Thursday, October 9, 2008

What the fuck happened to R&B? Part One.

I’ve been asking myself that question for quite a few years now, but I seem to be asking it more and more, each time I  go to a record store, look at the top 40 charts or listen to the radio. What the fuck indeed did happen to R&B? Because regardless of all the bubblegum gangster stuff that’s been plastered over it since the ‘90s and the level of technological advancement that’s evident in its production it has really become a strange type of pre-fabricated, doo-wopesque music form.

Like a lot of rap, it seems to be controlled from above, no longer really coming from the streets, and like rap has become easy prey for irony hungry sub-cultures that embrace any form of club music that seems corny, while shunning decent club tracks of the past or present. At the top of this decade from ’99 up til about 2003 there were some storming mainstream club tracks coming out, branded by superstar producers like The Neptunes, Timbaland and Rodney Jerkins.  A few come to mind, and in my opinion Brandy’s Full Moon album will be a future classic, revered in the same way as electro funk tunes from ’82 or ’83 are now. Supposedly the album’s sonic palette was derived from producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins’s six month sojourn in 2 Step garage dominated London while producing the Spice Girls’ last album. The whole record was very accessible yet forward looking and texturally involving. The same can be said for the late, great Aaliyah’s self-titled final album, the one that contained “Rock The Boat,” “More Than a Woman” and “Loose Rap,”

Timbaland’s work on that album and on her other material showed that he, and Missy Elliot, were not hemmed in by the imagined parameters of hip-hop/urban music, but were crafting club music, in the classic sense of the word, much as he is to this day on tracks like “Sexy Back” and “The Way I Are.” Though Aaliyah and Brandy’s songs were not as uptempo as these tunes, they were imbued with the same textural qualities. But after almost ten years of wack electro, too much cocaine, irony and black music as an antique item (the never ending nostalgia for Paradise Garage music and Boogie/electro-funk) or as a source or irony, it seems to have rubbed off on the industry and the music.

To be continued….


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