I was in elementary school when it started. My father arrived home from work with the gift I had been nagging him about for the past week. I tore open the sky blue J & R bag that held the CD and let out a high pitched squeal. She wore combat boots and chin-length box braids. The debut album of Brandy. That day triggered my captivation with R & B.
I loved Brandy’s mellow dryness over bass beats. I bobbed my head to Aaliyah’s smooth crystalline vocals. I tried to imitate Monica’s rich runs. Mary J. Blige’s unadulterated husky alto ministered to my ears and soul. The three-part harmony of SWV was as sweet as candy.
I relived this great part of my childhood last weekend. My sister and I were talking, updating each other on our lives with YouTube music videos supplying the background music. But it was inevitable; the music won over the conversation. We abandoned our chat to search musical archives, digging up 90’s Whitney, Janet, Shai, and extreme one-hit wonder Imajin.
Perhaps I’m biased as a 90’s tween/teen but music from that era is timeless. If R & B was born in the 60’s and 70’s, then it came of age in the 80’s and 90’s. Then, the genre was still young and open to experimentation, borrowing from faded classic hits to mix with hip-hop. The result was auditory ambrosia. It’s great stuff.
When the current reigning titans of R & B relinquish their crowns, I can’t imagine them having the same or greater effect on their listeners. I’m sure members of the younger generation would beg to differ.