There's No Such Thing as 'The New R&B'

There's No Such Thing as 'The New R&B'

Four panelists broke down the genre at the New Yorker Festival.

Published October 7, 2015

Last Friday (Oct. 2), the New Yorker Festival held a special panel called “The New R&B” with Azekel, Bilal, James Fauntleroy and Kelela. It was moderated by New Yorker editor and writer Andrew Marantz.

The purpose was to evaluate the genre of R&B and discuss why these names are often associated with the label. FADER attended the panel and pulled some great quotes from each artist in their reporting, specifically as the panelists try to answer this question: “Is R&B still a useful label, or is it time to dispense with the genre altogether?” 

Kelela, one of the fresh young acts behind experimental projects like her Cut 4 Me mixtape, spoke openly about the state of R&B and concluded that today’s R&B isn’t really new at all.

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“The way that I sing — it is not just a style,” Kelela said. “It is not simply a hat I’m putting on today. There is a rhetoric right now… like the ‘old’ [R&B] wasn’t so sophisticated, but the ‘new’ one is so acceptable, and it has received white approval. I find that problematic, especially because that name is put on me a lot. But what about all the other people who have been doing this music for a very long time? It’s not new. It does piss me off for it to be seen as a new thing — now it’s sophisticated? The rhetoric around it is, ‘It’s been stepped up y’all. So now we can listen to it.’”

She has a point. This year alone, we've seen some amazing R&B projects from veterans like Tyrese (Black Rose), Ciara (Jackie) and Ne-Yo (Non-Fiction), to name a few. Not to mention that R. Kelly's Buffet has yet to hit stores. At the panel, Azekel chimed in to support Kelela's assertion: “The whole thing about ‘progressive R&B’ blows my mind. Black music has always been progressive.”

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On the other hand, Bilal didn’t say much during the panel, but did open to say that R&B is starting to turn into hip hop. This year, he released his In Another Life LP, in which we wrote that “it’s more socially aware, often taking on different perspectives and holding a mirror to society.” It's not necessarily a new take on hip hop, but Bilal is speaking to a bigger issue of why R&B can't be edgy anymore.

“R&B is gonna turn into hip hop,” he said. “I’ve said it before: R&B, if you really want to do anything, is hip hop… you really want to be radical, you’ve got to be hip hop.” 

You can read the rest of the story here, and let us know your thoughts on the premise of the new R&B. Should we be using this term?

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(Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

Written by Eric Diep

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