Are white people saving R&B?

As a young hip-hop fan back in the 1990s, I never would have guessed that one day I’d be saying this, but I’m beginning to enjoy a little R&B music every now and again. I used to think that R&B sucked balls, as a rule, but now I’m beginning to realize that it could just be the R&B made by black people that sucks balls. If you notice, most of the R&B singers on the radio these days are cracka-ass crackas, and damn it if they aren’t bringing the genre back.

The most critically acclaimed as well as the most popular R&B album released in the past year has been FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake. It’s sold about as well as any album out these days, and it’s about as good as any R&B album since forever. And Amy Winehouse, whose new Back to Black has been compared favorably to that one Lauryn Hill album, seems destined for fame and fortune herself, if she doesn’t drink herself to death first.

In the past, I haven’t been a huge fan of Robin Thicke, son of the daddy from Growing Pains, but with this latest song of his, “Lost Without You” or whatever, it sounds like he’s making a bid to become the next D’Angelo, but whiter and not as on crack. I mentioned the other day that I can hardly complete a self-medicating mission to McDonalds without hearing a song featuring that gotdamned Akon, but I’ve been hearing the Robin Thicke song quite a bit as well.

Of course it’s only a matter of time before there’s some sort of backlash and indeed it looks like one is beginning to mount. A story in the LA Times the other day suggests that Joss Stone might be laying on her sister girl routine a bit too thick these days, while a blog post by soul aficionado and self-appointed savior of the black race Oliver Wang suggests that middle aged black woman Sharon Jones would be as popular as Amy Winehouse if she was younger and whiter[1].

Noted race man that I am, normally I’d be right there with them in suggesting that this is yet another plot by the TIs to co-opt a black form of music – in this case by playing on the black man’s tragic but inevitable (let’s face it) preference for white women. But the truth of the matter is that a) I’m not even sure if that’s what’s going on here, and b) at least some of these cracka-ass crackas are genuinely outclassing their black counterparts.

Here’s the thing: a lot of these new cracka-ass cracka R&B records are being produced by black musicians like Timbaland and Sharon Jones’ backing group the Dap Kings anyway. But I think it’s the songwriting more so than the grooves themselves that sets cracka-ass cracka R&B music apart. Where as so much of black R&B these days has adopted similar themes as hip-hop, i.e. materialism, infidelity and what have you, cracka-ass cracka R&B doesn’t come off nearly as negative.

For example, here’s Amy Winehouse in the LA Times the other day on the failed relationship that inspired Back to Black:

“When I fell in love, I thought, ‘I’m gonna die with you,’ ” she says of the man who inspired “Back to Black.” “So much pop these days is like, ‘What can you do for me? I don’t need you. You don’t know me.’ Back in the ’60s it really was like, ‘I don’t care if you love me, I’m gonna lay down and die for you, because I’m in love with you.’ “

Somehow I find it hard to imagine anything like that coming from the lips of, say, Beyonce. [Insert obvious punchline having to do with Jay-Z's unit. Nullus.]

Of course a case can be made that the state of love and relationships in the black community is so fucked up that of course our music is going to reflect that. But you have to wonder to what extent life begins to imitate art rather than vice versa. Maybe black chicks act like chickenheads because they listen to too much chickenhead music, and maybe this current surge in popularity of soul-singing PT Cruisers is because people are getting tired of hearing that shit.

[1] You can tell Oliver Wang is full of shit because a) that Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings album isn’t very good, and b) Amy Winehouse isn’t very attractive.

  • green eyes

    good points. that justin boy is a whiny ceacka ass carcka, but that may winehouse disc is ridiculous

  • http://xxlmag.com Billy X. Sunday

    Saw Sharon Jones open for Morris Day and the Time. She was meh. Still haven’t effed with Amy Winehouse.

    I don’t fucks with Timberlake for the way he through Clayface under the bus during Nipplegate. He’s a coward with no ballsach and that’s why he sings falsetto.

  • Hip Hop since 79′

    ?????
    Bol,

    I hope you get that “merit” badge real quick. So you can can get off of the white man’s bozac.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    Just another opportunity to tie in the likes of Amy Winehouse and such to a hip hop site … Jesus Chrysler …

    “white people saving RnB”
    “Joss Stone getting her groove back”
    “Why do black people hate white music”
    “Barrack Obama is white”

    I don’t really have anything against white people, but like I once said .. I wouldn’t go to KFC to order a Big Mac.

    But it’s your column, I guess, write what you want. (truthfully, the last 2 weeks or so has been very good for you in terms of posts,except for the afforementioned subjects, I must admit to your credit).

  • ApexDujeous

    Dude, the Dap-Kings are like 80 percent white

  • ApexDujeous

    And the Dap-Kings are dope, and will kick the ass of ANY new-jack R&Ber out there. And Amy winehouse

  • ApexDujeous

    And the Dap-Kings are dope, and will kick the ass of ANY new-jack R&Ber out there. And Amy winehouse is attractice in that “it’s 4am on a Monday, this is the only chick in the bar and shes looks likes she a good fuck but im not gonna tell my friends about it” kind of way.

  • Combat Jack

    ^ “sounds like he’s making a bid to become the next D’Angelo, but whiter and not as on crack.”

    Dayum!

  • FLIP

    Somehow I find it hard to imagine anything like that coming from the lips of, say, Beyonce.

    ———————————————–

    If the check is big enough…

  • http://www.obscuredetails.com Jeff

    “Amy Winehouse, whose new Back to Black has been compared favorably to that one Lauryn Hill album, seems destined for fame and fortune herself, if she doesn’t drink herself to death first.”

    If you think drinking/drugging oneself to death and getting crazy famous are mutually exclusive, you are out of your got damned mind. If that were the case, you wouldn’t find posters of Bradley Nowell in every pothead college kid’s dorm room. I’m certainly not pulling for this, but I would go so far as to say nothing would help Amy Winehouse become a major star quicker than her suffering a massive overdose.

  • yaboy

    ill post bolography…

  • dont know about you

    i been listening to tha dude thicke since his first lp, hes got some soul straight up, just peep his beautiful wife — one

    oh and amy winehouse is alright, i think its a lot of hype behind her , justin is ight too

    i think one of the biggest problem with black r&b is that the artists that are successful suck, ie omarion, lloyd, if your over 18 how can you listen to that isht.. if more dudes like musiq and john legend, jill scott got more airplay their be more black artist with better music.

  • eauhellzgnaw

    This is primarily a media and marketing matter. When white critics and fans see a white artist doing “black” music in a way that they think is respectful, they lose all objectivity and hype these artists to no end. It’s not exclusive to white people or to the field of music, but that’s what’s going on here.

    The labels too, understand that for pop music except for rap, a white artist is going to be more marketable than a black one for the most part. There is a small subset of white fans and critics who tie authenticity to blackness, but they’re outnumbered by those seduced by the Elvis/Eminem factor.

    A couple of other things:

    1.) Timberlake is trash. Mainstream critics and hipsters wouldn’t give a damn about him if he were a black dude. They hate black R and B by black men (unless it was made 30 or 40 years ago), and only like R and B by black women when they’re looking to patronize a token “ghetto” chick.

    2.) Fat black women’s days are numbered in mainstream R and B.

    3.) Call me when this new crop of white R and B stars drops something on the level of Bilal’s “Make Me Over.”

  • EReal

    Bol is on that Kanye Tudda shit. On that interracial tip eh Bol? The forbidden fruit? Huh?

    Who gives a fuck about the color of your skin if you make hot music??
    At least I know I dont.

    Stay Black Bol, Stay Black.

    1 hunned.

  • John Cochran

    “Where as so much of black R&B these days has adopted similar themes as hip-hop, i.e. materialism, infidelity and what have you, cracka-ass cracka R&B doesn’t come off nearly as negative”.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    You couldn’t be more right. I think right now the singers wanna be rappers too much. The white guys in question, JT and Robin, have more creative, and dare I say, soulful albums. They arent scared of taking risks. Shit, when I first heard Sexy back I thought it was some techno shit.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    As Posted By Dr Flav, you all need to fix this site. I aint even going to play M.E.O. and post BS under his name.

  • N.O. 4 life

    All they did was slap a white pretty face on black music to sell to the masses of white 14 year old girls. This is just another Elvis except now a majority of blacks like the music because it is pretty decent thanks to people like polow da don.

  • http://junglemission.blogspot.com jimmy starburst

    yes

  • tseliot

    when isn’t oliver wang full of shit though, bol?

  • thoreauly77

    though it might not be “cool” to do, i have to give credit to john legend for being a much more talented soul/r&b singer than the aforementioned artists. not taking anything away from them, just saying. co-sign euhellzgnaw on the bilal comment as well.

    “soul aficionado and self-appointed savior of the black race Oliver Wang”

    - at least OW is sincere about his taste and intentions (by the way folks bol was employing hyperbole). besides bol, youre certainly not doing anything for your people by constantly ridiculing them and big-upping all the PT’s.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    @ Dr. Flav,

    I extend to you my gratitude …

  • http://myspace.com/twerkolator twerkolator

    first, “back to black” > miseducation (overrated)…

    second, i never understood why so many people think hip-hop and r&b are diametrically opposed, when hip-hop came from r&b…the problem with r&b over the past 10 years is that it tries to be too much like rap. r&b today is basically people singing rap lyrics over beats – no wonder it sucks.

    artists like amy winehouse and jt are undoubtedly helped by their skin color, but no one can deny that their albums are bangin’…

  • TS

    EAU — or, they’re just good.

  • Ace

    Yo, R&B sucks on the whole. Those slow jams on urban radio now: no thanks. The only R&B artists I fuck with are either a) old & black or b) named Sade. This whole crop of white artists can belt, for sure. But, are they hot? Nah, not so much. JT’s aiight. His songs are good like the first 20 times, but after that, he’s disposable like the rest of his racial ilk hence their lack of staying power. For the heads: who the fuck remembers Remy Shand, who dropped one of those neo-soul jams back in the early 2000′s? If not, you’ve made my point for me. Their tracks are hot, but, ultimately, are forgettable as what you ate for lunch a couple days ago.

    But, just to be contrarian, a lot of hip-hop came from the funk movement. hip-hop cats grew up listening to R&B, but Funk was far more important in the grand scheme of things.

  • http://yahoo.com billblackfish

    HEY BOL BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • eauhellzgnaw

    “EAU — or, they’re just good.”

    True, but they’re not…at least, Timberlake isn’t.

  • http://www.akirathedon.com AK

    Bol, you are my favourite blogger in years, even though I dissagree with most of what you say, always.

    Rah though, I was just watching Unkle Ruckus’ Dream or whatver episode of BoonDocks it was where dude goes to white heaven in a dream, and I so thought of you.

    Good thing!

    Still. 1: An old mate of mine who used to bum on my sofa and nick money off of me was in all the UK press today grinning cos he split Amy W and her boyf up.

    2: Amy Whinehouse is not white.

    3: Joss Stone speaks in an American accent, and is a bit crap.

    4: Aint none of these D bags getting anywhere NEAR Smokey. SMOKEY, mayne, there is your soul.

    5: Real soul died with ODB. Sexy won’t bring it back (but JT’s choice of production is ill)

    6: cosign the whole RnBfolks singing Viacom rap bullshit over Viacom rap beats thang.

    7: Oliver Wang is the Jesse Jackson of bloggery. IN HIS DREAMS!

    What happened to Colour Me Badd?

    etc.

  • BIG ROB

    Good Music is Good Music regardless of who sings it. Plus Amy Winehouse has the best CD of the past year, and now that she re-released her Back to Black, she has the best CD of this year too.

  • http://www.myspace.com/theebonystones Walter Patrick

    I would have to disagree with Ace and his comment that states:

    “JT’s aiight. His songs are good like the first 20 times, but after that, he’s disposable like the rest of his racial ilk hence their lack of staying power. For the heads: who the fuck remembers Remy Shand, who dropped one of those neo-soul jams back in the early 2000’s? If not, you’ve made my point for me. Their tracks are hot, but, ultimately, are forgettable as what you ate for lunch a couple days ago.”

    That’s some bullshit. Jamiroquai’s catalog holds up hella strong as hell…well at least the first three albums do. Average White Band’s singles are still as strong as ever. Teena Marie’s shit is still Fiiiiyah.

    If he’s trying to be on some old discount the talent just because they white shit, he needs to relisten. I see where the idea that this PT invasion is fueled and augmented by the anamoly of white people rocking “black” rhythm. But if there looks was going to be the central selling point, you would think that a much better looking set of chicks with soulful pipes had to be available somewhere.

    Real talk, do any of you really, really, really wanna stick either Lily Allen, Joss Stone or Amy Winehouse? Any one of y’all so hot to stab anything walking around on some pink feet that y’all would really holla at them? They ain’t the ugliest chicks, but they ain’t really poster material either…

  • http://www.myspace.com/theanticorp SONNY CHEEBA

    @ Billy Suday, Amy Whinehouse is the truth! Hate to say it….

    And Robin Thicke is a good friend of mine, and he’s been writing songs for Black artists for years (Brandy, Usher, Mary J Blige, Brownstone- ermember them?)- he’s certified!

  • Fuckthis

    The day a Nsync member is on BET is when hiphops gone, The day MIMS is saying hes from BK is when hiphops gone. The day we placed Premo and RZA with scott storch means hiphop is gone. We cant be blind man, this is total fucking trash. Stop ruining beats by watering down the fuckin treble, it sounds like a pop song all this new NY shit.

  • ah huh

    Bloody damn good post Bol. Looks like your on it again.

    Nice one.

    One

  • http://www.unkut.com Robbie

    “Amy Winehouse isn’t very attractive”

    No, but she’s slutty. Which is way more important anyways.

  • gds

    hmm how he can say craca ass cracka but if i call him a nigger ass nigger people get mad?

  • gds

    hmm how he can say craca ass cracka but if i call him a nigger ass nigger people get mad? any people say whites are racist. fuckin ignorant people

  • http://www.myspace.com/bigsydproductions i say

    i honestly think r&b died a long time ago.the good ole days of keith sweat,sade,immature etc are truthly gone and with it the music the call r&b.I can,t really understand why jt outsold beyonce but i guess they support their own but we don’t.

  • bongolock

    dam bol & billy x dont like sharon jones?! i can no longer trust your music reviews… to each his own tho..

  • BIGNAT

    chickenhead music man bol you a fool hahahahahahha

  • gds

    if im a cracka ass cracka bol is a nigger ass nigger

  • bds

    if im a cracka ass cracka i guess bol is a nigga ass nigga

  • jb

    maybe nigger ass niggers need to shut the fuck up.

    and check out the UK version of jackass but way funnier.

    the militant black guy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK9xwBeegfo

  • jb
  • wtf????

    …u saying cracka ass cracka is like me sayin nigga ass nigga

    FUCKING STOP

  • D-mack

    Don’t say “Cracka-ass cracka” if you wouldn’t want a white person writing a story to say “niggas ass niggas”, be a little more professional.

  • Harold Crick

    Most R&B today sucks, but I do love Jaheim (I guess this would be a good place for a nullus of some type).

  • Chicago

    Just cant leave jay out your mouth can you.

  • JesterOutlaw

    Why the fuck is it ok for yall to publish “Cracka ass Cracka” and its cool.. but if I being white..published “Ni**a ass Ni**a” It would be a big fuckin deal…yall is some hypocrite ass SOB’S

  • nicsupreme

    I agree with a lot of the comments. R&b died because of neo soul, I remember back in 80s and 90s R&B had it own flavor, now it mostly wacky rhythm and Melodie’s. My point is back in the days had better singers and producers.

  • AsianPaulWall

    bol u are a white man deep down inside.

  • AsianPaulWall

    bol you are a white man deep down inside

  • http://dorknation.wordpress.com Gandalf Mantooth

    Since when HASN’T R&B been about infidelity? What was the subject of nearly every blues song since the genre was invented?

    We revoke your writer’s license cuz your premises are invalid. (not only paraphrasing from EPMD, but also first semester logic class)

  • Were Read 2 Def

    Ur posts now bore me. Billy Sunday got the blogs on lock.

  • EReal

    ^ Second That We’re.

  • ha ha!

    So who is to blame? This is “our music” and no one is keeping it up…….except White Folks. There is a void to fill and nobody is there to fill it. D’angelo is out getting high and road raging on women….how does that look? Eric Benet is out having “sex addiction” problems. Now we know “they” took credit for Rock n Roll leaving alot of musicians broke, not to mention stealing songs. So again….who’s to blame? To make things worse Hip Hop is no where near as strong as it used to be. C’mon people stop worrying about “putting D’s on Cadillicks” and lets get back to creating ground breaking music!! Besides when we start worrying about White Folks anyway?

  • fraser mclaren

    all them artists (just) black or white are not r&b it’s pop music

  • thecollinb

    I’d like to thank Robin Thicke for being real enough to make the song Cocaine like everybody and their momma (with real money) don’t ride the white horse before they gets to bumpin uglies.

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    I listen to old school R&B these new cats all sound the same and have no real talent with the exception of Chris Brown…the neo soul is where it is…but the mainstream R&B Sucks…and I dont consider Beyonce R&B…she is pop…I like B…see you at the Essence Festival (I inserted that as if she is going to read it)

  • rikerz

    I’m going to buy that back to black…but aint no way is it better than Miseducation. dont get to far ahead of yourselves
    Robin Thickes song is excellent tho.

  • http://www.smokingsection.net Drew Ricketts

    You’re a funny dude. Not a terrific writer but with an irrepressible voice, nonetheless.

    Back to Black has got irony written all over it but the album’s soul copy is great anyway.

  • derfla the hus’la

    word too ncred and Eau

    Neo soul is that shit Bilal, Musiq

    fuck a mainstream rnb

  • OnPoint

    White people may be saving R & B now, maybe hiphop will be next if its not too late.

    Im just not sure how much of it can be attributed to the industry pushing the ANthony hamiltons e.t.c., cause they are out there, but just not as flashy and easy money as the crap we have on TV now.

    But sorry dude, Robin Thicke cant compare to D Angelo. IF D Angelo was cracked out then Robin Thicke needs some crack to get to that level.

    Cornine Bailey Rae?

    NeYo is a more recent stand out as well, very good song writing.

    BUt AMy WInehouse, Robin Thicke and Joss Stone are all making genuine SOUL music. Most black R & B and hiphop is focused on trying to be clever. Black music has lost its soul while the white cats are learning/copying how to express their souls from the classic music of the past. We can go through the reasons, but it doesnt matter…it is what it is.

  • orian

    ol man how can so many people talk so much crap hands down robin thicke,joss stone,justin timberlake&ame altogether cannot outsell rkelly in this lifetime maybe its u that wants to hear beef

  • Young RJ

    Cracka-ass-cracka has no history to it where as the “N” word does. Y’all on some fuckin bullshit if you think that those two phrases are equal.

  • The Surrealist

    Nigga >>> Cracka.
    White people are the rapists, racists, and murders of the world. Period. I’ve got some very very good friends who are white, but even they acknowledge the fact that their “record”, directly resposible or not, is atrocious.

    R&B niggas are trying to hard to be like Rap niggas.

    Just look at the differnce between R.Kelly,T-Pain, and say…Ne-Yo and Usher.

    You can’t be a msogynist in one song, then be vulnerable and heart-felt on the next track.

    Ohhh…and Amy Winehouse would get it. I’m not frontin, sayin she’s hot or anything, but she’s well witin the frame of gettin it.

  • http://www.myglobaloutlet.com Severe

    good read. there still a few R&B artists holdin it down (john legend,anthony hamilton,usher,corrine bailey rae …) but overall it sux. gotta go back to da 90′s earlier to hear some decent r&b. whats up wit amy winehouse? maybe i been sleepin on her, but whoever she is, i know some white chick cant be compared to lauryn hill. but i still might check her album out.

  • Werdz

    R&B hasn’t died because of Neo-Soul artists. If anything, R&B is still recognized because of Neo-Soul. Everyone from pop to country is singing about infidelity, materialism, and whatever else is popular at the moment. I like a lot of the music out now, but I for damn sure am not going to sit around saying white created soul. That’s a bunch of bullshit to me. If anything I’ll say they contributed their own style, BUT that is as far as I’m going. As far as whites actually saving R&B and soon Hip-Hop, I’m going to have to say that shits needs to be laid to rest. There are so many black singers out their that have true talent but get overlooked because they aren’t as marketable as whites. That’s the fact of the matter. The music Robin, Joss, and Justin are making I would call Pop with an urban twist. Not much else to call it. Jill Scott sings some excellent songs, but she rarely gets played on the radio. India Arie makes great songs yet you don’t hear her songs on the radio much. I mean I can go on, but the truth of the matter is no one wants to hear or see black singers really unless it’s black people buying the music. This whole “blue-eye soul singer” bullshit is stretching it a bit. Nothing is wrong with whites being inspired by music of the past, but damn they are not the messiah of black music. I’m rootin’ for my girl Jennifer Hudson. Girl can blow and her music style is definitely that of a bit jazz/r&b/soul. But it’s also singers like her that don’t get enough recognition. But singers like Christina Alguilera (who yells insteads of sings and grunts a whole hell of a lot) get played on the radio non-stop. Don’t understand the shit at all. Maybe if black people want a change in music they need to create their own networks for them only. Where the black artists who are about something can also be heard.

    Still waiting for some whites who claim they “grew up in da hood” to save rap though. That will be some funny shit to see, seeing as though not many can rap for shit just like a lot of these black rappers out now. Paul Wall being one of them.

  • carm

    I’m going to buy that back to black…but aint no way is it better than Miseducation. dont get to far ahead of yourselves

    Sooooo, you havent heard it yet, but its already worse than Miseducation???

    Am i getting too far ahead of myself, Sonny Carson, when i call that blatant racism?

  • Brandy

    One word. Jodeci. Can’t find nothing close or anything that can beat it.

  • boo

    imitation is the highest form of flattery afterall, even if it isn’t done very well :) Its like someone covering MJ – they’ll always palie in comparrison.

  • http://Nickiminaj.com PHILADELPHIA BARBIE

    ONCE UPON A TIME THERE 0NCE WAS BLACK BITCHES WERE SMARTER THAN WHITE BITCHES WE HAVE NAPPY HAIR 4 A REAS0N BBECAUSE WE BETTER THAN WHITE