The Meaning Behind Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” with Dr. Dre

After Chauncey “Black” Hannibal and Teddy “Street” Riley formed Blackstreet in the early 1990s, also including Levi Little and Dave Hollister, the R&B group’s debut self-titled album helped them blaze a path to becoming a household name. Including hit singles like “Booti Call,” “Before I Let You Go,” “Tonight’s the Night,” and “Joy,” all of which landed on the Billboard Hot 100, Blackstreet was primed for a sensational follow-up LP in 1996, which would go on to be titled Another Level.

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But, a little over a month before Another Level hit the streets in September, its lead single “No Diggity” in late July would send Blackstreet to another stratosphere of R&B acclaim, thanks to the help of hip-hop icons like Dr. Dre and LL Cool J.

With its addicting, now-iconic, I like the way you work it / No diggity, I got to bag it up, chorus, “No Diggity” was able to reach a peak at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Blackstreet’s first top 5 finish on the chart up to that point. What many don’t know, though, is how the song came to fruition, how the phrase “no diggity” came to be, and where the song’s sample comes from.

During a 2012 interview with Vibe, Riley touched on this, speaking about how he and the co-producer of “No Diggity,” William “Skylz” Stewart, interpolated the sample of Bill Withers’ 1971 song “Grandma’s Hands” into the instrumental.

“How I came about ‘No Diggity’ it was myself and Will Stewart… It came in where I heard Will with that sample working on the MPC in the B room of Future recording studios,” Riley said. “And I said give me that sample. He brought it in the room and I put that sample in Logic… After I finished making the track, Will came in and was like, ‘This record is a smash. But what do you want to write to it?’”

[RELATED: Teddy Riley-endorsed 3D Audio App Wants to be the Instagram of Music]

Well, it turns out the answer to that question from Stewart was wielded by rap legend LL Cool J. When trying to craft lyrics for “No Diggity,” Riley recalled a song from Blackstreet’s aforementioned self-titled album named “I Like the Way You Work It.” Shortly after the release of Blackstreet, the group was looking to put out a remix of “I Like the Way You Work It” with LL Cool J, where his unreleased verse included the lyric “no diggity, no doubt.”

Though the remix never saw the light of day, Riley decided to reprise Cool J’s phrase when making “No Diggity,” which Cool J has discussed in previous interviews. However, even with a fully-fleshed idea for the track, Riley still ran into some trouble trying to convince the rest of Blackstreet’s members to write verses for the song, as they were not sold on its potential.

“None of the guys liked ‘No Diggity’. None of them.,” Riley said in a now-archived 2010 interview with SoulCulture. “They would even say it. That’s why I’m singing the first verse. You know how they say they pushed the little one out there to see if it tastes good and see if he would get egged? Well, they pushed me out there—and it became a hit. And now they wish they were singing the first verse so that they can have the notoriety like me.”

Though Hannibal was the only other Blackstreet vocalist to participate on “No Diggity,” Riley was able to fill in the gaps with contributions from Dr. Dre and Queen Pen, a Brooklyn emcee who was a protégé of Riley’s at the time.

“No Diggity” would go on to earn a platinum certification from RIAA in 1996, along with winning the 1998 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

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