July 1, 2013
Last night I attended the 2013 BET Music awards and the thoughts I have been having were validated… that R&B/Urban Music is Alive! Even though some record labels don’t have traditional black music divisions anymore (that’s another story for another day), creatively I see a resurgence of urban inspired music. Whether it’s Breezy’s “Fine China,” “JT’s “Suit and Tie,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, Mariah Carey’s “Beautiful” (feels like a classic Motown song from 60s) or Bruno Mars “Treasure,” the music is shifting. What’s interesting is that majority of these of these acts are non African-American. Are they truly embracing the sound or is it just them being smart to enlist the help of some top African American producers to change things up? Either way, I like how the music is sounding and most of those songs are getting played on mainstream radio.
You see the music biz goes in cycles, and for the past few years it was either Hip-Hop or just dance/Pop. Now the cycle seems to be coming back to more melodies and 80s inspired tracks. Now we just need more acts to carry the torch but more importantly, we need more exposure for urban music on radio and television. Last night the BET awards paid tribute to the legend Charlie Wilson. That musical tribute reminded us of how much we LOVE good R&B music. How do we keep this going? We really only see music on BET for a couple hours a day and that’s really targeted to a younger demo. We need more mainstream channels to keep black music going.
In the 70s and 80s, we had a plethora of R&B musicians and bands like Earth, Wind & Fire, Confunkshun, The Time, The Gap Band, Shalamar, Kool and The Gang, Lakeside, The S.O.S. Band, Cherrelle, Pebbles, Frankie Beverly and Maze…I could go on and on and on. And in the 90s and early 2000s, we had some incredible R&B artists/groups both male and female: Toni Braxton, Brandy, Aliyah, Jagged Edge, En Vouge, 112, Dru Hill, Next, Faith Evans, Tony Toni Tone, etc.
We MUST continue to preserve the culture, protect the music and keep putting out great urban sounds! Who will be our next Prince or MJ ( yes they started in black music)…who will be the next Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, or Barry White, … the next Maxwell, Teena Marie, or New Edition… the next Marvin Gaye, Rick James, Chaka Khan, Babyface, Janet Jackson or Aretha Franklin? Personally I feel the closest acts we have to Icon status is Usher, Beyonce, Chris Brown, Mary J, R Kelly, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys and perhaps a John Legend. Oh and Miguel is headed in a good direction. These acts have broken into mainstream/pop, but still find a way to create good urban music.
There are a few acts that I am excited about: Janelle Monae (she still doesn’t get enough props), Luke James, Tiara Thomas, Ywada, and Adrain Marcel.
Thank you to the R&B stars that have kept it going: Maxwell, Uncle Charlie Wilson, Raheem DeVaughn, Jill Scott, Raphael Saadiq, Melanie Fiona, Tank, Tyrese, Chrisette Michelle, Vivian Green, Lyfe Jennings, Anthony David, Tamia, India.Arie, Algebra, Fantasia, Bilal, Joe, Mint Condition, Tamar Braxton and many more! I hope we can continue to bring back more urban music for the masses. I surely never gave up on it…
I saw the trend shifting back in the 2000s and in ’07, I decided to start R&B Live in New York with my two partners to give urban acts a live music platform for industry insiders. We featured urban acts with a live house band and it became the hottest industry event in NY for 2 1/2 years with guest audience members like Jay Z, Beyonce, Diddy, Denzel Washington and more! In 2009, I decided to take my talents to South Beach…just kididn’; I took my talents back to my hometown ATL and started ATL Live on the Park with Marlon Nichols. We are in our 4th season and keeping the music and the culture alive! We have had many great R&B acts to bless the stage including Teddy Riley and Blackstreet, Miguel, Luke James, Tank, Kelly Price, Members of NPG, Jagged Edge, and Next to name a few!
So I challenge you to keep black music alive. Learn the history of the music and know how it influenced many generations (from the days of Motown to LaFace Records). Request more urban music on your local urban mainstream radio/TVstations, support the tours of these musicians, and share what you love about them through social media and the internet!
Shout out and a BIG thank you to Pharrell, Timbaland, and ALL the other great writers and producers who are bringing the culture of black music back to the mainstream! Thank you Stephen Hill and BET for a fun night of our music…black music! And to mainstream radio, TV, cable networks…let’s go. Let’s make music fun again!!