(GIF via tutclearwater)
Ayo, it’s Iswayski yet again. I’ve noticed that R&B is taking up more and more space in my playlists lately, so I’m going to zero on that for today.
I won’t front – R&B wasn’t always my favorite thing. When it would come on Hot 97 or Power 105, I used to flip to other stations in search of rap. But things and people change. And regardless of whether it’s the first time, the genre is currently in the midst of some great creative energies. Production is more daring, fresh vocal styles are being explored, and the line between rap and R&B is constantly blurring. (I think that last point brings things in line with where dancehall is at. You rarely have a popular vocalist who doesn’t pay close attention to melodic development in JA.)
The obvious examples of a new school in R&B are Drake, The Weeknd, and Frank Ocean. But things definitely don’t stop with them. Let’s spend some time with a few selections:
Song title aside, this one reaches so many levels. BOING? It’s full of deep sub bass, soaring vocal melodies, guttural screws, chirpy up-pitches, and hard knock drums. YEAH? It’s produced by DJ Dahi, who also made the beat for Kendrick’s “Money Trees” and “Bout It Bout It” for Gangsta Gibbs. YAYAYA? Darius & Dominique are brothers who rap as much as they sing. All of them are Cali boys.
This collabo was a big surprise to me until I thought about it for a second: Jeremih is in fact the perfect pick to work with an experimental beastsmith like Shlohmo. His last mixtape, Late Nights, was not only widely embraced by people who dig Shlohmo, but was just a very forward thinking release in its own right. Mo’s beautifully ethereal track with How To Dress Well, “Don’t Say No,” was also a great lead up to this. Outs to Yours Truly for making “Bo Peep” happen.
The layered vocals, larger than Earth sized production, and Trey’s message all combine to build one powerful tune. His lyrics counter his own melodies as he plays both background and lead singer at once. Buddah Shampoo produced this one, with its fuzzy synths, clattering percussion, space filled dynamics, and rumbling basslines. Buddah also does solo production and is venturing into the Trap Rave world.
I’m throwing this one in here because I can, basically. It fits, but I’d bless you all with it regardless. It’s just a banger! Whether you like footwork or not, this one has a somewhat universal appeal, so don’t stress it. BOTC‘s DJ Roc blasts Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Hanging On” deep into the future. (Meta.) His crisp 808s lift off with effortless flow, bubbling along comfortably at a speed that less experienced pilots could easily lose control of. Maybe it’s not R&B explicitly, but it matches pretty well.
Thanks for listening and reading (if you’re still here). Will holler next week. One.