R&B music has shifted in such a soul-baring way. Musicians like Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor, Jhene Aiko, and Kehlani have created a sound that resonates with today’s woman. Because their voices belt out sultry tunes about love, exploring sexuality, confronting toxic relationships, healing and so much more, women across the globe are able to fully identify and embrace themselves through their music.
Billboard’s annual R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players issue featured four extraordinary talents who have made serious waves in the music industry. Teyana Taylor, Summer Walker, Kehlani, and Jhene Aiko discuss social media, working in a male-dominated industry, and how music has changed over the years.
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Teyana Taylor, a married mother of two who has been singing, dancing, and acting since the age of 15. She is a musical phenomenon who can belt out the raspiest, tantalizing songs that’ll take you to another realm. To me, she is one of the most underrated artists of our time.
Sometimes being a strong woman comes with its own consequences. Teyana’s tough-girl persona has earned her a reputation. “If we’re too soft, people feel like they can treat us any type of way. But if we’re too hard, then it’s, “Oh, she’s too much.” Sometimes you have to be like that — especially with me being a Black woman in the industry since I was 15. Like Jhené said, producers might think you’re vulnerable. When I walk in the room, I’m like, “What’s up, my n—a? What we doing?” Then they tell you it’s not ladylike. I don’t care what’s ladylike to you. Sometimes you have to be like that so n—s don’t bother you,” Teyana told Billboard.
Summer Walker, an extremely talented, socially awkward singer who has captivated the music scene with her very raw, real lyrics and her therapeutic voice. Summer’s transition into the music industry was pretty bumpy. Her opinions often left her criticized and ridiculed on social media. Despite the critics, Summer is going to keep on talking!
“But as a woman who likes to speak her mind, I do think it’s kind of weird that if I show my ass or post a half-naked picture, it’s totally fine. But if I want to speak on systematic racism, religion, or politics, then it’s like, “Wait a minute, you’re doing too much.” They kind of want you to just shut up and sing, which is an issue for me,” said Summer.
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Kehlani, is a new mother who like Teyana Taylor, didn’t allow pregnancy and childbirth to stop her hustle. The 25-year-old artist debuted at No. 2 of the Billboard Top 200 with her studio album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Success and motherhood have given her a different outlook on the direction of her career.
“It provides a perspective that you don’t get from anything else in life. There are moments when I want to bring [19-month-old Adeya] with me all the time. But I know that having her with her toys and being in her space might be better for her at a particular moment. Those moments are really hard, but I have to ultimately decide what’s better for her. I also don’t get swept up in things anymore — moments where I’d think, “I’ll quit this shit, shave my head, buy a one-way ticket out and not talk to nobody.” I don’t have the opportunity to think like that anymore, and I don’t want to. I have something that keeps me grounded. If all this disappears and I can’t do this anymore, I still have the most beautiful life in the world. As much as people think parents give to children, I think children give us 10 times more,” Kehlani said.
Last but certainly not least, Jhene Aiko, a mother, singer, songwriter, and spiritualist, pours every single emotion in her Piscean body into her music. Jhene’s music is for the self-aware. Want to confront healing? Listen to a few Aiko songs. In fact, for her latest album Chilombo she identified the songs that will respond to – and balance your chakras.
“It’s true self-expression. R&B has roots in blues, so it’s not just singing about the good times. People are digging into the depths of what they’re going through [more than ever]. With a lot of the R&B I listened to growing up, I didn’t feel like I was getting their true personal stories.”
It’s dope to witness these 4 women come together and share their truths about their music, and the challenges they’ve encountered. The camaraderie is beautiful and encouraging. “Everyone has their own style and thing going on, but it’s all the same truth,” says Teyana Taylor. “We’re still women who have experienced love and heartbreak. It’s dope to hear everyone express that truth in their different ways.”
You can read the rest of the interview here.
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