Is it safe to say R&B had mountains to move? In the 90’s when Hip Hop was emerging to surpass prominent genres like Rock n Roll and Country on a worldwide scale, it was often tagged with R&B under one category. But as time went on, urban cultures caught on in a massive way. You started hearing more and more Hip Hop coming from non – English speaking countries – Poland, Germany, Belgium and even Russia. Now we don’t only have Dutch Hip Hop, we have Arabic Hip Hop, Spanish Hip Hop and even Portuguese, Greek, Italian, and Danish youngsters are bringing out their versions of Hip Hop as well.
R&B and Hip Hop will always share a special connection musically. One genre compliments the other but it is no longer logical to class the two under the same category like it was done in the 90’s. With the collapse of the music industry during the recession of the late 00’s new found appreciation of the internet in developing countries planted Hip Hop deeper into second and third world countries than ever before. Urban lifestyles became the most dominant and wide spread trend among young people in Africa for example. Countries like Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, South Africa and the Ivory Coast are just a few of many places where rap music became dominant among the majority of hipsters.
But with all of its struggles and successes R&B continues to hold tight. One as a hook to many hit rap songs and two, as an independent genre which is ripping its way through the world of music listeners. During the last decade we saw a slew of new R&B artists emerge and disappear after only one album. We also saw some prominent artists disappear but some remained consistent through out the decade. Consistent in this context refers to all artists who had adversities, trials and successes but through hard work and perseverance managed to released at least three studio albums, collaborate with other artists and remained in the public eye (with an occasional new material) through out the decade.
Brandy – Its interesting how what a celebrity does in their personal life can affect their career even when they are clearly still talented. Our society has been brainwashed to sometimes recognize factors like glamour, money or gossip but talent which is the key ingredient in the mix gets to come last. So she was not really married to ‘what’s the face’ and she accidentally hit someone with her SUV. Sad as it is, that does not mean that she is not hard working and talented. In the last decade Brandy managed to release three solo albums. “Full Moon” which spun the hit singles “What About Us” went platinum after debuting on the top of Billboard’s R&B chart.
The following release entitled “Afrodisiac” was her fourth album which made it to number four on the billboard charts. Yes it suffered some set – backs but two years previously she was chalking away a platinum plaque. She had switched producers and featured Kanye West on the raining single “Talk About Our Love”. Then in 2008 when it looked like her career might be over the “I Wanna Be Down” superstar released her most recent album entitled “Human”. It was a dual label release as well as more internationally received. It was her lowest selling album and probable the best if you listen to it. However, the single “Right Here” was a worldwide hit and Brandy proved that she can not only ride in high tide but also low ones if need be.
Angie Stone – For those who do not follow every artist, it is perfectly understood. There has been so many one hit wonders and music has been sort of merging lately. You observe that R&B and Hip Hop are slowly encouraging influences from Dance music lately. If you’re not a hard headed fan you might miss some of the more traditional music out there that may not be as trendy as others but are more traditional than others.
Angie Stone released six albums in the last ten years. In 1999 came her debut album entitled, “Black Diamond”. That was way before it’s time when the actual black diamond itself had not become trendy in a popular fashion. It earned her a quiet gold plaque in the US but in Europe and Asia it was even more adored. “Mohagony Soul” her second album solidified her name around the world when it too garnered a gold plaque in the States while doing more many wonders across the world. “Stone Love”, her third, was not as successful in the US but her European and Asian fans were ever faithful to the soul sister. It was 2004, Hip Hop was dominating everything along with pop, rock and country and yet a traditional R&B singer name Angie Stone was making an impact around the world.
Album number four was a greatest hits album that many didn’t notice because it debuted at number #50 on the billboards charts in 2005 when Eminem, 50 Cent, Akon, Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne were stumping down every sand castle on the beach. Ever the fighter, Angie Stone released yet another album in 2007 entitled “The Art Of Love & War”. It debuted at number eleven on the charts as well as making a showing on European charts. For some reason Angie Stone’s music got a lot of love in France. Her last album entitled “Unexpected” was released on November 28th 2009. She hung in there and quenched all her fan’s thirst with that Soul/R&B music flowing through out the last decade.
Alicia Keys – Who can but for this R&B sweetheart? This producer, songwriter, singer, actress and philanthropist who ascended to stardom in early 2001 when the music industry was getting thirsty for something new. Keys quenched that’s thirst and won over millions of fans instantly. Perfect she was and still is, this Hell’s Kitchen bred bad boy admirer totally beams with stunning beau as she plays the piano live during her heartfelt performances. One of my favorite R&B singers, her debut album entitled “Songs in A Mirror” debuted at number one on the billboard charts in 2001 with the ultra successful single “Falling”. It went became a classic R&B album instantly, selling over six million copies worldwide and earning her five trophies at the Grammy Awards. This could have been it for her. She was accomplished, she could have easily walked away from the scene and straight into the sunset with millions of dollars.
But two years later her second album entitled “The Diary of Alicia Keys” debuted at number one on the billboard charts and saw Keys accepting another Grammy. The album sang over eight million copies worldwide. It surpassed the success of her debut album in record sales even as pressures mounted for her to match the enormous success of her debut album. It contained hits like “You Don’t Know My Name” and “If I Ain’t Got You” which were mega anthems in 2003 and the years that followed.
Alicia Keys didn’t return with another album until 2005 when she went live and unplugged with her live album entitled “Unplugged”. The MTV television released album made history as it was the first to debut at number one on the billboards and sold in platinum stratospheres. Like all her previous albums this one also gained Grammy nominations for best album and album of the year, to name a few. In 2007 she rippled through to number one on the chats again for the fourth time in a row with her third studio album, the triple platinum seller entitled “As I Am” hit the charts. The single “No One” was the most played anthem of that year and still is a radio blaster. Less than three weeks ago her 2009 album entitled “The Elements Of Freedom” was released debuting at, no you didn’t guess right, number two on the charts. The album has already sold close to 500, 000 copies with singles like State Of Mind II” and “Doesn’t Mean Anything”.