With the recent resurgence of old-school hip-hop beats in Top 40 R&B, including this season's new releases from three of the heaviest pop hitters Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, the trend is undeniable: The breakbeat is back.
Christina's "Ain't No Other Man," Beyoncé's "Suga Mama," and Justin's "Damn Girl," all funkier and dirtier than most mainstream hip-hop, are three examples of this "new" old sound. And speaking of hip-hop (or whatever we are supposed to call this) Sean Combs' attempt to make himself over as The Godfather, James Brown himself on his latest single "Get Off" is a fourth.
Of course hip-hop and funk's influence on bubblegum R&B is nothing new. But this latest wave can be rightfully traced to pop-boundary-pushing producer Rich Harrison (see Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" and Amerie's "One Thing") who singlehandedly put the breakbeat back on the plate on Top 40 radio in recent years.
In the wake of big hits drawing heavily on golden era hip-hop production (remember sampling?) hip-hop innovators and originators like DJ Premier (who produced "Ain't No Other Man") are getting a chance to do what they do best for pop icons. Christina takes these new directions furthest with a double cd whose adventurous disc two includes the symphonic country rock ballad "welcome," the retro jukejoint blues of "I Got Trouble" and more.
Kanye West deserves some of the credit too. He had the vision to sign John Legend who made it okay to do acoustic R&B ballads again, like Justin's rootsy piano ballad "(Another Song) All Over Again," Beyoncé's true-school makeover of Curtis Mayfield's "Think" (borrowing from the Mary J Blige playbook), and Christina singing softly with acoustic guitar sounding downright singer-songwriterish on "Save Me From Myself."
Maybe R&B is for grown folks again.
by DJ Scribe