R&B-The Music, The Message, The Magic

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Hi Readers,

It is that time again. Last June, I expounded a lot on the style and forms of Black music.

This year, I want to explore the message of R&B and its importance to the African American community.

Recently I was watching a series called Unsung on TV One-a station oriented towards the Black community.

One of my favorite R&B groups was featured-The Manhattans. They scored big in the late

70’s with classic hits such as “There’s no me without you”, “Kiss and say goodbye”, and “Shining Star”.

In all of these ballads, the woman is exalted, treasured and loved.

Somehow (with the exception of Baby Face and a few others) the contemporary romantic Soul ballad has become raunchy akin to its rap counterpart.

Instead of being exalted and put on a pedestal, women are referred to as jeeps, and other inanimate objects.

For instance, the R. Kelly and Notorious B.I.G. collaboration-“You must be Use to Me Spending” is a prime example of the declining positive influence of R&B music.

Please understand readers that I applaud the artistry of rap and hip hop. I just don’t always agree with its message.

Unfortunately rap and hip hop has gotten away from the positive images and messages of the late 1970’s and mid 1980’s.

It seems that the classic message of love and unity that was a cornerstone of Black popular music has been corrupted by the marriage of rap and R&B and the materialistic values that it has come to embrace.

If we are to ever sustain a vibrant community where love is the central theme, how can contemporary R&B songs such as “You Make Me Want to Leave the One I’m With” contribute to healthy Black relationships?

If we gauge the health of our community by the quality and current state of our music-then we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

There may be some who would criticize our balladeers for displaying a great sensitivity towards our women.

Baby Face’s “Whip Appeal”, The O’Jay’s “We Cried Together”, The Isley Brother’s “Living for the Love of You” and “Hello It’s Me” are prime examples of the stability of Black love.

By stability, I mean these men prove disprove the myths and ideas about what qualities constitute a “Real” man.

Take note: If all of our male singers and lovers have negative and hateful messages-then our women will in turn become hateful and negative.

They are only responding in turn to the treatment they are receiving.

And readers, haven’t we had enough of the battle of the sexes between Black men and women?

Think Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale.

Critics of Black popular culture always convey that hip-hop is another form of Black cultural expression.

If that is true I guess hip hop chronicles the breakdown of the elements that has sustained our communities through the many obstacles we have faced in this country as second class citizens.

Just imagine if the singers who have often acted as our great love poets would make a conscious return to the great standards set by the mighty balladeers of our past.

Just imagine how far our community would move forward in a direction that will sustain us for generations to come.

Well, that is all for now readers. I am glad to be back after a long hiatus.

Until next time….



Black Music Tribute-R. Kelly and the R&B Revival

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Hello readers,

Thank you for joining me again as we cap our tribute to Black music month.

In this post we will explore R. Kelly’s influence on classic Soul/R&B.

When R Kelly exploded on the music scene in the early 1990’s he was a bona fide player of the New Jack Swing set dominated by Teddy Riley.

Kelly and his former band mates Public Announcement found moderate success with their hit Vibe from the moderately successful Born Into the 90’s album.

Enter 12 Play….

Mega hits Your Body’s Callin and Bump N Grind are Marvin Gaye meets the bad boys of New Jack.

Kelly extends Marvin’s sexual indulgences on these cuts.

Whereas Marvin on Let’s Get it On and I Want You offers titillating glimpses into his sexual fantasies, R Kelly on 12 Play, TP-2.Com and TP3 Reloaded takes listeners a little further to the gratifying acts of sexual fulfillment.


Honestly readers as the 90’s progressed I can’t think of any Black male R&B singer whose creative output was as prolific as R. Kelly.

In addition to his productivity was his range.

By range I mean Kelly has the skills to mix it up.

I Believe I Can Fly….

Years after its initial recording, I still get goose bumps when I hear this song.

No kidding. I feel 10 feet tall and that I possess the strength of character to accomplish any task that I set my mind to!!!

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Kelly’s varied career is his generosity and unique ability to remix and revive.

For Example: Janet Jackson’s Anytime, Anyplace.

I love the theme of sexual liberation on this cut.

I always felt that this song could be the anthem for introverts who have a strong inner freak dying to be released!!!!!

Skirt around my waist, face against the wall….

A la the love maestro Barry White.


Perhaps the most stunning revival in R&B Music besides Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing comeback was the strong resurgence of Ronald Isley-the original king of cool.

I always knew of the fantastic Islay brothers and love their romantic hits such as whose That Lady?, Voyage to Atlantis, and Living For The Love of You.


Kelly’s teaming with Ronald on the Down low as well as the remix was phenomenal.

This pairing only goes to show the longevity and timelessness of R&B-especially in the romantic department.

It is debatable in some segments that Ronald Isley never fell off of the music radar.

Be that as it may, because of the R, fans and critics alike can agree that Ronald is a relevant figure in contemporary R&B.

The infamous Mr. Big character has taken on a life of its own.

Ronald can ride the waves of R&B success for years to come on the strength of this creation alone.

The King of Pop…..

On numerous occasions R. Kelly has waxed elegantly and poetically about his love and admiration for Michael Jackson.

You Are Not Alone is Kelly’s respect, love and influence come to life.

This mega hit debuted at number one on the charts where it occupied the top spot for an insane amount of time!!!!!

Again as with Ronald, it can be argued by some that Michael certainly never fell off of the musical radar.

(It is definitely argued by me).

However, compared to Thriller sales, it would appear that Michael experienced some career setbacks.



Post Thriller– Michael still sold albums in the millions to sellout concerts around the world.

Enter R. Kelly….

Readers, as you may well remember, Michael and his career was still reeling from the unsubstantiated charges of sexual misconduct.

After the success of Michael and Kelly’s collaboration, the naysayers as well as loyal and lukewarm fans alike seemed to agree that Michael still had the staying power after all.

Why do I contend that R Kelly is the savior of R&B?

First I want to clarify that R&B was never in any danger.

I want to enumerate on a point I made earlier in the post about other male R&B singers.

There was Will Downing, Keith Washington, Freddie Jackson and Johnny Gil.

Though talented as these brothers may be, they fail to chart a strong and lasting presence on the R&B scene.

Imagine contemporary R&B without R. Kelly.

Yeah we may have the young bloods such as Usher, Chris Brown, and Avant.

And they are a truly bunch of talented brothers.

But still…..

When we examine the pantheons of Soul/R&B and come up with Marvin Gaye, AL Green, Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass, the above singers seem to lack something.

R Kelly is a direct descendant of the ilk of these Soul legends.

Although a few out there may contribute Kelly’s longevity to his ability to adapt to the hip hop scene (Kelly once declared himself an R&B thug) I beg to differ.

In my estimation his coupling with rap and hip hop gave it that classic Soul flavor and did a lot to rescue the genre from being relegated to a one dimensional dinosaur.

It appears as if the R has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

Of course when I think of R&B there’s Marvin and then there is R Kelly.

Long live the king!!!!

That concludes this tribute to Black music even though it was extended way past June-Black music month.

Thanks again readers for joining me on this journey.

Until next time…..


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