That was the question dominating Twitter yesterday. It started with Jacquees – a singer I barely knew existed – declaring himself as the “King of R&B.” The declaration sparked a debate that went from heated to hilarious and back around again. This debate has all the grown-ass men who have ever had an R&B hit in their feelings. It has divided timelines and tracked down R&B stars I forgot existed. Some of it is ridiculous male posturing and some it is just plain FUNNY. And some of this conversation brings up valid points about the current state of the music industry.
Here are the comments from Jacquees that made it all happen.
“I just wanna let everybody know that I’m the king of R&B right now… For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it’s my time. Jacquees the King of R&B.”
I mean, the fact that the dude who gave us “B.E.D,” a mediocre bop at best, has this kind of confidence is a little inspiring. I’ll give him that. In response to Jacquees, Trey Songz and Ty Dolla $ign just responded with laughing face emojis. Well played. Tyrese and Tank (Remember Tank? LOL) hit back with their own picks for the King of R&B. Tyrese chose Chris Brown and Trey Songz. Chris Brown is disqualified from the competition on the grounds of being a piece of sh-t. Tank’s pick for the King of R&B was a popular choice on Twitter and I have something to say about it.
The “accusations.” HA. Imagine in the year 2018 declaring Robert Kelly as the King of anything but pedophilia? Sure, there was a time when R. Kelly would have been the undisputed champion of this category but instead of bringing up that unfortunate era, let’s discuss the system and industry that enabled an abuser of black girls to dominate the R&B charts. Let’s discuss the industry that is still complicit in letting a man who is a noted sexual deviant and domestic abuser continue to tour and release new music. R. Kelly should have never been given the chance to be the court jester of R&B, let alone its King. F-ck R. Kelly and anyone who is still praising him instead of pushing for his ass to be in jail.
Now that we’re clear on who’s NOT the King of R&B, I’ll move on to who is. John Legend’s name was thrown into the ring thanks to his wife, the King of Twitter, Chrissy Teigen. She asked if John should be in the discussion. John Legend responded in his usual kind and diplomatic way.
Honestly I don't think there is a king of r&b right now. Anyone consistently dominating the charts, selling out arenas, etc, a la Usher at his prime. Not a comment on quality. I think the throne is open right now.— John Legend (@johnlegend) December 10, 2018
He’s right. In Usher’s prime (U Got It Bad to Confessions era), he was at the top of the charts. His influence and popularity were dominant. Usher was everywhere. His songs were everywhere. For my generation – we were slow dancing and grinding to Usher’s greatest hits at our high school dances – he’s got a strong case as the King. But Usher’s prime was a different time. There were a lot of male R&B stars on the charts at that time. Along with Usher, you had Tyrese, Brian McKnight (a little past his prime in the 2000s but still swinging), Chris Brown, Ginuwine, Musiq Soulchild, Joe, KCi and JoJo, Omarion, Mario, and a bit later, Ne-Yo and The-Dream. I just want to say D’Angelo and Raphael Saadiq’s names out of respect even though they weren’t on the charts at the same time or in the same way.
It’s also hard to declare a current King of R&B when the people who are dominating the genre right now are women. There’s SZA, H.E.R, Janelle Monae, Jessie Reyez, Mariah, Ariana Grande, Ciara, Kehlani, Jhené Aiko, Tinashe, Rihanna (Anti is one of best R&B albums of all time), and of course Beyoncé. We’ll come back to her. If I missed your fave, feel free to yell at me.
The men holding down the genre are, as John Legend suggested, Bruno Mars and The Weeknd. I think you could make solid cases for both. Bruno is a lot more pop and The Weeknd straddles an undefinable line between pop, R&B, and hip-hop. If we’re talking about that specific line, Drake needs to be in the conversation too. Drake could easily be crowned the King of R&B but I don’t think he wants the title. Drake would rather be a rapper than an R&B crooner, even though he is definitely both. If anyone could get a hold of Frank Ocean for his thoughts, I’m sure Frank would like to be excluded from this narrative.
So that leaves us with Daniel Caesar and Khalid, who are actually, in my opinion, the reigning R&B talent of this generation. They aren’t hip-hop hook R&B stars like Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz, and Bryson Tiller or wannabe R&B posers like Zayn (he only gets a mention in this piece at all because I’m feeling generous) or Shawn Mendes (LOL). Daniel and Khalid are dominating the genre – they’re a refreshing revival of the R&B I grew up with but with a 2018 twist.
I’ve probably taken this conversation way more seriously than I needed to. Twitter has turned it into memes and straight jokes, as it should. R&B is all about love songs and baby-making jams, not battles for domination. This tweet basically sums up how silly this whole debate has become and made me choke on laughter:
This is the only way we can determine the true King of R&B pic.twitter.com/BqA3CohoCs— 🎹 (@Dr_Sweets23) December 10, 2018
Diddy’s Making the Band is a treasure of television history that we don’t talk about enough.
Listen, at the end of the day, there is really only one correct answer. Thank you, Kehlani.
beyoncé is the king of rnb— Kehlani (@Kehlani) December 10, 2018