House Music Legend Robin S. On Beyoncé, Black Women's Erasure And The Sub-Genre's Mainstream Return
More than anything, though, Robin S. is happy that a mainstream pop star has given homage to house music in 2022.
July 06, 2022 at 6:29 pm
House music legend Robin Stone, also known as Robin S., has been enjoying some recent streams of her 1993 hit “Show Me Love” following it being sampled in Beyoncé’s new song, “Break My Soul.” While she’s relishing the revived mainstream success of her now-classic tune, Stone, who has never stopped working as an artist, is happy to continue the conversation about Black women in house music, what constitutes a dance song and how honored she is to have Queen Bey join the lineage.
Robin S. initially showed her song no love
Stone famously recorded “Show Me Love” while sick with the flu, but even before working while sick, she didn’t like the song because it wasn’t the lane she was used to staying in as she was a Top 40 band singer at the time.
“I didn’t like the song in the beginning because that’s not what I did,” Stone told Blavity. “When the song was brought to me, I cringed cause I was like, ‘I can’t do this. The words are too fast. The music is going too fast.'”
She said she was able to embrace it once she dissected the lyrics to attach genuine emotions to the words.
“I really had to take the song apart and try to infuse it in my life. And that’s basically what I do with any songs that I receive or other than me writing them myself. I have to take ’em apart word by word, line by line. Where do they fit in my life? What does this word mean to me? What does that word mean to me? How does it make me feel? You know, because if you can’t do that, then your representation of the song is mute,” she said.
As the popularity of the song grew, Stone continued to despise it until she began being approached by fans who offered it new meanings.
“There were times when I wanted to forget the words, like ‘Do I have to sing it again?’ When I came out, I was much heavier than I am now. And I was considered a full-figured woman, and I still am but more fuller. I had women come up to me and say, ‘you know, your song saved my life. I thought there was no hope for me. I thought that I had no words, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t express myself, but your song gave me courage and it gave me strength.’ And at that point, I knew that it wasn’t about me. It was deeper than how I felt.
“And at that point, I just disregarded my feelings about it and did what I needed to do because of the effect that it had on other people. I had LGBTQ coming to me saying, ‘I came out on your song. I got the courage to be who I wanted to be. And, if they couldn’t show me love, then I didn’t need them.’
“And, of course, when people come to you who don’t know anything about you and say things like that about a song that you sang, and it means so much to them, it’s not about you anymore. It becomes bigger than you and there’s a bigger plan, a bigger destination for it. And so I embraced it and accepted it.”
Streams of "Show Me Love" have increased
Next year, “Show Me Love” turns 30, however, the house classic got a major signal boost the day before its 29th anniversary when Queen Bey released her house and bounce music-inspired single, “Break My Soul.” Stone said streams of her song have definitely increased as Beyoncé fans traced the source of the sample. But they didn’t have to trace too far because, in true royal fashion, the pop icon sent Stone a bouquet and a note.
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“I feel honored because out of all the songs that she has access to, that they have access to, I know all the people that they listened to, God said it was my turn. So it’s my turn. I feel good,” Stone said.
While Stone is honored, there has been some social media backlash about “Break My Soul,” with some saying “Show Me Love” wasn’t actually sampled.
“Well, you have some people that say, ‘well, it’s not a sample, it just used some of the music,’ and it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. She gave credit to whom she needed to give credit, which validates the fact that it is love,” Stone said.
“Show Me Love” also got a signal boost back in 2019 when Stone, along with CeCe Peniston and Crystal Waters, was invited to perform their biggest hits on Black Girls Rock!. That moment was a bucket list item for Stone, but she’s not done dreaming yet.
“I’ve been on stages with them before, so that part was nothing new. Being on Black Girls Rock! was euphoric for me, if that’s the right word. It was a moment in time that I will never forget — it was on my bucket list,” Stone said. “Being on certain things, they’re on my bucket list and you know, my ultimate of course, with this new season of stuff, is being on stage with Beyoncé. So I mean, you know, I put it out there in the universe, gotta put it out in the universe in order for it to happen.”
The characteristics of house music
Another backlash that Beyoncé’s song received was that it didn’t exactly fit the framework of what some believe to be relative to the sub-genre of dance music. Stone begs to differ as she said house music is defined by messages, power singing and beats.
“It is supposed to free your mind. But that’s what our music does, you know? And, with so much going on in the world, it’s time for it again. It’s time for people to stop thinking about the depressing things, all the negativity and the things that don’t mean them well, and the people that don’t mean them well. And I won’t say throw your cares to the wind, but I will say, understand who you are and what your purpose is. It’s a message, baby,” she said.
“You can do 55,000, trillion, billion remixes to that and turn it into what people call house, but it’s dance music. And if you listen to the message, the message is so important. You know, it’s as important as ‘Show Me Love’ was. It’s letting people know that no matter what you do, you can’t break my soul. You can’t tear me down because what is meant to be is gonna be meant to be.”
There are also power vocals involved.
“Some singers start at maybe one or two levels, and then they reach the climax, and then they’re up at 10. And then, they come back down, right. [House singers] start at eight and we go from eight to about 15 and we stay up there the entire time. So yes, we are powerhouses. Dance music is happy music, it’s supposed to carry you away. It’s supposed to take you to a zone and a place in your mind where you don’t have a care in the world.”
And, of course, the beats.
“When a person first listens to a song, be it fast or slow, they listen to the music first,” Stone said. “If they’re vibing with the music and they love the music and it makes them move, whether it’s a sway or a bop or taping of the feet or whatever, that’s what they gravitate to first. You have different types of beats — you have jungle beats, Afro beats and the regular EDM type beats.
“You have the one 120s, the 124s and the 126s, and that constitutes whether it’s one category or another, but it all equates to house and dance. But dance music and house music are basically the same things. It takes you away. It makes you feel good. It carries you and floats you on this journey of peace, just a journey of peace. You can take any good R&B song and get a good producer and do an Afrobeat to it. And they will say, ‘yes, that’s house.'”
Black women have been erased from house music
Throughout the years of house music, Black women have been said to have been erased from the sub-genre. Stone agrees this is a real thing that’s happened in people’s minds, but not in reality.
“If one was to do their due diligence in research and history, you’ll find out that a lot of us are still moving and shaking. A lot of us are still giving to the universe and that’s why the universe gives back to us,” Stone said. “We never left. We just didn’t get recognized for the work that we put in. We never left.”
More than anything, though, she’s happy that a mainstream pop star has given homage to house music in 2022.
“I’m so happy that people are finally finding out about who Robin S. really is. When I came out — when the song originally came out — I had to fight for space,” Stone said. “Like literally, you know, ‘well, the budget is not there for you. We can’t give you this. So, we can’t give you that.’ And that’s what I was saying about the difference between being marginalized and your soul.”
Stone is proud to witness the freedom that stars like Beyoncé has these days. She credits Whitney Houston as an early influence in using industry power to do things however she saw fit.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing that people are being very vocal about who they are and how they roll in this world, especially women,” she said. “We have been so marginalized over years and so controlled by the industry that you weren’t allowed to do certain things. And so my respect for Beyoncé comes with the fact that I admire her. Whitney Houston started it as far as I’m gonna do things the way I wanna do it. And so Beyoncé just kind of like picked up the baton and said, ‘I’m gonna do the darn thing the way I wanna do it and how I want to do it, but I have to get to a certain status in order to do that.’ And so she’s showing these young girls that through her songs, just through her lyrics, that’s possible. When people tell you it’s not possible, believe that it is possible. It is attainable. It is worth fighting for because it is your freedom too.”
The Reemergence of house in mainstream music
While the mainstream celebrates the return of house music to pop charts, Stone reminds us that the pioneers are still working.
“They lost us, but we never lost the music,” she said. “We are the hardest and, and yes, I’m a little biased when I say this, we are the hardest working people who do not get the recognition that we deserve. And so when you don’t have award shows that commend us, you don’t have shows that bring us on, you know, outta sight, outta mind.
“And people don’t think that we are doing anything anymore. ‘Oh, whatever happened to so and so, I wonder where they are now.’ We’re still doing what we’ve done for the last 20, 30, 38 years. We’re not sitting down twiddling our thumbs.
“We are still out there performing and we are still out there grinding. Let’s not get it twisted. We still have it. We definitely still have it. I think we’re an awesome group of people. We are an awesome community of people that have gone unnoticed for a long time, but we still keep grinding because we believe in what we do.”
New music and continued relevance
The New York native now resides in Atlanta but spends a significant amount of time working in Sweden, where she is right now. She’s also recently released some new music.
“I’ve been recording, doing new music, just trying to embrace everything that God has laid before me. I’m just really trying to embrace it all,” Stone said. “Recording and my writing are very important to me, but sometimes you have to go on hiatus and examine life for what it is in order to come back to the table and say, ‘yes, I have been downloaded with some information that I need to let the world know.'”
During her hiatus, she said she learned to love herself more than ever.
“I loved me. I liked that I stood for the solid ground and the foundation that I have been given. I’ve learned to embrace it more,” she said of her hiatus lessons.
“You go looking for love in all the wrong places, in all the wrong faces, but the question is, how much do you love yourself? And so when you go on hiatus, that’s a time to reflect and to understand who God made you to be. And then, you come back and you write about those things. It’s called life.”
New music aside, Stone performs often to incredibly diverse crowds.
“Generations and I put an ‘S’ on that from 60, 70, then you have the 40s and the 50s, and then you have the 30s and 20s, then you have the 18s and 15s, and then you have the eight-year-olds on up. And then, you may have a couple of five and six-year-olds. And it’s so funny to me because I’ll look out at the audience and I’ll thank them for the love and the support over the years.
“And then I go, ‘wait a minute, hold on, some of you weren’t even thought about when this song originally came out. So what I need you to do is go home and thank your mamas and your daddies for introducing me to you.’ And you just have to give acknowledgment and give accolades to where it’s due. It’s because of their mothers and fathers playing the music and loving the music that they know what it’s all about.”