Written By LaZedrick Blackshire | Cosign Magazine |@blusatire
A while back, I wrote about why people these days are so infatuated with the 90’s. One of the main reasons for everyone’s love of the 90’s was the music. Everyone talks about hip-hop acts like Tupac, Biggie, NWA and snoop. As well as R&B acts like. Dru Hill, Jodeci, SWV and more. But let’s talk about the era of music that brought two genres together and had everybody jumping on the bandwagon. New Jack Swing my friends was the genre that defined the late 80s and early 90s and is probably one of my favorite eras of music. While Teddy Riley is widely known to being the person to spearhead the “the new jack swing”, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson originated the sound on her Control album. Bobby Brown New Jack Swing can be Described as a fusion of R&B, rap, funk, disco, rock and synthesized. The most distinct and constant sound, however, was Teddy Riley introducing swing beats, “a rhythmic pattern using offbeat accented 16th note triplets”. We all know that signature synthesizer sound when we hear it and beats that are typically fast-paced versus slow ballads but let me give you some reasons why New Jack swing was so great.
The vibe was always a fun one. The main thing about new jack swing that led it to be popular was that it was heavy on the dance scene. Coming after an era of electric, disco, funk and techno music, it was refreshing to hear this new sound. Artist like Guy, Michael and Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown, and many others had y’all parents out here grooving and bopping. Never could a love song be so fun to dance to.
It Brought rap and R&B together. Before the new jack swing era, R&B and rap stayed quite the distance from each other and somewhat had a rivalry from each other. Singers thought rappers were thuggish and simple, while rappers thought that singers were soft and bubblegum pop acts, and neither wanted to deal with each other. With new jack swing, Singers were grooving on more up-tempo beats, and long gone was the boy band and Temptations steps, and more expressive, and energetic dancing. Rappers were collaborating with R&B singers, Like SWV and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Anything, and rappers like LL Cool J rapped about love and women on danceable beats like ‘Round Away Girl”. While artists like New Edition, especially Bobby Brown used it to upgrade their style to have a more edgy sound, often adding raps to their singing. Bobby Brown also used his troubles to work for him creating that bad boy singer that we all know today.
It brought Hip-hop and R&B into popular culture. New Edition was already popular due to their early years together, but when they transitioned into more mature content and had that new jack swing formula added to their repertoire, 1988 ended up being a good year for the culture. With many top ten Billboard hits, Bobby Brown led the way to cross over new jack swing into popular culture. Teddy Riley, LA Reid, and Babyface were a presence in most music and even pop artist wanted that sound in their music and throughout the years used. Michael Jackson, Jane Child, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and many others hopped on board. Artist like Guy, Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure and many one-hit wonders would follow.
Also with every big movement clothing and television set the trend during the new Jack Swing Era. Look to Tv shows like “Living Single”, “A Different World”, “Family Matters” and” Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, you will see the fashion and music inspired from the New Jack Swing era. Parachute pants, fitted hats, starter jackets, big suits, overalls, spandex, and colorful clothes are just some of the key threads you had to have. Let’s not forget about the High-top fades, parts, and frizzy hair and updos as well. to Movies Like New Jack City, Juice and House Party, especially House Party, Showed aspects of the era in music dance and fashion. Goof Troop and Darkwing duck are notable cartoons that incorporated new jack swing as well. Even the Jetson’s movie had new Jack swing influences. Video games like Sonic, Donkey Kong, Kirby and Streets of rage also incorporated new Jack swing in their music.
The overall impact in new jack swing is still seen today. Big artist like Drake and Beyoncé have several new Jack swingish songs, while Bruno Mars, Last Album is a whole new jack swing album. R&B can be edgy and raw these days because of Bobby Brown. Let’s be real, Chris Brown may get Michael Jackson comparisons, but in all honesty, he is this era’s Bobby Brown. The 2000s continued the rap and R&B duets, where Ja rule thrived, because of new jack swing bringing rap and R&B together for the first time, and now most rappers today singing. (Even though some should stop). New Jack Swing was an era of fun, excitement, partying, dancing, and doing what you loved. I would not mind a comeback. What are some of your favorite Jams, from this era? Check out my New Jack Swing playlist for some of the defining songs of the era.