I’m a big fan of 90’s r&b. It was a such great time for Black music. There was a diversity of looks/talent, particularly with Black female singers. Once r&b merged with hip hop, it opened the door for young Black women’s swag. Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Aaliyah, En Vogue, Zhane, SWV, etc. ruled the charts. Black women singers from the 80’s (Angela Winbush, Miki Howard, Stephanie Mills, etc.) were able to hold on and crossover into the new beats driven sound, up into the mid-90’s.
Eventually, these old school Black female singers, would be pushed out. It was due to record companies recognizing the power of r&b/hip-hop. They hooked their claws into the music, and repackaged it with more palatable images for mainstream America (white folks).
By the late 90’s-2000s white female singers Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus etc. were promoted as the latest flavor of r&b, which by now had been watered down to “r&b lite.”
Since the mid-2000s, Black female singers have struggled. For over a decade, there’s only been two spaces given to Black women. Largely occupied by Beyoncé and Rihanna. It’s been hard for other Black female singers to break into the box. There’s been upcoming Black female singers who have generated buzz here and there (Janelle Monae, FKA Twigs), but most Black female singers continue to be marginalized.
Recently, I went on a music site to check out the latest tunes. I try to stay hip to what the kids are listening to. It was amusing to scroll through the r&b section and see a sea of white faces. The music industry has successfully been able to hijack Black music to showcase white singers (Sam Smith, Adele, Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran etc.)
This has contributed to the stagnation of Black female talent. There hasn’t been a buzz on a Black female singer for a minute…until now. A couple of months ago, Kelela’s page popped up on my timeline. I decided to check her out. I was pleasantly surprised. She’s an interesting/innovative musician. I also find Kelela’s honesty about being a Black woman in today’s music scene, refreshing. She’s not running from the topic. She understands how the intersections of race/gender impact her career.
I was excited when I learned she was coming to my city. Sadly, something came up and I had to cancel. I was bummed as hell. But I was happy I was able to support by buying a ticket. It’s time for the Black female singer to make a comeback (especially Brown/Dark skinned ones, but that’s another post 😉
Kelela’s debut album “Take Me Apart” is good. It’s experimental/Afrofuturistic r&b. She just released a new video for the song “Blue Light.”
As she said on her page, she’s having sex with her hair. Well, okay, go girl.