If you’re anything like me, then R&B is your favorite genre of music, and it simply cannot be beaten. But I want to talk about the shift in sound, especially within the last 5-10 years. It’s been leaving me unsatisfied.
Historically, the sounds that we know and can easily identify as RnB stem from jazz, the blues, and swing. The music from those eras honored what initially brought its listeners together while re-inventing itself at the same time. RnB from the late 90s to early 2000s still managed to hold onto its true essence.
So why has R&B lost its way?
For starters, many of the artists we’ve grown up listening to had their beginnings in their respective churches. Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Jazmine Sullivan. If you take some time to listen to their discography and compare their early projects to their latest ones, you’ll find that the soul and heart of R&B has never left them. Instead, RnB has evolved.
R&B typically puts our emotions into words, Ones that we sometimes cannot express on our own. This is why everyone is brought together when listening to the verse “telling my whole life,” sung by Lauryn Hill on “Killing Me Softly.” This is a comforting melody that is familiar to our ears, and it is that richness that is found in numerous artists. They are called (or have labeled themselves as) R&B singers. But nowadays, most artists are substandard to the acts of the ’90s and of the early 2000s.
Crossing the waters into the U.K, there is notably a lot of (North) American influence in their sound, specifically instrumentation and beat selection, yet those influences do not stop there.
In an interview dating back to 2019 with Hot97, songstress and songwriter Jorja Smith gave praise to pop culture’s most stunning voices in the industry, listing Amy Winehouse and political powerhouse Nina Simone as some of her influences. Reputably, Winehouse and Simone, both American women, were adored by fans from the moment they emerged onto the scene all the way to present-day for their voices and how true they kept to their respective sounds of soul-filled rhythm and blues. The U.K. artists have adapted such qualities so well that when we discover that they are from Europe and not American, it not only is shocking on most occasions but makes it unambiguously clear that it is lacking in the art of R&B on our side.
Moreover, as it seems as though R&B is becoming its own subgenre and not so much a stand alone there are those like Giveon, Lucky Daye and Teyana Taylor who have solidified their spot in the true essence of the genre.
Although it is not mutually exclusive for the worlds of R&B and Hip-Hop to be apart of one and other, the rap influence has made its presence in lyrical content, beat selection and cadence style. The current climate of the genre is moreso “savage” anthems than love songs which personally I have typically associated it with and knowing this, a lot of upcoming artists are rarely breaking that mold or simply conforming to what is trendy. It took a couple decades before pop culture fully embraced hip-hop due to the prejudice and biases that surrounded it which also affected the state of rap or what a “real” rapper is to say on their records. With that in mind I can’t help but wonder what it may take to bring back R&B to its roots. Blending and playing with sounds is what music is truly about at the end of the day furthermore a great record will stand the test of time. “Only real music is gonna last. All that other bullsh*t is here today and gone tomorrow!” – Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2 (Drake feat. Jay-Z)
Honestly, it wouldn’t feel right without at least giving a couple artists (UK/US/CAN) that reflect what I think true R&B is. Have a listen to this playlist I curated of some of the 2020s most authentic RnB artists.
Meet The Contributor
Hey! My name is Shakeem, who also goes by ‘Badbwoymack,’ so get familiar ;). My alias solely encompasses a lot of who I am and what I represent from my style, the music I listen to, the vibe I like to be surrounded by as well as the growth in my confidence, that I work on daily.
As a contributor for NobodyAsked, I plan on sharing stories about things that vary from all the music genres that I divulge in, black beauty/art to the latest fashion trends. I want to inspire and give our readers stories that are trending as well deserve more exposure while keeping true to myself.