Does Neo-Soul Music Still Exist?

Neo-SoulIn the mid-90s, music entrepreneur Kedar Massenburg launched a musical genre that changed lives of many artists including D’Angelo, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu. It was the ideal plan to market and promote these artists in order for them to have groundbreaking careers. Massenburg’s new musical approach was officially introduced to the world when Erykah Badu released her debut single, “On & On,” in 1996. This style of music was labeled “neo-soul.”

Neo-soul music is a distinct sound that incorporates a more conservative R&B sound with an urban hip-hop twist. The R&B ballads are a mixture of ‘70s soul and alternative hip-hop. Neo-soul is also conjoined with R&B, jazz, pop, funk, and African music as well. Fans gravitated to this new sound at the time because it was rare and fresh. D’Angelo’s, Maxwell’s, and Erykah Badu’s sound was completely different from R.Kelly or any other contemporary female or male R&B artist.

Even though the “neo-soul sound” was amazing and mind-blowing, many artists who are put in this category had a hard time producing or recording a follow-up album. As a result, some artists received more pressure from their record labels, which can be detrimental for an artist because it conflicts with their creative freedom. The neo-soul artist’s album was often delayed or they were dropped from their record label.  For example,  neo-soul artist Lauryn Hill’s debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was one of the biggest R&B/hip-hop records in 1998; however, her next record didn’t fully meet the expectations of a great album and Hill went into a complete hibernation mode since 2002. This usually occurs because artists mature; they may be going through things personally and professionally, or no longer recognize the organic flavor in their work.

However, people still recognize neo-soul because it doesn’t focus on winning popularity votes in the industry. People still want to hear artists express themselves freely in their music. This is one of the reasons why neo-soul became a sub-genre in R&B music. Even though it’s slowly climbing the ladder to mainstream R&B again, it still grabs people’s attention with the help of Heather Headley, John Legend, Leela James, Eric Roberson, Jill Scott, Ledisi, Musiq Soulchild, Raheem Devaughn, and many more. These artists embrace neo-soul music and acknowledge the forefathers that allowed them to be a part of this special musical movement.

Since 1995, neo-soul has truly diversified musically because today’s mainstream and independent artists add an eclectic flavor to their work. The artists that we considered to be neo-soul didn’t sell their souls and musical identity to blend with the current trends in R&B music.  Nineteen years later, I can still listen to a D’Angelo or Maxwell record and consider them as neo-soul artists.  When you listen to their records, you are able to hear the live instruments, the mellow and serene sound, and the heartfelt lyrics. Grammy nominated artist Eric Roberson’s new album, The Box, is another prime example of neo-soul because of his musical composition. Neo-soul will always remain a musical style because you can’t deny that the musical genre redefined R&B music The neo-soul musical sound showed artists that you don’t have to play by the rules all the time in order to have a top-selling record.  People will still recognize and value neo-soul because of its originality, uniqueness, and most importantly, soul.

—Dominique Carson

Dominique M. Carson is a recent graduate from Brooklyn College. She graduated with her masters’ degree in Media Studies.  Dominique’s work has been featured in Singersroom.com, Birthplace Magazine, Education Update, Bay Currents, Rappersoom.com, Brooklyn College’s media outlets, Pure Soul Magazine, www.thecelebritycafe.comwww.NYCityWatch.org, and www.brooklyntoday.info.  She was an honorable recipient for Blackstreetonline.com’s Black Celebration Awards’ News & Journalism category. For more information on Dominique, visit her homepageLinkedIn page, and Facebook fan page.

One Comment

  1. Ptero says:

    Hi. I’m Ptero from south korea.
    I’m ad director and beat maker.
    I love black music and edm. So I make rnb and chill music.
    I wanna introducing myself.

    Could you hear my music?
    I wanna hear you. Respect you. Thank you.

    https://soundcloud.com/pterokorea/ptero-last-kiss
    this is demosong

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