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What’s Going On With Our Music?


I got in the car the other day and without any thought what so ever, I by-passed the radio and plugged in my smartphone music player. It’s loaded with the music I love, set to shuffle so the playlist is always different. After a couple of really cool songs, I found myself jammin’ to “What’s Happening Brother”, and realized that Marvin’s birthday was this week, (April 2) he would have been 75 years old. Marvin Gaye’s ground-breaking classic album, “What’s Going On” was released in 1971, 43 years ago. What a great and timeless album. I asked myself, why am I listening to—and loving, a song that’s over 40 years old? Why do I love listening to R&B songs from the 70’s and 80’s? Why don’t I want to listen to the radio? And why do I feel so blasé about most of today’s urban music? What’s Going On with Our Music?

Listening to current urban music on the radio often leaves me scratching my head. Unless your name is Jay, Kanye, Drake, Rihanna, or Kendrick, commercial Hip Hop is on life support. So much of today’s rap music of is uninspiring and disrespectful. Hip Hop was once beautiful hood poetry. It spoke of truth, life, love, party, pain, confrontation and power. Now it seems like the Hip Hop music message is all about gettin’ paid, gettin’ bitches and livin’ a fantasy life. Independent and underground Hip Hop does show promise with acts like Tyler The Creator, Chance The Rapper, Ab-Soul, and Brother Ali. They make good music with thought provoking lyrics and messages. But don’t expect to hear acts like that on the radio. What’s Going On with Our Music?

Corporate radio sucksIf you listen to the radio thinking you’re going to be introduced to new music you’re fooling yourself. Corporate radio programming gate keepers dictate that the music must be familiar or the listeners will bail out. How many so-called familiar songs are you hearing on your favorite adult R&B station these days? I believe radio can be successful by finding a balance between current hits, classic gold and new music, but that’s just my opinion. Want to hear new music? Commit some time to searching Youtube, Spotify, Beats Music or the like.

Today’s commercial R&B has become an automatic showcase for Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke. Truth is, they’re really good but deep down I feel like we’re giving our talent away. Thank God for Beyonce, Pharrell and John Legend but today’s success comes with a price.

James-BrownGreat music, true talent and passionate performances stand out. Gifted musicians, incredible singers and heartfelt songs that touch the heart are what it takes to make music that lasts. Now you know why my music preferences are rooted in 70’s and 80’s R&B. I’m a fan of true talent. True talent to me is James Brown, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, and many others.

aloe-blaccTrue talent is timeless. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of current artists that I think have talent, I’m a big fan of Aloe Blacc, Frank Ocean, Foreign Exchange, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Lalah Hathaway, Adele, Raphael Saadiq, Charlie Wilson, Usher, Alicia Keys, R Kelly, Will Downing, Jaheim, Eryka Badu, and others. They make great music. Songs with substance, songs that connect with you, songs that stand the test of time.

My message to aspiring artists… work hard on your craft, make exceptional music, be true to yourself, make yourself and your fans proud of your music and your actions. Make music that’s about something… that’s what’s going on.