Throughout the decades R&B has been a staple for life’s most important moments. It was there for us when we fell in love, it taught us how to stay in love, it has set the mood for romantic (or lusty) evenings and it has comforted us through heartbreak. R&B evokes emotions from one human being to another, whether good or bad, but is R&B dead?
The golden years of R&B has to be the 90s. The New Jack Swing era peaked in the 90s, every R&B group of the 90s offered something new, different and eclectic to the genre. The Neo-Soul movement was birthed in the 90s, and R&B stars were taking over TV, film and worldwide charts. Once the 2000s came, the line between R&B and Hip-Hop seemed to become blurred. Rappers became singers, and love songs seemed to be replaced by club songs, leaving many to believe that the genre they once knew was dead, or at least dying. “R&B Is Dead?!” is here to debunk that notion. Each week a new R&B artist or group will be highlighted to prove that good R&B is alive and well and maybe introduce you to a new favorite artist. This week’s spotlight is on Drew Anthuny and his latest project LAST LOVING BREED. I sat down with Anthuny and we discussed his influences, his new project and the “lack of support” in the R&B.
Artist Name: Drew Anthuny. Twitter: @DrewAnthuny
Hometown: Born and Raised in Los Angeles, CA (Carson to be exact).
You’ll love him if you’re a fan of: John Legend, Musiq Soulchild, Luke James, Jon B., Raphael Saadiq, D’Angelo. Erykah Badu. Lauryn Hill.
I want to talk about you first, I was first introduced to you by your song FYIWW (For You I Will Wait) about a year or so ago from a web series called First on Issa Rae’s channel. After I heard it, I went to your SoundCloud page and became an instant fan. I know that you play the guitar, right?
“Yes, I do play the guitar. I play the guitar and I play a little bit of the [piano] keys. Mainly I’m a songwriter and a producer. Pretty much everything I put out on my Soundcloud, except for two songs, I produced, I’ve written, I’ve sung. So, I play many roles.”
Let’s get into the process for you. What goes into the process of creating a dope song?
“It’s really the vibe. It’s the concept of the song, it’s really what message do I want to get out to people and also what sounds make you feel great. So at that point, it’s either a topic I want to talk about, or maybe I’ve written down this cool little line, or maybe I have this beat to start [and] creating in that moment. But the majority of the time it’s, does it touch people overall? And [I’m] consistently trying to build it in a way that people can really feel the music.”
So as far as songwriting is concerned, where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you get it from real life situations or from friends?
“Yes, the majority of it is from my past and certain things. For example, FYIWW (For You I Will Wait) is a song that talks about someone who loves someone else that doesn’t love them at that moment. I experienced something like that, caring and loving someone though they did not love me or reciprocate feeling the same way for me, but I was willing to wait for it, whether it came or not. Marry Me, I wasn’t in on making a marriage song, it just bloomed and blossomed that way. It started off with (sings) ‘I hope you say yes,’ I don’t know why and then it just grew into a marriage song. I have a song called Precious Time on my Soundcloud and that talks about me growing up. Some of the lyrics are ‘When I was younger, I used to play the waiting game with every girl that came my way and I got hurt, but as I got older, I became a player with no shame. Every girl that came my way got hurt. But now I’m a grown man…’ So it’s stories of me and things that other people have gone through.”
What era of R&B music inspires you and what artist specifically?
“Neo-Soul. I used to love the whole late 90s and early 2000s, like Lauryn Hill, Anthony Hamilton, Maxwell as well as Musiq and John Legend himself.”
What do you think when you hear “R&B is dead”?
“[Laughs] I feel the lack of love in R&B music. I feel when people say that it’s because they feel that R&B isn’t the same anymore. Do you feel like R&B is dead?”
I don’t think it’s dead. The 90s is everyone’s favorite time, R&B was so diverse, you had Toni Braxton, New Jack Swing, Neo-Soul… you had so many sub-genres and they were all on the radio, Adult Contemporary stations, Pop Stations, Hip-Hop stations. I think you don’t get that now. It’s the same three or four R&B artist on the radio, those same artists are featured on the hooks of the most popular Hip-Hop artist’s songs. So don’t think it’s dead, I think the way it’s presented to the masses is dead, not the genre.
“I completely agree! You can go down in L.A. [and] go to these little coffee shops and you’re going to hear some people that have so much soul and write so much great music. I don’t feel like R&B is dead. I just feel like R&B is no longer highlighted like it was back in the 90s and back in the 2000s. I feel like Hip-Hop has really taken over to where R&B is more about ‘let’s have fun, go party.’ Too many people don’t want to hear anymore [about] the sensual, the passion, the more of good loving in a song.”
You can pick up your phone and you have apple radio, they have Hip-Hop & R&B clumped together. The R&B songs are always a turn-up song or featuring a rapper. As much as I love the turn-up, party music, sometimes I just want to hear a damn love song.
“You do and I feel like it has to do with my generation. To be honest, some of these kids are growing up with the three or four artists you hear on the radio and no one goes back to history like Earth, Wind & Fire. No one goes back to Marvin Gaye, or Donny Hathaway, you know, with how things really started, with what soul was. I think R&B has evolved so much on the radio. Everything is about the party and everything is about having it now. Good R&B music was about storytelling, it was about love, it was about innuendos, that’s what made R&B. People loved that. This generation doesn’t want to hear stories, they want to party and that’s cool, it’s nothing wrong with that, but I think we lost sight on what R&B is, we need R&B. I read something on Musiq Soulchild, where he said ‘No one is paying attention anymore,’ I think I heard he wanted to start rapping. Why? Why does it have to get to that point? Why is that we as a generation aren’t giving attention to great art?”
That was deep. As an artist do you feel the pressure to change your sound to have that crossover, mainstream appeal?
“Well, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted to be a crossover artist from the beginning, so it wasn’t so much about me adapting to the times. Starting out I was very Neo-Soul and as I continued on with my craft, I started to develop more of a sound [for myself] and started to experiment with different things, but still making sure I keep the essence of soul in it. Do I feel like I have to change for the times? No, not necessarily.”
You’re really deep into soul music.
“I love it, honestly, I don’t know what it is. The way a person’s voice can touch you when you when you hear a person singing and telling you a story soulfully. R&B is just that essence of what really touches people in music.”
Do you think the lack of love in music has an effect on today’s dating scene?
“Of course! Everything is about instant gratification, everything is about ‘check out this chick on Tinder,’ or ‘guess who hopped in my DMs,’ I feel like it takes a lot of love away. There’s no more genuine interaction. Nobody goes to their crush’s house, holds up a boom box and plays their favorite love song…”
[Laughs] Nobody is making their crushes mixtapes anymore!
“Exactly! That too! Nobody makes a mixtape, I miss that. There’s a lot that’s missing. It’s me understanding social media, especially when it comes to interactions with this younger generation. Like I said, I find my inspiration from hearing people’s stories, like on my new album LAST LOVING BREED, the song Last Loving Breed is a story talking about how a man feels like there’s no more love in this world. So we need to save what we have because we’re the only ones who know how to give love. So I just feel like that’s what’s happening in R&B. There’s no more sense of romance.”
Well, speaking of LAST LOVING BREED, tell us more about the project.
“It was created as a statement to highlight certain things I thought were lacking in relationships. Lost was written as a story of someone searching for somebody they know they’ve hurt. Someone they know they did wrong and they’re chasing after them all over the world to find them. I felt like this song was inspired by people that just don’t care anymore. In relationships, you get hurt and people want to walk away, that’s it! No one chases anymore, no one wants to prove their love anymore, Cold Heart came from falling in love with the wrong person. The first line is ‘I was always told all that glitters isn’t gold.’ You know, it’s too many people falling for the wrong person, or getting caught up in [the] lies of what that person may have them believe and end up getting hurt. Then, Marry Me, love, romance, being able to propose to somebody. And then FYIWW (For You I Will Wait), which is about a lot of people don’t have the patience to wait to see if someone’s love will come.”
Every time I hear that song, it pulls at my heart strings. That’s what I appreciate about your music, it triggers emotions of all types, it’s soulful. One last question, what do you think can bring R&B “back” to put it back on the forefront again or maybe even spark another golden era?
“Honestly, I think the main thing is having people stop attaching to trends and really focus on their craft. Educate people on R&B and have execs push the R&B artist to the forefront, they’re out here. I feel like certain people in the [Untied] States don’t appreciate good quality music or what they think is good quality music. We’re in a place where we [R&B artist] are trying to find our identity. We’re in a transition where we don’t know what our face [in R&B] is, or what we’re leaving our mark and that’s hard. Because people say ‘oh, there was such great music in the 90s,’ and artists now, wI’ll try to mimic that exactly instead of using that as their influence and creating something new. It’s interesting because about a year ago, a friend of mine posted a magazine cover with Sam Smith [on it] and the title said ‘How A Britt Ruled Soul Music again,’ and she was upset and went on a rant about how we invented soul music. Someone mentioned that it might be the new R&B with Sam Smith & Adele because they are so soulful and touching but in POP music. So I think some people might reference that as soul and R&B music, but it’s pop music. It’s not deep R&B.”
Yeah, I saw a blog post today that said: “Can Adele Save R&B Music?” I like Adele, but that headline had me scratching my head and screaming “NOPE!”
“It goes to show our lack [of R&B] in America. Why don’t we value R&B anymore? People are turning to the British, but what people fail to realize is that the British are looking at us. They are studying R&B and Jazz music from a long time ago. Look at Adele & Sam Smith’s influence, they go back to Chaka Khan & Earth, Wind & Fire. So they owned their craft and studied. Obviously, people in Europe appreciate music a little bit more. In America, I feel like it’s ‘well, impress me. Impress me,’ instead of taking it for what it is, listening and really appreciating the artists who are in America [and] trying to bring it [R&B] back.”
Stream Drew Anthuny’s LAST LOVING BREED below. Also buy it here. The music video for FYIWW (For You I Will Wait) premieres on Wednesday (10/28), follow him on Twitter @DrewAnthuny for more updates.
“FYIWW (For You I Will Wait)” video:
“Marry Me” video: