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Contemporary R&B (also known as simply R&B) is a music genre that combines elements of hip hop, soul, R&B and funk.

Although the abbreviation “R&B” originates from traditional rhythm and blues music, today the term R&B is most often used to describe a style of African American music originating after the demise of disco in the 1980s. Some sources refer to the style as urban contemporary (the name of the radio format that plays hip hop and contemporary R&B).

Contemporary R&B has a polished record production style, drum machine-backed rhythms, an occasional saxophone-laced beat to give a jazz feel (mostly common in contemporary R&B songs prior to the year 1993), and a smooth, lush style of vocal arrangement. Electronic influences are becoming an increasing trend, and the use of hip hop or dance inspired beats are typical, although the roughness and grit inherent in hip hop may be reduced and smoothed out. Contemporary R&B vocalists are often known for their use of melisma, popularized by vocalists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.

Contemporary R&B (also known as simply R&B) is a music genre that combines elements of hip hop, soul, R&B and funk.

Although the abbreviation “R&B” originates from traditional rhythm and blues music, today the term R&B is most often used to describe a style of African American music originating after the demise of disco in the 1980s. Some sources refer to the style as urban contemporary (the name of the radio format that plays hip hop and contemporary R&B).

History

1980s
As the disco era came to a close, a new generation of producers began adding synthesizers and slick drum machine beats to African American music. Michael Jackson was among the first post-disco black musician to cross over to mainstream audiences. In its early years, mainstream R&B was very pop-oriented. Notable 1980s R&B musicians include Luther Vandross, the SOS Band, Mtume, Freddie Jackson, DeBarge, Loose Ends, and Stephanie Mills.

Tina Turner made a comeback during the second half of the 1980s, while Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson broke into the pop music charts with a series of hits. Richard J. Ripani wrote that Janet Jackson's third studio album Control (1986) was 'important to the development of R&B for a number of reasons', as she and her producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, 'crafted a new sound that fuses the rhythmic elements of funk and disco, along with heavy doses of synthesizers, percussion, sound effects, and a rap music sensibility.' Ripani wrote that 'the success of Control led to the incorporation of stylistic traits of rap over the next few years, and Janet Jackson was to continue to be one of the leaders in that development.' That same year, Teddy Riley began producing R&B recordings that included hip hop influences. This combination of R&B style and hip hop rhythms was termed new jack swing, and was applied to artists such as Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat, Guy, Jodeci, and Bell Biv DeVoe.

1990s
In contrast to the works of Boyz II Men, Babyface and similar artists, other R&B artists and groups from this same period began adding even more of a hip hop sound to their work, like the innovative group Jodeci. The synthesizer-heavy rhythm tracks of new jack swing was replaced by grittier East Coast hip hop-inspired backing tracks, resulting in a genre labeled hip hop soul by producer Sean Combs who also had mentored group Jodeci in the beginning and helped them with their unique look. The style became less popular by the end of the 1990s, but later experienced a resurgence.

During the mid 1990s, Michael Jackson, R Kelly, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Aaliyah, TLC, SWV and Boyz II Men brought contemporary R&B to the mainstream. Janet Jackson's self-titled fifth studio album janet. (1993), which came after her historic multi-million dollar contract with Virgin Records, sold over twenty million copies worldwide. Boyz II Men and Carey recorded several Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits, including 'One Sweet Day', a collaboration between both acts, which became the longest-running #1 hit in Hot 100 history. Carey, Boyz II Men and TLC released albums in 1994 and 1995—Daydream, II, and CrazySexyCool respectively — that sold over ten million copies, earning them RIAA diamond status.

In the late 1990s, neo soul, which added 1970s soul influences to the hip hop soul blend, arose, led by artists such as D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell. Mariah Carey was well known to incorporate her pop, R&B tunes with hip-hop. Hill and Missy Elliott further blurred the line between R&B and hip hop by recording both styles. Beginning in 1995, the Grammy Awards enacted the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, with II by Boyz II Men becoming the first recipient. The award was later received by TLC for CrazySexyCool in 1996, Tony Rich for Words in 1997, Erykah Badu for Baduizm in 1998 and Lauryn Hill for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1999. At the end of 1999, Billboard magazine ranked Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson as the first and second most successful artists of the 1990s.

2000s–present
By the 2000s, the cross-pollination between R&B and hip hop had increased. Mainstream modern R&B has a sound more based on rhythm than hip hop soul had, and lacks the hardcore and soulful urban 'grinding' feel on which hip-hop soul relied. That rhythmic element descends from new jack swing. R&B began to focus more on solo artists rather than groups as the 2000s progressed. According to Billboard magazine, the most commercially successful R&B acts of the decade were Usher, Beyoncé Knowles, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna. Other recording artists today have combined traditional R&B with elements with contemporary pop, pop rock, dance-pop, and electro-pop to create a lighter and more youthful sound.

 

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