Bands I Used To Love is a segment where we talk about old flames: the music we used to love as younger people. Our middle school favs, our first albums, our angsty high school heroes. For whatever reason, these bands fell out of our rotation. Sometimes they’re embarrassing, sometimes they make us feel like we were pretty cool back then. Either way, old heroes reveal a lot about a person, and the reason they’re gone tells us even more.
The Band: Mista
I am almost certain none of you remember the mid-90’s R&B group Mista. Debuting in ’96 trying to catch Boyz II Men, Mista was set to be the next big thing. Like many next big things, they didn’t achieve their grand vision.
They actually had a lot going for them. They were backed by some hot shit producers back then, most notably Organized Noize, a producing team that worked on TLC’s “Waterfalls” and En Vogue. The band also featured a 16 year old Bobby V, known today for high profile features like Ludacris’ “Pimpin’ All Over The World” and Nicki Minaj’s “Sex in the Lounge.”
So there was talent there, a pedigree in the studio, and it was 1996, the right time to be in that genre. It was an honest shot at stardom.
In the early 90s, I spent a few summers in Saudi Arabia. It remains a weird mark on my childhood. Not just for the culture shock, but also for the weird bits of western culture that fell through. For example, one day my Dad brought home Mista’s debut CD for my sister and I. He wasn’t particularly clued in to young people’s music, but somehow he got wind of it being a big deal. It was the first CD we ever owned, having grown up as cassette kids. Here we were in 1996, in the middle east, listening to up & coming Atlanta R&B. Globalization is crazy, man.
Why I Liked Them
It was one of my first CDs and these were all young kids. They sounded young with boyish voices. Boyz II Men was fun and all but you couldn’t pretend you were them. If you were 9 years old in 1996, you couldn’t identify with most of the people in music. They also encapsulated that era of young coolness in everything from their simple, broad themes (“I like the way you groove”) and their unicolor outfits on the album cover. It was an encapsulation of a very specific All That coolness. It was like someone made a younger Blackstreet just for the kids.
Mista, born from the ether, dissolved back into it just as quickly. Clouds of stardust, scattered across the galaxy, collapse on their own gravity. Asteroids streak across the blackness of space. Somewhere a sun is born.
“Blackberry Molasses” is still an undeniable jam and any fan of 90s R&B should know it. The whole album is kind of like that. Anyone who has exhausted their reserves of the era would be thrilled to know that there’s this undiscovered time capsule full of swanky guitars, head-nodding drums and bass funk. It’s a little formulaic, sure, and I have a feeling that had something to do with their blip in 90s music. But formulas can sound like classic distillations once the wave has passed, and that has a different kind of value today.