A Grammy Conversation: The State Of R&B

Last month, The Recording Academy held “A Grammy Conversation” on the current state of R&B music at the West Hollywood Soho House.

Quddus hosted the evening and the conversation included five panelists: Music Journalist Gail Mitchell, singer-songwriter/producer Liv Warfield, Grammy-winning producer LaShawn Daniels, eight-time Grammy nominee Ledisi and four-time Grammy nominee Tyrese Gibson. According to HitsDailyDouble they each attributed their inspiration to classic R&B and soul artists, including James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, Jodeci and Earth Wind & Fire.

The discussion included topics like: Will new R&B artists be heard? Will people take a chance on them? Will urban alternative artists find a way to bridge the gap between what was and what is? Is the playing field uneven between black and white artists? Is there a place for R&B in a singles-driven music industry and a society that has been hypnotized by EDM music?

In part two of the discussion LaShawn Daniels talked about the issues within certain record labels and the disconnect between the good in an artist being creative versus what’s good and convenient for marketing. As usual, John Legend’s “All of Me” was used as an example of how labels are now often chasing records instead of putting real belief behind them. Daniels also spoke about the successful planning Motown did with their big artists as well as their up and comers. He also acknowledged Jimmy Iovine (at Interscope) for being successful with this also. Daniels basically explained the song comes first.

Songstress Liv Warfield shared her story as an independent artist trying to break into the industry and her experiences with flip-flopping labels. She asked the question: Why is Sirius radio breaking so much more music than terrestrial radio and continuing to play records that FM won’t even try? Ledisi and Tyrese talked about being independent artists and how artists need to stay driven at their own musical goals and not let certain aspects of the industry divert them. Tyrese also explained why he thinks the industry is too caught up with who produced a song or who is featured on a song, while Ledisi explained her desire for today’s R&B to be more balanced between the origins and today’s new styles.

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