The Year Soul Music Fought Back

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As part of Billboard‘s celebration for all things 2000 last week, I wrote about Neo Soul’s mainstream breakthrough, and why it didn’t last long.

If you chart modern R&B’s course on a map, you’ll notice a giant fork in the path around the year 2000. Actually, it was more of a massive roundabout, leading to an increasingly segmented space where whichever music didn’t sonically match mainstream radio would be sidelined for most of the following 20 years. 

A look back at 2000’s year-end Hot 100 and album charts will reveal, by current standards, a surprisingly diverse representation of Black music: uber-produced, TRL-friendly hits from Destiny’s Child, TLC and Sisqo; straight down the middle, traditional R&B from Toni Braxton, Joe and Brian McKnight; children of hip-hop soul like Jagged Edge, Aaliyah and Mya; melodic rap/sung offerings with catchy hooks from Mystikal, Nelly and Ja Rule; even gospel crossover from contemporary mainstays Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary. And finally, soulful standouts from D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone and Common. 

While the picture is that of a wide spectrum, there was a sonic tug of war happening within urban music, and R&B commercial success hasn’t been as diverse since.


That change in mainstream urban music around 2000 is also why #MusicSermon is a #B2K (Before 2000) – centered ministry. But I did venture into the aughts a bit for a Neo Soul sermon back in 2017.

…and of course there’s a playlist.

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