Monday, December 8, 2008

Professor Tracey On The Blog Post Remix - What In The Hell Did Happen To The Neo Soul Music World? (Warning: Extra Long Post Ahead - For Readers Only)

My new blogging brother Chris over at Nat Turner's Revenge asked an excellent question - What Happened To Neo Soul? Now my first thought was that the question should have been, What In The Hell Happened To Neo Soul?, but that's just me quibbling. This is a serious question about the very sad state of black music - the smooth grooves, slow jamz, music for lovers, quiet storm type black music.I know there is major buzz about Jazmine Sullivan, but is she really hitting the scene hard like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu did with their debut albums? And speaking of Jill, despite working hard, folks have to admit she's fallen off a little bit and Erykah is pulling a female Prince, only making music she likes and talking crazy. India Aire's third album came and went, just like Angie Stone's last joint. And one of my personal favorites, Jaguar Wright just can't seem to break through, she's just like Goapele, damned to be an underground favorite forever. And am I the only one that thinks Alicia Keys is highly over-rated? Do we need to hire a private investigator to find Sade's ass? I know a lot of her shit sounds all the same, but hell, I'll listen to the same old shit from Sade before I listen to some of the "new-new" crap that passes for black music these days. And I wish somebody would tell me why Bilal only had one album and why is said album out of print? Can anybody tell me what the sistas in Floetry got to beefing about, that f*%ked the hell up that group and the name of the dumb bunny that thought inserting Amanda Diva's ass as a replacement was going to work?Where in hell is Carl Thomas? Somebody needs to put Puff Daddy's talentless ass under the hot lights until he confesses about his criminal destruction of Thomas' career. Lyfe Jennings cleaned up his look, but was only rewarded with falling the hell off the charts. Les Nubians was hot until they started singing in English and folks realized they wasn't singing about nothing worth $16.95. Does anybody actually buy Anthony Hamilton's albums or just the records where he sings the hook? And I'm convinced the only people who bought Sam Slater's debut album was me and his mama.When folks had the nerve to compare J. Holiday to D'Angelo, I nearly had a fit. Instead of singing, "Bed, Bed" that dude should have been singing, "Dentist" Dentist." Have you seen that brotha's grill? And if you were wondering what in the hell happened to D'Angelo, read this. I'm sorry, no pictures of the bloated, bearded, and bleary-eyed behemoth he has become, my eyes can't take it. And speaking of bloated, Dave Hollister keeps getting fatter and dropping albums nobody's buying.What the hell happened to the Jazzyfatnastees? Somebody needs to tell Macy Gray her singing career is over. Chrisette Michelle and Emily King never sold the records to match all the hype they received. And Keke Wyatt never regained her momentum after she went to jail for stabbing the hell out of her own damn husband. Let's put out a Neo Soul amber alert for Res, Davina, Grenique, Amel Larrieux, and that chick that used to blow on the first Arrested Development album. Everyone must accept the fact that Lauryn Hill has permanently lost her mind and there will be no comeback. And we can only hope that Corinne Bailey Rae gets over the unfortunate early death of her husband and gets back to recording one day. Remember when Faith Evans used to be interesting? And Teedra Moses became rapper Ras Kass' baby mama instead of a real player in Neo Soul music. And why do folks keep sleeping on Ladybug Mecca's solo albums?Shouldn't Van Hunt be blowing up a lot more than he is? And for all the shit Raphael Saadig loves to talk about himself, he should be at the top of black music, but he ain't. Funny that. I loves me some Maxwell, but not at $85 dollars for a cheap seat to his tour kind of love. And I know this is going to start a black on black crime war of words, but John Legend just doesn't do it for me. He looks like a cross between a Keebler Elf and a bobble-head doll. He does not inspire me to throw my panties on the stage like Chico Debargo when he was hot on the charts.Where at the 21st century versions of Mikki Howard, Anita Baker, Phyllis Hyman, Loose Ends, and Soul ii Soul? I know that Lord only made one Luther Vandross, but I would accept a modern version of Teddy Pendergrass, Alexander O'Neal, or Freddie Jackson. Robin Thicke ain't nothing but a throwback to Jon B. and Joss Stone couldn't carry Teena Marie's luggage, much less compete with her as a singer.Neo Soul music is struggling for many reasons. Artists taking too long to record new work, charging too much to see them live in concert, in-fighting between artists, black radio more interested in bubblegum and booty-shaking music, record companies that are uninterested in promoting real singers, and a listening audience that has become tone-deaf and less demanding in terms of the actual talent quality of music artists. I quit listening to the radio years ago and I haven't been to a concert in a very long time, but I keep hoping that black music with make a triumphant return to it's old roots. What do you think?


Shady_Grady December 8, 2008 at 5:04 AM  

Professor, there is a book "Hole in our Soul" by Martha Bayles that speaks to a lot of the issues you have raised.

I don't think neo-soul or Black music in general will get back to its roots. Something critical was lost during the seventies/eighties with the dissolution of live bands, little audience expectation of musical excellence and fading Black support for blues, funk, soul and jazz traditions.

Anonymous,  December 8, 2008 at 6:48 AM  

spot on!!! glad to see that i wasn't the only one who was mad at the price of those maxwell tickets. i told people, until i know that he is no longer "crackish" i shall NOT pay that type of money to see him.

i'm feeling some kind of way about the fall of neo soul music...i think you touched on some of the reasons why it has declined the way it has. like you, i have given up on the radio. it's a truly sad state of affairs...all i can do now is listen to the old joints and periodically download the new stuff (the stuff that ain't garbage because some of it is...)

christy December 8, 2008 at 7:54 AM  

Prof. Tracey,well said. You pretty much summed up how I'm feeling lately. I jut had this conversation with a friend last night while watching Dave Chappelles Block Party. I concur with just about everything you said. Except for the comment about Erykah. I loved the last CD. She's out there, but at least she always tries to give you something fresh, which is way more than I can say about the twits who constantly top the charts these days. Most notably Beyonce, who irritates me to no end. I stans for Erykah, Angie and Jill-love those sistas! And thank God for Hidden Beach, one of the few labels (if not the only one) that IMO is carrying the flag for Neo-soul.
Still patiently waiting for a new Maxwell CD,

Mista Jaycee December 8, 2008 at 9:51 AM  

I like this article but let me just leave this for you to ponder. Jaguar Wright always shoots herself in the damn foot! She gives radio nothing, I mean nothing they can play. Her first album, the what ifs, couldn't play that cut cause you can edit all that cursing so she always gets lost. Plus remember there is always,always a new interesting new Black, might be mixed with something singer to make a poster of and sell. IE Taylor Collins, SOLE anyone remember them?

Naturally Me! December 8, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

This article is sooo on point! I was just asking someone about Dionne Ferris a couple days ago (Arrested Development). And thank you for not showing D'Angelo's picture. Just looking at him makes my soul get weary. Reading this made me think, what is up with all the drama with neo soul artists? But then again, everybody's got stuff going on in their lives and these artists are no different. But Amanda Diva?! I had no idea about that, and if I'd a known Bilal's cd was out of print, I would have snatched it up a long time ago instead of burning it off a friend. There should be a search team and rehabilitation center for lost Neo-soul artists. But something tells me that a lot of these people probably do not want to be found. There is definitely a different kind of pressure for artists who make good music. They continually fight against the status quo of mediocrity. And as we see, a lot of them are losing that battle. (Sigh!)

Great post!!!

Naima December 8, 2008 at 10:56 AM  

Stop reading my mind Professor Tracey. Yes Alicia Keys is highly overrated and John Legend music to me is so uninspiring and those 2 are considered the cream of the crop these days in RnB.
Soul music fell off for a couple of reasons. You apparently need to have a white mother to get a record deal these days. All of these new girls coming out are biracial, we know the baddest sangers come from the black church.
The singers who can sing aren't getting the right material, they always make them sing these hood, ghettofied songs (Fantasia, Jahiem)
But the main reason soul music died b/c the Billboard charts used to be segregated. Artist who never crossed over like Stephanie Mills, Patti Labelle, Luther, Freddie Jackson all were able to have a viable career in the black community w/o ever getting played on MTV. Then Billboard started going by the raw numbers and compared to pop records I guess true RnB wasn't able to hold up. Now they don't usually sign and artist unless they feel they can crossover someway.
I have one disagreement with you though. Def Jam did drop the ball on Chrisette Michelle, the only press she got was from blogs, her first single was huge but then Def Jam, didn't release a second single. I go on Youtube and find out that she did have videos for a second single and a third, but I have yet to hear these songs on even adult RnB radio but they do play Chris Brown?
Everyone knows the music is bad and the singers are bad, even the DJs joke about the songs they are playing, but if they make money and the advertisers don't want to support anything "too black" or "too old" we get Rihanna in return.

Professor Tracey December 8, 2008 at 12:29 PM  

@Shady Grady -

I will check that book out. I think you maybe right, but I will keep hoping for a return to greatness.

@Talented Tenth -

Agreed! And where was the new material for all that damn money?

Christy -

You are welcome to be a stan, I am too, but Erykah is acting strange and that's going to hurt her career. And just like Prince, if you only make music to please yourself, you might find your records going unbought.

Mista Jaycee -

You're right! but word of mouth should have sold a few copies.

Professor Tracey December 8, 2008 at 12:34 PM  

@Naturally Me -

Dione Farris! Thank you! That was bothering the hell out of me! LOL!

Naima -

"The singers who can sing aren't getting the right material, they always make them sing these hood, ghettofied songs (Fantasia, Jahiem)"

LOL! Too true!!!! And I'm not dissing Chrisette Michelle, next to Puff Daddy, Def Jam is a career killer company as well.

Anonymous,  December 8, 2008 at 12:45 PM  

my newest favorite neo-soul artist that will never get the reginition he deserves if eric roberson. if you haven't done so already, check him out...

and it just me or is kindred's new joint not as good as the older ones. i'm just saying...and for jazmine rolling with a lot of this philly crew as she was coming up, much on her new CD sounds very commercial. give me the smoky nightclub in philly jazmine anyday...

Anonymous,  December 8, 2008 at 1:10 PM  

shady grady - imma get that book!

Prof. you hit it girl! Flat out hit it. just some quick points on a few items:

I like sullivan's album. with the exception of her first hit sounding too much like lauryn hill i thought it was creative. i love "call me guilty" as the first jam i recall giving women the power to cap that ass of a male abuser.

Erykah came to The Lou and did exactly what you said. Sung a bunch of stuff nobody knew, dissed her foundational hits and totally pissed off her fans - and acted like she didn't care.

I heard that Maxwell concert is off the chain!

You know Sade do what she do. I don't even get mad about it anymore. Obviously she just does an album and a tour when she gets ready and she has other things to do with her life. I can't be mad at her cause when she drops something else it's gonna fit that "able to play forever" category.

I don't think Alicia is overrated. Perhaps overexposed to the detriment of other artist. The radio of Top 10 over and over again is the reason why I am always rolling with my ipod or flipping the CD changer in the trunk. Otherwise its Joyner, Baisden, Harvey or NPR for the most part. Our local stations pretty much suck overall!

Anonymous,  December 8, 2008 at 1:21 PM  

Lol@the J. HOliday/D'angelo comparison.

I prefer most of these artists to stay underground. yea I want them to succeed but with success usually comes crappy music (they often have to dumb down and water down for the masses). I don't want them to get lost in promoting an image.

Take Raheem Devaughn for instance, a few years back when only me and 3 other ppl were hyping his name everywhere we went, I felt safe in his fine tunes and lyrics. But his new found nationwide fame I see has affected his music. I don't appreciate it and just wish many neo soul artists would avoid trying to blow up.

But I am so glad you mentioned that your feelings on Jill Scott. I am so not feeling her anymore. I didn't like any of the cuts from her last album. I just don't want to hear Jill singing about spitefulness and shaking off haters.

AS far as artists putting out music that only appeals to them or artists being caught up in personal issues, so much so that they can't return to the game, I feel it's just life and I'm not mad about it. And real artists will go through things like this but I will always be said about D'angelo. I wish I could give him a big hug and a nice talking to or be his full time life coach. That was the first neo soul artist that I ever knew.

There seem to be hundreds (ok maybe not hundreds) of neo soul artists that we haven't heard of yet for some reason or other, we just have to look for them (and secretly enjoy them lest the rest of the music listening world hears of them and taints them with the crossover appeal)

Tami December 8, 2008 at 2:09 PM  

Girl, YES! Neo soul got me interested in black music again. Since it's seeeming demise, the thrill is gone.

@ Shady Grady: "Something critical was lost during the seventies/eighties with the dissolution of live bands, little audience expectation of musical excellence and fading Black support for blues, funk, soul and jazz traditions."

Truer words were never spoken.

Miriam December 8, 2008 at 3:03 PM  

what? no come back possible?! I don't buy it.

Eye D. VS Mel O. December 8, 2008 at 6:16 PM  

my top 10

1.R&B/Neo Soul is in a vegetative state and I'll be so glad when it is revived and the trash r&b will just die already
2. I keep hearing that Jill is not the same as b4 but I still love her though I must say the 3rd album wasn't poppin like the rest
3. Badu's recent album was amazing to me so I guess this goes to show that my ass must be crazy right along with her lol
4. I wanted to check out Maxwell too but i REFUSED to dish out over $50 for some 100ft in the air seats.
seriously these artists need to stop charging so damn much for a show. I know they need some revenue but damn! this is why i hit up free or cheap ass concerts!
5. Res and Kweli teamed up as Idol Warship so ckeck em out
6. I stumbled across this dude named Coultrain who is so amazing but is he acknowledged?! I thought not! and ppl need to stop sleeping on Ledisi, that's my girl!
7. I used to be on Alicia Keys back in 2002 but then I realized her music ain't as great as I was making it out to be once I fully listened to her albums. though some of her old material are still my jams
8. John Legend is not neo soul to me do not the the fro, clothes, and piano playing fool you. though his 2nd album was really ill, he talks about the same ish like most r&b artists but b/c of his look he seen as being so "profound"
9. Bilal be on EVERYBODY'S album and yet this dude hasn't dropped another album... smh
10. since live instruments been went out the window, singing abilities fell out but didn't land yet. which is so disappointing b/c many ppl do want some substance but far too many just want the catchy hook and beat


tryexcellence December 8, 2008 at 9:14 PM  

Great post!

I live in S. California, and the R&B radio stations here are atrocious. I do have XM radio in the car, but they play the same songs over and over again.

I consistently look for new releases from the following folks on CD baby, amazon, soul music websites: Eric Roberson, Liz Wright, Ledisi, Frank McComb, Marcell and the Truth, Lalah. Agree w/ you on Bilal. Completely unappreciated. I have Bilal's only CD and I still listen to it on a regular.

I picked up Jill's last CD and it was mediocre at best. It wasn't the kind of music that I'd play 5 years from now like her first and second CDs were.

B/c of the dearth of good music, I've resorted to learning to appreciate the music my parents love (Etta James, B.B. King, Carmen McCrae, Shirley Horn, Miriam Makeba etc.)

With the availability of instant downloading, I believe that real artist have no excuses not to make good music and real music lovers have no excuses not to buy it. Anybody who thinks Alicia Keys and John Legend are the s!*t haven't listened to enough real music.

Anonymous,  December 8, 2008 at 9:24 PM  

I think a lot of artists, especially the younger ones, didn't like the neo soul label. I don't blame them because for the most part they were doing soulful r&b so there was no need to call it anything else. that was just a short-lived marketing term.

Erykah is on some funkadelic ish. I'm all for her doing her own thing but dang. Give us more than one song that can be played on the radio.

Maxwell was M.I.A. for too long. LOL I thought I was the only one that didn't want to pay $80+ to see him sing the same old songs. Don't get me wrong I venture out to see my beloved New Edition as often as I can and they do the same material but I don't have that same love for Maxwell.

Jill Scott is ok. She's on a smaller label so she isn't going to get the promotional push that she needs. I think the quality of her music depends on how happy she is in her personal life.

Bilal. He has a song with Solange. The song is called Cosmic Journey. Listen at your own risk

There were songs on Chrisette's cd that were radio friendly. Too bad for her she is on Def Jam. Rihanna is the queen on that label.

LMAO @ your comment on Les Nubians.

Carl Thomas released a cd a couple of years ago. It wasn't bad.

Jaheim is too hood for me.

Raheem Devaughn is going too commercial. I like his first two albums but I'm not feeling his new song called Text message. Text message? Really, Raheem.

I looooove Lalah Hathaway's voice but I only liked a couple of songs on her latest cd.

Ledisi has a good cd. I think she has a new chritmas album out.

Chico did too much jail time for me to even think about removing my panties for him. LOL No Ma'am.

I have a copy of Eric Benet's cd. I haven't listened to it yet.

Black American Princess December 8, 2008 at 11:20 PM  

Dave Hollister sings gospel now, he has released 2 "urban gospel" cds that stay in permanent rotation in my car. Check them out...

Get Togetha December 9, 2008 at 12:05 AM  

First of all....LMAO at "Dentist, Dentist."

And you're right. Black Music has suffered at the hands of corporate controlled interests who marginalize and pigeonhold music to the four corners of hell. When all you're concerned about is turning a profit the creativity suffers and nobody wants to take chances cause they don't want labels to drop them like a can of herpes..

It's all so complex. Loved Chrisette Michelle's album BTW. She's a gem.

Regina December 9, 2008 at 1:09 AM  

So sad but true! Every single word that you wrote!
I am still trying to figure out what went down with Floetry! (Do believe I am still playing that Floetic CD)!

I want diddy to disappear and if NeYo is the only person writing good song than EVERYONE you mentioned in this post better RUN over to dude's house, right now!!

Music will never be like it was:
Teena Marie, Carl Thomas, those were the days!

ActsofFaithBlog December 9, 2008 at 3:37 AM  

Bilal, Tweet and Joy Denalane have a live CD that just came out. Sade can do no wrong though her voice is showing signs of vocal strain. Amel Larrieux is signed to an indie label and just finished a tour. I'm lucky I live in CA because she comes here every year. That Maxwell show was off the hook. I have a ton of photos at my blog. Alicia Keys' Diary Cd is my favorite by far - the last one was a disappointment but only because she's trying to please her label. Which brings me to the point: the record companies have effed everything and everybody up. They want TPain and booty shaking and other nonsense. Look how overrated Beyonce is and there are people who actually think she's a really good singer. I thank God I can go back and listen to the groups from the 70-80s for real songwriting skills and people who played instruments and other talents. Of course it's everyone who's sampled.

ActsofFaithBlog December 9, 2008 at 4:04 AM  

Dionne Farris has a myspace page where you can purchase her latest CD. I really like it by the way.

There's an artist from Seattle named Chokolate who's really great.

Erro is definitely cool! Couldn't Hear Me Over the Music is one of my faves!

ActsofFaithBlog December 9, 2008 at 4:15 AM  

Sorry - last comment for a bit.

Check out Peven Everett if you haven't already.

Invisible Woman December 9, 2008 at 8:40 AM  

I agree with almost everything you said, especially about Alicia Keys and John Legend (zero sex appeal on dude). Yawn, double yawn, and triple yawn.

I thought Erykah's last CD was brilliant tho, and noticed a lot of other Black bloggers felt the same....and I do believe Robin Thicke is a genuine talent.His throwback style is a good thing imho :-)

I used to be associated with Bilal's label--he made another CD but no release, don't know why.

Anonymous,  December 9, 2008 at 9:42 AM  

Eric Roberson (I'm like a concert stalker on this one...fine and a true talent; yum!), Ledisi, Rachelle Ferrell, Alice Smith, Liv Warfield, Chrisette Michelle, Hil St. Soul, M'chelle N., are just a few of the artist in my collection and I will pay money to see them in concert. I recently saw Lalah Hathaway, Wil Downing, and Gerald Albright for "Soulful Christmas"...I had the BEST time ever!

Naturally Me! December 9, 2008 at 10:44 AM  

I interviewed Eric Roberson for a show in DE a couple months ago. He's smart, funny, down to earth (and he fine yall) and he's really really talented. (I am sooo with you on that Sassy J) YUM! :-p

Oh! and I absolutely love Ledisi's album.

Kristin December 9, 2008 at 11:59 AM  

Excellent post! However, I refuse to believe that Lauryn can not come back. Refuse I say. BTW I have dropped my alter ego Jazzy

Claudia December 9, 2008 at 9:33 PM  

I finally had time to read through this whole post, Prof. T - and I'm so glad I did. Seeing you name one talented but missing artist after the other is devastating. What is happening to our music!?!

One of the things I noticed is how many of these promising new artists fell off once they got hooked up with a big label and rushed the second and third albums. I love Anthony Hamilton but nothing he's done can match that first album - which I'm guessing he made in his mama's basement before he hit big. Same with Jill Scott!

But the fact remains that there are a lot of talented artists out there and thanks to the craptastic music that is recycled on black radio these days - we'll never hear it.

And I see that I'm the only one here tripping over myself to buy the latest John Legend,, I'll just be quiet about him... LOL

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