With the old guard of standard rap music slowly (and painfully) becoming a thing of the past, it seems to me that there is a new style of music being birthed before our eyes. And you might be surprised who I would consider the originator.
In the early years of Hip-Hop, if a rapper needed a hook to be sung, he dare not do it himself for fear of being called “soft.” He would find the R&B flavor of the month and let them handle that task. And that formula has been pretty steadfast through the years. But today, more and more rappers are handling the duties themselves, and doing it well. This has lead to more album cuts full of harmonizing and less rapping, and possibly a whole new style of music: Rap&B.
Often called “rap and bullshit” when an artist dared flex his harmonic vocal muscles, today most rap is bullshit. So it’s only right that new artists are looking for a unique way to make a name for themselves. Those with the ability (or an auto-tune handy) are creating a mash of sing-songy flows, straight crooning and guerrilla funk raps completely debilitating any hope of genre pigeonholing, while simultaneously making unique music the game is so desperately yearning for.
As you’ll surely recall, Ja Rule was one of the first rap artists to blend singing and harmonizing in between the standard sixteen bars. But at the time his audacity to sing was met with contempt from the hardcore Hip-Hop crowd and was further dashed once 50 Cent came along. But it could be argued that 50 was one of the originators as well. To me, 50 really built off what Ja was already doing but kept it more “street,” and therefore acceptable. It wasn’t unusual to hear a 50 Cent song full of melodies and double hooks, complementing his street tales.
Many of today’s blossoming artists have taken it one step further and it looks like this is the new trend becoming hot. Look no further than the Louis Vuitton Don himself for an example. Kanye trashed his backpack of raps for an album of singing and harmonizing and his recently signed protégé Kid Cudi is another breaking the mold. On his stellar mixtape “A Kid Called Cudi,” harmonized hooks, refrains and bridges are abundant, along with the raps and/or freestyles, all while keeping its Hip-Hop “feel” ( and I’d argue that ‘Day N Nite’ is more Rap & B than techno-rap).
Another artist who falls in this newfound genre is Toronto, Canada native Drake. On his most recent mixtape “So Far Gone,” Drake blurs the line of rap and R&B. He seamlessly transitions from hardcore raps to melodious mutterings like it’s second nature. Which brings up the question – since whole songs are completely sung – can it still be called rap? And being that there are whole tracks of raps, is it R&B? It seems that Hip-Hop may have birthed another genre or “mash-up” while looking for its soul.
I’m sure there are many so-called “Hip-Hop heads” – who at one time shunned Ja and his audacity to sing – who have now fully embraced this new genre of Rap & B. And you can put me at the top of the list. Let’s face it, rap music as a whole has become boring. The content and formula’s are dull and contrived. As such, it’s only right that new artists look for a way to unleash creativity that will be embraced. Rap&B just might be that new.-Kye Stephenson