Rhythm and blues (R&B) is a rapidly evolving musical genre, but the passion from the artists remains constant. Listening to iconic R&B classics from the 2000s might make you want to believe the genre is dying because today’s R&B just doesn’t sound the same, but in fact, it’s constantly reborn.
During the early 2000s, music videos were the most important element of marketing songs. Take “Superbass” by Nicki Minaj, for example. “Superbass” wouldn’t be super bass without the music video. The short jean shorts, loud colors and dance routine all contribute to the song when you play it. Even Katy Perry’s song “Roar”—the music video gives such a beautiful visual when you listen to the song. When you turned on MTV, music videos were always being played. By pairing music videos with the story portrayed by the lyrics, music videos acted as visual storytelling methods for up-and-coming artists to display their personality and build their fan base. Social media has replaced the need for music videos because managers or self starters can market through their Instagram platforms. This missing piece of anticipation for the new R&B music videos may leave fans wanting more connection with the artist.
In my eyes, being able to investigate the transitions of R&B music involves understanding how this genre has the tendency to reflect hip-hop at its current state. During the 1990s, hip-hop was becoming a global phenomenon and included MCs, DJs and marketing through mixtapes. This rhythmic genre is highly reflected through R&B artists because hip-hop’s reliance on rhythm to overlay words is reflected in R&B’s use of a more scaled-back rhythm. While the blues lyrics are meant to shine, it’s poetry.
For example, the song “WUSYANAME” by Tyler the Creator and NBA Youngboy has the spirit of a slow dance while the lyrics tell a story of finding his dream girl. NBA comes on the beat with a fairly different approach, but as a rap artist who predominantly makes trap music, this is his version of his vulnerable side.
Another example is Mary J. Blige: she has a hip-hop side but a vulnerable, heartbroken and courageous side to her music. Take her new album, Good Morning Gorgeous. It is a beautiful message to the broken girl in the mirror, but “Rent Money” is a demand for respect.
Even though R&B seems absent and doesn’t match the feeling of nostalgia when “Charlene” by Anthony Hamilton comes on, it gives us space. “Charlene” was in a time period that we can’t get back again. This time, we have an R&B artist who doesn’t build a connection through music videos but through an accessible platform for everyone. You can see their day to day life and understand an artist is just as human as us. Again, R&B did in fact die but the spirit was truly reborn.
By Melissa Taylor, Staff Writer