It seems that the Seattle Times‘ Andrew Matson has stumbled upon the formula that came to fruition in popular culture a bit over half a decade ago:
“random genre/culture/thing/idea/word” + “emo” = combination of the former two concepts!
Back when emo first really hit it big, it seems everyone was trying hard to configure the term with, oh, just about every other term out there for a while, such as emo rap. (Curiously enough, this was the same thing that occurred within post-hardcore punk communities in the mid-80s which begat the term emo.) There’s no question that this equation has yet to cease, but it’s certainly faded as a large chunk of the media limelight has hoped the “indie” bandwagon.
However, in a recent piece on the musician Drake, Matson doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact that he’s making pointed calculations to his audience. It’s all in the title:
So, what exactly defines R&Bemo?
“Successful” takes place in the most gothic of R&B batcaves. Vocals waft in, fade out, and a sparsely decorated hiphop beat is revealed. Snare and bass hits echo. A lone synth’s electro-organ warble is a single candle. The music is beautiful.
The music is also Drizzy’s cold, cold soul.
Mmm… sounds a lot like… well, R&B, potentially sans the echo. Also, “Drizzy?” Really?
From the very beginning, “Successful” is broody and forlorn, a perfect example of the new R&Bemo (R&B + emo), a mini-movement in contemporary rap and R&B.
The new R&Bemo is different than singing the blues. It’s post-that. The blues is direct; it’s crying. The new R&Bemo is also about pain, but it’s post-crying. The new R&Bemo is psychiatric. It’s picking up where Prince’s “When Doves Cry” left off, marrying minor-key pop jams to lyrics that show an awareness not only of one’s own pathologies and neuroses, but potential causes and fixes. For the latter, the new R&Bemo is psychopharmacological. It’s about drinking, driving, smoking, spending, having sex, and sing-rapping your way through this crazy life.
At this point, it seems that the “R&Bemo movement” sounds a lot like, say, the new Kanye West album (and the oft-incorrectly attributed connotation to emo). (And I’m not entirely sure what Matson implies with the term “post-crying,” but isn’t the performance of music, blues especially, a means of psychologically dealing with one’s pain?)
It’s not just that Matson’s description makes Drake and 808s sound similar. They sound similar too. Take a listen…
Drake – “Successful”:
Kanye West – “Love Lockdown”:
All Drake needs is a little more autotune and a more grandoise fashion sense…
I’m not one to deny that this exists or to say “shame on you” to Matson for his emo mathematics after I’d put together heapings of words dedicated to scrunk. (After all, my Phoenix article was also up front about screamo + crunk = scrunk.) And I’m not one who’s well versed in the modern R&B world… I couldn’t have told you who Drake was before reading this piece. But, until someone shows me a handful of artists aside from Drake and Kanye who are making minimalist electronic beats to be crooned over – R&B style – and derive some musical inspiration from any, and I mean any, emo artist (ilk included), I just find this whole term, well, kind of odd. But, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.