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Meghan Mahar, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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Rhythm and Blues, the genre more commonly known as R&B is truly an essential part of the black experience. It features influences of pre-existing genres including jazz, disco, funk, and constructed with drum machines, lush piano, and futuristic synthesizers.

Though it draws from many influences, the artists themselves make R&B what it is today: with the help of an innovative producer, and talented vocals ranging from the smooth, low-key vocaling from an Aaliyah or a powerful belter like Mariah Carey or Mary J. Blige, R&B is an evolving genre that is truly based on the idea of innovation.

The Ladies:

 

  • I Wanna Be Down – Brandy (1994)

 

Before she was Moesha or the first Cinderella, Brandy was a California-raised youngster who went from singing in her dad’s church to landing at No. 6 with this hip-hop, soul-styled record. The synth riff, winding beat, and her raspy, mature voice (which was exceptional for a 15-year-old) made it a solid debut.

 

  • It’s All About Me – Mya feat. Sisqo (1998)

 

In the pre-Beyonce late 90s world of R&B princesses, Mya was able to have her time in the spotlight. Her voice is somewhere between innocent and angelic and weak and thin. “It’s All About Me” with Sisqo from Dru Hill was her debut single.

 

  • Why Don’t We Fall in Love – Amerie (2002)

 

Amerie’s debut album All I Have, produced by Rich Harrison (who went on to work with Beyonce, J.Lo and Usher), captured the spirit of early 2000s feel-good R&B. The corresponding music video mirrors the mood of the song: the warm, optimistic feeling that comes with waking up on a summer day and taking a stroll in the neighborhood.

 

  • Girl – Destiny’s Child (2004)

 

We all have those best friends that will tell us what we need to hear and not necessarily what we want to hear. Beyoncé and Michelle tell their counterpart Kelly that sometimes, your girls know what’s best, and it’s not the guy who’s been trifling.

 

  • Rain – SWV (1997)

 

This smooth, soul-influenced R&B track was SWV (Sisters With Voices)’s  last single before their decade long hiatus and their last Top 10 hit. It is easy to see why it is a hit: the song and the ladies’ harmonies are sweet like a honey iced tea.

The Fellas:

 

  • Twisted – Keith Sweat feat. Kut Klose (1996)

 

Keith Sweat is a father of post-80s sexy R&B. The bumpy-groove-bop  “Twisted” is one of his most notable hits.

 

  • Come and Talk to Me – Jodeci (1992)

 

Jodeci rode the New Jack Swing wave of the early 90s. “Come and talk to Me” was their biggest single from their debut album Forever My Lady. Jodeci are comparable to New Edition and Boyz II Men, but more uptempo and with more swag.

 

  • Let Me Love You – Mario (2004)

 

Obama will always be my president, and Mario’s “Let Me Love You” will always be my “Let Me Love You”, not Ne-Yo, Ariana Grande, or Justin Bieber’s versions. Mario should have reached Usher-level popularity after this song clocked in nine weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts.

 

  • U Know What’s Up  – Donell Jones feat. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (1999)

 

This track is Donell Jones’ signature song, the perfect kick-back record for 90s babies or a party starter for the 30-something crowd. TLC member Left Eye’s fire verse on the record puts the icing on the cake.

 

  • They Don’t Know – Jon. B (1997)

 

Crooner Jon. B is one of those white artists that does R&B music justice and doesn’t water it down. This song is a match made in heaven, perfect for chilling on a Friday night on the couch with some wine and chocolate.

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