Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Top Ten R&B Albums In The Modern Era

It's 2008 and a lot of shit done changed since Clinton was running the show.

Economy: Fucked
Gas Prices: Marathon is taking souls now as payment a la Shang Tsung.
World Standing: Bush did to the U.S what R.Kelly did to that little girl in that tape.
Music: Gah-bidge. Hot gah-bidge with the squiggly lines over top of it like they do in the cartoons to emphasize how strong something stinks. Now it's not all Hip-Hop's fault but it mostly is. If you want to listen to something that doesn't suck and was made recently good luck. Outside of that new Nas album, that 'American Gangster' Jay-Z album and a handful of other titles I can't think of anything I listen to in Hip-Hop that's dropped since gas started going north of $3. R&B is along the same lines but not in quite as much trouble. In fact I'd say R&B gets more spin in my car than rap to the tune of 70/30 when in the past that ratio was flipped. All I listened to was rap mostly. Like I said, I'm not letting R&B off the hook completely though. It's almost as terrible as Hip-Hop so anytime I listen to either I have to go back in time to a time when it didn't suck as much.

This is where this weeks "Top Ten" comes into play. These are the Top Ten R&B Albums in the Modern Era, which is a relative time period since it's a non-specific proposition but the years I'm talking about are the years when my generation was coming up and into adulthood; the mid 90's-current time. Lord knows people above the age of 30 are going to differ with my list greatly since they lived in a different reality. They came up more on New Edition and such but I didn't and so as far as flawless albums that you can listen to straight through with little to no filler these are the Top Ten R&B Albums of this Modern Era.

(Disclaimer: Lord knows I tried my best to keep personal biases out of this list. I really did. For those that know me and where my loyalties lie this list should at least come across at an attempt to be an honest broker based on the merit of the music and not how much I like/dislike the individual artist.)

1. Erykah Badu-Baduizm If you don't know this album you don't know 2 + 2. You don't know the capital of your own state. You don't know music. This shit right here--right HERE. Ah man. This album was the inception of Neo-Soul. It was a transition from what we had come accustomed to in R&B to something new, something innovative, something undiscovered for a lot of people like me coming up. We weren't used to it when we tried it. It was the stuff of our parents generation; Of more revolutionary times. All we knew was that we liked it. How could you not? Next Lifetime? Other Side Of The Game? On & On? Rimshot? Yeah if you didn't like this album you didn't like black people. This album was the conscious of African-Americans for a while. It was the coronation of Erykah Badu's placement among R&B royalty. You weren't knocking boots to this album. You were digesting this one with your mind while you were in your room on the phone with that girl you liked. This album was putting you in the mood to come at women. It was what a Gatorade was to Michael Jordan. It gave you what you needed to converse with the fairer sex. It lent young men that vibe, that swagger. I've listened to this album so many times I've internalized it though. Thank you Baduizm. If you don't have it, buy it. If you're broke, borrow it. If you you don't know anyone else with it, get better friends. But whatever you do, play this before July is over.

2. R. Kelly-TP-2.com This album was that album you got out when you wanted to laugh, cry, zone out or do something devilish. This was the first complete R.Kelly album that set him up as a go to guy in R&B for me. Up until that point he was like the Tracy McGrady of R&B, in he had the individual parts that made him good and showed flashes of brilliance from time to time but this album pieced together all of his promise and stitched it together in one brilliant stream of consciousness he let us all take a dip in with him in 2000. I don't know what he had in the studio when creating this album or what smell ruminated throughout the room, weed or 3rd Grader booty but whatever it was, it had Robert in a zone. This cd got me through death, heartbreak, and a summer vacation on my way back from Mississippi one year (a grueling 12 hour trip made doable via this). I still think this man is troubled and should be behind bars but spare him the death penalty if only for making this cd.

3. Aaliyah-One In A Million I really can't explain how much I hate putting this album and #2 side by side if only by association but alas, the albums are where they are and for me OIAM is as innovative as albums come. It's stands the test of time and launched Timbaland into the stratosphere as the go to man in music that he is today. Without this album he'd be someone else. Someone ordinary. Aaliyah made him famous. There. I said it. Sue me. OIAM was the album you listened to when you drove around. It was like Hip-Hop in a way that most R&B cd's before then weren't. I mean you could bump this in your car and that was unheard of with R&B back them. You didn't bump R&B you played it. There's a difference like you can play classical but you bump Hip-Hop. It was in the attitude of the cd. Like if you dressed this R&B cd up it'd have a durag on and a fitted and some shades but it would still have on a suit or a dress. It was smooth but edgy. Aaliyah was special and she manifested herself into this cd and that's why we still honor her today and still play this cd from time to time. It stays in rotation.
4. Musiq-aijuswanaseing Musiq ushered into the mainstream consciousness neo-soul for the laid back fellas. He took the torch from where Erykah brought it and carried it even further. This album and it's songs were different tones of one voice. It was consistently great and earnest in it's presentation. It wasn't the typical formulaic R&B proposition to women about getting into bed. It took a different route. This was for the diplomatic fellas amongst us that buy drinks for ladies and walk over to the bar where she's sitting at and gets her to write her number on a napkin and go home and call her up and gets to know her. That's the approach this album took. I try and play this album at least once a season so I can revisit some of the clearest most focused point in my love life. This other R&B music of today couldn't focus you as well as this one right here. Definite classic. Shame he never lived up to the hopes in the proceeding years he set with this debut.

5. Jon B.-Pleasures U Like To be fair, I wouldn't have even been up on Jon B. without my sister. For the disadvantages of having an older sister as a boy, and there are tons, this is one of the upsides of having an older sister. My sister always put me up on what women girls my age and up to 4 years older were feeling and not feeling, what was a way to fundamentally get girls attention and how to lose it. Imagine having that kind of foreshadowing. Any play I got in middle and high school I owe to my sister. She taught me young who was smooth and who to emulate and what music women were swooning over. This album was one of those. This album was the Da Vinci Code to women. This album was getting you play if you played it in the right situation to the right girl. If an R.Kelly album got you sex, this album got you sex and a call from the girl on the way back home after leaving before you even made it back. Pleasures U Like is the smoothest album I've ever heard. This album is Billy D. Williams in cd form. Automatic deal closer fellas. It's the Mariano Rivera of R&B cds. You want a reliable, Cd that'll get it done, this is as close to guaranteed as possible.

6. Jon B.-Cool Relax This album was great but I've also learned it was greatly under appreciated and greatly mis marketed. If only the masses were hip to this one and Babyface and Tracey Edmonds pumped this as much as they pumped Soul Food. For my money R U Still Down was one of the top 5 best Rap/R&B collaborations of all-time. Plus you have the innocent What You Say Boo?, perfect for any occasion, They Don't Know & the criminally slept on Can We Get Down. No joke, this album is every bit as great as many others on this list just underrated.

7. Jill Scott-Who Is Jill Scott This album was basically Baduizm remixed. That's certainly not a knock as I've got Baduizm as the top ranked album on my list but it just tells you how the album approaches the listeners ear. This is grown folks music right here. It's sophisticated and edgy and all the other superlatives that make the neo-soul genre so refreshingly appealing. This is unwind music. This is the soundtrack to walking inside your house and changing from your work clothes to some shorts and tee shirt or some other more appropriately comfortable attire and relaxing to. This album is so good I had to steal it from my sister. My own flesh and blood. (Leighanne, if you're reading this I probably owe you $12.98 or some other peace offering). It's worth risking an ass-whooping if you're caught stealing this one, not that I'm recommending doing so. That wouldn't be honorable. LOL.

8. Aaliyah-Aaliyah If I remember correctly I loved this album even before she left us even though I don't think the fans had much time to embrace the album before August 25, 2001. I want to say this album dropped July 19 so I had a few weeks to feel it out. [I know there'll be some smart-ass Wikipedia nerd that'll correct that.] The time that I did have before her death to play it I liked it. Since she died I loved it and appreciated it even more. Like advice from a loved one who passes it meant so much more to me. You try not to let emotion inflate value so that's why I put it here at number 8 but it really was a brilliant album by all metrics. It was diverse, it was sexy, it was bold, it went places R&B hadn't stuck it's flag into and claimed. It was the difference between a 17 year-old girl who changed the sound of R&B an a 22 year old who had found her niche and wanted to expand on it. This year was the best of times and worst of times for many many reasons but as far as silver linings go, this album was critically a success throughout.

9. Ginuwine - 100% This album had about half a dozen great songs and half a dozed almost great songs and the rest were good. Any album that you can say the worst songs on it were good, was a pretty damn good album. This cd was Ginuwine before he got so full of himself when he gassed himself into believing he didn't need Tim. Such a colossally bad decision. The musical chemistry between them was never better and one can only wonder what borders they would and could have forged past in their partenership if Elgin hadn't went for dolo in a quest for individual glory. How many more great Cd's could he have dropped of the quality of 100% if the two kept their focus and continued cooking up this kind of hotness for years to come? Sad, but at least they gave us this and for this effort I salute them both and recognize this albums greatness.

10. Case-Personal Conversation In the summer of 1999, I worked two jobs the whole summer. One working for Hardee's and the other as a custodian. I was 15. I had one foot in hell and the other in Iraq professionally speaking. Neither job was particularly great or respectful but this album in those waking moments before I put on the work clothes made everything manageable. That's the sole purpose of music. It's supposed to stimulate your imagination and take you to Never Never Land. This album did that as much as any cd I've ever owned. Had a kid coming home from work who smelled like french fries and windex feeling like he was smooth enough to walk up to the park after work and holler at girls like it wasn't nothing. Great great cd.

The Honorable's Mentions:
V-The Revalation Is Now Televised
Lloyd-Street Love
Ginuwine-The Bachelor
Dru Hill-Dru Hill
R.Kelly-12 Play

There will be an upping of my favorite songs from those CDs to give you people without a point of reference for some of them so that you can listen and learn and be educated.


PS. Thanks for you all's continued support and visits as I'm passing 10,000 visits in my first couple months. It's not the most I'll ever achieve but it's a start. Thanks for everybody who has me in their blogroll and support my website on theirs. For a guy who just started back in March I couldn't ask for some better sites to be affiliated with and I hope I can forge future partnerships with other great websites and blogs. Stay with me y'all. Visit me everyday as I can't tell you but something big is around the corner and on the horizon for these parts. I can't give any details but once you see it you'll know what I was alluding to. Enjoy the blog and stop being so stingy with the comments. I do respond. Just take the 3 minutes to talk at me and let me know what you think about what I post. Alright y'all.


R&B Fan said...

O come now, no Boyz II Men or Tony Rich :). Good to see Jon B up there though, he's my boy.

As argument for Tony Rich, I offer you Tony Rich's Nobody Knows

Keep the site going! Liking the stuff.

The Honorable 'Sass said...

Ha-ha! I'm going to take you up on that offer tomorrow when I can upload that to my Ipod. You clearly got good taste if you're up on Jon B. He's the most underrated guy of his generation IMO.

lovnlife said...

What about Jodeci tho?!
Have a great weekend!