Atlantic Starr
One Woman: The Ultimate Collection
The Very Best of the Winans
Patrice Rushen

R&B » Contemporary R&B » Urban

Also known as urban contemporary, Urban was the term given to the R&B/soul music of the 1980s and '90s. Like quiet storm and Philly soul, both strong influences, urban was very smooth and polished, but while its romantic ballads fit well into quiet storm radio formats, urban also had room for uptempo, funky dance tracks, which usually boasted the same high-tech, radio-ready production and controlled yet soulful vocals. That's why, in spite of its name, urban didn't usually have the earthy grit associated with the term "soul music," preferring to tone down the raw emotion in favor of a slick refinement. Up until the late '80s, most urban music was highly pop-oriented, often in melody but nearly always in terms of production. A number of artists -- like Janet Jackson, Billy Ocean, and Whitney Houston -- crossed over from the R&B charts to the pop charts, although there were others like Freddie Jackson, Luther Vandross, Stephanie Mills, and Levert whose R&B popularity never translated quite the same way. The urban landscape began to shift with the advent of hip-hop; producer and Guy member Teddy Riley crafted a fusion of the two, inserted occasional rap breaks, and dubbed it new jack swing. New jack made a superstar of Bobby Brown and proved greatly beneficial to his ex-New Edition mates as well. In addition to Riley, songwriting/production duos whose work straddled pop and R&B -- like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson), Denzil Foster & Thomas McElroy (En Vogue), and Antonio "L.A." Reid & Babyface -- dominated urban music at the turn of the decade, with Babyface going on to a hugely successful singing career in his own right. Urban and hip-hop continued to cross-pollinate during the early '90s, eventually resulting in a new hybrid tagged "hip-hop soul." Hip-hop soul was rooted in new jack swing, but the beats were funkier, more elastic and unpredictable; while hip-hop soul was still slickly produced, it had a grittier, more soulful feel than new jack. There was still a side of urban that retained roots in quiet storm and adult contemporary, though, and regardless of which side of the spectrum they fell on, the songs were increasingly becoming showpieces for elaborate vocal technique. Partly owing to the steep decline of mainstream pop/rock in the wake of alternative, urban more or less dominated the pop singles charts for the latter half of the '90s, with major acts including Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, Boyz II Men, SWV, Blackstreet, Jodeci, Monica, and Brandy, among others.

Urban Artists Highlights

Atlantic Starr
Atlantic Starr
Patrice Rushen
Patrice Rushen
Kool & the Gang
Kool & the Gang
Randy Crawford
Randy Crawford
Teddy Pendergrass
Teddy Pendergrass
Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott

More Urban Artists

Urban Album Highlights

One Woman: The Ultimate Collection
Diana Ross
One Woman: The Ultimate ...
The Very Best of the Winans
The Winans
The Very Best of the Winans
Respect M.E.
Missy Elliott
Respect M.E.
The Essential Babyface
Babyface
The Essential Babyface
The Ultimate Collection
Commodores
The Ultimate Collection
What's Going On/Let's Get It On
Marvin Gaye
What's Going On/Let's Get ...

More Urban Albums

Urban Song Highlights

Title/Composer Performer Stream
Ain't No Mountain High Enough Diana Ross
Get Ur Freak On Missy Elliott
For the Cool in You Babyface
Three Times a Lady Commodores
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) Marvin Gaye
Freaks Come Out at Night Whodini
Feel Like Makin' Love Roberta Flack
You and I Rick James
Welcome to la Tigre Eddy Grant
Joanna Kool & the Gang

More Urban Songs

Other Styles in Contemporary R&B