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Hip hop soul
Stylistic origins Hip hop music
Contemporary R&B
New jack swing
Neo soul
Cultural origins 1990s; U.S.
Typical instruments Vocals
Mainstream popularity High in 1990s and 2009-present
Derivative forms Neo soul, later contemporary R&B

Hip hop soul is the second major subgenre of contemporary R&B. It is also known as melodic hip-hop, since this music is hip-hop with melodic elements, most likely R&B but sometimes may include pop, electronica, or dance elements with it. The term did not originate until Mary J. B;ige's debut album What's the 411? and generally describes a style of music that blends soulful R&B singing and raw hip hop production. The genre served as the middle point between two other hip hop/R&B blends, new jack swing and neo soul, and while it was most popular during the mid-1990s with the creator "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, and Aaliyah, it still finds popularity with newcomers such as Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Keyshia Cole and Amerie.




Musical influences

Many of the artists who released hip hop soul records had previously released new jack swing (or, for the female performers, new jill swing) recordings, including Jodeci, SWV, and TLC. The main difference between the two was that hip hop soul was rougher, and contained less of an R&B feel than new jack swing. For example, Hip hop soul used samples instead of synthesizer lines, and featured strong elements of 1990s East Coast hip hop and gangsta rap. While new jack swing stayed closer to the R&B side of the blend, hip hop soul embraced its rap music influences, and its primary figures, including Montell Jordan (the first R&B artist to sign with hip hop label Def Jam Records), Blackstreet (led by Teddy Riley, the inventor of new jack swing), and the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" Mary J. Blige, adapted the nervy swagger of their rapping counterparts.

Hip hop soul and the public

Hip hop soul is also considered more "mature" than other contemporary R&B styles, and tends to be marketed for an older audience. This is in part due to the genre's attention to the darker aspects of love and urban life.

Hip hop soul singers use adult language and themes, more than any other R&B subgenre. This has drawn criticism from groups who feel the music, much like hip hop, trivializes, if not glorifies, violence and negative urban stereotypes. It has not helped that several hip hop soul artists have found themselves in legal troubles, including R. Kelly, Left Eye, Ray J, and the members of Jodeci.

Dawn of neo soul

Hip hop soul experienced a lull in popularity with the emergence of neo soul, another R&B subgenre, in the late 90s. Deemed more progressive by fans, neo soul music became a more "positive" alternative to hip hop soul and contemporary R&B, which had a growing reputation of being overly sexual and based on negative stereotypes. Ironically, due to their relationship with hip hop, many neo soul and hip hop soul artists cross genres regularly. Artists like Groove Theory, John Legend, and Anthony Hamilton can be considered both neo soul and hip hop soul.

New Generation Resurgence

Currently, hip hop soul is experiencing a spike in popularity due to younger acts incorporating the sound. These acts include newcomers such as Cheri Dennis and Keyshia Cole.

List of hip hop soul artists


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