Thursday August, 16th the Queen of Soul and the voice of a lifetime Aretha Franklin passed away at the age of 76.
Her death comes after many other legends like Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney, Etta James, Chuck Berry and others have died over the past 10 years. Yes we still have legends out there in the world like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & Patti LaBelle which is amazing but I will say that we don’t have as much young talent at the same level as these super stars. For some reason today the talent that is out in music is not held to the highest level as they were back when I, my siblings or my parents were growing up.
Today any artist can come out & put out music then go on tour and suck. They go on tour and their vocals are not the same as they are on record. Now of course they are not supposed to sound like on record but at least close to what they put down on record if not better.
With people like Aretha Franklin, Mariah or Whitney they sounded out of this world on record but then when they performed live they were on a whole other level.
Today that is not even a thing because on the record they make these artist sound so perfect due to vocal help like auto-tune & the re-recording they are now able to do in the studio thanks to technology. And in some ways this is a great thing but in other ways its making these artist lazy and complacent to the point where some of them have to have so much backing tracks or back up singers to help them get through a song live.
Older singers where able to stand up on stage by themselves with a mike and a spotlight and sing their hearts out and make the crowd feel it. Today’s artist just are not held to the same standard as back in the day so they’re performances are not at the same level as our legends.
This also has me thinking too that the lyrical content combined with their singing is not the same. Today soul/R&B has become so watered down commercially due to bad lyrics and worse singers. Now and days R&B singers wanna be hip-hop artist who sing. They wanna have trap beats and talk about the same sex, money, drugs like their hip-hop counter parts (plus their all so nasally).
While there has been soul/R&B artist that have have taken on hip-hop culture in the past and it works really well like Mary J. Blidge, Jodeci, Bel-Biv-Divo, Montel Jordan, even Erykah Badu but those artist where already very strong singers and took hip-hop culture in more of their style and some of the beats they used but you could tell it was still soul/R&B. Today due to rappers thinking they can sing & R&B artist thinking they can rap its blurring the lines a lot and making it hard for the listener to understand what they are listening to. Even take a Lauryn Hill in her prime she was a R&B singer & she was a MC. With Lauryn though you were able to tell which lane she was in when she was in. On the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill you would have a song like Lost Ones but then next have a song like Nothing Even Matters. One was a lyrical master piece and the other was a neo-soul dute with D’Angelo.
Anyway soul/R&B artist are just not the same today as they even where in the ’90s. But I think this also has to do with the fact that artist from my parents generation were still relevant in the ’90s and were working with these young R&B artist at the time. The perfect example of this is the video for Whitney’s cover of Chaka Khan’s song “I’m Every Women” where she was singing Chaka’s song which came out in the late ’70s then Whitney came out in the mid to late ’80s & she had TLC in the video who were part of the new R&B wave of the ’90s. That was three different generations of R&B in one song/video.
Whitney worked with Brandy. Aretha Franklin worked with Lauryn Hill. These soul/R&B artist from older generations were working with these newer artist and trying to help the culture continue. I don’t see that as much today. Artist from the ’90s who benefited from the help they got from our legends are not putting in the same work with these newer R&B artist & thats why most of them are not as great. Most of these R&B legends in what I call the last great decade before technology & the internet took over are either inactive, got left in the ’90s or are still going but don’t influence or work with the next generation.
So the question really is do we in the 21st century have any legends in the making? Do we have artist & singers who care about the music & the art and craft of it in the way our legends did? Can these folks sing or play an instrument? Or is it all just flash, good dancing (and some of y’all can’t even dance either), a fire beat & computer programing? In the past people used to be out here dancing, singing and serving face & body all while having meaningful lyrics. Do we still have this in our 2010 hyper technology internet world were it feels like you don’t need to have talent to sell records or even get put on? You don’t have to be able to sing or dance you just have to have a pretty face and lip-sync. And the worst part of all of this is the youth of today think this is normal because there aren’t that many artist who care about the craft anymore. Very little artist still play instruments like piano, drums or guitar.
So commercially there are not that many if any artist who really care about the craft of making real music but in the more underground or in other places in the mainstream that are over looked there are a few artist who are still trying to keep this music alive.
Here are a few in different black music genera (or at least still seen as black music) & artist from the 2010s who are working it.
Todd Michael Bridges (born July 13, 1989) known professionally as Leon Bridges, is an American gospel and soul singer, songwriter and record producer from Fort Worth, Texas. He is best known for his song “Coming Home”, which received regular airplay and was also a Top 10 Most Viral Track on Spotify. Bridges’ debut album, also titled Coming Home, was released on June 23, 2015, on Columbia Records.
Gabriella ‘Gabi’ Wilson (born June 27, 1997), better known by her stage name H.E.R. (acronym for “Having Everything Revealed”), is an American singer from Vallejo, California. She signed to RCA Records and has released two extended plays under the label: H.E.R. Volume 1 (2016) and H.E.R. Volume 2 (2017). Her identity was previously unknown as she preferred to remain anonymous and only be represented by her music. Her debut, the seven-song EP H.E.R. Vol. 1, was released on September 9, 2016 by RCA Records. It made iTunes’ Best of 2016 R&B/Soul Albums list, with the track “Losing” making the iTunes Best R&B/Soul Singles list. The release also included a cover of Drake’s “Jungle”.
Ashton Simmonds (born April 5, 1995), better known by his stage name Daniel Caesar, is a Canadian singer and songwriter. After independently building a following through the release of two critically acclaimed EPs Praise Break (2014) and Pilgrim’s Paradise (2015), Caesar released his debut album Freudian in August 2017, which also garnered widespread critical acclaim.
Caesar received widespread critical acclaim for his debut 2014’s EP “Praise Break”, which was ranked number 19 on the ’20 Best R&B Albums of 2014′ by Rolling Stone. His body of work is influenced by religion, which played a large role in his upbringing, and unrequited love.
His breakout single “Get You” amassed over 10 million streams on Apple Music since its October 2016 release. According to his management, the singer’s catalog has garnered over 20 million global streams on Apple Music. According to NPR, as of June 2018 his three most-streamed songs have a combined 249 million streams on Spotify. On August 25, 2017, Caesar released his debut album Freudian, which included singles “Get You”, “We Find Love”, and “Blessed”. The album was a shortlisted finalist for the 2018 Polaris Music Prize.
Khalid Donnel Robinson (born February 11, 1998), known mononymously as Khalid, is an American singer and songwriter. He is signed to Right Hand Music Group and RCA Records. His debut single, “Location”, was released in July 2016 and peaked at number 15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and was later certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His debut studio album, American Teen, was released on March 3, 2017.
Moses Frimpong Sumney (born May 19, 1990) is an American singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. His self-recorded EP, Mid-City Island, was released in 2014 to positive reception. Sumney has performed as an opening act for Solange, Sufjan Stevens, and Erykah Badu. Sumney released another 5-song EP in 2016, titled Lamentations; his first full-length album, Aromanticism, was released in September 2017.
Solána Imani Rowe (born November 8, 1990), known professionally as SZA (/ˈsɪzə/ SIZ-ə) is an American singer and songwriter. SZA was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, later relocating to Maplewood, New Jersey. In October 2012, SZA self-released her debut EP, See.SZA.Run, which she then followed up with her second EP, titled S, in April 2013. In July 2013, it was revealed that she had signed to the hip hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment, through which she released Z, her third EP and first retail release, in April 2014.
SZA’s debut studio album, Ctrl, was released on June 9, 2017, to universal acclaim from music critics. It debuted at number three on the US Billboard Top 200 and was eventually certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). SZA is a neo soul singer whose music has been described as alternative R&B, with elements of soul, hip hop, minimalist R&B, cloud rap, witch house and chillwave. SZA’s lyrics are described as “unravelling,” that revolve around themes of sexuality, nostalgia, and abandonment. SZA cites a variety of artists as influences, including Ella Fitzgerald, Meelah, Björk, Jamiroquai, and Lauryn Hill, among others. SZA also takes influence from non-musical artists, including filmmaker Spike Lee.
Maimouna Youssef is an American singer and rapper. She is of Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee and African American heritage. She performs music under the stage name Mumu Fresh.
Youssef earned a Grammy nomination for her vocal contribution to “Don’t Feel Right” by The Roots in 2007. She performed in the 2007 hip-hop documentary film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Youssef released an EP, Black Magic Woman, and a full album, The Blooming, in 2011. With DJ Dummy, she released the album Vintage Babies featuring Common, Irvin Washington, and Malik Yusef in 2017. Youssef represented the Washington DC chapter of the Recording Academy at the 2015 ‘GRAMMY Festival at Sea’. She performed an NPR Tiny Desk concert with August Greene in February 2018, and her own set in July 2018.
Jorja Alice Smith (born 11 June 1997) is an English singer from Walsall, West Midlands. She has independently released numerous singles and one extended play, Project 11 (2016). She has collaborated with other artists, most notably with Drake, Stormzy, and Kali Uchis, as well as producer Preditah. In 2018, Smith won the Brit Critics’ Choice Award and released her debut studio album Lost & Found in June.
Ibeyi is a French (with Cuban and Venezuelan origins) musical duo consisting of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. The duo sings in English, French, Spanish and Yoruba, a Nigerian language spoken in West Africa by their ancestors before being taken to Cuba as slaves in the 1700s. Lisa, the lead singer, plays the piano; Naomi plays the traditional Peruvian/Cuban percussion instruments cajón and Batá drum.
In the Yoruba language, Ibeyi (Ìbejì) means “twins”. Their music has elements of Yoruba, French and Afro-Cuban, and fuses jazz with beats, samples with traditional instruments.
Christopher Francis Ocean (born Christopher Edwin Breaux; October 28, 1987) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, rapper, and photographer.
Ocean began his musical career as a ghostwriter, prior to joining hip hop collective Odd Future in 2010. His contributions to the group was critically lauded, and allowed Ocean to release his debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra a year later. The mixtape also saw critical success, and generated the single “Novacane”, which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later certified platinum. This success allowed Ocean to secure a recording contract with Def Jam Recordings in 2012.
Ocean released his debut studio album, Channel Orange, in July 2012, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200and was soon certified platinum. The album was also a resounding critical success, and won Ocean his first Grammy Award, for Best Urban Contemporary Album. The album also contained the singles “Thinkin Bout You”, “Pyramids”, and “Sweet Life”, with the former also gaining him a nomination for Record of the Year at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
His second album, Blonde, was released in 2016, and was subject to controversy after Ocean endured protracted contract disputes with Def Jam, which led to the album suffering repeated pushbacks and delays. Upon release, Blonde debuted at number one in several countries, and was also highly acclaimed by critics. The album was soon certified platinum, and contained the single “Nikes”, which was also certified platinum.
Ocean’s idiosyncratic musical style and contributions to the medium have credited him with revitalizing R&B to encourage innovation. Ocean has also gained critical acclaim for his introspective and elliptical songwriting, unconventional production techniques, and vocal range. His distinctive sound and style has influenced numerous artists of various music genres, and he is considered one of the most acclaimed artists of the 21st century.
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (born 16 February 1990), known by his stage name The Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer.
Tesfaye anonymously uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name “The Weeknd” in 2010 and released the critically acclaimed mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence in 2011. The mixtapes were later remastered and rereleased on the compilation album Trilogy (2012), after he signed with Republic Records and created his own record label XO.
Tesfaye has had three number-one releases (Beauty Behind the Madness in 2015, Starboy in 2016, and My Dear Melancholy in 2018) and another top-two release (Kiss Land in 2013) on the US Billboard 200. He has earned eight top-ten entries on the Billboard Hot 100: “Love Me Harder” with Ariana Grande; “Earned It”; “I Feel It Coming”; “Pray for Me” with Kendrick Lamar; “Call Out My Name”; and the number one singles “The Hills”, “Can’t Feel My Face”, and “Starboy”. In 2015, Tesfaye became the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three positions on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart with “Can’t Feel My Face”, “Earned It”, and “The Hills”. Tesfaye has won three Grammy Awards and nine Juno Awards.
THEY. is an American R&B duo consisting of Dante Jones and Drew Love from Los Angeles, California signed to Mind of a Genius Records. The duo started their career in 2015, releasing debut extended play, Nü Religion, which received critical acclaim. In the same year THEY. released the commercially successful single “Working for It” in collaboration with Zhu and Skrillex. In 2016, the duo started touring with singer Bryson Tiller. In February 2017, the duo released their debut studio album, Nü Religion: Hyena.
Kamasi Washington (born February 18, 1981) is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, producer, and bandleader. Washington is known mainly for playing tenor saxophone.
Kamasi Washington was born in Los Angeles, California, on February 2, 1981 to musical parents and educators, and was raised in Inglewood, California. He is a graduate of the Academy of Music of Alexander Hamilton High School in Beverlywood, Los Angeles. Washington next enrolled in UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology, where he began playing with faculty members such as Kenny Burrell, Billy Higgins and band leader/trumpeter Gerald Wilson. Washington features in the album Young Jazz Giants in 2004. He has played along with a diverse group of musicians including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Horace Tapscott, Gerald Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Snoop Dogg, George Duke, Chaka Khan, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Mike Muir, Francisco Aguabella, the Pan Afrikaan People’s Orchestra and Raphael Saadiq.
Washington ventured into big band music when he joined the Gerald Wilson Orchestra for their 2006 album In My Time. Washington played saxophone on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. His debut solo recording, The Epic, was released in May 2015 to critical acclaim. His second studio album, Heaven and Earth, was released in June 2018, with a companion EP titled The Choice released a week later.
Rock ‘n Roll/Blues:
Gary Clark Jr.:
Gary Lee Clark Jr. (born February 15, 1984) is an American musician from Austin, Texas. He is best known for his fusion of blues, rock and soul music with elements of hip hop. Clark has shared the stage with many legends of rock and roll, including Eric Clapton, B. B. King and the Rolling Stones.
Naia Izumi creates prolifically and passionately, combining soulful vocals and
complex rhythms toproduce the rich, unique sound she describes as elegant,
rhythmic, bizarre, articulated, guitar-based music with pop “sensitivity.” A natural
born musician, Naia has been creating music for as long as she can remember and
her songs resonate with people all over the world. – Kat Popovic
(Rock, Funk, Soul, Jazz)
Janelle Monáe Robinson (/dʒəˈnɛl moʊˈneɪ/; born December 1, 1985) is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and model. She is signed to her own imprint, Wondaland Arts Society, and Atlantic Records. After her first unofficial studio album, The Audition, she publicly debuted with a conceptual EP titled Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), which peaked at number 115 on the Billboard 200 in the United States.
In 2010, Monáe released her critically acclaimed first full-length studio album The ArchAndroid, a concept album sequel to her first EP. It was released by Bad Boy Records and reached the number 17 spot on the Billboard 200. Monáe featured as a guest vocalist in “We Are Young” by fun., which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, her first appearance in the chart. In August 2012, Monáe became a CoverGirl spokeswoman. Her second studio album, The Electric Lady, was released in September 2013, to critical acclaim. In 2016, Monáe had roles in two feature films, Hidden Figuresand Moonlight.
Monáe’s third studio album, Dirty Computer, was released on April 27, 2018, preceded by the singles “Django Jane”, “Make Me Feel”, “I Like That”, and “Pynk.” Monáe has received six Grammy Award nominations.
The Internet is an American band from Los Angeles, California. It currently consists of Syd, Matt Martians, Patrick Paige II, Christopher Smith, and Steve Lacy. They have released four studio albums and three extended plays since their formation in late 2011. The band’s 2015 album Ego Death was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
Phony Ppl is a musical group based in Brooklyn, New York. Originally founded in 2010 with 9 members, the current members are Elbee Thrie (vocals), Elijah Rawk (lead guitar), Matt “Maffyuu” Byas (drums), Aja Grant (keyboard), and Bari Bass (bass guitar).
Members of Phony Ppl met in high school. Elbee (Robert Booker) and Aja first formed the group, with Dyme-A-Duzin (Donnovan Blocker), Bari Bass (Omar Grant), Elijah Rawk, Ian Bakerman, Maffyuu, and Sheriff PJ joining later. In 2012, they released the album Phonyland.
In January 2015, they released the album Yesterday’s Tomorrow. The album peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Heatseekers Album chart. The album also peaked at number 15 on the Trending 140 chart and at number 7 on the Emerging Artists chart. They released the single “This Must Be Heaven” in November 2016. They made their first television appearance on June 9, 2015 on Jimmy Kimmel Live! performing “Trap Queen” with Fetty Wap.
Miguel Jontel Pimentel (born October 23, 1985) is an American singer and songwriter. Raised in Los Angeles, he began pursuing a music career at age thirteen. After signing to Jive Records in 2007, Miguel released his debut studio album, All I Want Is You, in November 2010. Although it was underpromoted upon its release, the album became a sleeper hit and helped Miguel garner commercial standing.
After Jive’s dissolution in 2011, he moved to RCA Records and released his second studio album, Kaleidoscope Dream in 2012 to critical acclaim. In June 2015, Miguel released his third studio album, Wildheart, which also received critical acclaim. His fourth studio album, War & Leisure, was released in December 2017 to further acclaim. Miguel incorporates R&B, funk, hip hop, rock and electronic styles into his music, and has been compared to vocalists Babyface and Prince.
Brandon Paak Anderson (born February 8, 1986), better known by his stage name Anderson Paak (stylized as Anderson .Paak), is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, drummer and record producer from Oxnard, California. He released his debut album, O.B.E. Vol. 1 in 2012, under the pseudonym Breezy Lovejoy. He went on to release Venice in 2014, under his current moniker. Paak followed with Malibu, in 2016, which received a nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards. Apart from his solo career, Paak is also one-half of NxWorries, alongside record producer Knxwledge. He is accompanied by the band The Free Nationals, who play a variety of instruments such as electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards and drums and also serve as backing vocalists.
Tank & the Bangers:
Tank and the Bangas is an American funk and soul musical group, based from New Orleans, Louisiana. They won the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Members of Tank and the Bangas met at a New Orleans open mic show called Liberation Lounge at Blackstar Cafe and Books in the Algiers section of New Orleans and formed the group in 2011.
Alabama Shakes is an American blues rock band formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009. The band currently consists of lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. The group rose to prominence in the early 2010s with their distinctive and soulful roots rock sound.
The band began their career touring and performing at bars and clubs around the Southeast for two years while honing their sound and writing music. They recorded their debut album, Boys & Girls, with producer Andrija Tokic in Nashville while still unsigned. Online acclaim led ATO Records to sign the band, which released Boys & Girls in 2012 to acclaim. The album had a hit single, “Hold On,” and was nominated for three Grammy Awards. After a long touring cycle, the band recorded their second record, Sound & Color, which was released in 2015 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and won four Grammy Awards.
So basically there are a few artist & groups who are still out here making traditional music and keeping the spirit of our legends alive today. Yes most of them are underrated or underground but at least they are out here and are way better then modern R&B, rock ‘n roll, jazz & funk on the charts today. Most of these acts are bringing the live bands back in black music & really inventing new ways to bring back the sounds of our legends.
Well Till Next Time…Support the Underground Artist!