Best known for their urban contemporary style when they recorded and toured from 1984 until 1991, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam were among the pioneers of freestyle music. Lead vocalist Lisa “Lisa” Velez, guitarist Alex “Spanador” Moseley, and drummer/keyboardist Mike Hughes were the three key members of this band that were assembled by the New York hip hop group known as Full Force. The formation of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam began when Lisa Velez auditioned to join Full Force when she was fourteen years old. This resulted in Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam recording the debut album, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force, which was released August 2, 1985. It became a platinum-selling success with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
While signed with Columbia Records, all four of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s studio albums came from this label. On the heels of the group’s successful debut album, the April 8, 1987 release of the second album, Spanish Fly, also became an RIAA platinum seller and it also became certified gold with Music Canada. The third album, which was released on April 12, 1989, was Straight to the Sky, and the fourth album, which was released on August 20, 1991, was Straight Outta Hell’s Kitchen. Neither of these albums received the same level of success as the first two, but still produced the odd hit that appeared on the music charts. In addition to the studio albums, there are five compilation albums, as well as a song featured on the soundtrack belonging to the 1988 comedy, Caddyshack II. As of 1991, the group officially disbanded, and Lisa Velez since embarked on a solo career.
While the group of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam ceased recording and touring together as of 1991, Lisa Velez still continues to perform as a solo artist. LL77 was released on January 25, 1994, that saw two chart hits, which was then followed by the July 14, 2009 release of Life n’ Love as her second solo album. The collaborated single she performed with Pitbull, Can’t Wait, was released in 2009 but failed to make a strong enough impression to become a chart hit. Later, in June 2019, she signed up with Snoop Dogg’s Army as part of the Snoop Dogg Entertainment Company.
Top 10 Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam Songs
#10 – Go for Yours
From the 1988 motion picture, Caddyshack II, “Go for Yours’ was a number nineteen single on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. in 1990, it was performed as a cover song by Deedee Magno Hall during an episode of The Mickey Mouse Club. Silly and speedy, Go for Yours served as a perfect complement to the theme of the movie, which starred the ensemble cast of Jackie Mason, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Robert Stack, Dyan Cannon, Randy Quaid, Jonathan Silverman, and Jessica Lundy.
#9 – Everything Will B-Fine
The final single from the album, Spanish Fly, was “Everything Will B-Fine,” which peaked as high as number nine on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1988, and at number twenty-two on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. Not only did the synth-heavy single serve as a cult favorite in dance clubs, but as an inspirational piece among fans who saw Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s music as more than simply fun to listen to songs.
#8 – Just Git It Together
“Just Git It Together,” was the second single released from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s third studio album, Straight to the Sky. On the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, it peaked as high as number seven, and on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as high as number sixteen. The all-girl group, Ex Girlfriend, served as backup vocals to this Latino-flavored dance single that featured old-style Motown sounds that made it a cult favorite during the earliest time period of the 1990s club music scene. “Just Git It Together,” served as a fast-paced single that triggered fans of dance music to get into the beat and simply enjoy the speedy momentum this song had become popular for.
#7 – Can You Feel the Beat
The second single from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s debut album was “Can You Feel the Beat.” On the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, it peaked at number six and was a number forty hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The US Billboard Hot 100 saw this single reach number sixty-nine on its chart and it appeared at number ninety-seven on the UK Singles Chart. The freestyle fusion of classic Motown sounds served as a popular favorite among fans of the dance music scene that saw songs like Can You Feel the Beat as a trigger to the 1990s disco style craze.
#6 – Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star
The first single from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s third studio album, Straight to the Sky, was “Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star,” which peaked as high as number three on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1989. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, this mid-tempo, urban-style track climbed as high as number seven, and on the US Billboard Hot 100, at number twenty-nine. It also became an international hit as it charted as high as number six on the Dutch Singles Charts and at number ten on the New Zealand Singles Chart.
#5 – All Cried Out
The third single released from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s debut album peaked as high as number three on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart when it was released in 1986. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “All Cried Out” climbed as high as number eight and appeared on the Canadian RPM Singles Chart at number ninety-six. This piano-rich ballad became certified gold for the group, as it also earned this when Allure recorded and released its own version of this song in 1997. Allure’s cover of “All Cried Out,” was featured on its debut album and became a big, top ten hit for them as well.
#4 – I Wonder If I Take You Home
The debut single from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam was “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” which was released in 1985 and became the group’s first number-one hit on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, as well as their first certified gold single with the RIAA. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, I Wonder If I Take You Home peaked at number six and it climbed as high as number thirty-four on the US Billboard Hot 100. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number twelve, while on the Irish Singles Chart at number twenty-four, and a number forty-one hit on the Dutch MegaCharts.
Not only did Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam earn their first national success as recording artists, but internationally as well. Originally, I Wonder If I Take You Home was in the reject pile at Personal Records when producer Kenny Beck discovered it and had it recorded for the group’s debut album. The single became very popular among the dance clubs and it etched Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam into the history books as freestyle music talents that would inspire artists such as The Black Eyed Peas, Fabulous, Kylie Minogue, and Pitbull. Each of these talents, plus a handful more, sampled music from I Wonder If I Take You Home into their own singles. Don’t Phunk With My Heart from The Black Eyed Peas owes its chorus to play out to the 1985 cult classic.
#3 – Let the Beat Hit ‘Em
From the fourth studio album, Straight Outta Hell’s Kitchen, “Let the Beat Hit ‘Em” became the third occasion Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam would realize a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It also served to be the final big hit for the group as they disbanded in 1991, the same year this single appeared on the music charts. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Let the Beat Hit ‘Em,” charted as high as number thirty-seven and also became the final certified gold hit by the RIAA. Lisa Velez was credited for performing with the same level of enthusiasm as that originally made the group as successful as they became in the beginning. Featured in this single were sampled music from The Family Stand’s Ghetto Heaven, The Emotions’ Best of My Love, and Strafe’s Set It Off. The mix contributed to what became a classic standard of what made the 1990s disco scene as popular as it was, which paved the way for a number of inspired artists to pick up where Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam left off.
#2 – Lost in Emotion
The second of four singles from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s second studio album, Spanish Fly, was “Lost in Emotion.” The riffs in the melodic performance carried out by the group were inspired by the two classic hits from Mary Wells, namely Two Lovers and You Beat Me to the Punch. The instrumentation of the bells and xylophone were popular during the height of classic Motown, which was implemented in “Lost in Emotion,” as well as the majority of the music produced by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam while they were recording with Columbia Records.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, Lost in Emotion became the second straight single that topped its music chart. It also became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and on the US Billboard Hot Crossover chart. In Canada, Lost in Emotion was a number seven hit on its music chart and it reached number fifteen in New Zealand. The single also became certified gold by the RIAA.
#1 – Head to Toe
The playful single, “Head to Toe,” was the biggest hit ever performed by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam and has become the group’s signature song. After its release in 1987, the hit quickly rose the charts and peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, and on the Canadian RPM 100 Top Singles Chart.
It also became a number nine hit on the official music chart belonging to the nation of New Zealand, and as high as number fifteen on Belgium’s Ultratop 50 Flanders chart. According to the music critics from the Los Angeles Times, The retro Motown meets Freestyle sound that became a pop culture favorite among music fans was Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s signature sound that was not only featured in this single but with most of the music, the group produced throughout its seven-year run.
Feature Photo: Lisa Lisa performs with Full Force and Cult Jam in Ithaca, New York in April 1987. Black and white original. Creative Commons.
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