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Host: Robot Overlord


Is This REALLY an RnB Song?

Written by on July 26, 2020


Did you know: music journalists are more likely to categorize Black musicians as R&B artists even if their music “breaks barriers” or “redefines” that genre?

R&B music is great! But, limiting Black artists to one category is not. A lot of the music that gets labelled as R&B actually has more in genre with other genres or whole new genres of their own. At the same time, when white artists produce similar music, critics are quick to praise them for breaking barriers. They do not label them solely as R&B.

The irony here is that white musicians often directly profit off of copying predominately Black music styles like R&B. For example, Justin Timberlake has come under fire for appropriating Black music. Or, look at Macklemore who won “Best Rap Album” at the 2014 Grammys, beating out Kendrick Lamar. Both of these artists have been praised for reinventing genres and defying conventions when many similar Black artists have just simply not been given the same level of recognition.

The problem is when the label of R&B limits and reduces the art of Black individuals. FKA twigs spoke to this in an interview with The Guardian:

“When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: “I’ve never heard anything like this before, it’s not in a genre,” explained FKA twigs. “And then my picture came out six months later, now she’s an R&B singer. I share certain sonic threads with classical music; my song ‘Preface’ is like a hymn. So let’s talk about that. If I was white and blonde and said I went to church all the time, you’d be talking about the ‘choral aspect.’ But you’re not talking about that because I’m a mixed-race girl from south London”

We need to recognize that Black artists have created much of the culture and art that is celebrated and consumed around the world. We need to stop reducing Black artists to just R&B and start acknowledging that they are redefining that genre and inventing new ones of their own.

— Jason (News Director)

 

 

 

If you’re interested in hearing Black artists who are redefining music today, give these songs a listen:

Blue Light– Kelela 

mary magdalene – FKA twigs 

Doomed – Moses Sumney

Need It – KAYTRANADA

Locked in Closets – Solange

Koi – Le1f

Gon Blow (feat. Rye Rye) – Cakes da Killa

DJ LAG_ONAN_127 BPM – Kelela & DJ Lag

 

References:

  1. https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/black-musicians-on-being-boxed-in-by-randb-and-rap-expectations-we-fit-in-so-many-things/
  2. https://www.thefader.com/2014/09/12/popping-off-fka-twigs-beyonce-alt-r-and-b
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/aug/09/fka-twigs-two-weeks-lp1
  4. https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2017/08/09/541951925/kehlani-and-r-bs-women-of-color-struggle-to-be-heard-in-pop-market




 

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