The Stereo MCs are a British alternative hip-hop/electronic dance group founded by vocalist Rob Birch and Nick "The Head" Hallam in the mid-'80s. It took a while for a bunch of white Brits to be taken seriously in the hip-hop community, but they made some inroads with their 1990 album, Supernatural, when the single "Elevate My Mind" became the first British rap song to make the Billboard Hot 100. But the Stereo MCs didn't truly achieve their mainstream breakthrough until the release of their third album, Connected, which went platinum in their native UK and stayed in the British Top 10 for nearly a year.
Nick Hallam explained the tune's meaning in a 1993 Billboard interview: "The song 'Connected' is about human beings and the lack of connection there is between anything today. It's about the way everyone tries to categorize everything. The way every race is trying to separate from each other."
The song took a while to evolve, but it all started with a tiny sample of a bass drum beat and snare beat from Jimmy "Bo" Horne's 1978 tune "Let Me (Let Me Be Your Lover)." Birch looped the sample and created the bass groove that holds "Connected" together. The DJ was heading out to catch a bus when he spotted another record before he left the house: Totally Connected by the disco-funk group T-Connection. That gave Birch the vague idea for a song about some kind of connection.
Armed with the word and the groove, he worked out the chorus on his bus ride. He told the UK magazine Songwriting in 2015: "I was probably thinking about that groove on the bus when I got this melody going through my head and I just thought 'Make sure you're connected, the writing's on the wall'… the words just kind of tumbled out. I didn't really think about it, didn't even have a clue what it meant, I just thought it sounded good and felt good when I sang it. I think that's important, that when you sing your lyrics they should feel good, feel strident and powerful. And it did, so I thought okay, that's sounding good. So we had a chorus."
Birch held onto the backing track for nearly six months until he brought it to the studio, where all the elements came together jamming in the vocal booth. "The first thing that came out was the line about 'Something ain't right,'" he said, "because it was around the time of the LA riots and there was a lot of that vibe in London at that time, of police brutality and a general feeling of cultural disquiet. So the first thing that came out was that, and also the 'aa-aa-ye-ah' bit which looking back is quite similar to other melodies on that album, it's a bit of recurring theme. And they said, 'That sounds cool, let's loop up a bit of that and you can go back in and jam again over the top of it.'"
"So I did a couple of takes of jamming over that melody and the groove, and that was what came out. It was a sort of chemical bonding of that melody, the bass groove and what was going on in the world that emotionally charged that track, and we got it finished that afternoon and I think we mixed it the next day. It was definitely an evolutionary process."
While the idea for a song about unity was spontaneous, it is very much in line with the group's mission statement. "We are conscious of putting over something in our music," Hallam told Billboard. "We fancy the idea of spreading good vibes the way that Bob Marley did. He reached millions in an even-handed, gentle way. You can't always knock people in the head. It's more subversive, in a way, to let positive vibes seep into people's brains, and perhaps change their way of thinking."
In the US, this is popularly associated with the 1995 Angelina Jolie movie Hackers, where it's used during a party scene. It was also included on the film's acclaimed electronica soundtrack, which spawned two more volumes of music inspired by the movie.
It was also used in these movies:
You Don't Mess With The Zohan (2008)
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Saving Silverman (2001)
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)
This was the theme song to the short-lived 2004 TV series Dr. Vegas, starring Rob Lowe. It was also used on The Vampire Diaries in the 2014 episode "Yellow Ledbetter."
In 2020, this resurfaced in ESPN's Michael Jordan docuseries The Last Dance. It plays in episode 6 when The Bulls face off against The Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals.