*Let’s face it. Over the last few years, R&B has seen its fair share of ups and downs. While some are fine with the music’s current vibe and crop of singers, Warryn Campbell believes there’s room for improvement and more recognition for those building off the foundation laid by legendary soulsters back in the day.
Although artists like Tyrese Gibson, Jazmine Sullivan, D’Angelo and Lalah Hathaway have been recognized with nominations and won Grammys, this year’s awards show highlighted the glaring fact that the R&B categories remained out of sight for the live broadcast. In Campbell’s eyes, the omission is “a slap in the face” to music fans.
“It speaks volumes to the fans and to the industry and the Grammys, that they can allow whether they are trying to make this message, the music producer told EURweb. “Whether it’s on purpose or not, they’re still sending a message that R&B music is not important enough to be on TV, even though every genre that is up there was fueled and created on the back of R&B. Every genre. Every genre is fueled by rhythm and blues.”
As an active member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), Campbell’s comments carry weight. Especially since he was nominated for best R&B song for his work on Gibson’s Jennifer Hudson-assisted hit, “Shame.” While he welcomed the nomination, thoughts of being formally recognized on camera overshadowed the light shined on Campbell prior to the live Grammy broadcast.
“I was there. I was there sitting in the pre-telecast. Even though I didn’t win the Grammy, I was thinking like, ‘Man, it would be nice to win this Grammy. We’re nominated for R&B song of the year. Why is this in the pre-telecast? This is crazy”’ the music maker said.
“It doesn’t make any sense. You’re saying that D’Angelo, who won in that category doesn’t deserve to be seen. And the other R&B category for vocal performance, you’re saying that Lalah Hathaway [who won for best traditional R&B performance] doesn’t deserve to be seen. That’s what you’re telling our people. You’re telling them you’re not important enough for us to see you, but all this other stuff, the Taylor Swifts and everything else, which is fueled by you, we’re gonna show that because that’s more important.
“It’s a slap in the face and I’m very critical of it and I feel like I have room to say it because at least I am involved,” he continued, while predicting an imminent demise of R&B if things continue to be the way they are now.
“After a while you’re going to melt R&B and it’s going to be like jazz. There was a time that jazz sold millions but a great jazz record is doing good to sell 30,000 now. If you keep chopping it down and not shining the light on it…imagine if they did that to Country. Imagine if they did that to Rock. Then you’d have the same thing. Of course it’s not selling because the illusion is that nobody is buying it. No, the real fact is you’re not showing it. You’re not shining a light on it anymore.”
Despite this, Campbell notes that Gibson is one who has managed to overcome with consistent support from fans.
“It’s creating this illusion that it’s over. It’s not over,” Campbell stated. “You can’t have Tyrese selling 400,000 records by himself and saying ‘Oh R&B is dead.’ He’s doing very, very well. Independently.”
With “Shame,” the soulful track stands out for being one that’s a rarity in today’s R&B landscape, according to Campbell, who co-produced the song with Gibson.
“I’m actually really proud of him for picking that song during a time when nobody is doing records like that,” the music maker shared. “To me, the way I see it, I think it challenged the entire culture and the genre because, you know, this is during a time when people are saying music like that doesn’t work anymore, but yet, the song is number one for 16 weeks on Urban AC radio. So somebody loves it.”
There’s no doubt that folks love “Shame” and R&B in general. Yet Campbell points out that love has crossed over with non-black artists, who brought the music to a larger audience. A point he feels shouldn’t register as a surprise.
“I feel the handwriting’s been on the wall and we’ve been prepared for this. If you have a good black father and mother, they’ve all prepared us for this because every good black father and mother or grandfather and grandmother have told us that ‘Son, daughter, you cannot be good. You cannot just be great. You have to be 10 times better than everybody else to get ahead’, right. And our white counterparts don’t have that same testimony …you know everybody gets excited when a white artist sounds halfway black because they’re waiting for something that they identify with. They’re waiting for something or an artist that looks like them that comes from a place where they come from,” Campbell explained.
“While they love our culture, they love our music, they love the way we dance, sing, dress, the way we look, all of it, we don’t come from where they come from. We’re not them. We don’t live next door to them… But the problem is that we’re really having is we’re only 10 percent of the population. And so when you have a vast majority who love our culture, but they do not love us. So what they seek to do, some knowingly and some just without even knowing or realizing the effects of their actions, they are really saying ‘We want to wear the costume of the culture, but we don’t want you. We want your sound. We want your skin. We even want our women to have big booties like yours.’
“They’re getting lip injections and behind injections in their booties and all this stuff. They’re putting on the costume but they don’t want us,” he added. “They want to experience that. And my thing is ‘Ok. Take the full experience. Experience the pain that we feel being in a country where we are outcasts that causes us to make this music and to make this art. Don’t put it on them. No, really create it. Don’t wait for us to create it and then steal it. Go through the same trials that we went through. Go through the same disappointments that we went through and create your own.”
While it’s easy to place the blame on white R&B music lovers, Campbell cites Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake and Jon B, who is signed to his label, My Block, among the artists who truly embody the spirit of R&B. That said, Campbell feels that black listeners should take just as much responsibility for not stepping up when showing respect and appreciation for soul music vocalists.
“It’s not just white people’s fault. It’s our fault as well,” he said. “They take care of their people and we don’t. Talk to an older white person and insult Barbara Streisand. They’ll cut your head off. But the closest thing we had to Barbara Streisand was Whitney Houston. We ran her down, when she went through her drug problems and stuff. We talked about her bad, along with everybody else. we didn’t protect her. We didn’t preserve that.”
“There are no more black bands. There’s no more Earth, Wind & Fires. We were like on the cutting edge of that stuff,” continued Campbell. “But they perverse their things. Like, Rock and roll is based on three instruments, a guitar, a bass and drums. In 1967, rock and roll was a guitar, bass and drums. In 2016, rock and roll is a guitar, bass and drums. It’s been preserved and we’ve just not done a good job of doing that. So I can’t blame it on white people, but everybody. There’s a lot to blame to go on both sides, I believe.”
Campbell’s love of music runs deep, with an appreciation for everything from R&B to hip-hop to gospel, all of which he has collaborated on with artists ranging from Kanye West to Mary Mary. Non-musically, TV viewers will see more of Campbell more on the small screen alongside his wife, Erica, in the hit reality show “Mary Mary.” To hear Campbell tell it, he has his work cut out for him while working to reunite wife Erica and fellow Mary Mary member, Tina Campbell, for the group’s return to the gospel scene.
“It’s a little different this year. For whatever reason, I’m on the show a lot more this season because a lot of the storyline revolves around me. You’ve seen me in previous seasons trying to break the girls up so they can do their own solo things, but now I’m getting pressure from Sony to put an album out for Mary Mary,” Campbell shared about his increased presence on the new season of “Mary Mary,” which kicked off last week.
“So now I’m trying to get them back together and it’s pretty difficult. So you’ll see all of the drama that comes along with that. But at the end of the day we’re all family and it’s always, always, always love. But it’s gonna be interesting.”