Even as he helped The Temptations reach new heights of popularity, Dennis Edwards never stopped dreaming of solo stardom. He released his first single (the Northern Soul stomper “I Didn’t Have To (But I Did)”) nearly two decades before his second — but the wait was worth it.
The title track to his 1984 album Don’t Look Any Further peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart, and hit the lower reaches of the Hot 100. “Further” was intended to be a duet with Chaka Khan, but the two couldn’t match schedules. Instead, Edwards and producer Dennis Lambert used the original demo vocal, sung by future Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson collaborator Siedah Garrett.
Though Edwards never had another big solo hit, “Don’t Look Any Further” was a landmark R&B recording, due partly to Edwards’ and Garrett’s interplay, and partly to Paul Jackson Jr.’s iconic bassline. That bassline — quietly funky, resolving like a syllogism — served as the bedrock for dozens of hip-hop, R&B, and pop tracks in the decades to follow, some of which have become just as iconic as their source.
Here are just a few of the most notable tracks from the countless cuts over the years that drew from “Don’t Look Any Further.”
William Pitt, “City Lights” (1986)
The first documented use of the “Don’t Look Any Further” baseline wasn’t done by a rap act or hired-gun remixer, but by a pop singer. Pitt was an American in Paris, working in fashion when he was approached by a producer. The first fruits of their collaboration was “City Lights,” a lovely balearic nightlife ode that grooves on Edwards’ bassline. It was a decent-sized hit on the European continent, but the follow-up stiffed, and Pitt’s singing career stalled out.
Eric B. & Rakim, “Paid in Full” (1987)
As iconic as this track is, it’s essentially a two-minute song: Rakim’s lone verse is bracketed by label/management shoutouts and Eric B. cutting over the drums. Stateside, the song is known for an all-timer of an intro (“Thinkin’ of a master plan…”) and for introducing the term “dead presidents.” In Europe, though, “Paid in Full” may be better known for its remix by English production duo Coldcut, whose Seven Minutes of Madness remix kept the Edwards bassline, but tossed in a crate’s worth of spoken-word, funk, and folk, making it Eric B. and Rakim’s biggest hit.
Junior M.A.F.I.A., “Gettin’ Money (The Get Money Remix)” (1995)
This wasn’t the first remix that added “Don’t Look Any Further” to funk up the original: Milli Vanilli, MC Lyte, and Mary J. Blige had nicked the bassline before The Notorious B.I.G. lent a hand to his proteges’ “Get Money” single. But Biggie’s co-production would give the Edwards sample new cachet. The original was a Lil Kim/Biggie showcase; the remix added Lil Cease, who shouts out Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry.” Like Edwards before her, Kim jumped to solo stardom with 1996’s Hard Core, making this the M.A.F.I.A.’s last chart hit.
2Pac ft. Outlawz, “Hit ‘Em Up” (1996)
The loudest salvo in the exhausting, costly Death Row/Bad Boy feud, “Hit ‘Em Up” was 2Pac’s response to Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?,” which Pac took as a taunt. “Hit ‘Em Up” scorched the earth with vicious swipes at Biggie, Puff Daddy, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil Kim, even Mobb Deep, who had the temerity to appear on a track that dissed L.A. Pac’s slyest jabs were musical: he parodied Biggie’s “Player’s Anthem” chorus, and sampled Edwards’ bassline (just as Biggie did for the “Get Money” remix). Though 2Pac and Outlawz released a music video featuring Big, Puff and Kim lookalikes, “Hit ‘Em Up” was never an official single, though it appears on Pac’s posthumous Greatest Hits album.
Mary Mary, “Shackles (Praise You)” (1999)
On their debut single, Erica and Trecina Atkins-Campbell crossed over from gospel in a major way, riding the “Don’t Look Any Further” bassline to a No. 28 hit on the Hot 100. It was an auspicious debut to a stellar career, one which has seen the sisters land five gospel No. 1s, win four Grammys, and star in their own reality show. Like Mary Mary (and many of his peers), Edwards’ artistic journey also began in the church: at one point, he was the choir director of his father’s church.
Too $hort ft. Jazze Pha, “Looking For a Baller” (2001)
Towards the end of the ‘90s, hip-hop moved beyond the “Don’t Look Any Further” bassline, opting to interpolate Edwards and Garrett’s vocals. Def Jam group Cru reimagined the pre-chorus as a tribute to blunts; Houston’s Pymp Tyte tweaked the chorus to capture a little of that “Wanna Be a Baller” magic. On this 2001 cut, producer Jazze Pha taps the same formula that made “Area Codes” a hit for Ludacris: wah’d-out guitar curls, skittering drums, and a chorus that matches Edwards’ for melodicism, if not for power.
UGK ft. Three 6 Mafia, “Like a Pimp” (2001)
Bun B flexed a little history on this cut off the legendary duo’s long-gestating Dirty Money album, quoting Rakim’s “master plan” line, then working in the Paid in Full title. His partner Pimp C produced the track, and he clearly liked the sample: he used even more of it for protege XVII’s “Don’t Look Any Further” in 2008. Snoop Dogg did something similar the next year, if less subtle: “Paper’d Up” updates the entire “Paid in Full” verse, and features a vocal hook that interpolates “Don’t Look Any Further” to boot.
Lil Wayne feat. Big Tymers and TQ, “Way of Life” (2002)
Cash Money have long been fans of Dennis Edwards; his bassline previously appeared on tracks from PxMxWx and B.G. Here, it fit snugly within a typically pithy, playful Mannie Fresh production. (He deploys a “Cash Money” chant that pays homage to Junior M.A.F.I.A. – or is it 2Pac?) Weezy was still a couple years away from Best Rapper Alive status, which may explain why this was the album’s only single.
Rollz, “Soul Calibur” (2011)
Electronic music producers have really taken to “Don’t Look Any Further” in this decade. Only now, they’re finding inspiration in Edwards’ from-the-heels moan. Brighton, England’s Rollz threaded it into a drum ‘n’ bass workout, but you can also hear it in tracks from Hot Since 82, PANG! (who opted for the even-more-famous bass line of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”), and Raphaël Ripperton. Some of these cuts are nothing to blog about, but even in fragmented form, Edwards usually elevates the proceedings.
Fat Joe ft. Dre, “So Excited” (2017)
As Joe told Billboard in August, he got the idea of sampling “Don’t Look Any Further” after LL Cool J’s DJ spun the record in concert. Figuring it was due a comeback, he enlisted his longtime producer Streetrunner to use it as the basis of a summer jam. (Dre of production team Cool & Dre provides the Young Thug-channeling hook.) In sampling Edwards’ song, Fat Joe harks back not just to Biggie or Rakim, but to fellow Latino MC and Bronx native Microphone Prince, who tapped the song on 1987’s “Memory Lane”.
Star Cast, “You Got It” (2017)
Big Trouble, the trio at the heart of Lee Daniels’ FOX music-industry drama Star, might be the only act on this list to both perform and sample “Don’t Look Any Further.” Both instances came in the Season One episode “Saving Face,” featuring a guest appearance by Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. Though Edwards saw his share of label machinations and romantic entanglements (including a brief romance with Aretha Franklin and a marriage to Ruth Pointer), he had nothing on Big Trouble. “You Got It” works in the title, but including the bass line is as good a signal of authenticity as anything.