Why Nayhoo?By Miguel Wilson | 9/10/17 1:33pm
Contrary to its succinct, blunt definition on Urban Dictionary (made by someone named Keith in 2004), “Nayhoo” has nothing to do with being a “very uncool person of African American heritage.” I know, you’re scratching your head thinking “What is ‘nayhoo’?” Honestly, the bigger question is who wronged Keith, but that’s neither here nor there.
If you ask me, “nayhoo” is a way of expressing love. You can look at any song it’s used in and see that artists use it either at the beginning or in the middle of only the best R&B ballads of the 90’s and early 2000’s. In my opinion, opening a song with “nayhooing” is a risky choice; one not for the faint of heart. However, if done correctly, it can make for an iconic song. A mid-song “nayhoo” can be just as effective, and oftentimes more heartfelt. In relative terms, to say “nayhoo” is to basically say “Ah, oh my goodness, I love you with every fiber of my being!”
I, like many others, never truly noticed how ingrained this word was in R&B history. Look at all the amazing artists and songs that have name dropped “nayhoo”; you’d be surprised by how extensive it is. A few examples: “Can You Stand The Rain” by New Edition, Troop’s “All I Do Is Think of You," and Usher’s “U Got it Bad.” The widely chosen kings of “nayhooing” would definitely have to be Boyz II Men. They really put their entire beings into their “nayhoos.” That said, Johnny Gill, the controversial replacement for Bobby Brown (I’ll roast him later) in New Edition, gives everyone a run for their money when he’s “hooing.”
So, who birthed this beautiful word from their lyrical womb, and why even talk about it? I have no idea. In fact, the very idea of “nayhoo” is obscure. So, like a jealous girlfriend at two in the morning, the best thing we can do is jump to conclusions. From my understanding, there’s no singular producer or song writer that claims “nayhoo” as their own. Producers and songwriters like: Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam, Nathan Morris, Dallas Austin, and Babyface all found their own way to put a twist on “nayhoo.” For that, I am forever grateful.
Semantics aside, songs with “nayhoo” are just better. There’s more fervor, more passion than all the mini bops you listen to combined. I think of songs like All-4-One’s “I Can Love You Like That” and tears almost start forming. Well not really, but you know what? Those men are putting all their rent money into those lyrics. In fact, they make them more than lyrics, they make them an extension of their own beings.
From this day forth, people that say they “do not have knowledge of ‘nayhoo’” are cancelled. That’s like saying the country version of Brian McKnight’s “Back At One” isn’t trash. Stop lying to yourself; do better. At the end of the day, I cannot say whether or not we will ever truly know ‘nayhoo.’ Like a cruel mistress, she comes in the night gracing us with her presence, but never truly giving us the keys to her soul. R&B is a strange, beautiful beast and I hope you all will join me on this journey of enlightenment.