The R&B genre is no different from any other category; the music and the experience are always evolving, and in that evolution, artists develop new sounds that becomes new sub-genres. R&B has been morphing and redefining itself since its birth. Just like we rocked to rap subgenres such as West Coast’s gangsta rap of the 90s or the ghetto fabulous styles of the East Coast, it was all Hip Hop, but still different. Artists such as Erykah Badu, Miguel, Usher, Chris Brown, The Weeknd, Mary J. Blige and others are all R&B, but have their own way of communicating that to their fans. Here are a couple sub-genres that are all part of the R&B movement, but may be popular or not so popular right now for whatever reasons.
Neo Soul – Neo Soul, coined by Kedar Massenburg in the late 90s, is a sub-genre with a mixture of Soul and Contemporary R&B. It was a fresh take on the soul-dripped sounds of Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack and Stevie Wonder. Neo-Soul was known for a strong female presence, powerful lyrics and traditional R&B influences. The music beautifully mixed jazz, funk, pop, hip hop, African and fusion.
Rise – It was quality music with a positive message. In the beginning, the artists involved in this movement gave it the star power it needed to propel it up into the musical atmosphere
Fall – It went out like Disco. Neo-Soul is definitely still a great sub-genre, but a lot of artists do not want to be put in that box. They have lost a lot of their star power to success. Artists like Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo have become so big that they have outgrown the sub-genre called Neo Soul. In this globalized day and age, people do not want to be put in that black music box, even if its not just black music. Perception is everything and Neo Soul has that perception of being solely for the black folks.
Do you agree that Neo Soul is just for the black folk?
Hip Hop Soul – Is another sub-genre that helped to develop some of the legends of today. It is a fusion between R&B, Hip Hop, neo soul, and dance. It was the happy medium between new jack swing and neo soul. Mary J. Blige made it popular in the mid 90s with the help of P. Diddy and Uptown Records. They were able to harness this soulful street energy that would later be transferred to artists such as Ashanti, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Keyshia Cole and more.
Rise – Hip Hop Soul artists would rock over the hottest and the hardest Hip Hop tracks. They added a little spice to the tracks by artists like Method Man, Nas and Jay-Z.
Fall – This sub genre took a hit when the rappers started to appreciate the value of melody. Ja Rule, ironically 50 Cent and then Drake have showed us that they might not need a seasoned singer to get the point across. Rappers killed this sub genre by doing it themselves. Now you have singers wanting to be rappers. You can argue that this fusion of Hip Hop and R&B helped to weaken the R&B genre. The reason being: 1) R&B artists were not needed for as many features and 2) rappers took the expertise of being a singer. If you have a rapper that can sing then why do you even need R&B in the first place, right? Thank God for artists like Miguel who have helped to show the value of a great singer on a feature in songs like Wale’s “Lotus Flower Bomb”, J Cole’s “Power Trip” and Talib Kweli’s “Come Here”. Hip Hop Soul is not what it used to be during the mid 90s, but it might be on its way out the grave.
Do you think rappers need the help of R&B singers or have they been able to handle things without them?
PBR&B aka R-Neg-B aka Hipster R&B aka Alternative – This sub-genre is definitely a younger category that has recently sprung up in music. This genre focuses on the mood and heavy emotions.
Rise – With Frank Ocean and Miguel’s success, it’s hard to deny that this sub genre has something viable to offer. This sub genre has a lot of exciting names such as Jhene Aiko, The Weeknd, Theophilus London, How To Dress Well, CharlieRED, Frank Ocean and Miguel. They have also been able to couple their music with fashion and lifestyle. Despite the fact that we don’t have groups like Boys II Men, these artists are cliquing up to develop collectives like Black Noir and The Jackets, similar to that of Soulquarians or the Native Tongues.
Fall – Hmmm… we can’t say it has fallen because it hasn’t. However, some artists in this genre are not comfortable with the label R&B. They also do not subscribe to the format of R&B in the traditional sense. This can be awesome, but in cases like Frank Ocean’s Grammy performance, it might be a problem.
What do you think will cause the fall of PBR&B? Or do you feel it will only get stronger?
EDM & B aka Electronic Dance Music & B – This genre centered around dance based entertainment in the dance clubs and strip clubs.
Rise – People wanted to have an awesome time and dance. Super stars like Usher, Rihanna (I know she's “Pop”), Chris Brown, Ne-Yo partnered with house producer and DJ, David Guetta, to help to give this “sub genre” a boost.
Fall – How much dancing can we do? Many artists use dance music to expand their fan base, but the real R&B fans don't want any parts of it. It is a vicious cycle, but everything comes full circle. The fall of this music might be closely related to its marriage to drugs like Ecstasy and the infamous Molly. This generation missed the devastation of the Crack Era. The new generation of listeners are not scared to pop a pill or two. When they realize the consequences of partying this music genre might die off for some time.
Are people completely done with this sub genre or does it have some more life in it?
These sub genres are just proof that R&B is diverse and here to stay because it is constantly reinventing itself.
What will it look like next?
Where is R&B going to be and what will it look like?