Singer, Jacquees, set the internet ablaze yesterday with his claim that he is “the king of R&B right now for this generation”. Needless to say everyone from Tyrese to Chrissy Teigen had questions.
The Start of the Bickering
This statement set off a domino effect of men coming to claim the throne and fans going hard for their R&B singer of choice. By midday, the argument had moved from who this generation’s king of R&B is to who are the current kings of R&B.
On a video posted to his Instagram on Sunday Jacques stated boldly “I just wanna let everybody know that I’m the king of R&B right now,” He went on to clarify his statement saying “For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it’s my time. Jacquees the king of R&B.”
J. Holiday was one of the first to respond. He dropped a video where he claimed himself to be one of the kings of R&B while a lady questioned if he was a valet. Tank and Tyrese followed soon after both breaking down who the Kings were and letting Jacquees know that he was nowhere close to being a king.
Kings of a Shifting Genre
Rhythm and Blues have undergone numerous shifts in its definition since its inception around the 1940s the kings and queens of R&B have had amazing staying power, presence and most importantly jaw dropping vocals. Consider Prince, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, or Whitney Houston. Not a edge would remained laid when any of these greats sang. The kings of R&B that do exist are fighting to stay relevant in a time where the genre is shifting and rap is king.
Now more than ever the lines of R&B are blurred. The rise of HipHop as boss of the charts coupled with the success of rap songs fused with R&B have contributed the the growth of hybrid rap singers who sometimes identify as R&B acts. Although the genre is shifting, there are still kings of what we consider traditional R&B.
A short list would include stars like Usher, R. Kelly, Chris Brown, Maxwell, Tank, and some argue Miguel despite his more funky sound.
So, while greats like Usher are still around there seems to be a less than stellar receival of traditional male R&B acts in the mainstream. Usher certainly has aged, which may contribute to the fall in his appeal but, his album A only peaked at 35 on the Billboard 100 this year. A so-so reaction for an artist with over 4 albums peaking at number 1 in previous years.
While those like Tank and Tyrese highlighted greats like R. Kelly and Usher, established and newer artist were also put on a pedestal by fans. Trey Songz was hailed as a king despite his lack of visibility and the lack of mainstream success of his last two albums. Chris Brown’s Heartbreak on a Full Moon also struggled in terms of rising on the Billboard Charts despite acclaim from fans that the album was magnificent.
Trey Songz, another R&B star, closer to conventional R&B than many of the newer artists, also struggled with his album. While these gentlemen and stars like Jeremih, Maxwell, Bobby Valentino, and Chris Brown are certainly stars in their own right they are not in Jacquees’s genereation of R&B acts. But, does that make Jacquees the king of his generation?
What Makes a King?
According to Tank a king of R&B would have the following attributes:
- Vocal Ability
- Undisputed International Presence
- Innately a Crooner
- Relevancy (despite being liked or not)
This is one of the best lists that I’ve seen in regards to defining what makes a king and will be used as a reference going forward.
Prospective Kings Fall Short
While there are plenty of new acts out there, most of them do not come close to meeting even half of these standards. This is no reflection of them. It’s more of a reflection of how long they have been in the game. Quite a bit of the standards are only something that can be achieved through time. So, who are some of the prospective kings and where do they fall short?
Neosoul artists like Daniel Caesar, Brent Faiyez, and Khalid were hailed by fans as new kings, but; they all fail to meet several of the standards. While visibility and mainstream success has been improving for this newer group of artist, much of their recent work hasn’t shown an amazing vocal range or gained them an undisputed international presence. Their sound lends itself to a slower more croon like tunes that have not displayed the fuller vocal range of their more successful predecessors.
Although Jacquees has been competitive in sales and is arguably an innate crooner, he falls short on quite a bit of the other factors of Tank’s R&B kings list. This can also be said for many of his other peers like Daniel Caesar and Khalid. Khalid, for example, has been dominating sales and has been growing in international fame. Some may argue however, that he hasn’t been around long enough and hasn’t been consistent for a long enough period of time to be crowned king.
The Throne is Empty and Here’s Why
While older acts like Chris Brown, Usher, and Trey Songz struggled in 2018 newer neo-soul artists and “trap-rap singers” found footing in 2018. While Khalid had several songs in the top 20 this year female R&B acts like Ella Mai and H.E.R dominated the top 10. Ultimately rappers stole the show in 2018 making it even more difficult for the already struggling male R&B acts and contributing to more of the line blurring that has been occurring in music.
Let’s be frank, although there are several kings of R&B still out there, none of them are from this new generation of musicians. Of course Usher is a certified R&B king, of course Chris Brown has left his mark, but none of these gentlemen are from this new generation. John Legend said it best.
He’s right, neither Bruno Mars or The Weeknd fit neatly into the R&B label. Even if they did, neither of these two are in Jacquees’s generation of R&B stars. They’re arguably a generation earlier in terms of their rise. So, who is the King of R&B right now? Is there a King? Is there even a prince? To be honest, if anyone is on this generation’s throne it’s not a man.
In a year dominated by female R&B acts like H.E.R and Ella Mai the question shouldn’t be who’s the King of R&B the question should be how can the fellas catch up?