There was a time when Rhythm and Blues was king on the music scene. But hip-hop music changed all that. In 2018, hip-hop and rap music accounted for 21.7 percent of total music consumption in the U.S., according to Statista. This is more than double the percentage of R&B music sales.
To compete with the rise of hip-hop, R&B artists turned to “thug” style. Thug R&B are artists who follow a hip-hop attitude in image and lyrical content. Modern R&B singers who typified “R&B Thug” included Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign. But, wrote Devin Ch in Hot New Hip Hop, “the “R&B Thug” variant wasn’t born yesterday. Singers like Ginuwine took sexual innuendo to places absurd. R. Kelly made the hotel lobby a mere stepping stone to the after-party, and so on and so forth.”
But some blame Thug R&B for the decline of the genre. Count Shawn Stockman from the superstar R&B group Boyz II Men as one of those who believe this.
Launched in 1988, Boyz II Men have had five number one hits with four singles reaching the top of the Hot 100. In all, they have seven platinum and three gold singles, having sold more than 64 million albums worldwide.
“R&B has lost their identity because it felt like it had to compete with the bravado of the hip hop world. Because labels stopped supporting the perception of Black men being more than displaying a ‘thug image,’” Stockman tweeted on June 29.
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He added, “There was a time when it was kool to identify as an R&B singer. It was kool that there was a clear distinction between a rapper and a singer, persona wise. And it was respected. It wasn’t viewed as being ‘soft’ to be smooth and to speak to ladies a certain way.”
While Stockman doesn’t seem to be a fan of the fusion of the two genres, it’s been happening–even before the era of Boyz II Men.
“Hip-hop and R&B have always been joined at the hip. Going way back to hip-hop’s origins in the 70s, DJs would often play the percussive breaks in funk and soul records for MCs to rhyme over, essentially creating the blueprint that rap follows today,” wrote Edward Bowser in Soul In Stereo.
Photo: Nathan Morris left, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men at JetBlue’s Live From T5 at JFK Airport on Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Donald Traill/Invision/AP)