The period of time, roughly between 1977 and 1988 when Black music was at it's prime is what is referred to the golden age of Black Music. Disco was going downhill and Black people wanted something new. Artists like Chic, Chaka Khan, Atlantic Starr, Prince, Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal ruled the dance floor back in the day.
The soul music back then wasn't quite mainstream enough for MTV or the top 40 radio stations to play and if you didn't have BET or an Urban radio station in your town, you only got to hear about what was happening from friends, clubs or when the artists actually came to play in your town.
Early Rap music focused more on the music and beats and the rhymes then were somewhat light hearted, often about having a good time or boasting about the MC’s prowess and abilities with the mike. It was always about the mike.
Around 1989, “Gangsta rap” was born and artists like NWA and 2 Live Crew took off. Soul artists started to make their music sound more mainstream to appeal to a larger audience. Some artists, like Keith Sweat, Teddy Riley, and his group GUY, created what was known as the New Jack Swing sound to give people an alternative to the new rap scene, but by then, BET and now MTV started to feature more hardcore rap in heavy rotation. Even mainstream radio got in on the action and the new jack artists, while talented and promising, never enjoyed the full glory of the golden age era.
In the new millennium, Rap/Hip Hop became the dominant format of black music, with empires positioned to make producers like Sean 'Puffy' Combs, Russel Simmons, Suge Knight and Master P the next Black billionaires
Unfortunately, the new generations of producers seem to care more about the money, ego and fame than the quality of music they produce, churning out cookie cutter hits based on sex, gang violence and excessive lifestyles. Also its questionable as to what image it gives young children to aspire to.
Who knows what the future promises for black music; the new Neo-soul sound seems promising enough, with talented singers like Jill Scott, John Legend, Alicia Keyes and Kem in the forefront, but only time will tell if there will be another golden age for neo soul or if it will go the way of the new jack.
If you are a generation X'er, you probably grew up during the golden age of black music.
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