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Hip hop soul is a subgenre of contemporary R&B music, most popular during the early and mid 1990s,[1] which fuses R&B/gospel singing with hip hop musical production.[1] The subgenre had evolved from a previous R&B subgenre, new jack swing,[2] which had incorporated hip-hop influences into R&B music.[2] By contrast, hip hop soul is, as described in The Encyclopedia of African American Music, "quite literally soul singing over hip hop grooves".[1]

The genre was most popular during the mid and late 1990s[1] with artists such as Mary J. Blige (known as the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul"), Jodeci, R. Kelly, Mariah Carey, Brandy, and Monica.[2] By the late 1990s, hip hop soul would lead to the creation of neo soul,[1][2] which retained the hip-hop and R&B/gospel influences while also adding elements of classic 1970s soul music.[1]



Hip hop soul evolved directly from new jack swing, a form of contemporary R&B popularized by artists and producers such as Teddy Riley and his group Guy, Keith Sweat, and Bobby Brown.[1][3] New jack swing had incorporated elements of hip-hop music—primarily hip-hop-inspired drum tracks and rapped verses[1]—into contemporary R&B music also heavily inspired by the work of Prince. [3] Hip hop soul took the hip-hop/R&B synthesis further by having R&B singers sing directly over the types of sample-heavy backing tracks typically found in contemporary hip-hop recordings.[1][3]

The creation and evolution of hip hop soul led to an increasingly symbiotic relationship between its parent genres.[4][5] Hip hop soul acts presented themselves in styles and personas comparable to those of rappers[3][6]—dressing in hip hop fashions and adopting a tougher image than the traditional pop-friendly personas of R&B artists[3][6] (the existence and popularity of hip hop soul also had the opposite effect on mainstream rappers, who took on some of the elements of the R&B artists' personas to become more palatable to mainstream audiences).[5] The subgenre increased the popularity of R&B music among the younger hip-hop audience, leading to better sales and airplay success for hip hop soul recordings versus previous forms of post-disco R&B, on the Billboard pop music sales charts.[7] It also increased the popularity of hip-hop music and culture with older audiences and corporations looking to market urban music.[8] However, the creation of hip hop soul has been argued by music journalists and fans of R&B music to have "killed off" traditional styles of R&B.[5]

Other than the vocals, hip hop songs such as Hate It or Love It, contains soul samples and would be considered a "hip hop soul beat".


R&B singer Mary J. Blige is known as the "queen of hip hop soul" due to her frequent collaborations with rappers and hip hop producers.[9][10]

The term "hip hop soul" is attributed to record producer and later rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs,[8] who came up with the term during the promotion of What's the 411?, the 1992 debut album of Uptown Records artist Mary J. Blige.[8] Blige was promoted by the company as the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul", and her debut album, primarily produced by Combs, was filled with mid-tempo R&B ballads sung over hip-hop beats and samples.[8] Similarly, Diary of a Mad Band (1993), the second album from another Uptown act, Jodeci, featured the four-man male vocal group moving away from its new jack swing origins into hip hop soul recordings driven more by hip-hop rhythms than melodies.[3] A large number of male acts, both solo performers and groups, followed or competed with Jodeci, among them R. Kelly, 112, Tony! Toni! Toné![7] and Blackstreet, a second group formed by Teddy Riley.[3]

Hip hop soul artist Montell Jordan was the first R&B singer signed to hip-hop record label Def Jam Recordings;[6] his 1995 hit "This Is How We Do It", built around a sample of Slick Rick's 1989 hip-hop single "Children's Story",[4] typified the sound of the subgenre. Another key recording is "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By", a 1995 duet between Wu-Tang rapper Method Man and Mary J. Blige which interpolated Method Man's rapped verses with Blige singing a cover of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "You're All I Need to Get By".[11] "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By" won the 1996 Grammy Award for Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.[3]

The female vocal group TLC, made up of two singers and a rapper, like Jodeci, had their start in new jack swing (dubbed "new jill swing" in their case)[3] with their debut album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip (1992). Their second album, CrazySexyCool, to which Puffy Combs was a significant contributor, moved the group into the aesthetic of hip hop soul.[3][6] Similar female acts of the time included SWV, Adina Howard,[6] Faith Evans, and Total, the latter two acts signed to Puffy Combs' own label, Bad Boy Entertainment.[3]

Hip hop soul as a distinct subgenre experienced a lull in popularity with the spread of hip-hop influences into more standard R&B music by the end of the 1990s[12] and the emergence of neo soul, an R&B subgenre which blended hip-hop and contemporary R&B with heavier influences from the soul music of the 1960s and 1970s.[1] Examples of neo soul artists include Tony! Toni! Toné!, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.[3] Several newer artists continued to perform in the hip hop soul subgenre in its original form from the 2000s forward, among them John Legend, Anthony Hamilton, K.Michelle, and Keyshia Cole. [1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Price, Emmett G. III; Kernodle, Tammy; Maxille, Horace , editors (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Music. ABC-CLIO. pp. 115, 902–903. ISBN 0313341990.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Donaldson, Melvin Burke (2007). Hip Hop in American Cinema. Peter Lang. pp. 52–53. ISBN 082046345-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Gardner, Elysa (1999). "Hip-Hop Soul". In Light, Alan (ed.). The Vibe History of Hip-Hop (1st ed.). Three Rivers Press. pp. 307–317.
  4. ^ a b Ernest Baker; Alysa Lechner; David Drake; Insanul Ahmed; Tannis Spencer (19 Mar 2013). "The 50 Best R&B Songs That Flipped Rap Beats". Complex. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Van Nguyen, Dean (13 Nov 2011). "The R&B Renaissance". PopMatters. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e Reynolds, J.R. (June 3, 1995). "Is Hip-Hop's Growing Dominance of R&B an Evolutionary Step, Or Is It Displacing Traditional Soul Music Altogether?". Billboard. 107 (22): 2.
  7. ^ a b Owen, Frank (Dec 1993 – Jan 1994). "The Year in R&B: QUIET STORM". Vibe. pp. 70–73. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d Stout, Steve (July 2–9, 2001). "Share My World: How Mary J. Blige brought glamour to hip-hop and broadened the appeal of urban culture to brand marketers. A new book explains". Billboard. 123 (23): 8*9.
  9. ^ Reeves, Marcus (2009), Somebody Scream!: Rap Music's Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power, Macmillan, pp. 143, 185, ISBN 978-0-86547-997-5
  10. ^ "Universally known as the 'Queen of Hip Hop Soul' because of her frequent collaborations with rap artists and Hip Hop producers..." in" Bynoe, Yvonne (2006), Encyclopedia of rap and hip-hop culture, Greenwood Press, p. 32, ISBN 978-0-313-33058-2
  11. ^ Neal, Mark Anthony (2013). What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture. Routledge. p. 156.
  12. ^ Kenon, Marci (June 3, 2000). "Hip Hop: It's Here to Stay, OK?". Billboard. 112 (23): 42.