Rhythm and Blues HOF 3Hip Hop / Urban

Hip-Hop and Urban music emerged in the late ’70s, and their histories have often been intertwined. Urban Soul grew out of the smooth stylings o
f Philly Soul and the slick dance of disco. Urban owed as much (if not more) to mainstream pop as it did to classic soul, and with its layers of synthesizers, slick production and reliance on ballads, Urban Soul rarely sounded like soul. It did sound like pop, which is one of the reasons why it became the dominant African-American music genre in the ’80s. Some musicians, such as Michael Jackson and Prince, enlivened the genre by turning conventions on their ear, but most Urban artists simply followed the conventions, both for better (Luther Vandross) or for worse. By the end of the decade, Urban had tentatively incorporated Hip-Hop innovations. Hip-Hop is the catch-all term for rap and the culture it spawned. Initially, rap was quite simple, with vocalists rapping over scratched records and drum beats, but as it progressed it became more complex. Hardcore rappers, such as Run-D.M.C. and Boogie Down Productions, kept the beats minimal and emphasized the lyrics, while occasionally adding hard-rock guitars. They paved the way for Public Enemy, whose edgy, political rhymes and dense, sample-heavy beats were the trailblazing sound of the late ’80s and early ’90s. By that time, Urban had assimilated Hip-Hop in the form of New Jack Swing — Urban soul that had rap rhythms. Furthermore, such rappers as MC Hammer, Young MC and Vanilla Ice smoothed over Hip-Hop’s rougher edges to make the first successful pop-rap singles. Some rap groups, such as N.W.A., responded with gangsta rap. N.W.A. adopted PE’s sound but concentrated on cartoonish tales of violence, crime and sex, but as the group splintered, with Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre taking solo careers, gangsta rap took an interesting spin. Under the direction of Dre, gangsta embraced the rolling beats and heavy bass of Funkadelic. Sonically, this was considerably less confrontational than Public Enemy’s blueprint, and soon this sound crossed over into Urban in the form of such vocalists as Mary J. Blige. Within a few years, post-gangsta rappers like Puff Daddy had blurred the lines between Hip-Hop and Urban soul so well, that the two were impossible to distinguish.

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