Hip-Hop and R&B’s Second Coming — New School vs. Old
We’ve all heard the saying “history repeats itself,” and the stoic adage is inevitably finding accuracy in today’s hip-hop and contemporary R&B culture. With both genres well into their fourth decade and bending away from their vintage roots, there’s an increasingly finer line between the gap that bridges the old school and new school. Still, some of today’s urban crooners and MCs bear striking similarities to their predecessors and inspirations. Sometimes it’s a similar upbringing, fashion sense, or the way they captivate an audience.
The BoomBox looks back in time at rap and soul artists who have shaped music with the way they entertained and motivated a new generation of performers. There will never be another King of Pop or Godfather of Soul, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t help inspire the second coming.
Jay Electronica vs. KRS-One
Jay Electronica raps “N—- I was homeless/ Fightin’, shootin dice, smokin’ weed on the corners” on his candid, breakthrough track ‘Exhibit C,’ but Jay Elect isn’t the first MC without even a single slice of pizza to his name. Before he earned his Lifetime Achievement Awards and Hip-Hop Honor creds for pioneering conscious rap, KRS-One called a South Bronx homeless shelter home. Their lyrical account of the hard-knock life on the streets has brought them success and created a new type of hip-hop renaissance man, with KRS putting the masses onto his own pseudo-religion, Temple of Hip-Hop, and Electronica preaching his own social awareness at live shows and through Twitter.
CeeLo vs. Elton John
They both play piano, but this analogy is all in the flamboyant threads. Word of Cee Lo channeling a revamped, soul-tinged Elton John started to swirl following the former Goodie Mob member’s set at the 2011 Grammy Awards, where he donned a wild peacock-inspired outfit. The stage show served as a homage to John’s equally extravagant performance in 1977, when he sang ‘Crocodile Rock,’ on ‘The Muppet Show,’ donning the original feathered get-up. “People used to look at me in an odd way,” Cee Lo told the Daily Mail later. “Maybe I looked peculiar. But now I’m seen as being cool. Who’d have thought that would be the case? Who’d have thought Elton John could be reincarnated as a bald-headed black man?” Cee Lo — whose singing voice we’ll admit bares more of resemblance to preacherman Al Green — didn’t stop there. During his Billboard Awards performance this year, the rapper-crooner bedazzled himself in rhinestones and performed air-defying acrobatics with a piano, channeling John’s glittery psychedelic ’70s era.
Odd Future vs. Wu-Tang Clan
Not since Wu-Tang Clan has there been a hip-hop group as difficult to tally as West Coast troublemakers Odd Future. Wu-Tang’s 1993 debut, ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),’ tapped into hardcore rap thanks to its underlying martial arts theme, and Odd Future kicks things up a notch by taking the morbidly explicit route, thanks to murder and rape-friendly lyrics. With OFWGKTA members crafting solo albums and releasing side projects — Tyler, the Creator‘s ‘Goblin’ and MellowHype members Hodgy Beats and Left Brain‘s ‘BlackendWhite’ were both released this year before a proper OF group LP — their business savvy is already on par with the Shoalin knights of Staten Island, who have consistently dropped solo efforts.
Lloyd vs. R. Kelly
R. Kelly has songs about ‘The Greatest Sex’ and ‘Feelin’ on Yo Booty,’ while Lloyd croons about a ‘Party All Over Your Body’ and ‘Sex Education.’ So it’s safe to say these two R&B artists share the same baby making music M.O. Their affinity for the ultimate love fantasy has brought them together on a couple of tracks already, namely Lloyd’s ‘Lay It Down’ and ‘World Cry.’ Maybe the smooth lyrics they showcase have something to do with sharing a similar appreciation for cornrows and the occasional unbuttoned shirt featured on an album cover.
Wiz Khalifa vs. Snoop Dogg
Rappers who smoke together, stick together, as is often the case with Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. Both aren’t shy about their puff-puff-give mentality, rapping about the sticky icky that binds them together. While Snoop blazed his niche in the early ’90s gangsta rap scene, the younger Pittsburgh native channeled the same vibe after clam-baking the pop-rap scene with his 2010 ‘Kush & Orange Juice’ mixtape. Hip-hop’s latest Cheech and Chong are getting ready to unleash a stoner comedy titled ‘High School’ and have released a handful of toker tracks together that praise the 4/20 deity — ‘The Weed Iz Mine,’ ‘That Good‘ and the latest being the laid-back ‘Young, Wild & Free.’
Ne-Yo vs. Babyface
Babyface‘s production credits include some of R&B’s biggest divas — Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, to name a few. Despite a 20-year age gap, Ne-Yo is already mirroring the same type of production resume having tweaked songs for the former Destiny’s Child leader, Blige and Rihanna, plus others. In addition to manning the soundboard, both artists have had a successful career as a solo recording artist. But, Ne-Yo needs to do some catching up. Currently, he only has three Grammys to his name, while Babyface has garnered a cool 10 trophies over the course of his career.
Kanye West vs. Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur inadvertently caught the media’s attention with his in-your-face, thug-driven outbursts and racially-charged allegations against authority. Kanye West also doesn’t shy away from saying whatever is on his mind, and it often lands him on the front page of controversy. Having activists for parents could have contributed to both of their extreme extroversion. Pac’s ‘rents were active members of the Black Panther Party, while West’s father had ties to the organization. Ironically, despite their mood swings, both rappers share a soft spot for one person in particular — their mama. The West Coast MC rapped about his mother’s child-rearing ways on ‘Dear Mama,’ off his third solo album ‘Me Against the World,’ while the Chi-town native gave a big thanks to the woman who raised him on the ‘Late Registration’ track ‘Hey Mama.’ Both women, in turn, spearheaded foundations in their respective son’s names.
Chris Brown vs. James Brown
These two Browns aren’t related, but what makes them each other’s double is their shared ability to “Get up offa that thing and dance ’til you feel better.” Chris Brown holds the current best hip-shaker title in male pop music thanks to his back-flipping choreography. While James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, revolutionized dancing with “the popcorn,” “mashed potato” and “split-and-pop” dance crazes, Breezy took funky knee-bending to the next level — see his video for ‘Forever’ and ‘Yeah 3x’ to get a clue. And then there are their respective lady issues. James Brown was repeatedly arrested for domestic violence, and on the flip-side the media refuses to let go of CB’s infamous 2009 altercation with Rihanna.
Nicki Minaj vs. Lil’ Kim
Both ladies got their start as the first ladies of hip-hop groups — Lil’ Kim rapped with Notorious B.I.G. in Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Nicki Minaj stole the show in Lil Wayne’s Young Money crew. But, this comparison is in the wigs, and it didn’t take long for Kimmy Blanco to get her claws out after she decided Ms. Roman Zolanski stole her look. Minaj’s ability to blend hip-hop and pop has shot her to the top of the charts faster than Lil’ Kim could change her wig, but the old-school femcee wasn’t going down without a fight. Kim released the ‘Black Friday’ diss-tape — a play on Minaj’s platinum debut ‘Pink Friday’ — with a not-so-silent shot at her new-age counterpart. On the album cover, she brandished a sword and showcased a decapitated head donning a pink wig. Can’t we all just get along?