The construction of No Diggity
As mentioned previously, No Diggity is the result of several circumstances and several artists with different qualities. The production skills of Dr. Dre, even if uncredited, the honeyed voice of Teddy Riley with its fine hooks and rhymes, the gimmicks suggested by LL Cool J and a memorable verse of a talented female rapper, Queen Pen, to conclude the song. It was the combination of these elements that made the song a success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
In its construction, No Diggity had all the makings of a hit. First, the song’s sexually suggestive theme is typical of successful R&B singles. But Dr. Dre sends a rapped first verse that introduces with a form of sexual urgency. Here he sets the aggressive Hip Hop tone of the song that appeals to listeners with catchy punchlines like “Attracting honeys like a magnet / Giving ’em eargasms with my mellow accent”.
After this short rhythmic introduction of about twenty seconds, Teddy Riley comes to bring an incredible groove by slowing down the rhythm with excellence to give all the sensuality that the song has to offer before moving to the chorus. And the chorus is terribly effective, two simple phrases repeated that remain in the head to remember this R&B anthem “I like the way you work it / No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up. The hook “No diggity, no doubt” gives all the sexual assurance of its protagonists.
At this point, Teddy Riley is smart enough to let his BLACKstreet mates bring a new sensual and honeyed alternative to the song before taking over on the chorus. The continuation is even more memorable with the bridge where they sing in heart the “Hey yo, hey yo, hey yo, hey yo” accompanied by back vocals. Queen Pen concludes with a rapped verse to bring a perfect feminine touch.
All of this is dictated over a catchy and powerful guitar riff accompanied by the haunting sweetness of the whispered “humhum” that sucks the listener into sensuality. The piano loop gives a sort of catchy obsession perfect for the clubs. The groovy swing of the song is simply magical.
The other lives of No Diggity
When you look at the beautiful and devilishly ingenious construction of this song, you can imagine that others have covered it. Indeed, No Diggity has been covered many times since its creation, and in many different ways, sometimes simply with a sample, other times on a cappella versions, live versions, commercials, etc.
In addition to the many direct covers that are officially credited as such, other songs have taken more or less directly the structure of No Diggity. It is on these last ones that we will stop.
Toss It Up, 2pac
The most obvious cover of No Diggity is Toss It Up by 2pac on The Don Killuminati. The reason for this cover is not surprising. Dr. Dre left Death Row with his beat, which was originally offered to 2pac for All Eyez On Me. So 2pac and Suge Knight took the beat and made a disstrack to Dr. Dre. The first version took the beat as is with 2pac sending his verses. After complaints from BLACKstreet, they replaced the instrumental with the Toss It Up one, produced by Reggie “Devell” Moore, which we know today.
Even if the beat is not the same anymore, the construction of the song remains. We find a first short verse rapped by 2pac followed by a verse sung by Danny Boy who slows down the rhythm. He then leaves the place to Jojo for a few rhymes sung before regrouping for a chorus with two that repeats almost word for word the chorus of No Diggity “I like the way you give it to me / Let me see you toss it up”. The bridge is also resumed with the “Play on, play on, play on, play on”. And surprise, we see then Aaron Hall, who had refused to sing with Teddy Riley on the beat. The latter, with K-Ci, will follow the same construction on sung verses before taking back the chorus together. 2pac concludes with a verse rapped by attacking directly to Dre, among others: “No longer Dre Day: arrivederci / Blown and forgotten, rotten for plotting Child’s Play / Check your sexuality, as fruity as this Alize”.
For the beat, we find this same construction with the urgency of 2pac’s verse accompanied by the “ouh” in the background that reminds the mumbling of “humhumm” of the original song. The irony of this song is total and the diss is certain. The reworking of the structure is ingenious and allows 2pac to attack Dr. Dre with effective irony.
Bitch Please, Snoop Dogg
Far from being the most obvious and similar in construction, Bitch Please by Snoop Dogg with Xzibit and Nate Dogg takes some of the structure of No Diggity. Xzibit comes back with an aggressive first verse like on the original before Snoop Dogg slows down the rhythm with a sung chorus and a verse with his usual nonchalant flow. We find the hook alternated between Snoop and Xzibit, and for a memorable finale of Nate with his “Eh Oh Eh Oh”.
This time, we have a more West Coast version and much more evocative lyrics. The sensuality gives way to a typical Gangsta/Pimp rap mysoginy. Subtlety gives way to brutality by replacing the “Baby, you’re a perfect ten, I wanna get in” with “Bitch please! Get down on your god damn knees”.
We find Dr. Dre on the production but here we forget the R&B/New Jack Swing delicate. The big bass and bass drums will give the typical rhythm of West Coast rap. The Blues guitar riff replaces the small shrill noise for the G-Funk touch.
Home Alone, R. Kelly
Released on the 1998 R. Kelly double album, Home Alone follows the structure of No Diggity in a rather obvious way. Accompanied by Keith Murray for the rapped introduction, R. Kelly then plays with his smooth and soft voice to slow down the tempo with a sensual verse.
However, here the atmosphere is rather festive. R. Kelly uses his voice to light up the dancefloor with an evocative chorus “Hands in the air / Drinks everywhere / Party in the hills / Keepin’ it real / Dance out of town / Ladies all around / Me and the crew doin’ what we do”.
DJ Quik’s production contributes to this mood with a slamming drum beat, a small, understated bass riff and a light guitar chord. The “humhum” drone is found like on No Doggity. The effectiveness of the beat here is in its simplicity.
Anywhere, Anderson .Paak
More recently, in 2018, Anderson .Paak will also appropriate the construction of No Diggity on his song Anywhere released on Oxnard. Accompanied by Snoop Dogg for a rap intro where he makes a nostalgic reference to his past, Anderson .Paak takes over with a short crooned soul hook. And it is the latter who will raise the temperature with his sweet voice for a falsely romantic verse.
Pound offers a beat with a beautiful guitar riff always with the whisper in the background of Anderson .Paak “ouuuh aaaah” that he takes back beautifully between his rhymes on his chorus. The sensuality of the lyrics and production pays a nice tribute to Anderson .Paak’s spiritual master, Dr. Dre. This may not be the most famous or commercial of the No Diggity “covers”, but in my opinion, it is excellently done.