"R&B used to be a safe, loving space for women"
If there’s any artist who can best describe the troubles facing R&B – at least from the XY chromosome side – it’s Bobby V. I know, I know: “Are you about to quote Chingy about the state of hip-hop next?” Fair enough, but you can’t deny the bop that “Anonymous” brought, nor does Bobby V’s current place in the genre negate the accuracy of his criticism.
Speaking with Rolling Out, Bobby V. lamented over how R&B has gone “all the way hip-hop” and how that has essentially left many singers “out the door.” How can one maintain some level of success in this climate? Bobby V explained, “Of course, you can make an R&B song degrading women and saying some negative things and that may work. Because it seems like those are the R&B songs that are working now, which is a little sad to me. But I’m not that kind of guy.”
Not being that guy has a lot to do with his not being among the men who currently dominate radio. Among those that do fit very nicely into Bobby V’s recipe for relevancy in this rap-centric world of R&B, look no further than Chris Brown, who despite being every bit the screw up in the recent years, has managed to maintain his star (albeit a dimmed one) largely based on his ability to combine his knack for penning hooks with the aggression, and more importantly, misogyny that fuels so much of rap. So far, it's a winning combo.
Even if you believe Chris Brown needn’t be judged for the violent beating he gave Rihanna five years ago, one wonders how that same person has been able to successfully exploit his clear contempt for women for profit. His kindred spirit in troublemaking, Bobby Brown, would've dared sing a line like that. That is, not if he wanted to get radio airplay.
Those days are over now, though, as Chris Brown is free to do 8-counts in the carnival while crooning about broke bitches and disloyal hoes. Chris has managed to flip Who Hurt You 'N B into a successful sub-genre of R&B.
Sadly, he’s not the only guilty party. There’s also Trey Songz, who now sings about bitches and disses women based on whether or not they’re wearing cheap shoes. And of course, The-Dream, who is a pioneer in “I hate women, but I’m going to market my music mostly to them” music. Others dibble and dabble when convenient – Usher in recent years, newcomers trying to make their mark – and some like R. Kelly, are just well…you know.
That’s why despite the crossover success of songs like Pharrell’s almost gospel-like paean about giddiness, “Happy,” and John Legend’s soulful “All Of Me,” both still seem like outliers. R&B used to be a safe, loving space for women. The sort of music that, unlike hip-hop, still didn’t carry that deep resentment towards women that only Iyanla Vanzant or a surgeon capable of removing the tumor that is misogyny could cure.
Has that become passé? At a recent party, all of the women loudly recited the lines to “Loyal.” I imagine some would be quick to say, “He ain’t talking about me!” But if any of them turn on the radio long enough, one of these R&B male singers surely will be.
Photo Credit: Instagram/chrisbrownofficial