Remember Al B. Sure? Remember how good he made you feel? How listening to “Nite and Day” triggered a natural high that rivaled a night stroll on the yard on 420. Remember D’Angelo and how the best R&B video to date made every female from prepubescent teenagers to the grown and married press their noses against the TV screen hoping that somehow, if they got close enough, they could sneak a peek below his bare waist and really know how does it feel? Or how singing just about any Boyz II Men track aloud made the lengthily 24 hour bus ride to New Orleans bearable and that much shorter? Learning the words to SWV’s “Weak” was like a teenage rite of passage and reciting lines from LL’s “Hey Lover” gave even the saddest of brothas game. Where has the music gone? Coming up, R&B didn’t just sound good, it felt good. It was the soundtrack to your first kiss, worse break-up and those lazy Sundays when everyone would just shoot the breeze on the front steps of your cousin’s house before the barbeque. While I can’t believe a one hit crooner like J. Holiday would have the audacity to point fingers and record “R&B is Dead” it does make me wonder if there is truth to his Nas spin-off?
Sure we have Erykah, Jill, and Musiq among others but we cowardly label them neo-soul so when we bump crap like Cassie or Cherish we can’t compare them to India or Amel. I mean seriously, will we be singing “Get Me Bodied” ten years from now? There’s no longevity, no quality, no feeling. Everything these days is made in the moment for instant success and ring-tone sales but the heart and soul of R&B is gone. We love to say the white man stole it but we didn’t have to buy it. If we chose not to listen “Put It In Your Mouth” and Eamon’s “Fuck It,” rhythm and blues would probably be singing a different tune.
We’re not going to remember Chris Brown the way we did Michael nor Beyonce, Diana Ross. The singers don’t need to step it up, we do. Stop listening to crap. Talented artists like Chrisette Michele and Janelle Monae are treading the waters between above and underground because we’re too busy sweating R&B pop stars. Go buy Erykah’s new album, buy Jill Scott’s last joint–keyword buy–and download Monae’s EP. Take back music before we lose our categories in the Grammys and start calling Rhianna the new queen of soul–just look what happened to female rappers, they peaked in ’97 and now we’re even calling people like Trina, artists.