Kanye West once again for “Gold Digger.” It was number one in the U.S and became the fastest selling digital download of all time. (That record has since been broken.) For whatever reason, white folks loved this joint. I would randomly hear white folks saying things like “get down girl, go ‘head get down.” Just as long as they don’t say all the other words in the song, we’re good.

Yeah- Usher

You couldn’t tell Lil John nothing in the early 2000s. He was flaming hot. I can’t really imagine why white folks loved this one so much, but I’ve heard that white people love to say “yeah” in their best crunk voice. It had everything you needed for a good party. The R&B, the rap and even a cute little two-step that wasn’t too hard to master. Then it was featured in one of the best romantic comedies ever, Hitch.  A classic club joint. 

Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
I’m convinced that white people loved this one because it was one of the first times white folks got to hear how we think they sound. And I think it was also an opportunity for them to learn a thing or two about black beauty standards. I’m sure white folks had no idea black men loved the booty. And they were happy to take that lesson. Folks of every race and nationality can flawlessly recite every single word to this song. You’re still likely to hear it in a white or multiracial club to this day. And while you may try to fight it, before it ends you’ll find yourself singing along and popping your booty as well.

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  • zina

    And Mowtown Philly… they love playing that one at their clubs as well.

  • zina

    Go on a Spring Break vacation. .. A Cruise, Miami Beach or even the majority white nightclubs and you gonna hear the heck outta “The Thong Song” by Sisqo.

  • Matt

    So, because the songs were used in marketing/hollywood, it means white people grabbed them up and wouldn’t let go? There’s a difference, and I don’t see what race has to do with it. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to any of the songs listed outside of whatever commercial/movie they were used in. /shrug

  • tintin

    this list is stupid

  • An exciting song. It makes me feel very cool

  • Appalled Citizen

    Why does everything on your site have to be about race? I can sum up your whole website in one sentence: “Black people are amazing and awesome at everything they do while white people are weird/bad/trying to steal things from ‘us black folk.'”

    That’s your website, in a nutshell. You realize this, don’t you? Or do you not care that you cater to the lowest common denominator in society?

  • voiceofreason

    Renay, really? Does your daddy or mother run this site? Puffy, did what he does best! He took and sampled this song from the “Police”. Sting actually did him a favor by coming on stage to perform this song! I love me some Faith though! She is a stand up woman!

  • voiceofreason

    Isn’t a good thing that all people embrace our music? I am not sure what the writer is trying to convey with this article. Music is universal and it is supposed to bring all cultures and races together. I am black and I listen to rock, country, r&b, rap, etc. So only certain people can listen to certain music?

  • voiceofreason

    September is one of those songs that just screams “celebration”! I loved how they used it in “Our Family Wedding”. A movie that brought 2 cultures together!

  • haha.i still remember listen “Who Let The Dogs Out”

  • Alex Ess

    this is such bullshit. no one writes music for any specific race. sure some songs may be written about black culture but that doesn’t mean anyone else listening to them is “stealing them” god dammit this pisses me off. but the grammatical errors and claim that “Hitch” is one of the greatest comedic love movies convinces me this article is a farce and there is nothing here to be taken seriously.

    • voiceofreason

      I agree, music is for everyone! We want equality, but we always lable things “black or white” Let’s just be humans!

  • Kaneza

    i hear “poison” from BBD a lot too.

  • stewy

    Im going down down baby yo street in a range rover HOT ISH cmon how can yall miss country grammar by Nelly, black folks lost him for 10 years after that well probably forever white folks took that song and ran wit it.

  • iHeartMarijuana

    I feel like a lot of these songs were made by Black artists but not made with a Black audience in mind, but rather were just trying to appeal to anyone who was happy to listen. I think it’s wrong to assume that a Black artist is making music for Black people .. in general, if they are American, they are making music for Americans because they do want to sell records, right? Usually so. Especially some of the songs from the 70’s and 80’s you’ve got, when the markets were not so racially divided for certain genres of music. Like that WAR song, or September, or the R Kelly song. I think those songs were just meant for people in general. Baby Got Back, Hot in Here, these are songs that were generally meant for a Black audience but taken and cornified by White people. I think the premise for the list is legit, but the entries on the list are mostly incorrect.

  • JustSayin

    Personally I love, “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire just because my birthday is in it. “Do you remember… the 21st night of September?” Awe snap… doing my little sway now. 🙂

  • mike

    Yall missed Bust a Move by Young MC and Cupid Shuffle by Cupid. You would be shocked to see white folks trying to do the dance.

  • guest90

    MN, I’m tired of all these Ads! Thats why I barely come on here anymore, smh…. Anyway, I feel that “Hey Ya” by Andre 3000/outkast is missing from this list.

    • LOL!! I remember when he performed that on the VMAs one year, you could tell he was tired of it by then… he introduced himself and said “And for the millionth time, got dammit, Hey Ya!” Bahahahaha!!!!

    • realadulttalk

      2 words… Google Chrome

  • they love pony by ginuwine

  • Babydoll 70

    As far as I’ll Be Missing You is concerned, technically that is a “white” song. The music belongs to The Police and was borrowed by Puffy.

  • wow! i guess we all have a right to race bait, even if our people spent centuries fighting against it.

    • realadulttalk

      Or you have the right to lighten up and enjoy life. This article is not that deep–nor is there any reason for you to keep trying to make it that deep.

      • i also have a right to my opinion, just like you had a right to pass this comment on by. by the way, this was my original comment…the other was a response to another comment. something lots of people do on here.

        • realadulttalk

          And you still need to lighten the heck up–and I will continue to choose to tell you to remove the stick from your behind…I don’t care if it was your original comment or a response…I said what I said and I’m still saying it.

          • looks like you’re the one with the anger issues. you’re trying to be a “billy bad a**” on the internet because you don’t like a comment. really? you will be talking to yourself from here on out.

  • Candacey Doris

    You know that a guy i know in Russia sent me a video of people dancing to Baby Got Back? I swear everyone knows that song.

  • SexNdaCity

    Anything by FloRida

    • Kenedy

      Now…FloRida from the get go was making “white” techno type music…i’ve yet to hear a “hip hop” song by him

      • Tha Real Hamia

        What about “Boots Wif The Fur”? LOLOOOLOOOLL (I cracks up every time I think about that song!!) But anyhoo, I thought that was supposed to be an urban song until they got hold of it.

  • jus me

    Wat about “Hot in heer” by Nelly

    • Na Na

      Oh yea definitely this one!

  • I love music, and I’m not important who sing or ethnicity.If the song meaning I think music will delete all separated

  • Tha Real Hamia

    Not sure if this was ever for us but what about ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’? They wouldn’t let that isht DIE

  • Tha Real Hamia

    Not sure if this was ever for us but what about ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’? They wouldn’t let that isht DIE

    • NickiBaby

      OMG I was gonna say that one too. Ahh can’t stand that song

    • NickiBaby

      OMG I was gonna say that one too. Ahh can’t stand that song

  • Daria

    Why do you people care what white people like or do not like with our music ? It’s like you cannot do anything without their approval. So what ? who cares ? they liking or disliking a song has nothing to do with how good that song is. Geez.

    • Kay

      You’re the only one being too serious. I’m sure this was meant to be a humorous article

      • it wouldn’t be humorous if the shoe was on the other foot though. black people would be calling for white folks jobs if they made such a statement.

        • Kay

          I’m sure hundreds of years of opression have given us the right to crack a few white jokes

          • Zettai

            God, are you really using that tired excuse? Shame on you!

        • Kay

          I’m sure hundreds of years of opression have given us the right to crack a few white jokes

        • realadulttalk

          It really never happens in reverse. Or not that I’ve seen. I know it’s time to stop using certain words when white people start using them.

    • Kay

      You’re the only one being too serious. I’m sure this was meant to be a humorous article

    • Lola

      Daria, Darling, you’re fighting a losing battle.

      Many a night have I – and other Ladies – come to MN to voice our displeasure of their obsession, fixation, and endless need for “white approval”. All our words and pleas have fallen on deaf ears so we’ve given up. I strongly recommend you save your breath and effort for a worthy cause, for the situation at MN is hopeless. SMH at these MN writes.

  • clove8canela

    Why isn’t Single Ladies on this list? Single white women everywhere seem to always be throwing that left hand up, saying that some man needs to “put a ring on it.”

    • Me

      Thankfully. It’s truly one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.

      • I agree. I never even understood why people like that song so much. It wasn’t that the message of the song wasn’t good, but the song was just annoying to listen to.

  • cocodoll

    Madame noire also forgot to put “This is how we do it” by Montell Jordan white people love that song

    • Observing

      Hate that song! Hate his voice!

      Hate that guy!

    • That Jackson Hewitt tax commercial from last year gave that song a new life!! LOL!!

  • What?

    Sir Mix A Lot was better before ‘Baby Got Back’.