On this day, Janet Jackson freed herself from The Velvet Rope and Ludacris released the delectable Chicken-n-Beer. We also give birthday shoutouts to hip-hop icon MC Lyte and R&B veteran Toni Braxton. Check it out below.

1997: Janet Jackson delivers the sensual The Velvet Rope

On this day, Janet Jackson released her sixth full-length album The Velvet Rope. The collection was a big departure from her previous efforts, as the R&B icon explored sexual politics, depression and her own relationship travails (with then-boyfriend/collaborator René Elizondo) on various songs.

She revealed her vulnerability on such tracks like “Together Again,” where she reflects on the loss of a friend who died from AIDS. On “Tonight’s the Night” she sings about losing her virginity and, on “I Get Lonely,” she yearns for the touch of her lover on a starry night. Overall, The Velvet Rope is one of the most personal albums in her discography.

“I don’t pretend to speak for anybody,” Janet told Rolling Stone in 1998. “And I don’t pretend to represent anyone. At the same time, I need to offer hope. People need nourishment. I need nourishment. That’s the art I’m interested in. Hopeful art."

"The music is sensual, not brutal," she continued. "The feeling of The Velvet Rope is soft, not severe."


2003: Wu-Tang Clan alums RZA and Cappadonna drop new solo projects

On this day, not one but two Wu-Tang Clan solo albums were released in stores. The RZA's Birth of a Prince and Cappadonna's The Struggle both dropped on independent labels Sanctuary and Code Red, respectively. The RZA’s album garnered attention with its heavy guest features like Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, the late Ol' Dirty Bastard and more. Meanwhile, Wu members Raekwon and Inspectah Deck appeared on Cappa's project.

On Birth of a Prince, RZA reflected on his days as Prince Rakeem before he became the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan. "It's like pre-RZA. It's what the RZA struggles not to be, in a way," RZA explained to the A.V. Club in 2003. "Growing up in New York...you don't leave your projects too much. The laundry's there, the grocery store is there. Everything takes place right there. When I got [Knowledge of Self] and thought about moving around the city, hip-hop was something that helped me."

"I became a student. I had to start my life over," he continued. "I had to rethink everything I knew. I had to think about what it really means to me in my life. It's kind of complex when you talk about the reality of it, but on the creative side of it, it ain't that complex. Still, when you want to know the reality and the mentality behind it, there's a few layers there."


2003: Ludacris releases his most successful album, Chicken-n-Beer

Ludacris's fourth album, Chicken-n-Beer, solidified him as a rap superstar. The LP, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart (a first for Luda), features the anthemic banger "Stand Up," produced by Kanye West, and "Splash Waterfalls." Chicken-n-Beer is regarded as Luda's most commercially successful album in his venerable career. When asked how he would describe his rap legacy, the Atlanta rhymer offered one word: versatility.

"Because when I want to rap, be funny and humorous, I can do that," he explained to Billboard in 2018. "When I want to rap with the best of the MCs, I've done that. If you want to go bar-for-bar, I've done that. Fast as fuck, I can do that. Slow as hell, I can do that. Raps over R&B records, hard-hitting records, nostalgic records, I just stay versatile."

"That's one of the things that I want to go down as, being multifaceted," he continued. "When people say they want Luda on the record, I don't feel like it matters what type of record it is. I'll kill it regardless and that's what I want to be known as."


2003: 2Pac's legacy gets tarnished with Nu-Mixx Klazzics compilation

On this day, Death Row Records released a get-rich-quick album of recycled music from the late, great Tupac Shakur. The Nu-Mixx Klazzics is nothing special; most of the songs on the collection have already appeared on movie soundtracks before this release. Shockingly, the project sold 700,000 copies, which only proved that no matter what the product is, if 2Pac's name is attached, it's going to sell like hotcakes.


MC Lyte and Toni Braxton are born

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1970, MC Lyte (real name Lana Michelle Moorer) is a hip-hop icon who has, arguably, influenced every female rapper in the game. Her 1988 debut album, Lyte as a Rock, is one of the greatest rap albums in hip-hop history. R&B singer Toni Braxton was also born on this day in 1967. A native of Maryland, the veteran singer-actress is known for her chart-topping ballad "Un-Break My Heart,” among many other classic hits. She currently stars in the WeTV reality series Braxton Family Values.

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