I'm always for a fun debate on who is the best in their field. It's one of the pillars that this site is built on. To give opinion and create conversation. But there are some debates that I watch unfold but don't really throw my hat in the ring. The recent debate on all Social Media about the "King of R&B" is one of those.
I'm not in to R&B in the way I know some people are. I know names of notable artists, I've probably heard one or two songs in my youth. But ultimately, I don't know enough to truly have the conversations I'd like to have.
But when it comes to Hip-Hop, I can have the conversations I want to have. Which is why I am here, writing about R&B.
Confused? Let me explain.
Hip-Hop and R&B are basically siblings in the music family tree. Hip-Hop, born out of the Disco scene that climaxed in the 70's and eventually taking elements from all corners of the music landscape. R&B is a much older sibling, born out of Jazz, Blues, Soul & Gospel. The birthday for R&B is not as specific as Hip-Hop's is, but let's say it began in the 50's for now.
With a basic timeline set. We can now look at where the arguments for the "King(s) of R&B" have been emanating from. R&B has evolved a lot in it's (in this timeline) nearly 70 year history. But for some reason, people reckon that the true "King of R&B" had their career in either the 90's or even 00's.
Now, this may be because that the zeitgeist pushing this conversation are in their 20's, 30's or even 40's, so it makes sense on that front. But I want to focus on the late 90's, early 00's if I may. Because this is where I start my claim. (As you already know from the title of this article.)
At the turn of the Century, Hip-Hop & R&B started doing something that they have never done before, (on a mainstream level) they started to mix. Now, when it comes to genre-blending, there's always a genre that is "taking". Hip-Hop was the taker in this case, The reason why we don't consider people like Ja Rule or Nelly great in the artistic sense, is because they genre blended rapping with elements of R&B. I'm not talking about sound per se. I'm talking about the intangibles. The vulnerability, the wanting women to like the music too. Things that make R&B so universal. Hip-Hop, admittedly, can be very off-putting to women as an audience.
You could say that Hip-Hop, at that time, had an identity crisis. But what does that have to do with now?
R&B, in my opinion, has an identity crisis right now. I'm not saying it's dead or anything like that, I'm saying that like Hip-Hop was taking R&B elements and calling it "Hip-Hop", R&B are now taking popular Hip-Hop elements and calling it "Contemporary R&B".
Jacquees' obvious BS claim aside. The reason there can't be a new "King of R&B" right now, is because R&B simply isn't as "pure" as it was in the 90's and decades prior. People like Bryson Tiller & 6LACK are two examples that come to mind. They take trap beats (Hip-Hop) and croon over it. Apparently, that is "Contemporary R&B". You may agree, but I don't.
Again, I'm not saying it's dead, you may have a list of artists that you consider "true R&B" in the 90's (And decades prior's) definition, but most R&B that is charting these days are usually taking Hip-Hop elements and simply singing over it. How can you crown somebody a "King" when you can't even say with 100% assurance that they're an R&B artist and not a Hip-Hop artist?
And even though it's only "King" we're talking about, I'd still like to say that R&B on the female side is way better than men at the moment. Think that is something we can all agree on...