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Rhythm, Blues and Blackness

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The Weeknd, an R&B artist? How?

New age rhythm and blues dictated by non-black people has included artists who do not represent or uphold black culture, and their music is wack.

R&B was introduced during the black migration to the north (Detroit, Chicago, New York) in the 1940s. Bo Diddley, Lonnie Johnson and Della Reese are a few of the pioneers who ushered the genre to the scene.

The origins of R&B stem from negro spirituals, gospel and jazz music, yet over time it has embraced dancehall, psychedelic rock and hip-hop music. During the 1960s, the British Invasion movement started when British artists like The Beatles and Rolling Stones attempted to replicate blues tones. British bands adopted those tones and became largely successful, which destroyed the careers of upcoming black artists like Chubby Checker, famous for his Hank Ballard cover of “The Twist.”

Because of this appropriation, R&B was watered down and then became a comprehensive term for soul and funk. During the 1980s, in reaction to reclaim R&B, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and many other legends showcased their talents by infusing dance, pop and soul — and birthed contemporary R&B.

Contemporary rhythm and blues ushered in huge acts. Dozens of black, all-male bands (Boyz II Men, New Edition, Silk) and solo acts turned international superstars (Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey) universalized the genre while embracing their blackness. In the past 10 years, R&B has experienced another shift in assimilation, but now by black artists themselves. The so-called R&B artists of our time now are: The Weeknd, Justin Timberlake and Kehlani. Because of today’s weakened but glamorized version of R&B, these artists now overshadow several underrated but amazing artists, like Jazmine Sullivan, Sevyn Streeter, Gallant — whose artistry and musical catalog embraces R&B in its totality of including soul, funk, dance and blackness.

Here is a playlist of authentic R&B music I created that embraces the origins and continues to bring bops to younger crowds.

Kaleb, 19, a sophomore for DePauw University, loves to make playlists and watch past seasons of “House of Cards.”

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