When we look back at junior high school, we remember the shock and awe of seeing artists switch genres. Does anyone remember this time? When Fred Durst ruled the world and the word mash-up was unheard of. When hearing that a rapper and a rock star even partied in the same club caused people eyes to roll like a slot machine landing on “FREAK OUT”. Everyone stayed in their lane and played their positions and then people were like “You know how we can make people shit their pants??! Fred Durst and Method Man on a song together!” Some of you may be lost because you grew up after this era but trust us: if Travis Barker made a cameo in a Bad Boy video circa ’98 we would’ve faked the flu to see it premiere “Spanking New” on MTV. Suddenly it was a trend and then a standard. Now there really are no genre boundaries in music. Sure we still side eye anybody stepping into a lane where they clearly don’t belong but then those people go platinum (cough Weezy cough) repeatedly. The problem is shit gets lost in that gumbo mash and things get left behind.
It’s evolution and survival of the fittest, etcetera etcetera, but if we had an endangered music list now the bald eagle on it would be R&B. Long ago every song on the radio was not Young Money but rather a different kind of smooth falsetto, bass bumping, we finna go half on a baby gloria to all things sexy. It was back in the days when SWV ran the earth, Aaliyah was princess and R. Kelly could do no wrong except engage in questionable marriage practices. Allegedly! Teddy Riley remembers these glory days well . It was high time for R&B and nothing seemed to be able to ever break that. Rappers in the 90s could not have a radio hit without the audience being able to dance to it and back then nobody danced to hip hop. When you went out the DJ might break into some hip hop so numbers and zodiac signs could be exchanged but we all knew what the they were going to play for 2/3rds of the party. The trick was to add some R&B / old soul to the beat and then even though you were rapping some woman would be able to grind herself into her next morning mistake. Take Biggie’s “One More Chance”, “Big Poppa”, “Juicy” and “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”. All were easily 4 of his biggest hits and they all featured either a hook with female vocals or or a sample that could’ve had Coko of SWV saaaangin her heart out on it. What about Fabolous? Almost every song of his that has ever had popular radio success has been with an R&B singer (see: Make Me Better, So Into You and Can’t Let You Go). Still don’t believe me? The entire idea of the remix was created to infuse hip hop and R&;B. Missy Elliot dropping a verse on anything coming through the airwaves? Mary J Blige would flip the verses onto a hip hop sample and call Puffy for anybody on his roster who was running shit. The champion of this movement: Mariah Carey. To this day ODB and Mariah may still be the best and most random hip hop collaboration of all time and no matter where you play that song if the people are over 20 years old the entire crowd will yell ” ME AND MARIAH GO BACK LIKE BABIES WITH PACIFIERS”. ODB wasn’t just touching on his relationship with Mariah or his fantasy of one but also the truth of their positions— R&B and Hip Hop were the best of step siblings.
These days if you step into a club, not only are you of questionable morals, but there’s no guarantee you won’t get drunk and think you’re in Europe. Everything is euro-pop. Never mind that autotune makes everything sound like techno, everyone is obsessed with dance music. Granted this is expected from the starlets and body rolling Disney teens aching to show you how MUCH OLDER OR MORE SEXED UP THEY ARE but even veterans are turning to the strobe lights. The worst part it’s so obviously contrived. The most obvious example of this is the great Usher. Remember when that dude was like 13 and everything he sang made girls cry and tons of dudes totally profited off of it? Remember the Confessions Album when he literally almost made panties extinct? We do and we’ll just say Venus was in no goddamn way that. Sure we’ve been caught vogue-ing to OMG until we sprained an ankle and did a black out death drop but we haven’t body rolled like we did to Yeah in ages. Everyone in the club right now got locked in their room some night that their father heard “Bump n Grind” on his way home from work; so where is all the smooth shit? Does anybody even remember the blues?
Now you might say but The-Dream is still doing it for R&B. We’re and yes he is killing it. We don’t even want to think about how many dudes are paying child support because of “I Luv Your Girl”. But can one man hold an entire genre on his back? His polished tunes are smooth and oh so sexy but sometimes we want that old thing back. There are upcoming artists who are doing it for us, though, like Miguel, who, ironically enough wrote songs on Usher’s past two albums. His Salaam Remi produced debut single “All I Want is You” is the best example of what R&B has been missing. If Salaam doesn’t sound familiar to you maybe his former cohorts do: Lauryn maybe; Amy Winehouse possibly. The minute the drum beat drops we hit the I’m-too-damn-cute-for-life two-step we did in front of the mirror the day we got our swoop bang in 10th grade. We haven’t heard this much funk and soul on the radio since before R. Kelly missed the toilet seat in the worst way. Our friends have described Miguel as the new “bedroom bully” and truth be told our last bully Mr. Raymond hasn’t dropped our panties since Chili had a man. We wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that dude can actually sing and play instruments. For a while dance music was an escape for singers who needed to blend that autotune in and whisper over heavy synth, but now even the most legitimate crooners want to give us their best Ibiza music. We don’t summer anywhere but Coney Island beach, dude. Keep it gritty!
Protect the good shit. How can everyone turn their back on the one thing that made them so cool?! We hate to put pressure on Miguel but we’re counting on him to drop from the sky like Black Baby Jesus and just save the whole thing! Okay, maybe just be successful and then give some other kid the confidence to totally swoop in with honey vocals, prompting all the ladies to start throwing panties at the stage again. We promise to leave the finger waves and brown lip liner in the past but we cannot make any guarantees on the swoop bang except that we’re rocking it….right now. DON’T BE A HATER!