Whodini were different. They were an ’80s hip hop group from NYC who weren’t hardcore at all. Their first album featured production from, among others, Conny Plank and Thomas Dolby. And their first smash, “Friends” (#4 R&B, 1985), features as its chorus the question “Friends/How many of us have them?” They’re damned near existentialists!
They also rooted much of their music in synthesizers, rather than scratched records, or the rock influences of, say, a Run-D.M.C. No less a black music authority than Nelson George described their second album, 1984’s Escape, as “‘radio-friendly, singles-oriented hip hop,’ as opposed to the ‘hard-core, more rhyme-centered rap.'” (From the Wikipedia entry on the album.) And they definitely were more R&B-edged than most of their peers at the time.
Case in point, my favorite of their singles, and in fact one of my favorite hip hop records of the decade, 1986’s “One Love” (#10 R&B). The song, like all of Whodini’s Escape and Back in Black, was produced by the unsung genius Larry Smith, who — showing his extreme flexibility — also co-produced the first two Run-D.M.C. albums! Smith co-wrote “One Love” with group member Jalil Hutchins, and the song features a deep bassline and some gorgeous synth chords that sound like fucking clouds, damn near bringing a touch of ambient to ’80s hip hop. Rappers Jalil and Ecstasy flip rhymes about the real meaning of love, and how “you’re lucky just to have just one love,” also offering cautionary tales about how they loved and lost, but wouldn’t change a thing. Shit’s deep. And true!