Things That Make Us Feel Old

Jordan Vs. Morrison: A Two-Way Tie For Best/Worst '90s House-Party Song Ever

Here’s a question: how often have you gone to a house party? Better yet, how often have you gone to a house party where late-‘90s-early-‘00s Rockets legend Moochie Norris is dancing with complete strangers and enjoying the atmosphere? OK, that’s humble-bragging but let me explain.

See, there are rules to a house party. They usually involve three key components in alcohol, music and maybe some recreational drugs and games. And every house party I’ve gone to has included a moment where somebody requests Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” or Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack," two of the most awesomely bad songs in existence. The greater question is, who created the better song? Normally we’d be gauging a song that sucks, but since this is a special throwback edition, we need to gauge how good a sort-of “bad” song is. So, let’s break this down like, to borrow a phrase from the ‘90s: “until it cannot be broken anymore." 

BACKSTORY: Montell Jordan was a singer from Los Angeles who had his greatest stride single-wise from 1994-98. He’s also 6’8, which makes him arguably the tallest goddamn R&B singer who should have played basketball in our lifetime. His worst lead single during was “Get It On Tonite,” with LL Cool J. Really, listen to it. No disrespect to his daughter, but I’m not really there for a kid telling me we’re going to have a party and then dirty Uncle LL shows up. If we’re grading strictly on an R&B scale, his best single is “It’s On Tonight,” the third single from his More… album. That song is a definite slow-jam playlist addition. His absolute, bar-none best single ever happens to be “Let’s Ride” with Master P & Silkk The Shocker in 1998. Why? Because it was the first song I ever danced to with a girl. The second song? Master P’s “Make Em Say Uhhh!” Thank you, Missouri City Middle School and the 1998 end-of-the-year dance that made me do things no 4th-grader ever should have done.

“This Is How We Do It” was released in 1995, and the album of the same name was released on April 4 of that year – my seventh birthday. That song has stayed prominent in my life for more 20 years, an easy flip of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” that no doubt has become a karaoke staple even if you utterly cannot sing it.

Mark Morrison was a singer from the United Kingdom, and became known as a one-hit wonder who constantly stayed in trouble with the law in his native homeland. He made one auspicious cameo in 2012, appearing on Trae Tha Truth’s “I’m On 2.0,” which also featured Bun B, Tyga, Gudda Gudda, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Jadakiss, B.o.B and Big K.R.I.T. That’s right, Mark Morrison can say he exists on a song where a terrible Tyga verse lay but also where four great verses from Lamar, Cole, K.R.I.T. and Trae exist as well. Other than that? A string of EPs, albums and singles that have either been shelved or never released in the U.S.

“Return of the Mack,” released in 1997, somehow crossed over and arrived in America as one of the greatest coming-of-age stories in history. “Return of the Mack” spent 25(!) weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, somehow only being kept from No. 1 by goddamn Hanson. The song samples “Genius of Love” from Tom Tom Club, and may be the only time I ever openly tell you that somebody sampled Tom Tom Club for a hit record. Morrison committed a series of crimes that stalled out his career, but his rap sheet has amazing range. I mean, his Wikipedia page is the stuff of legend. Thus, Morrison has the greater insane climb to awesomely bad song status.

Bonus? He has almost 21,000 Twitter followers yet follows only seven people. By comparison, Montell Jordan is a preacher in Atlanta now who follows more than a thousand people and has 26,000 followers. I think Mark Morrison would have a far more interesting Twitter page than Montell, but that’s splitting hairs.
WINNER: Mark Morrison

SONG CONCEPT: Do you know the basis of “This Is How We Do It”? It’s Montell Jordan describing a house party he’s at. It’s such a meta thing because the only time you hear “This Is How We Do It” is in party settings.

“Return of the Mack” is literally about bouncing back after a girl cheats on you to rebound and get on not only every woman who you may find attractive but stunt on every person who doubted you. Remember Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”? This is the R&B version of that. Comeback from heartbreak > Discussing a party you’re at.

WINNER: “Return of the Mack”

SONG SAMPLE: Mark Morrison decided to use “Genius of Love” and “Games” by Chuckii Booker for “Return of the Mack." Great. Montell only needed Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” which is almost like cheating since you were taking one memorable song and making another memorable song out of it. Those opening piano notes from “Children’s Story” are undefeated, by the way

WINNER: “This Is How We Do It”

SONG LYRICS & ADLIBS: Let’s get this out of the way now. No song, I repeat – no song – has better “insert any word and it’ll still make sense” adlibs than “Return of the Mack." Morrison literally says “Pump Up the World!” as if his own one-man crusade against his terrible, trifling, no good cheating ex-girlfriend is going to make sure we all do the same when it’s our time. He wants us all to turn into Matthew Dellavedova when it matters most. The ultimate underdog. A Disney character in the goddamn flesh.

“This Is How We Do It” starts off describing a Friday night in the world of Montell. He’s happy about the hood, how the party was so wired that people didn’t kill anyone via a drive-by. He’s also gleeful as hell that he gets the chance to turn into Slick Rick for a second and be a 6’8” singer who’s going to make money from singing hooks. Montell Jordan, by the way, could never lose in a fight because he’s like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death. There aren’t too many Bruce Lee types in South Central L.A. But the more bizarre the song lyrics, the more fun you can have at a party.

WINNER: “Return of the Mack”
MUSIC VIDEO: Despite being his greatest video ever — complete with nefarious Rastafarians, a split during the chorus and refrain in two separate sequences where there are three Mark Morrisons and arguably the worst short haircut in a ‘90s music video involving leather, gold chains and cheating girlfriends — “Return of the Mack” has only been viewed 21 million times on YouTube. Shameful.

Montell’s track (you know, the one about a house party?) involves a minor storyline where a dweeb hooks up with a curly-haired bombshell, Montell is entertaining guests at a dinner party and more. It also contains Jordan trying to lead a group of dancers who look as if they flunked out of every Janet Jackson “Rhythm Nation” tryout ever to hit two steps, jump over each other and extra nonsense. It has also been viewed more than 27 million times on YouTube.

Wait, that one “dweeb” has more personality than everybody in either video. HE’S THE DELLAVEDOVA! So much grit. So much determination to break out of the friend zone to land the flyest woman in the room. He’s our big winner and in the words of Jay Bilas, the king of “upside."

WINNER: “This Is How We Do It”

After conducting the tally, we’re stuck at two apiece. There needs to be a tiebreaker. There’s no way both “This Is How We Do It” and “Return of the Mack” can co-exist at parties in 2015. No, one has to fight the other to the death Lord of the Flies-style. So I had to ask a completely unbiased party.

My mother. I would have asked Austrailian-American hero Matthew Dellevadova, but he’s apparently busy trying to figure out if LeBron James really drives Kias. She also recently discovered a mix CD I made of songs that were things in 2006 and almost threw it into the backyard out of fear.

I played her “This Is How We Do It." She didn’t budge.

I played “Return of the Mack." She asked, "Wasn’t that song in that one commercial?"

MOM SAYS: “Return of the Mack”


Goodbye, “This Is How We Do It,” we’ve had some fun times together but nothing will beat the awkward jump and rise of “Return Of The Mack." All hail Mark Morrison, owner of the greatest ‘90s house-party song that is sort of terrible but absolutely perfect in clutch situations. Watch my flow. Watch my flow.
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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell