Dead Cat - the work of Matthew Gaffen


We need a new name for 'Contemporary Urban'

I saw this the other day and it got me thinking.

By no means do I think Rihanna is a rockstar, I think that the whole idea is pretty ridiculous. What interested me more is that Rihanna is seen as an 'R&B', or 'Contemporary Urban' artist. 'Contemporary Urban' is a pretty wishy-washy title. I mean technically I write contemporary urban music - I grew up in the city and it's written in the modern day.The fact it's such a terrible phrase reflects the fact that people prefer the term 'R&B'.

So, Rihanna is an R&B artist then? Well, I'm not sure the phrase 'R&B' is appropriate either.

Little Richard is seen as being a pretty good example of Rhythm and Blues from the 1950's. I won't bore you with loads of details, but essentially rhythm and blues was heavily based on the blues, which originated from black culture around the turn of the 1900's. This eventually turned into rock and roll.

So, what does the modern usage of 'R&B' have to do with rock and roll? Not a lot really...

A highly different musical style, typically using techniques such as sampling and mixing to produce backing tracks and beats. The history of 'contemporary urban' lies somewhere between disco, funk, and rap music - genres that defined the end of rock and roll really.

I think an alternate, fairer name form this genre of music needs to be found. I'm thinking of starting research for a text entitled

'Erasing Musical History with Linguistics'

Any ideas for an alternate name? Maybe you think I'm looking at this from the wrong way - there's certainly an argument in favour of the fact that R&B was a term originally created by music producers as a replacement for the offensive term 'race music', and that R&B still summarises a genre of music typically dominated by black artists. I'd be interested to hear some opinions!

I haven't started my research properly yet - so the content of this article should not be seen as an example of definitive positions, just posturing and conjecture to instigate discussion.

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