When we look back at junior high school, we remember the shock and awe of seeing artists switch genres. Does anyone remember this time? When Fred Durst ruled the world and the word mash-up was unheard of. When hearing that a rapper and a rock star even partied in the same club caused people eyes to roll like a slot machine landing on “FREAK OUT”. Everyone stayed in their lane and played their positions and then people were like “You know how we can make people shit their pants??! Fred Durst and Method Man on a song together!” Some of you may be lost because you grew up after this era but trust us: if Travis Barker made a cameo in a Bad Boy video circa ‘98 we would’ve faked the flu to see it premiere “Spanking New” on MTV. Suddenly it was a trend and then a standard. Now there really are no genre boundaries in music. Sure we still side eye anybody stepping into a lane where they clearly don’t belong but then those people go platinum (cough Weezy cough) repeatedly. The problem is s#*! gets lost in that gumbo mash and things get left behind.
It’s evolution and survival of the fittest, etcetera etcetera, but if we had an endangered music list now the bald eagle on it would be R&B. Long ago every song on the radio was not Young Money but rather a different kind of smooth falsetto, bass bumping, we finna go half on a baby gloria to all things sexy. It was back in the days when SWV ran the earth, Aaliyah was princess and R. Kelly could do no wrong except engage in questionable marriage practices. Allegedly! Teddy Riley remembers these glory days well . It was high time for R&B and nothing seemed to be able to ever break that. Rappers in the 90s could not have a radio hit without the audience being able to dance to it and back then nobody danced to hip hop. When you went out the DJ might break into some hip hop so numbers and zodiac signs could be exchanged but we all knew what the they were going to play for 2/3rds of the party. The trick was to add some R&B / old soul to the beat and then even though you were rapping some woman would be able to grind herself into her next morning mistake. Take Biggie’s “One More Chance”, “Big Poppa”, “Juicy” and “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”. All were easily 4 of his biggest hits and they all featured either a hook with female vocals or a sample that could’ve had Coko of SWV saaaangin her heart out on it. What about Fabolous? Almost every song of his that has ever had popular radio success has been with an R&B singer (see: Make Me Better, So Into You and Can’t Let You Go). Still don’t believe me? The entire idea of the remix was created to infuse hip hop and R&B. Missy Elliot dropping a verse on anything coming through the airwaves? Mary J Blige would flip the verses onto a hip hop sample and call Puffy for anybody on his roster who was running s#*!. The champion of this movement: Mariah Carey. To this day ODB and Mariah may still be the best and most random hip hop collaboration of all time and no matter where you play that song if the people are over 20 years old the entire crowd will yell ” ME AND MARIAH GO BACK LIKE BABIES WITH PACIFIERS”. ODB wasn’t just touching on his relationship with Mariah or his fantasy of one but also the truth of their positions— R&B and Hip Hop were the best of step siblings.
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