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MALE R&B TODAY VS. YESTERDAY

R&B

Written By: Jewels Alexandria

(8 Minute Read)

Recently Joe Budden released an episode regarding male R&B artist today. He states that when it comes to R&B, women are killing it when it comes to creating classic songs and albums. That women seem to be the only ones in the past ten plus years. Guest staring this episode is R&B sensation, Tank. Tank’s response to Budden’s accusation is that there are too many “rappers” that are blurring the lines of R&B and Rap. Let’s take a deeper look into this idea that women are now dominating the R&B world. As well as look at how far it has come. Is it getting better?

Looking at R&B music starting from the 60’s up until about the early 2000s, it seems Budden may have a point, partly. During the early stages of Motown and many other record labels during this time, men dominated the R&B charts. Male groups like the Temptations or Isley Brothers, sang and performed not quite like today. We had artist Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and many other artists that were truly talented and wrote and composed their own music. Even the 90s and early 2000’s had musical groups like Jagged Edge or Dru Hill. How about Usher, who released one of the best R&B album’s the world has ever seen with, Confessions [2004]. Or The Dreams, Love/Hate [2007]. We still have a ton of great male artist today. Artist like Xavier Omar, Lucky Daye and Giveon stay true to real identity of R&B. But how do their complete albums stand up against artist like Ari Lennox, Teyana Taylor, H.E.R or Cleo Sol? Are male R&B artist releasing classics? Albums that you will tell your children about. Or could it be that women are finally getting the attention they have always merited? Mary J. Blidge’s, What’s The 411? [1992], is played at every Bar-B-Que. Or Erykah Badu’s, Baduizm, [1997]. Maybe women have always dominated, just not through the eyes of a man.

But there is some truth in Budden’s claim. In 2017, SZA released her first studio album and changed the game of R&B for the good. Her lyrics said more than sex or heard beats. She spoke on a level that was relatable to all women, especially those 20 something year old’s. Or how about Ella Mae’s 2018 self-titled album, Ella Mae. The release of her first studio album showed us speaking of love is still a beautiful thing. When it comes to making a “classic” album it has three components. Relevance, capturing the time and the feeling of hard work put into the project.  Any true fan of music knows exactly what that feeling is. If we look at some of the male albums that have come out in the past ten years, how many classics do they actually have compared? Arin Ray received a lot of praise for his album, Platinum Fire [2018]. Chris Brown released a couple ridiculously long albums. But when compared to the women of R&B, and an album in its entirety, the men just aren’t quite measure up.

 Then there’s Trap Soul. Bryson Tiller released this wonderful idea of mixing trap/rap sounding beats with R&B and it was beautifully meshed. But this new style may have been where R&B has lost its spunk. Artist like 6lack and Tory Lanez rode this wave and made it even bigger. But now, I think people have lost sight of what R&B is. So, when Tank says rappers, or this Trap Soul is obscuring what hip-hop/rap is; he means forgetting to separate the two. There is too much singing in rap and not enough rap. Or vice versa. Too much worrying about making music that is hot and usually only last for the moment instead making music that can last a lifetime. Regardless of it seeming “soft” or whatever you want to call it.

Times do change and truly change is the only thing constant in this world. But we must not forget the basics. Maybe it’s that R&B women have never forgotten the basics. And the men are too caught up with a new idea, men can’t be gentle. Or maybe fans don’t except it anymore and have forced a change that doesn’t sit well with true R&B fans.  Bottom line is, men, lets get back to the basics. Get back writing about lost love or found love for that matter. Don’t be afraid of the ballads. Everything doesn’t have to sound like hip-hop. This is not an attack to our male artist today just a simple observation that many of us have been thinking even before Joe Budden.  Also acknowledging they're dropping the ball and our women, well they’re right where they have always been, making classics.

January 09, 2022