RIP to '90s-era R&B groups
July 17, 2016 at 10:30 am
But also like many other kids of this generation, this kind of habitual reminiscing only occurs because we fully appreciate how special a time it was musically and miss the abundance of great artists we had to choose from, especially among R&B groups. Of course we had other imperative black artists who rose to musical prominence during this era, such as Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Usher, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, 2pac, Biggie, P. Diddy and all-Bad-Boy-errthang--It would be utterly remiss of me not to recognize that side of '90s music, but can we take a minute to talk about the R&B groups? There were so many and they were pretty much all really good. And these weren’t fluff acts, these people could sang. We had Boyz II Men, TLC, Jade, Soul For Real, 112, Brownstone, En Vogue, Guy, Xscape, SWV, Zhane, Groove Theory, Bell Biv DeVoe, Silk, Mint Condition, H-Town, Blackstreet, Total, Tony! Toni! Tone!, K-Ci & JoJo, Shai, LSG, Jodeci, etc...
There’s a reason going through this music can take us hours.
When looking at the musical landscape of 2016, I struggle to think of one commercially successful R&B group.
And a quick Google search of “R&B groups 2016” only furthers my suspicions that this niche might truly be one of the past. Nothing came up. Nothing. An alternative search of “R&B artists 2016” made me wish I’d just stopped with the first one. The following artists were included in many of the “top-20” lists: Ty Dolla $ign, Drake, Tyga, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, The Game, and this picture of "Lil' Wayne" (???):
(Yes, I know why, but why Google?)
And this is no shade to the Drakes or Chris Browns coming up in this game (although they actually, arguably straddle the lines of being hip-hop and/or pop artists than R&B), but I for damn sure don't want the likes of Tyga singing me to sleep at night. And considering the copious amounts of beautiful music that was poured out of our beloved R&B groups for a full decade, I can’t help but wonder where, how or why the ball was dropped on carrying this genre forward. Yes, we then had the emergence of millennial R&B-esque groups such as B2K, a more grown-up Destiny’s Child, and 112 still had a few good years left on the charts. But it seems like once we stopped partying like it was 1999, the clock struck 12 and we got smacked in the face with Dem Franchize Boyz.
I now completely understand why my parents and elders constantly (read: annoyingly) reminded my generation about their music being “so much better” than ours growing up.
Upon cranking up her “oldies but goodies” themed stations every day, my mother would constantly remind me “we had the best music” to which my father, aunts and uncles would usually chime in, agreeing, while I wondered why the hate was so real. What was so bad about trying to learn the dance moves to “Creep” or rehearsing “Weak” with your girlfriends in the your bedroom?
I remember thinking my older cousin was the coolest person ever for having all of Xscape’s albums and knowing all the words. I remember all the Word Up! Magazine posters and having Boyz II Men on repeat. I remember watching music videos and clearly seeing and believing black love was very real and very normal because of this music. But now I’m realizing that perhaps my elders were right. Maybe they were noticing a decline in music in general that my generation is just now seeing come to fruition.
At least my generation can remember what it once was and pull from that. We can sonically go back in time and recall music that was about love and romance, and even had diss songs that weren’t imploding with violence or over-sexualized lyrics. I cringe at some of the music being released now and can’t even imagine attempting to explain to them the pivotal role R&B once played in black music. If our future generations are doomed to one day reminisce on the likes of “Trap Queen” and “F*ck Up Some Commas,” telling them about the work of Dru Hill might sadly very well be akin to speaking a foreign language.
What happened to the days of music being romantic, sensual and tender even when describing clearly explicit encounters? What happened to sweet (and often melodramatic) dialogue in the middle of a song? What happened to being CrazySexyCool? Or there only being a few songs you had to turn down when your parents were around? What happened to choosing your favorite group member and either saying he/she was “yours” (Nokio is still my husband, by the way) or channeling a group member and actually being him/her? What happened to albums that had us in our feelings from beginning to end, to singing love songs into our brushes, showers, mirrors or wherever our imaginary, impromptu performances happened?
What happened to parties like this?
What happened to the music that reminded us of the beauty in black love and the accompanying videos that gave us empowering visuals to aspire to when we grew up?
Can we go back to the days our love was strong?
Can you tell me how a perfect love goes wrong?
I might not be down on bended knee, but I’m hurt and needy when it comes to this.
There’s a hole in my heart that this era just keeps missing the mark on filling.
I feel just like all those figurative lovers in all those sad songs, and I'm left with nothing but the roller-coaster ride that has become waiting for the next Frank Ocean album.
R&B groups and R&B music in general — please make a comeback.
We don’t care that you dissed us and left us with Tinashe and whoever Usher decided to mighty-morph into. We forgive you for Pretty Ricky. You need to know, the now 20-somethings that you helped raise remember every cheesy fake-raining music video filmed on some random street or phone booth, every synchronized dance routine and even rewinding cassette tapes over and over. But most of all, we remember the love and the idea that entire discographies can consist of music that centers on it.
We miss you. And even as adults we’re still wondering:
How could you love us and leave us and never say goodbye?