The ‘New’ New Jack Swing: Today’s Hip Hop and R&B

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Teddy Riley was the power house behind the New Jack Swing sound that ran the late 80s to mid-90s. It combined Hip Hop beats with the vocals of some of the decade’s greatest music. Bobby Brown, Aaron Hall, Tony Toni Tone, Guy and plenty of others used the sound to catapult their careers straight to the top. BBD, Janet Jackson, and even Whitney Houston had themselves a track with that New Jack Swing. Michael Jackson enlisted Teddy Riley to do the entire ‘Dangerous’ album! The blended genre eventually gave birth to the King and Queen of Hip Hop/R&B Mary J. Blige and Robert Kelly. These two artist monopolized the genre with their raw emotion and edgy lyrics. This was during a time when singers were actually vocalist and the number one requirement was vocal ability.

As time passed true R&B seems to have taken a backseat or renamed R&B/Soul music. What happened to real R&B? Did it die with Whitney Houston or something? It’s like singers can’t really showcase their ability because they have to sing over these Hip Hop tracks that engulf their voices. Where is a Luther Vandross? Even the great ones we have now don’t get a lot of radio play. I barely hear Maxwell, no Anthony Hamilton, and I’m not sure if I count TGT. I like them better as solo artists. There’s such a blurry line possibly because it’s assumed if you’re a good singer you should be able to sing over anything. 112 lost, Jagged Edge lost, Silk lost, real R&B lost.

As Hip Hop evolved so did the New Jack Swing Hip Hop/R&B sound. Turn on your radio and tell me what you hear? Ty Dolla $ign, Future, T-Pain, August Alsina, and a few others are this generation’s New Jack Swingers. The problem with this new era of New Jackers is that half these people can’t sing and the ones who can sounding terrible on these tracks dominated by 808s. Even if a singer is successful with a true R&B album there’s pressure to conform. Trey Songz hasn’t been the same since ‘Ready’ and R. Kelly’s latest was no TP2. I get in the car and I can’t tell the difference between a Rap song and an R&B track. I don’t think Teddy polluted the game I think the labels saw the monetary gain on their part and just said forget R&B. When I want to make love I don’t want to hear auto tune I want to hear a voice that’s going to put me I the mood like Marvin, let’s get it on!

An R&B song will always warrant hits because it draws on raw emotion and women are the biggest consumers. Why are the labels ramming this down our throats? Hip Hop seems to have a more promiscuous theme whereas R&B is more of an expression of unconditional love for a person as oppose to the physical aspects. R&B has messages of love and respect between black women and men something society thrives on us not having. Are all the genres suffering or just the ones associated with black people? It’s like adding Hip Hop to R&B causes a loss in quality and value. A&Rs and executives you know if these people can sing a cappella or not. So busy with these factory made artists that have background singers doing all the work. The game is a little more transparent than it used to be and having people record full albums for an artist is no longer an issue. The issue is that the consumer appears to have no standards and allows this to go on. I mean if all the radio plays is three songs we have to pick a favorite.

These producers are producing tracks for singers as if they’re rappers when the sound, delivery, and theme is different. I know producers should get out of the box and produce for other artists in other genres but you need to do some research before you get in the studio. Just because Mustard, Mike Will, or Khaled produced it doesn’t mean it’ll be a hit. They’ve bombed plenty of times, we all have. I want to be able to differentiate between each song and what I’m listening to. Songs shouldn’t meld together where I don’t even know what I’m listening to. Sometimes when I look online for music it’ll have R&B listed under Hip Hop or vice versa. Why do you think these academies and network award shows get it wrong when categorizing nominees? They’re confused! I get so frustrated with the radio sometimes I have to turn it off because everything sounds the same. There’s no new sound because everybody is copying each other and it’s affecting the music both Hip Hop and R&B.

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