Rhythmic music, commonly shortened to R&B, is an evolving style of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s, but which has flourished into a worldwide music culture. Artists like En Vogue, Mary J. Blige, and Boyz II Men have contributed to this enduring music through their original recordings, choreography, lyrics, and music arrangement. Although it seems easy to assume that the genre is just for African Americans alone, it should be noted that it is also enjoyed by whites and has even been sued by several white musicians who believe they have stolen the rhythm from them. While no one can deny the impact of artists such as En Vogue and Mary J. Blige, there are many other artists who have become popular solely because of their own contributions to the genre, especially given the fact that the group “The Who” was a major influence on the young rap superstars of today.
The history of rap music can be divided into four main eras or cycles. The first cycle, which began with the use of “urban” instruments and vocals (read: rapping) and quickly developed into what we now know as hip-hop music, the second was the debut of “conscious” or mainstream rap, and finally the third cycle, which was the last gasp of the mainstream while rap artists experimented with sampling from various other sources. The rise and fall of this style of music can be attributed to the rise and fall of the major labels. The success and importance of this genre can be traced directly to the chart success of artist such as En Vogue, which helped to launch careers in music industry companies such as Reebok and Top Ten.
Today, the rise of urban and conscious styles of R&B is still evident. Influential rappers like Jay Z, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and many others continue to push the boundaries of what is comfortable for mainstream audiences. But, despite the rapid popularity of this genre, some people are still hesitant to explore it beyond its targeted audience because of its sometimes abrasive lyrics and subject matter. However, these issues only serve to make it more exciting to those who want a taste of something new.