In 2018, Decatur-bred singer, Jacquees, declared that he was the King of R&B, which led to an utterly hilarious uproar among music fans and actual legends within the genre. The then-24-year-old explained, “I understand who done came and who done did that, but now it’s my turn.” His addendum—”for this generation”—made no difference considering the statement partially and collectively was simply not true.
Upon the sentiment going viral, crooners including Chris Brown, Tyrese, Pleasure P, J. Holiday, Tank, Usher, Eric Bellinger, and Bobby Brown all reacted in some way. When discussing the King of R&B or any definitive title—Queen of Soul, Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Godfather of Soul, etc.—a few factors must be considered: charting, consistency, classics, and certifications/accolades.* The asterisk is there because many true aficionados and historians disregard the disrespect countless artists get from the Recording Academy and institutions alike. It can be considered criminal that acts including Brian McKnight and Diana Ross have never won a Grammy, but we can circle back to that later.
Hence why, when Yung Bleu—a rising rapper from Mobile, Ala.—indirectly co-signed one fan calling him the King of R&B, Tank jumped in responding, “I’m glad I’m from a different generation ’cause y’all wild.” Let’s start with the fact that Yung Bleu doesn’t sing, in spite of him going by Bleu Vandross. Personally, I feel this is offensive to Luther Vandross’ legacy, but we’ll let the “You’re Mines Still” rapper have that.
Though Bleu tried to shade Tank in highlighting that the 46-year-old only recently gained his first platinum certification in his 20-year run, that doesn’t negate the fact that the “I Deserve” crooner can sing laps around the 27-year-old and that petty undertaking serves as another reminder that gaining a career-defining title is more than just one of the aforementioned factors.
After attending Usher’s first Las Vegas residency, I declared him to be the King of R&B following in the footsteps of his direct predecessor, Bobby Brown. If we’re talking numbers, Usher is ranked No. 15 on the Hot 100 All-Time Greats list. He is No. 5 on the list of Male Solo Artists with the Most No. 1 Hits on the Billboard Hot 100, falling under Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Paul McCartney. In fact, he was the No. 1 artist between 2000 and 2010. Usher’s fourth studio album, Confessions is certified diamond with RIAA, one of the few R&B albums to garner such a feat. Boyz II Men’s II, Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, and Prince’s Purple Rain are also among those who have diamond-certified albums and none of them ever felt the need to partake in social media antics to “claim a throne.”
Now, I’m not saying that none of the new men of R&B—Lucky Daye, Givēon, Tone Stith, Arin Ray, Samm Henshaw, BJ The Chicago Kid, Kenyon Dixon, to name a few—aren’t capable of earning the title over the course of their careers, but in the great words of Eric Bellinger, “Y’all n****s gotta put a little bit more time in. Y’all gotta have some hits. Y’all gotta have some consistency.”
So, collectively, let’s stop saying and agreeing to things just for the sake of clout. Put in the actual work and you’ll get what’s yours, plain and simple. Yung Bleu, though, should just sit this one out as a whole.
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