Soulection: The Once and Future of R & B

By Jay Ray / @jayrayisthename

When Los Angeles-based Soulection released “Love Is King,” a tribute mix to Sade, the response was both immediate and noteworthy. The collection of mixes, crafted by label beatmakers, gave a whole new soundscape to familiar and beloved songs by the band and placed it’s eponymous lead singer in a new context – celebrated and adorned. Almost like a very elaborate “thank you” for … existing.

Before we continue, I must admit, I am not a fan of sub-genre naming. Sometimes it makes sense, but like “neo-soul” - that was kind of stupid – it is just soul, folks. I don’t consider “Future R & B” a genre as much as it is an idea. It exists firmly in the now, while reaching back to the past.

This isn’t a new concept, of course – Funk (an appropriate sub-genre, mind you) is a precursor to this idea. Take pieces of musical experiences, put them in the wash then rinse and spin it through your personal filter.

In modern R & B, the first glimmers of what the “future” sound could be appeared in 1997 – “One In A Million.” The album was full of masterfully crafted electronic, bass heavy, rhythms with a sweet, high-pitched voice on top (courtesy of Detroit daughter, Aaliyah). The title track encapsulates the idea perfectly. It’s a classic R & B song, one in which you can imagine a standard jazz version existing, for instance. Rooted in R & B traditions, but placed firmly in the year it was created. Both a logical and illogical blending of hip hop, soul, jazz and funk.

It’s in this context that the sounds of many of the beatmakers of Soulection take shape. It’s clear that they grew up idolizing the Timabalands and The-Dreams of the world, but have the youth, talent and access to the tools to create a new sound.

Interestingly, this sound has the potential to do something unexpected. It teaches history.

It’s fitting that the label used Sade to celebrate having 200K followers. We only get a record from the band once a decade, at this point – i.e. twice a generation. That means that a listener’s connection to this pivotal act is diminished, because there’s no new material.

By using current beat making techniques, and layering in classics, the Soulection sound is breathing new life into music that changed the time it was created in. Now, those past songs have the opportunity to change the future.

Wear your shades - the future's bright!