R&B’s Growing Dependence On Rappers

R&B artists have gotten real lazy lately. Instead of making full songs based solely on their own talents, singers are taking the easy route and bringing in rappers to perform verses to complete their songs. “Fans” are buying, excuse me, downloading this movement. In a climate where young audiences (the 106 & Park crowd) are not interested in just good music; popular names are attached to records from new artists to gain more attention. The Hip-Hop and R&B genres are blended to the point where there is no clear distinction. Even the board members of the Grammy association were confused by the trend that has taken over in the last few years. From Wikipedia:

In 2003, the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album was split into two categories: Best Contemporary R&B Album is for R&B longplay records (LPs) that have modern hip-hop stylings to them, while this honor is for R&B LPs that are more traditional and less electronic.

Rappers have been using singers for hook work for years. Unfortunately, singers have abused the friendly jester of returning favors by relying on rappers too much lately to make their songs round out the pivotal three minute mark for radio play.

Adding featured guests to a record is a sign of laziness, but the results of the finished work can be even worse when the guest adds nothing to the original idea. Ciara’s first three singles of her career had rappers to handle a verse or two. While she was lucky to have the featured guests share the same ideas on the topic of the song, she would later have a problem with future guest features. R&B artists should be careful to review what they are paying for when it comes to rapper’s appearances. While some are lucky to get emotion filled songs of heartbreak like, Miguel’s J.Cole featured song, “All I Want Is You”, from their collaborations. Others are the unfortunate recipients of verses of boasting about drugs and money like on Ciara’s 2009 single, “Never Ever” that featured Young Jeezy.

Teairra Marí, Jennifer Lopez, and countless other singers try to reclaim the spotlight by making music with the hottest rappers of the moment (2 CHAINZ!!!). Even songwriters have attempted to transition to the spotlight by attaching a popular name to their works. Sean Garret has written songs for Beyoncé, Mario, Chris Brown, and Usher that have become number one hits. He has released five, FIVE!, singles with guest features to gain a buzz for his own singing career and is still most notable for punching a heavy bag in Mario’s “Break Up” video. “She Geeked” was my song for a minute but because of all the wrong reasons. The beat and the Tyga and Gucci Mane verses made me want to listen to the song, not the main artist. Executives need to make better decisions of how they want to present an audience to the public.

While being known now as just another former powerful music mogul from the 90’s, (Shout-Out to Dame Dash and Suge Knight) Irv Gotti made the right decisions when it was time to break new artists. He decided against putting Jay-Z on Ashanti’s first single “Foolish” because he did not want her to have the hottest rapper on her song just to get a buzz. He wanted the song to get popular because of the artist that wrote the song. That tactic worked for Ashanti’s career but unfortunately it has not been working years lately in a different music industry that is based on gimmicks instead of skills. Estelle has arguably one of the best songs of the year in the R&B genre, but it’s not heard on as many radio stations as her Kanye West featured single “American Boy” or Rick Ross featured, “Break My Heart” which brings to mind another point. Rick Ross may be one of the most sought after rappers for R&B features today, as evidenced by his recent assists on songs by Usher and Mary J.Blige, but no one has been more sought after in the history of features than Weezy F. Baby. (Okay, that may be over exaggerated, but if you think about it a couple of years ago, there wasn’t a remix or song on the radio without him.)

The Lil’ Wayne feature was mandatory for artists to crossover and to appeal to the younger crowd in 2005, now it just seems like an even more desperate attempt in 2012 (I see you, Keyshia Cole & Bow Wow). Kelly Rowland, Bobby Valentino, & Lloyd have benefited from having Lil’ Wayne on their successful first singles. The next time they work with Weezy is just seen as an attempt to get lightning to strike in the same place twice. That place being the top of the charts. The worst offense comes from artists that don’t even listen to the New Orleans rapper’s music and just add him to a song to gain his fans and wider appeal for themselves. The generic answer of “I’ve been a fan of his for awhile”, used to make me cringe and be in disbelief, but now I understand that some people see collaborations as good for business, not for the music.

I don’t have a problem with genres collaborating, but I am concerned when I can’t tell the difference between a Rick Ross featuring Usher song and an Usher featuring Rick Ross song. I don’t see any diversity from, “Lemme See” and “Touch’N You”. There’s nothing with getting a rap feature when it is needed. If you’re an artist and you think your up-tempo track needs a boastful verse, then call Ludacris. If you’re an artist that needs some masculinity on your heart-felt track, then call T.I. If you’re an artist looking for a feature that will gain attention for your upcoming project, then call a songwriter/producer that will give you a song that can be performed solo.