R&B Is DEAD – And You Can’t Blame “The Corporations” This Time

I’m sure MOST of you have read that “article” that “explains” the creation of gangster rap, and how it was conceived in some super-secretive meeting in a big mansion full of white music industry executives and politicians looking to jail young Black males to further America’s prison-industrial complex [or some BS like that]. This “article” that I’ve seen floating all over the web is what’s used to pinpoint why Black males are being disproportionately targeted by the police and why hip-hop music as a whole is DEAD and filled with nothing but guns, drugs and big-booty b*tches. I personally don’t believe that story to be true NOR do I subscribe to the theory that hip-hop even died because of gangsta-rap, but regardless of YOUR opinion on what killed it, we can definitely engage in a debate. But, when it comes to why is R&B dead, I’m really NOT interested in hearing your far-fetched, BS tales of corporate malevolence and institutionalized racism when the reality is much more simple than that: It’s DEAD because WE stopped continually demanding and supporting TALENT above all else.

And make no mistake about it: R&B is just as, if not MORE dead than Hip-Hop. Now I don’t want to turn this into a debate between the young generation and the older generations, where I come in here and blame the youth for having a terrible taste in music and allowing our soul music to slowly deteriorate because THAT is a BULLSH*T argument. Whether you are 14 or 34 or 54, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say YOU can personally attest to the decline in SINGING ABILITY that we are inundated with in the genre today. Whether you grew up on Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle or Aretha Franklin, it seems the older we all get, the less QUALITY singers we are hearing. And there’s no such thing as Gangsta-R&B, so there was NOT some back room meeting by corporation heads to destroy the music, because the simple fact is WE are the ones responsible for DESTROYING R&B.

WE Stopped Caring Whether Or Not Our Singers Could SING.

There once was a time when a thing called the “radio” was responsible for breaking in acts, and even if you are 16 or 17, you still should be able to remember THAT. When listening to the radio, it was you, the artists’ voice and an instrumental and that person’s voice was either GOOD or BAD. That may seem like a very simplistic statement, but it was THAT simplicity that made R&B so great. When I first heard Mariah Carey, Mary J., Alicia Keys, and Deborah Cox, my brain processed that there was a woman singing a song; Then it processed whether she even had the vocal abilities to sing or not; and THEN it processed how much I liked her abilities. We all liked different levels of good, but one thing was apparent about ALL of our noteworthy singers, which brings me to my second point:

WE Stopped Demanding Singers Had SOUL

I don’t care WHAT you were singing about, having SOUL was a key element in singing. So many singers today just utter useless, pointless and empty words with an unemphatic delivery. I’m not saying EVERY song had to be as powerful as Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come” but at we expected – no, DEMANDED – every act that stepped in front of us to be CAPABLE of singing. If you are gonna utter mindless BS like “Gucci this/Gucci that” AT LEAST have some modicum of vocal ability to cover up your vapid lyrics [and vapid lyrics are NOTHING new in R&B].

WE Started To Care TOO Much What Singers Look Like

The music industry has been superficial since it’s inception and we ALL know that [Hell my childhood music featured Diddy forcing Kelly Price’s chubby-ass out of the “Mo Money, Mo Problems” video], but WE as the listeners STILL managed to demand that sexy singers STILL provide skill. In fact, one lost relic of our R&B fandom is the fact that singing skill use to MAKE someone more attractive than they really were. Women with A-cups and flat cakes had dudes going crazy, and women STAYED overlooking some male singers GUTS because they could “sang.”

Aristotle once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Well since R&B nowadays is untalented, uninspired utter garbage, yet it’s what WE continue to support, who is REALLY to blame for the sharp decline in quality music?

This Is Your Conscience

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog ThisIsYourConscience.com, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.