Remember when R&B sucked and to have an R&B singer on your hook was considered “selling out”? I think we can safely say those days have been dead for quite some time… and rightfully so! Hip-hop and R&B have always had much more of an intimate relationship than the true-schoolers of the early 90’s were willing to admit. In retrospect, I think we have to admit that the true-school rejection of the preponderance of tracks that married hip-hop and R&B in the early 90’s was simply a misguided attempt at criticizing the increasing popularity of the genre. These true-school heads were basically frightened by hip-hop’s ever increasing popularity because that strain of hip-hop that was becoming increasingly popular was one that was markedly different from their own brand of hip-hop and—since girls buy a hell of a lot of rap CDs—markedly more marketable. Feeling threatened by the rather obvious lack of mainstream marketability, a lot of these true-school rap folk decided to rail against the more obvious stylistic differences between their true-school, “keep it real” rap and what they considered to be “watered down” commercial shit. And so, one of the most obvious differences between the “true” and the “weak” was that a lot of the stuff that was blowing up had R&B singers on the hooks. So, R&B singers on hooks became “wack” and implied that you were trying to sell out.
Of course, that was just silly scapegoating. After all, people who were lauding supposedly “true” rappers like Smif N Wessun casually ignored that Smif N Wessun recorded the “I Love You” remix with Mary J. Blige (a song that is anything but “wack”). Skip forward a decade or so and you find R&B singers getting some of the hardest beats out. Just to mention a few, there’s last year’s “Only U” by Ashanti with its obese, distorted guitar; Mashonda’s new track “Blackout” with Snoop Dogg and solid production by Swizz Beatz; Amerie’s frantic, rolling and stabbing “One Thing”; Faith Evan’s break-heavy soul ballad “Again”; and so on and so on.
Which brings us to the new princess of the Roc: Teairra Mari. After albums by Bleek and the Young Gunz flopped (albums everyone knew would flop except for Jay-Z), this might be Hov’s only early round Roc success… or at least it should be because this shit is hot. Here I’ve linked two songs that are basically the same formulaic make-up, but they are both knocking tracks that illustrate the familial nature of hip-hop and R&B. The first is Mari’s current single “Make Her Feel Good” that jacks Eric B and Rakim’s classic synth line from “My Melody” and adds a sparse drum line on. The track doesn’t even bother with a bass line; the kicks are all the low end that are needed as Mari belts her little heart out
and Hov shows up for a silly little verse(NO HOV ON THE VERSION I’VE LINKED). The second track is “La La” another drum-heavy banger that works because of its rugged miminalism: simple melody, loud drums, clean and full vocals… Oh, and no bass line again. Raw.
Anyway, lemme know what you think of this shit.
— Teairra Mari Make Her Feel Good
— Teairra Mari La La
— Extra: Here’s a link to a low quality version of “No Daddy,” another track from Mari’s album from the Roc website.