Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who Killed R&B?

There's something about the death of a young person that jars you. "Too soon, so young, so much promise," are common thoughts. When an older person dies we can try and rationalize it, try to dissociate ourselves from the pain a little more. We say different things, like "at least they lived a full life," or "I guess it was his time." These are merely devices to attempt to shield ourselves from that jolt of reality that is death.

I guess that's why, artistically/metaphorically, there's always been a big stink amongst 25-35 y/o's about whether or not Hip Hop is dead. It's an argument that's been going on for at least a decade now, and even all the way back to the mid-'90s with Common's famous "I used to love H.E.R." Hip-Hop was/is young in terms of musical genres, and thus grasping that what we love about it as a genre may be gone forever makes us go, "too soon, too young, so much promise," the way we felt about some of its artists who have left us.

So maybe that's why lost somewhere in the argument about Hip Hop is the quieter and almost more stunning musical shift.

R&B has been dead for years. And no one seems to care.

Show: Fuck you, Ray J is dope.

Wja3: I'd like that comment stricken from Nappyheaded record.

Well I mean yeah of course a lot of people do, but the fans seem much less outspoken about than Hip Hop fans are. R&B is of course decades older. Seen more, evolved several times, been around the block, so to speak. It's kind of like learning a grandparent died in a nursing home. You secretly know deep down that you sent him/her to that nursing home to die, and specifically to die in such a way that you wouldn't feel the pain so hard. But once you really think about it, it hurts even worse than you thought it would. Why? Because deep down, you know you had a hand in speeding up the process.

And that's what the Hip Hop generation has done to its older relative, R&B. Long ago we sacrificed R&B's integrity, style and artistic merit in the name of Hip Hop, in order to let Hip Hop grow. R&B loved Hip Hop, and decided it wanted its unpolished little brother to be more accepted by society, so R&B let Hip Hop tag along, collaborate on songs, show up together at cocktail parties, radio, music videos, etc. R&B even let Hip Hop influence the former's direction, and that was the spark at the end of the dynamite stick. Somewhere in the early 2000s, KABOOM!

That cocktail party was known as New Jack Swing.

The Bobby Brown's, Guy's and Tony Toni Tone's of the world came through with that cool new sound in the late '80s that finally embraced the new generation. It was a sharp contrast to the Anita Baker's and Luther Vandross's of the world whose sound and aesthetic had nothing to do with the new generation or its movement. Of course the artistry and style were still distinctly R&B.

So move on to the '90s, aka the last stand of R&B. 1993 notably was the year of R&B, with everyone from Boyz II Men to Jodeci to SWV ruling the airwaves and pop culture. By the mid-'90s though, R&B groups already were on their last legs. As Jodeci gave way to Dru Hill who gave way to 112 and Jagged Edge, we see more and more Hip Hop creep into the music. Innuendo and suggestion start to fade away, and the music becomes verbally and musically so much more blunt, like the little brother. But of course you could still sing and get paid.

Tako: R & B niggas aint supposed to look like this.

Show: Oh, Ive got a whole post on these niggas Dru Hill. Aka the most EXTRA R & B group ever.

The axe murderer actually was more like a Trojan horse, living in thriving within the midst of R&B and contributing as much as he could before striking. This double agent thrived in both worlds, effortlessly floating back and forth until the public at large became unable to distinguish the two. At this point he teamed up with the giant of Hip Hop and even released a collaborative album titled, "The Best of Both Worlds."

That's right. R. Kelly fired the shot that killed R&B.

Show: He fired the "shot" alright.....

His mind told him no, his body told him yes, and we all know who that guy listens to. Think about it. His early style was clearly influenced by someone who even looked like him, Aaron Hall.

Show: I think they're actually cousins. Or was that Teddy Riley...

He jacked Hall's steez and ran with it, and that was okay because R. Kelly is frankly a better artist. Don't get me wrong, this man is a musical genius and you can never really talk about R&B in the later stages without mentioning his name. But he went too far. After Best of Both Worlds he thought he was a rapper. Started dressing like a rapper, talking like a rapper, making rap-like songs, and even doing dumb rapper-type shit. I need not review the infamous tapes.
And because he was so influential, everybody followed suit. Now distinguishing an R&B singer from a rapper is mildly impossible, thanks to auto-tune.

How would you describe this guy?

What about him? Have you listened to his album?

And what's the result? The new it-boy in R&B is Trey Songz. He can sing his ass off. But he also jacked R. Kelly how Kells jacked Aaron Hall. YUUUUUUP!

We have gone from "It's Our Anniversary" to "Birthday Sex," from "You are the lady in my life," to "Put your hands in her pants, be my little freak." Of course there remains an alternative movement, often described as neo-soul, but we're talking mainstream here.

So yes, R&B is dead. R. Kelly was the sniper, but Hip Hop called the hit.


C4 2 Ya Door

Show: P.S. Neo Soul is for bi*ches with Afros and niggas in funny ass Ne-yo hats. Viva Ray J.


Piph said...

I'm not sure about the R. Kelly thing, because I wasn't really a huge fan of his. But, yes, R&B is definitely dead. As well as Hip Hop. This crap they call music is WACK. It's funny because my friend and I were just talking about this last week.

DaBossBitch said...

I think Mary J getting clean contributed...

Alovelydai said...

I'm trying so desperately to disagree w/ you but I can only come up with one singer who actually sings & wouldn't be lumped into the neo-soul genre...Alicia Keys.

Sidenote: Drake & his sing songy emo rap doing more for R&B than most "singers" out there.

Elliott said...

The death of R&B wasn't a "hit" it was an execution of sorts. R.Kelly (he with the most sin) cast the first stone, but Bad Boys collaboration style Rap/Sing mixes in the late 90's and 00's helped. As did soft ass rappers like "mase", further blurring the line of what is rap and R&B. So like this and most things wrong in music today I am blaming Puffy.