Although Hip-Hop and R&B have an inseparable connection to each other, it’s interesting to note the differences in how acts from each genre are talked about, presented, and judged. One of the biggest distinctions that I’ve noticed over the past few years is that in Hip-Hop, for better or worse, MC’s and producers can never escape from having a public identity that is attached to the region from which they came from. Despite doing music for Nas, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Eminem, Young Buck, Scarface, Big Pun, Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, Devin The Dude and tons of other people from all over the country, Dr. Dre will always be considered a West Coast producer with a West Coast sound. It doesn’t matter what he does musically anymore, that’s just how he will forever be perceived. The same can be said for the above MC’s: despite working with producers and rappers from every coast, everything Jay-Z does is New York from top to bottom. It’ll never change, that’s just part of his identity. Yet that is not the case for R&B singers. Nobody has ever accused Beyoncé or Usher of having a Texas sound to their music. Personally, I think that a lot of this is due to the fact that rappers endlessly talk about where they’re from in their music, but unless your Alicia Keys singing a hook on a Jay-Z track, singers don’t really sing specifically about their home towns. In my opinion, this gives them a more universal appeal that has allowed artists like Mary J Blige to blow up across the world (she doesn’t have a single album or song title that mentions New York).
Not surprisingly this same phenomenon exists in The Bay. While our rap is so oriented specifically to where we’re from, and often times people in Northern California are fans of mediocre MC’s solely due to the fact that they rep the Bay hell of hard, there doesn’t seem to be any regional pride attached to our singers. As a result often times it is completely over looked that the Bay Area has had and continues to have a thriving R&B scene that has garnered millions of fans world wide. Most people (some even in The Bay Area) have no idea that En Vogue, Tony! Toni! Toné! (and thus Raphael Saadiq), or more recently Keyshia Cole and Goapele, are all from Oakland. This is largely because for the most part they don’t mention where they are from in their music, which has kept them from being put in that “Bay Area” box.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this issue. On the one hand I take genuine pride in where I’m from, and I love to see talented people do the same, but on the other I think undying loyalty to our region is pretty uninteresting and not relatable to the rest of the country/world, and therefore is a large reason why truly talented rappers never make it out of the Bay. I guess for me, if you’re from the same general vicinity as I am, and you are genuinely talented, I’m going to rep you whether you rep our home or not.
That ridiculously wordy introduction is relevant, because today I’m writing about Netta Brielle’s newest mixtape Love, Pain, & Music, which she is giving away for free at her bandcamp page: www.nettabrielle.bandcamp.com. For those not in the know, Netta is a bay area R&B singer that balances her universal appeal and the influence of where she’s from better than most. While you won’t hear her belting out odes to her home town of Berkeley, she does utilize the talents of many of the best local producers The Bay has to offer including: Traxamillion, Bedrock, and Money Alwayz, and you will find her doing remixes to local favorites like The Jacka’s Traxamillion produced hit “Glamorous Lifestyle”, singing hooks for local MC’s like Oakland’s Fly Street Gang, playing the lead role in Erk Tha Jerk’s video for “The Perfect Mistake” , and doing a grip of shows at local venues like The New Parish. That balance, matched with her exceptional voice, if combined with a drive to get her music heard throughout the country, could make her one of the only bay area R&B singers to break into the mainstream yet still be repped to the fullest at home.