What Is RnB Urban Music?

Recent discussions regarding the definition of the word “urban” has generated heated discussion between industry executives and visionaries who wish to retire its use as an umbrella term covering hip hop and R&B music genres.

R&B urban music began its meteoric rise along with the rapid expansion of African American urban communities in western cities. Teddy Riley made R&B more hip hop by inserting rap breaks known as new jack swing into his productions.


Rnb urban music has its origins in the 1940s and ’50s with African American families migrating from rural communities into cities in America, giving rise to various genres of African American music that came into prominence. This genre, originally called race records but later rebranded rhythm and blues, remains popular today and its lyrics often represent their struggle for joy and freedom as well as issues such as racism, oppression, relationships and more.

Hip hop music features silky soulful vocals that depict love, romance or sexuality in its lyrics. This genre blends different musical genres such as jazz, rock and roll gospel hip hop funk to form its soundscape – drawing from both past black tradition and modern pop music for inspiration.

At first, RnB urban music was predominantly found within Black communities such as juke joints and after-hours clubs. But after World War II it began gaining wider youth audiences as it helped break down racial barriers in America and reduce segregation. Furthermore, its growth coincided with civil rights movements as well as black urban culture flourishing further.

Hip hop and rap propelled the development of urban music in the early 1970s. Originating at block parties hosted by DJs such as Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell in the Bronx, hip hop became an accessible means for Black youth to express themselves more directly than through formalized jazz forms like jazz.

R&B’s growth was further spurred by artists like Anita Baker and Luther Vandross, who found success within urban contemporary radio’s light, more pop-oriented format; these artists avoided more grittier blues-driven styles like Southern soul as these would not appeal to white audiences.

Over time, musicians like Al Green and Isaac Hayes began incorporating church music and African rhythms into their recordings – marking a transitional phase and ultimately leading to what we know today as R&B.


R&B music is an expansive genre that spans many styles and subgenres, from soul and funk to hip hop. R&B artists are known to perform with elegance while employing various vocal techniques; often singing about love or sexuality-themed lyrics. R&B also has strong links with past black traditions like gospel or blues music – it evolved out of jump blues in the 1940s before expanding further with regional variations including orchestrated Philly sound, Memphis Stax style music and Detroit Motown sounds.

In the 1980s, various artists experimented with merging R&B with hip hop and other rhythmic influences for an urban contemporary sound, most prominently practiced by Chaka Khan, the Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire as well as singers such as Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat. This style became known as New Jack swing; however, its usage later declined.

R&B may have broad roots, yet it does not belong in the rock genre as such. Instead, R&B features more subdued vocal production and electronic instrumentation for an intimate experience.

Contemporary R&B draws heavily upon the rhythmic elements of hip hop, using synthesizers and drum machines as key instruments in its production. This style often results in danceable songs known as urban pop or rnb urban; though R&B shares many elements with hip hop music it lacks some of its aggressive energy.

While RnB Urban music has long been associated with America, it has since made waves internationally. There are now urban contemporary formatted radio stations throughout Europe, Australia and Africa; but its most significant popularity remains within America itself where it has become mainstream music.

Although its appeal may be widespread, some critics feel the term “urban” should be replaced with more specific genre names. Some labels have already begun this practice and others may follow in due course.


R&B music has long been influenced by various genres of music such as jazz and funk, but is most heavily associated with gospel, as the vocal harmonies found in classic R&B are an echo of its origins in urban environments where many R&B musicians grew up. Lyrically, R&B lyrics deal with love, sex and heartbreak themes with accompanying slow ballads or uptempo grooves from slow ballads to uptempo grooves; additionally hip hop beats have had an influence as evidenced by mixing rhythm and blues with hip hop beats since at least the early 1990s.

R&B music became immensely popular until the late ’80s. Its romantic ballads fit seamlessly with quiet storm radio formats, while its sound was well produced with clean yet soulful vocals. Some artists, like Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan and the Commodores have successfully crossed over from R&B charts into mainstream pop charts; others such as Freddie Jackson, Luther Vandross and Stephanie Mills remained solely R&B artists. Teddy Riley and members of Guy began fusing rhythm-and-blues-style vocals with hip hop beats to form new jack swing, eventually evolving into hip-hop soul, which featured more elastic beats with rawer sounds. Urban contemporary artists who rose to prominence during this era included singers Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown as well as producers/songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson), Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy (En Vogue) and Antonio “L.A.” Reid/Babyface (Babyface).

R&B music has quickly become an international craze with an ever-increasing fan base that crosses all cultures and age groups. No wonder then that commercials featuring this style of music promoting cars, sneakers and clothing feature RnB tracks. Artists such as Roxanne Shante and Sean “P-Diddy” Combs used it as part of their promotional strategies and it even helped launch their careers – not to mention French hip hop acts such as Muzion and Le Boyfriend breaking through mainstream culture through their music making an impressionful mark influencing French hip hop artists and Manitoba native-language radio station Streetz FM featuring indigenous Canadian rappers such as Team Rezofficial and Plex.


Recent controversy and efforts to diversify media have forced music industry trends to undergo scrutiny, including usage of “urban.” Many consider the term outdated or even racist; as a result, some companies have begun dropping it from record label departments; while The Recording Academy recently revised their Best Urban Contemporary Album category’s name so as to remove all mention of urban.

R&B artists are an eclectic group, often pushing the limits of genre definition. Ranging from hip hop to disco, soul and pop, today’s artists draw influence from various corners and refuse to be defined by one particular musical style or genre – an approach which helps keep them current as streaming becomes a dominant player on the music landscape.

The lines between rap and R&B have become less distinct over time. Artists such as Bryson Tiller and Drake now frequently combine rapping with singing on their albums. This trend dates back to late 80s when producers such as Teddy Riley melded R&B and hip hop into what became known as new jack swing, helping make artists such as Bobby Brown stars.

In the ’90s, singers such as Mary J. Blige, Usher, and En Vogue crossed over from R&B to mainstream pop, giving it widespread crossover appeal. Fashion designers such as Rocawear and Tommy Hilfiger capitalized on these artists’ glamor and street credibility to further propel R&B music’s popularity.

At around this same time, hip hop became an international phenomenon, inspiring dance-oriented styles such as gangsta rap and boogie woogie to emerge. These new forms combined the staccato delivery of hip hop with radio-friendly beats and melodies found in R&B; this produced an intoxicating sound which easily fit into quiet storm radio formats. Producers such as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson), Denzil Foster & Thomas McElroy (En Vogue) and Antonio “L.A.” Reid & Babyface popularized these new styles further, setting precedent for current artists to experiment with genre-blending mixes.