We do nothing but listen to the expression “urban music”. The 21st century has brought many new things with it, and one of the most repeated and practiced is this type of music born in cities, neighborhoods, houses and rooms, even of young people and not so young.
What is urban music?
If we read this expression that closely combines the words “music” and “urban”, without a historical context or some more information, we could think that urban music is anything that has been created in cities, in neighborhoods, that smells like asphalt, to crowds.
But, as with most labels, this short, simple, and emphatic expression actually has somewhat more precise connotations.
Urban music, also known as contemporary urban music, refers to a series of musical genres that were born between the 1980s and 1990s and became more and more popular in the first decades of the 20th century.
The expression was popularized by New York radio host DJ Frankie Crocker in the first half of the 1970s as effectively synonymous with black music.
The fact is that, at the end of the 20th century, somewhat in response to Disco music, a good number of productions with Afro-American roots, the so-called black music, began to recover elements of traditional Rhythm and Blues and Soul.
The rise of Hip hop, the development of music technology and the progressive increase in performers of Latin origin gave rise to a series of genres that enriched the scene and that are often included in the concept of urban music.
An acceptable definition for urban music could include a tendency to use danceable rhythms and street references in any of its aspects.
Types of urban music
If we have agreed that urban music is a kind of umbrella that covers a good number of genres, a kind of transversal style that appears in multiple artists and songs, in one way or another, then we should talk a little about those specific musical genres. that claim its urban character.
New Jack Swing
In the late 1980s, some artists and producers began mixing rhythm & blues-scented melodies with hip hop beats, distancing themselves from the ballad singers who had dominated the decade up to then.
Producers like Babyface or Teddy Riley and singers like Bobby Brown or Keith Sweat were champions of this new genre in those years.
Rhythm & Blues Contemporaneo
Modern R&B, from the 1990s, is a genre that, starting from Rhythm and Blues, added characteristics and sounds typical of Pop, Soul, Funk, Hip hop and even elements of electronic music.
With a great weight in the production and sound design of the recordings, contemporary technologies and tools were used such as drum machines, digital manipulation of voices and a growing interest in hip hop bases, although without so much harshness in its sound. .
Mary J. Blige or Beyonce were some of the first and most important interpreters of this contemporary genre, which is still practiced today, with more added influences.
But urban music has a lot of Latino and the first genre that, starting from these urban bases, had international repercussions was the so-called Reggaeton.
The genre, based on the characteristic “dembow” rhythm, was consolidated in Puerto Rico during the 1990s. With both Caribbean influences, such as Dance Hall or Reggae, and North American, Hip hop, especially, the lyrics in Spanish and the imaginary of the Caribbean neighborhoods shaped its characteristic sound and style.
Ivy Queen and, above all, Daddy Yankee, among others, promoted the genre in its early years until it achieved international success.
But what we know as urban music has continued to bear fruit over the years.
Among the new genres that have appeared in this profile of danceable and street music and songs, there is Trap.
Originally heavily influenced by Hip Hop, Trap emerged in Altanta, USA, during the 2000s.
The use of synthesized percussion, complex hi-hat or hi -hat patterns , and also digitally processed kick drums or bass drums , added to the lyrics of the songs, focused on street life, drug dealing and urban violence, gave the character and the definition to the genre.
Apart from the pioneers of Atlanta, the producer Lex Luger and 808 Mafia, began to popularize the genre in the United States. Later, with much better-known artists such as Drake or Cardi B, among many others, including Trap elements in their recordings, the genre evolved and became known throughout the world, also infiltrating other genres of urban music, until the present.
We have left some ingredients, genres and many artists who have practiced urban music in some way.
One of the problems with labels, often powered by radio stations and streaming services, and especially when they are so broad and encompass so many musical phenomena, is that we don’t know exactly where their influence begins and ends.
In any case, after this modest introduction, it is important to emphasize that this has happened when it could have happened, as so many times.
Urban music, with all that musical terrain under its wings, has been considered the new Pop, a label capable of bringing together and describing, to some extent, many of these products and musical genres that have been commercially successful.
Technological innovations, the flow of people from one place to another on the globe and economic globalization itself have contributed to such a varied and transversal style of music not only occurring but also being able to be heard anywhere in the world.
Latinos had been in the United States for decades and were never able to access the first commercial division. Much of the African-American culture, same.
Composing songs, experimenting with sound and technology in home studio recordings, or of course writing lyrics that speak the everyday language of young people has always been, in modern culture at least, an excellent vehicle for musical innovation. , artistic expression and human relations, in general.
The 21st century has broken down many borders, many limitations in life, in art, in music and, although, as we well know, the new century has not brought us only good news by far, one thing cannot be denied: never before there was so much music available, so many songs accessible through multiple channels for anyone, so many people expressing themselves by composing or listening, and that is, for those of us who like music, very good news.