A phrase that was coined by the great Bluesman himself Willie Dixon that ‘The Blues are the roots and everything else is the fruits', but who would have guessed that the genre would become unrecognizable to itself to some degree in later years.
Rhythm and blues have seen many changes reflecting, social, political and emotional values and new and old musical innovations that has seen the genre being reinvented over time. In the late 2000s, the genre entered a bit of a slump, losing some of the characteristics that were inherent to the style An example of this are the groups of the late '90s like Boyz to men and En Vogue who took their styles from the singing groups of the forties before disappearing commercially only to be replaced by a music with heavier beats which less resembled its original form and the growing popularity of Hip hop
It is when RnB went through the process of being made more accessible through writers and producers by the medium of ''pop music that caused it to have changes of identity. But what has happened in last decade or so is that we now have two distinct styles, one that goes under the heading of 'contemporary RnB' and the other which is arguably not as popular, but is more aligned with the older more raw characteristic's of the genre, primarily the 'Blues and Jazz influence. This can be viewed as an RnB subculture if you like.
Since the beginning of the decade till now, the more organic variety of Rhythm and blues has come back into focus. Artists have emerged that are once again crafting interesting arrangements. Also lyrical content has become more varied again with the emphasis shifting away from just the emotional content of romantic love to broader subjects that RnB has previously covered, 'What's going on' by Marvin Gaye set the benchmark for this
A Great example was first hearing Gregory Porters 'Liquid spirit' which contains interesting metaphors with the use of the word liquid to describe the freedom of spirit and culture and how it's been manipulated and cut off. Also, his later hit 'Take me to the alley' which was inspired by His mother and a visit by the Pope coming to town that year. He writes about the integrity of those who are comfortably off, by showing kindness to those who are not., this expresses deeper qualities of the human condition. by the image the lyric paints. The character in the song is the 'king' who takes a detour away from the prosperous area of town to the alley where the poor are living.
On hearing Hosiers 'Nina cried power' which also has a metaphorical style to the lyric about all the Soul, Blues and Folk greats who share a common vision, set to a driving rhythm that sounds like an old Gospel tune with modern production techniques is really refreshing.
Other interesting artists like Alabama shakes who sound like they took Sister Rosetta Tharpe into the swamp with them have also sold well and changed the face of the genre.
Two more offerings worth a mention here are Zara Mcfarlane 'Peace begins within' and very recently D'angelos 'Unshaken' which deal with spiritual growth inwardly towards what is going on in the outside world, which represent a broader scope of subject matter in the lyric whilst taking the timbre of the old styles which the people still want to hear.
The conclusion is that some may cast a divide between what is RnB and what isn't ,but more intelligently you could just say that contemporary artists like Khalid, Jordan Rakei and Ella Mai along with the artists that are mentioned above just fall under a very large umbrella (no Rihanna pun intended) that all these artists can get underneath. But what is also important is that RnB is so much more than what exists in the RnB chart. So when you type your search into Google for RnB, cast your route out from the charts and go into undiscovered waters as there is much more out there.