Revisiting Mad Cobra’s ‘Flex’: A Dancehall Classic Reimagined in Janelle Monae’s ‘Lipstick Lover

In the swirling world of music, history has a way of reinventing itself. A testament to this is the recent resurgence of Mad Cobra’s ‘Flex’, a 1992 dancehall hit single, now making waves again due to a skillful sampling by American singer-actress Janelle Monae in her latest offering, ‘Lipstick Lover’.

Almost three decades after it first captured the global audience, ‘Flex’ is flexing its immortality, proving once again its timeless appeal, this time to an entirely new generation of music lovers. It’s the second single from Monae’s highly-anticipated upcoming album, ‘The Age of Pleasure’, slated for a June 2nd release via Wondaland Arts Society/Atlantic Records.

A Ballad in the Dancehall

Looking back at the birth of ‘Flex’, veteran producer and musician Handel Tucker recalls the unique experience of creating a ballad-like track for a dancehall artist. The song, recorded at the legendary Penthouse studio, saw Tucker arranging the backing vocals and contributing on keyboards, alongside other notable contributors such as drummer Sly Dunbar and Clifton “Specialist” Dillon.

“I had just worked on a similar concept – a demo for Patra, with Diana King on vocals. Doing something ballad sounding for Mad Cobra was a new and exciting experience,” Tucker reminisced.

The memorable vocal intro to ‘Flex’, a collaboration between Brian Gold, Chevelle Franklin, and Tony Gold, was born in just over an hour, but its impact has lasted for decades. “At the time, the world wanted to hear from Mad Cobra,” Gold reflected. “I knew it was a great song.”

Climbing the Charts: Then and Now

Featured on Mad Cobra’s major label debut album ‘Hard to Wet, Easy to Dry’, ‘Flex’ quickly climbed the Billboard charts in 1992, reaching number 13 on the Hot 100, number one on the Rap Singles chart, and number seven on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Its musical potency didn’t stop there. In 2016, girl group Fifth Harmony sampled ‘Flex’ for their hit ‘All In My Head (Flex)’, which peaked impressively on charts across the globe and earned a string of gold and platinum certifications.

Today, Mad Cobra’s ‘Flex’ finds a new voice in Janelle Monae’s ‘Lipstick Lover’, bringing a nostalgic touch to a fresh rhythm, showcasing the timelessness of this dancehall classic while injecting a modern twist.

This exciting development highlights the enduring influence of dancehall and reggae in contemporary pop music, reminding us of the global impact of these genres. With this sampling, Monae not only pays homage to the roots of her musical influences but also paves the way for the rediscovery of dancehall classics for newer audiences.

As ‘Flex’ continues to evolve, we can only wait with bated breath to see what new heights it will reach in its latest incarnation, echoing the words of Mad Cobra himself, “Flex, time to have sex”. Monae’s ‘Lipstick Lover’ promises to be a sultry, dancehall-infused summer hit, and we are here for it. So sit back, turn up the volume, and get ready to feel the magic of Mad Cobra’s ‘Flex’ once again.