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10 R&B Artists That Defined Hip-Hop Soul

At the beginning of 1990s, R&B and hip-hop were no longer completely foreign to each other. While the early 1980s had seen the R&B establishment scoffing at the upstart rap genre, the latter half of the ’80s had introduced the New Jack Swing sound, a potent mix of R&B melodies and hip-hop grooves; a sound that would come to rule the R&B from roughly 1987 to 1992, with artists like Bobby Brown, Guy, Bell Biv DeVoe, and Karyn White emerging as superstars over that period.

But in 1992, with the emergence of Mary J. Blige and her multiplatinum debut album What’s the 411?, the sound of contemporary R&B–and how it related to hip-hop–was evolving. Blige’s success–and the overall success of Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records–spearheaded New Jack Swing’s evolution into a sound that was smoother and more organic–but still deeply connected to hip-hop edge and sample-heavy production. That sound would become known as hip-hop soul.

By 1993, hip-hop soul had fully usurped New Jack Swing as the popular sound in R&B. Jodeci’s second album Diary of A Mad Band and R. Kelly’s solo debut 12 Play further cemented the sound as the dominant style of R&B–which it would remain for the duration of the decade and beyond. Here are ten of the definitive artist to emerge during the hip-hop soul era.

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