Who’s the King of RnB? Psst, It’s Not Who You Think

About two weeks ago ‘Bed’ singer Jacquees shook the R&B world by claiming stake to the R&B throne. Now keep in mind this is Jacquees we are talking about so one would expect such sentiments to be swept under the rug and the true ballers to continue balling. But it is weeks later and the debate is still raging on, showing the fact that this was a conversation that needed to be had like yesterday. Now the contentious issue here isn’t if Jacquees is the King; I’ll be blunt, he is NOT. Don’t get me wrong he is a very talented artist whose music I enjoy but no matter what merit you use fact remains he is yet to achieve any kind of royalty status.

The issue remains what is the yardstick for measuring one’s level of success to a point we can say they have achieved king status and that it maybe time to start realizing that this genre is evolving and artists can’t be grouped as a bunch anymore as sub-genres are developing within R&B. Now I decided to focus on this issue as R&B alongside hip hop is one of the most listened to genres in Kenya.

If we are talking measures of success then we definitely have to look at one’s sales and the longevity of their career. With that in mind, three names popped up a lot, Usher, R. Kelly and Chris Brown. With Chris Brown being the youngest of the trio it makes more sense that he is the most relevant out of the trio currently but if we look at accolades then Usher triumphs and finally if we look at the impact R. Kelly had on the R&B world, he overshadows the rest. My point being at the end of the day unless we have clear guidelines to determine who is king then this whole debate will remain purely subjective.

Another factor to consider is that Jacquees said he is the king of his generation and acknowledged the impact of Chris Brown even in his own career as people insinuated that they were of the same generation. He later clarified that he meant people between the ages of 16-25. I maintain he’s still not, the generation he was insinuating to have jurisdiction over is in dire need of official categorization. This is because since the inception of R&B, the genre has largely been narrow in terms of its diversification right until the late 90s where alternative R&B started an uprising led by crooner D’Angelo. But this did not fully take flight until the 2012s when Frank Ocean and Miguel broke through the walls of contemporary R&B and brought the world pure unfiltered alternative R&B largely based on recycling of retro styles of music.

From then on alternative R&B has slowly and surely gotten a choke hold on the R&B world and as of 2017 officially took over from contemporary R&B as the top tier sub-genre. I say so because artists based on this sub-genre are the ones getting the most recognition from 6lack, Khalid and Bryson Tiller just to name a few. Remember when I said Jacquees wasn’t the king of this generation either? The artists mentioned above are. Khalid and Bryson are the two out of three soul artists (the other is Chris Brown) who were able to achieve over a billion streams on their projects while 6lack boats of 3 nominations over the course of the last two Grammies. But achievements aside if we consider the sub-genre line of thought, Jacquees might be on to something for in this new generation, only Ella Mai and him, are out and out doing contemporary R&B at top level.