Hip hop soul

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Hip hop soul (or rap soul) is the sub-genre of contemporary R&B which fuses R&B, neo soul, and dance elements with hip hop. The term did not originate until the promotion for Mary J. Blige's debut album What's the 411? in 1992 when Uptown Records proclaimed her to be the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" and generally describes a style of music that blends soulful R&B singing and raw hip hop production. The genre served as a middle point between two other hip hop/R&B blends, new jack swing and neo soul, and while it was most popular during the mid 1990s with the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul", Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Jodeci, and Aaliyah, it still finds popularity with newcomers such as Ashanti, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Keyshia Cole, and Amerie.


Musical influences

R&B singer Mary J. Blige is known as the "queen of hip hop soul" due to her frequent collaborations with rappers and hip hop producers.[1][2]

Many of the artists who released hip hop soul records had previously released new jack swing (or, for the female performers, new jill swing) recordings, including Jodeci, SWV, and TLC. The main difference between the two was that hip hop soul was less rough and contained more of an R&B feel than new jack swing. For example, Hip hop soul used samples instead of synthesizer lines, and featured strong elements of 1990s East Coast hip hop and gangsta rap while deftly incorporating them into a more soulful sound. Hip Hop Soul turned down the booming bass, the deafening drum machines and the Public Enemy-esque wall of sound of new jack swing in favor of a more R&B side of the blend of hip hop and soul. Some of its primary figures include Montell Jordan (the first R&B artist to sign with hip hop label Def Jam Records), Blackstreet (led by Teddy Riley, the inventor of new jack swing), and the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" Mary J. Blige, TLC, Aaliyah and R. Kelly who adapted the nervy swagger of their rapping counterparts without sacrificing soulful vocals or influences.

Hip hop soul and the public

Hip hop soul is also considered more "mature" than new jack swing but less so than neo soul due to the genre's attention to the darker aspects of love and life and its use of adult language and themes (i.e. sex).

Dawn of neo soul

Hip hop soul experienced a lull in popularity with the emergence of neo soul, another R&B subgenre, in the late 1990s. Deemed more progressive by fans, neo soul music is actually more regressive with many of its artists paying tribute to the classic era of soul while attempting to ignore more modern technology and Hip Hop influences. It became a more "positive" alternative to hip hop soul and contemporary R&B, which had a growing reputation of being overly sexual and based on negative stereotypes. While Neo Soul became very popular around the turn of the millennium, Hip Hop Soul didn't disappear entirely. It simply continued to evolve in response to changing musical tastes.

New generation resurgence

While the tag hip hop soul is rarely applied to musical artists anymore, it has never really gone away, and most artists who mix hip hop sounds with soul are labeled as being Contemporary R&B artists. For example, those in tune to urban radio for the past couple of decades will have noticed that the overall pace of records (even on ballads) has increased rapidly, with many R&B artists singing so quickly that it resembles rapping (e.g. Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" and Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together"). Also, R&B singles featuring guest appearances by rappers is more common than ever before. An aggressive and hardened production sound were featured on "Yeah!" by Usher and "Goodies" by Ciara that has been labeled by some as "Crunk&B," a seemingly modern day take on some of the more bawdy New Jack Swing singles. Many artists from the 1990s, such as Mary J. Blige, Usher and R. Kelly, continue to have great success in the new millennium by mixing the sounds of Neo Soul, Hip Hop, and more contemporary production styles. Successful younger acts following in their footsteps include Beyoncé, Ne-Yo, and Keyshia Cole.

List of hip hop soul artists

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  1. Reeves, Marcus (2009), Somebody Scream!: Rap Music's Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power, Macmillan, pp. 143, 185, ISBN 978-0-86547-997-5 
  2. "Universally known as the 'Queen of Hip Hop Soul' because of her frequent collaborations with rap artists and Hip Hop producers..." in" Bynoe, Yvonne (2006), Encyclopedia of rap and hip-hop culture, Greenwood Press, p. 32, ISBN 978-0-313-33058-2 

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