Rated R&B Celebrates 5th Anniversary Today

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Wow, I can’t believe Rated R&B is celebrating its 5th anniversary today! Where did time go?

I remember when I first launched the site in 2011 during my senior year in college. I was pretty nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if people would care for it or support it. All I knew was I wanted to provide R&B artists with a positive platform that celebrates their work. 

Here we are five years later. Although this site isn’t where I want it to be yet, I’m very thankful for all the love and support its received over the years. 

P.S. – To help celebrate our fifth anniversary, some of our favorite artists recorded a video wishing us a happy anniversary.

Check it out below.

A special thank you to the artists who participated in our anniversary video:

After 7
Mindless Behavior
Mark Hood
PJ Morton
Malone
MAJOR.
Brave Williams
Fantasia
Tiffany Evans
Raheem DeVaughn / The CrossRhodes
Vivian Green
Tweet
Guordan Banks
Timothy Bloom

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Top 5 Tracks from Rihanna’s ‘Unapologetic’ Album

Rihanna Unapologetic album

Rihanna has been, is, and will always be a hit maker; There’s a reason why she has fourteen No. 1 singles spanning all the way back to her second album (and just for the record, her debut single “Pon de Replay” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.) Coming off her Talk That Talk album in 2011, which featured international hits “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been,” it was time for Rihanna to take it up another notch when it came to her next album. Working with fresh blood in producers Mike-Will-Made-IT and Labyrinth while enlisting pop mainstays David Guetta and Stargate, the result was Unapologetic: an eclectic mix of EDM, trap, dance, R&B, and pop songs that scaled the musical and lyrical landscape. If this album was an avatar, it’d be “The Last Genre-Bender.”

Unapologetic marked two things: Rihanna’s first artistically complete album and first No. 1 album. While Rated R and Talk That Talk had some “woah” moments, this album found Rihanna elevating her musical core to new heights. She’s still Bad Gal RiRi, but with more wisdom, more vocal strength, and with a newfound sense of artistic confidence. It’s no wonder why it won a Grammy award for “Best Urban Contemporary Album.”

Here at Rated R&B, we’ve compiled what we consider as the best tracks from Rihanna’s seventh studio album. Check out the list below:

“Loveeeeeee Song” (feat. Future)

Future always shines when paired with female artists, but his “Loveeeeeee Song” collaboration with Rihanna might be his best duet to date. The Luney Tunez-produced cut finds the two artists flirting with idea commitment, but being temporarily satisfied with the current arrangement of keeping things purely physical. “I don’t wanna give you the wrong impression / I need love and affection / And I hope I’m not sounding too desperate / I need love and affection,” they sing. On this album full of hard-hitting choruses and club-ready bass drops, this smooth late-night thumper stands out in the best way. Rihanna’s verses and Future’s bridge eventually explodes into a lush, beautifully crafted final chorus between the two of them. If you think “Kiss it Better” is Rihanna’s best bedroom banger, then “Loveeeeeee Song” definitely gives it a run for its money.

“Get It Over With”

While the album spotlights an array of emotional lows and insecurities, there’s a silver lining thanks to this instrument-laden track. Written by Ms. Fenty, Brian Kennedy, and the ever-talented James Fauntleroy, “Get It Over With” is the ballad of broken dreams, but also a song of hope. “It’s dark in the day / I’ll say now don’t complain / Look up the sun is just a cloud away / You’re so afraid to cry / But your heart be feeling dry / It’s time to change,” Rihanna sings in the first verse. Fauntleroy is a master of stacking vocals, so it’s no surprise that we find Rihanna’s background vocals more than on point here. Paired with snaps and solemn violins, this song is the perfect mixture of resilience, strength, and sadness, which is why it makes this list.

“What Now”

Rihanna has mastered the art of emoting over the years, and “What Now” is just one flash of brilliance in her extensive discography. Co-written by fellow Bajan Livvi Franc and British producers Nathan Cassells and Parker Ighile, the song explores the dissatisfaction one feels when they’ve settled, whether that be in love, career, or life in general. “Whatever it is/It feels like it’s laughing at me through the glass of a two-sided mirror/Whatever it is/It’s just laughing at me/And I just wanna scream,” she sings. The lyrics cut just as deep as its smashing chorus, but what really elevates this song is its climax where Rihanna repeats the cadence “I don’t know where to go/I don’t know what to feel/I don’t know how to cry/I don’t know, oh-oh, why!” The winding guitar, raw emotion, and pounding bass culminates into one of the best musical moments on the album.

“Nobody’s Business” (feat. Chris Brown)

Although this collaboration didn’t make as much of a splash as their “Birthday Cake” remix, Chris Brown and Rihanna still shocked fans by linking up on this groovy duet. Co-written by Rihanna and long-time collaborator The-Dream, the song finds the ex-lovers proclaiming their love for each other, and telling off nay-sayers in the process. “You’ll always be mine / Sing it to the world / You’ll always be my boy / I’ll always be your girl / Ain’t nobody’s business / Ain’t nobody’s business / Ain’t nobody’s business / But mine and my baby,” they sing. It’s no surprise that this track contains an interpolation from “The Way You Make Me Feel,” because this euro-dance joint feels like a new-age Michael Jackson record. Breezy and Rih trade parts effortlessly; their natural chemistry is apparent. Even five years later, this song feels fresh, yet timeless, which is why it lands on this list.

“Stay” (feat. Mikky Ekko)

There’s always something special about an artist’s voice over a grand piano, which is more than clear on this tender ballad. Written largely in part by featured artist Mikky Ekko, “Stay” is almost like the continuation of “Loveeeeeee Song,” except with more feelings and time invested. “Not really sure how to feel about it / Something in the way you move / Makes me feel like I can’t live without you / And it takes me all the way / I want you to stay,” Rihanna sings. Even though the song is obviously brilliant, the reason it makes this list is because of Rihanna’s vocal showing. While her voice holds the same type of raw emotion as “What Now,” Rih wields it quite differently, drawing the audience in and pulling away with each sharp breath, vocal crack and sustained note. This all lends itself to the push-and-pull of the actual relationship that the song speaks of, which really speaks to her growth artistically and dedication to the edgier, tougher vision for Unapologetic. Major props go to Kuk Harrell, who is the vocal engineer and producer on this song as well as the entire album.

Stream Unapologetic on Spotify below.

What’s your favorite song on Unapologetic? Let us know in the comment section below!

Top 4 Deep Cuts from Brandy’s ‘Two Eleven’ Album

 

The “Vocal Bible” nickname has been bestowed upon Brandy for her vocal acrobatics and inexplicable natural ability to sing. However, Brandy Norwood is much more than her voice. In fact, her most redeeming quality is her nuanced storytelling as an artist. Every album that has been graced with those hypnotic eyes of hers has been complete from top to bottom, both vocally and thematically.

While some may argue that Never Say Never and Full Moon are artistic perfection, Two Eleven is too, but with a twist. The beauty of Two Eleven is the multi-edge edge sword of sound that it wields. The album is noticeably handled by hip-hop producers, but thanks to its host of R&B writers, the songs on the album are able to catch the spirit of the R&B genre today — a whole five years ahead of schedule.

If you take a listen to “Hardly Breathing,” do you not hear shades of Dawn Richard? Or maybe if you paid close enough attention to the vocal layering on “Wish Your Love Away,” you would hear the same on Tamar’s latest album. You can even compare “Put It Down” to K. Michelle’s “Either Way.” Aside from boasting the same feature, the candor and aggression in the lyrical content is almost uncanny. This album is for the Sabrina Claudio’s just as much as it is for the Sevyn Streeter’s and even the reaches the artistic bubble of a more established artist like Tamia. In short, Two Eleven, as a whole, is THAT album.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best deep cuts from the five-year-old body of work. Check  it out:

“Paint This House”

Brandy’s smoky vocals take center stage, backed by her airy background vocals and hauntingly pulsing production from Rico Love, Eric Goudy III and Pierre Moody. On the song, Brandy is in the mood for love-making and some “room redecorating” with her new lover. “And I want these stairs, those walls/Kitchen counters, and those chairs/To remind you of how good it feels/And all of these floors and ceilings/And every hallway, yeah/Not and inch will go untouched/Let’s paint this house with our love,” she sings. With lyrics so obviously sexual, Ms. Norwood brings her signature tender tone to song, creating a sensual jam for any bedroom-thumping situation.

“Slower”

Following a similar narrative as “Paint This House,” Brandy decides to take control this time when it comes to the moment of love-making and passion. “My baby got a lot to learn/Come here let mama bring you up to speed/A couple of changes/A couple of things I want to go over/Couple of hours is all I need/So let’s get it started,” she sings. The genius house production from Dave Taylor both compliments and juxtaposes Brandy’s vocals and lyrics extremely well.

“Without You”

Brandy’s voice takes full flight on this apologetic anthem. “Boy somewhere along the line I lost my way/And I made you pay for the mistakes he made/And I’m sorry baby, cause it shouldn’t be that way/Oh Boy, I really need you, I need you in my life/Cause oh boy I’m nothing, oh no I’m nothing without you,” she sings. Seeing the grave error in bringing baggage from the past into a current relationship, Brandy showcases her vocal power and grit to win her man back. And although we’d love just a piano behind her, the kick-snare and cymbal give this almost-but-not-quite-a-single the touch of bounce that it needs.

“Wish Your Love Away”

Brandy is trying to get over the one that should have been the one on this somber ballad. “I wish that there was no more sleepless nights for me/You can look inside my heart and see/How I’m feelin, baby/Or maybe you just don’t give a damn/Could I be foolish to give a damn, baby?/’Cause I’m to the point where I wish/Boy, I wish that I didn’t love you,” she sings. The track is just so sonically vivid-imagine rain softly falling on your windowpane as this song plays in the background-that it didn’t even need her vocals to be impactful. But, that’s not to say that her vocals aren’t appreciated, especially at the end of the song where the music fades out to just her immaculate vocal layering. Brandy’s resonance both in voice and artistry is perfectly encapsulated by this tune, and hints at how this album will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

What’s your favorite song from “Two Eleven?” Let us know in the comment section below.

Review: Daniel Caesar Finds Freedom in Redemption on Debut Album ‘Freudian’

Daniel Caesar freudian cover art

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” reads Proverbs 22:6. For Daniel Caesar, this couldn’t be more true.

A product of the black church, the Toronto-born R&B singer’s debut album, Freudian, is very much rooted in gospel influences — from the piano driven sound to solid backing vocals from a full choir. While there is much celebration of love on this album, there are also songs of regret and sorrow, as if  Caesar is grappling with his own personal struggles with religion and theology as it relates to a past love. Perhaps, this is why he chose to name his album Freudian.

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud is considered as the father of psychoanalysis, which is a method for treating psychological disorders through intense dialogue between a psychoanalyst and their patient. This is the base model for modern therapy, which is exactly what this album feels like: a therapy session. Caesar pours his heart out over the course of ten tracks, re-living love’s best moments in “Get You” and “Best Part,” whilst revealing its darker ones on tracks like “Neu Roses (Transgressor’s Song).” Caesar comes out stronger on the other side by the album’s ten-minute title track finale, saying in a personal note:

“Hey mama/it’s your second son, still the same/ain’t change, mama/made some change, time has changed/it might feel strange mama, I feel ashamed/…face to face with my faith mama/I lost my faith.”

If that was his confession, then this album is his testimony.

Produced by Caesar, Matthew Burnett, and Jordan Evans, the album revels in lush sounds and vocals throughout. Paired with strong messages and themes of love, loss and final redemption, Caesar is able to deliver an impressive debut. Below are our top four picks from Freudian:

The Lead Single – “Get You” featuring Kali Uchis

The song we all know and love is still one of the album’s brightest moments with its enveloping sound and intoxicating vocals from both Caesar and Uchis. Caesar expresses his love in a song of gratitude to the woman that’s been by his side through thick and thin. In an interview with Billboard, he explains “‘Get You’ is a song of praise to a love I didn’t even feel I deserved at the time […] Being with someone you truly adore and being present enough in the moment that the world literally slows down and you ask yourself how did I stumble into this?”

The Surprise – “Hold Me Down”

“If you love me baby, let me hear you say it/I know I’m your favorite,” sings Caesar on this groovy tune. Caesar voice is only heightened by the song’s sexy bass line and pulsing kick snare, as Caesar laments about being the undercover lover of another. What makes this cut special is the surprise, must-listen hidden interlude that’s a flip on Kirk Franklin’s 1998 song “Hold Me Now.”

Best Feature – “Best Part” featuring H.E.R.

Lead by a single acoustic guitar, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar trade verses and sweetly share the chorus on this beautiful ballad. “I just wanna see how beautiful you are/You know that I see it/You know you’re a star/Where you go, I’ll follow/No matter how far/If life is a movie, oh, you’re the best part,” they sing. Although always vocally stellar, H.E.R.’s voice is supremely captivating here. Smart choice to have her sing the first verse, as she pulls the listener in with her hypnotic delivery from the son’s opening line, easily making this the best feature on the album.

The Sleeper – “Blessed”

On this piano driven and choir-backed track, Caesar explores the “can’t live with them, can’t live without them” narrative of his latest relationship. “And yes, I’m a mess but I’m blessed to be stuck with you/Sometimes it gets unhealthy/We can’t be by ourselves we/We’ll always need each other,” he sings. “Blessed” is serving as the B-side to Caesar’s latest single “We Find Love,” but just might be the better of the two, making this the album’s sleeper record.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Have you listened to Daniel Caesar’s new album? What are some of your favorite tracks? Any criticisms or critiques? Sound off in the comment section below.

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