Celebrations for the 50th anniversary continue to run the gambit around the country. And rightfully so. However, not many events have addressed the pivotal role R&B music and musicians have played in helping to break the culture into the mainstream market’s success. Well, that was until Saturday, September 23. The R&B Club, in partnership with Spotify, held their “When R&B and Hip-Hop Collide” event at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, New York.
The sold-out experience was a highlight of both genres’ deeply entangled history over the last few decades. Throughout the afternoon, The R&B Club founders Ashley-Dior Thomas, Justin Tinsley, and Julian Kimble invited the audience in to take a look back on some of the biggest collaborative tracks from R&B and hip-hop artists while providing the much-needed historical context on the climate of music at the time. R&B superstar Lloyd joined in on the conversation and also surprised guests with an acapella performance of his hit song “You.”
In February, The R&B Club celebrated its 5th year anniversary, and since its founding in 2018, they’ve gained the respect of titans within the industry, including the late Andre Harrell and music connoisseurs alike.
ThisIsRnB’s contributing writer Flisadam Pointer was in the building and had the chance to catch up with the collective.
“So, R&B featuring hip-hop, I think, was a perfect marriage for celebrating the 50th year of hip-hop. Because R&B has been such an integral part of hip-hop. The tenets of R&B [are] funk, soul, and choruses. Hip-hop also has great lyricism, funk, and soul. When you have these kinds of cousin genres come together, it’s like you have this great gumbo,” said Ashley-Dior Thomas.
“One of the real foundational tenets of The R&B Club is storytelling. And when you look at the history of R&B, and you look at the history of hip-hop, they’re so intertwined. And you can’t tell either story without talking about the union between them. So when we decided to do this event, R&B feature and hip-hop, we knew that we were gonna have at least 1,000 songs on the playlist because there are so many examples. But, I feel comfortable not only speaking for myself, Ashley, and Julian as well, we are very protective of R&B. We’re very protective of Black art. It’s our responsibility to make sure that the story is told, not just in the right way but in an entertaining, informative, and safe way as well. When I think about why this event is important, these are our stories, and we need to be the ones telling our stories, preserving our stories, and celebrating our story,” replied Justin Tinsley.
“So, I believe context matters. In charting the history of the fusion of hip-hop and R&B or R&B and hip-hop chronologically, we get to see how both genres changed. [But also] how they started off at opposite points of the spectrum and then came together. And how that was seen as radical at the time. And then how it become commonplace by the time you get to the 2010s, especially now in 2023. It’s so commingled. Who is even a hip-hop artist, and who’s R&B? It’s just so normal, right,” said Julian Kimble.
Kimble continued, “You have a legendary rapper not getting credited for something. Then you have people who are pop stars fighting to make R&B and hip-hop part of their sound. And then you have hip-hop artists that are just R&B fans. I always think of 21 Savage singing [online]. 21 Savage is singing along to SWV. You know what that is? It is because of this [fusion]. So I just think that the history of this matters. We get to see the history, how both genres change, the textures changed, and we get to where we are today. We get a whole lot of a lot of great music to come out of all of that.”
When discussing the significance of the event done in partnership with Spotify, Thomas added, “We wanted to put our own spin on the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, The R&B Club way. We wanted to talk about how R&B’s run started out in the 80s, especially the early 90s, was more dominating as a genre. But of course, hip-hop now is the most dominant genre as far as music. So we wanted to talk about how these kinds of cousin or sister genres were important to the fusion of hip-hop and R&B.
The R&B Club is a monthly meetup hosted around the country. The organization’s next event will take place on Sunday, October 8, at the Songbyrd in Washington, DC. For more information, follow their official Instagram page here. To listen to the official curated playlist for the When R&B and Hip-Hop Collide event, click here to be redirected to Spotify.
Cover photo credit: Spotify