Far to often we have waited until it was too late to give the people who moved and inspired us recognition. We often give awards and accolades long after they were deserved. These artist have made us feel, think and move. Many have shown us that it is okay to be human and that we are not alone. If nothing else perhaps these artist will be rediscovered by some or seen in a new way by others.  We have grown up with R & B, we have watched it blend soul and jazz elements, we have seen it nod heads with hip hop grooves and dance with pop beats. I have created this list not based solely on sales, emotions, but more so on impact. Having one hit may not help, while dropping a classic album does. These artist, these women had guts, creativity and range. They did not allow music to power the song while they fell back, they were the songs and without them Rhythm & Blues would not be the same. A lot of women have contributed to R & B, here is part 1 of my All-Time list.

 

11. Lauryn Hill

 

Lauryn is on this list for one reason and that is The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Her 1998 album is what debut albums should be. This album contained musical styles that ranged from R&B, Soul and Reggae, to Hip Hop and Gospel. The album was strikingly beautifully as it blended melodies in ways never done before. Her album is the perfect example of what happens when  talent meets purpose.  The album dealt with many serious life issues, but it was never bogged down. She became the 1st women to win 5 Grammys on one night and the music world is much better off because of it.  

12. Erykah Badu

Baduizm is Badu’s highly acclaimed debut album, it was released in 1997 and debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. The album was filled with introspective lyrics, jazz and a bass-heavy sound. Baduizm was hailed as one of the leading lights of the burgeoning “Neo Soul” genre. because of Erykah’s phrasing and tempo she drew comparisons to Billie Holiday. Her lyrics challenge listeners with their highly personal, philosophical, and political content. Her albums say everything that we want to,but never do.  Through her album she was able to weave different musical influences together to create a richer sound.

13. Toni Braxton

Toni topped the Billboard 200 with her 1993 self-titled debut album her second album “Secrets”, spawned the number-one hits “You’re Makin’ Me High”, “I Love Me Some Him” and “Un-Break My Heart” songs that live forever. Braxton’s debut album won several awards, including three Grammy Awards (for Best New Artist and two consecutive awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance). Braxton’s broad appeal comes from her low vocal register and her range which includes R&B, adult contemporary, saucy dance tracks and sultry ballads.

14. Rihanna

Discovered as a teenager. Rihanna has a unique and powerful carribean voice, so much so that her collaborations consist of a rapper dropping 12 bars while she sings the rest. That’s a good thing because Ri-Ri’s voice has outshined every single counterpart she has been on track with. Albums Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded and Rated R provide her a showcase; complete with R & B, soul, dance hall, pop, a rebellious attitude and risque sexual lyrics. Her Caribbean-inflected R & B has managed to escape the package the industry tried to put her in.

15.Keyshia Cole

Cole’s 2005 debut album Way It Is  landed at number six on the Billboard 200. The song “I should have cheated” from that album told the world what was to come. What came was her second album Just Like You, which is one of the best R & B albums ever released. Keyshia’s lyrics powered by her vocals connected men and women with her pain. She has spawned a thousand wannabee, but there is only one.

 

Through their music these singers can tell you more about themselves I anyone ever could, so click the links. Other impactful R & B singers: Pink, Monica, Aalyah, Brandy, Mya, Fantasia

 Part 2

Dear Nicki Minaj:

I’m supposed to be mad at you.  Because of the whole Barbie thing.  I don’t know if you know this, but Ruth Handler created Barbie for Mattel about 50 years ago. She was based on Lily, a blond European comic strip character with, shall we say, loose morals.  As a doll, Barbie prostituted herself for the multiple outfits, shoes, cars, houses and other accessories that parents would buy for their daughters.

A woman who compares herself to Barbie is a woman who desires to be purchased.  A black woman who compares herself to Barbie is celebrating white standards of beauty in order to be bought.  It’s objectifying, it supports patriarchy, it’s reminiscent of slavery, it’s problematic, and it’s working for you, ma.

Maybe it’s because no one can make the rumors about you hooking up with Weezy and Drake to get signed actually stick.  Maybe it’s because your glam is hotter than anything designed for Barbie. Maybe it’s because even in your blond wigs, you look black unlike Barbie’s first black friend, Christie. Maybe it’s because you got ass Barbie can only dream of.  Maybe it’s because this Barbie business is your business.

Times are hard. The black unemployment rate is 16%. One in seven Americans live in poverty. Gainful employment that pays a living wage is hard to find. You found it by being a Barbie. Congratulations.  The more complex the package, the more there is to talk about, and people are talking about you, Nicki.  We’ve been checking for your album over a year before it dropped.

Today, November 22, 2010, is your holiday.  You’ve got a lipstick collabo with MAC, a partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer .organization, a MTV documentary titled My Time Now, the Pink Friday album, and a pending tour.  You are packaging yourself to be sold because that’s how the game is played.  Men sell themselves all the time. When they’re successful we call them Donald Trump. When women do it, we call them dolls, puppets, pawns.  You’re doing it right, but you’re wrong about one thing. Your time isn’t now.  Your time is in the future. This is the beginning.

Turn hip pop on it’s head. Teach black girls how to be entrepreneurs—how to self promote guerilla style. Share as much as you feel comfortable about your childhood, your immigration, the domestic violence between your parents, your sexuality, your life in the industry with all those boys, and your round-the-way-girl attempts to figure these men out.  How do they do that shit?

Barbie is your business. I understand that. Lil Kim understands that too, and that’s why she’s challenging you. I know you didn’t name any names in “Roman’s Revenge.”  It has some clever lines, but Roman and Shady both hate women so I can’t give you any props on that.  Just don’t go starting any mess. Your Sucka Free cover is Kim. She’s your godmother in the game even if she’s not acting like it. Think of giving everyone who comes at you, an opportunity to eat too. Savvy women parlay hateration into product that profits the major player and all the people on her team.

I listened to your interviews, I heard you rhyme, I read about that 360 deal. I know that your time is coming. What’s next? Your own label, your own school for girls, your own non-profit? I know you can do it, Nicki. The question is will you? I’ll only be mad if you stay a Barbie.

P.S.

By the way Lil Kim’s Pink Friday Mixtape is something you don’t want to mess with, really.

Just don’t pose in any more plastic boxes, okay?

http://twitter.com/#!/mghasspoken

Dr. Ebony Utley

The Woman with Ideas

theutleyexperience.com

Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D. is an expert in hip hop, race, and love relationships. Her forthcoming book, The Gangsta’s God: The Quest for Respectability in Hip Hop (Praeger, forthcoming), blends rap, religion, and urban African American history to reveal how a God-sanctioned gangsta identity empowers young black people facing declining economic opportunities.