Ear High 004: Neo-Soul Edition
Neo-Soul is a sub-genre of music that emerged in the late 90’s as a soul revival movement. Sounds of Neo-Soul draw from R&B, jazz, funk, African music, and hip-hop. The mash-up of these genres creates a unique sound that tickles the ears in the best way, especially when high off a body heavy strain, like Purple Kush or Tuna. Where typical R&B may lack lyrical depth, and intricate jazz/funk may be hard for some listeners to grasp, Neo-Soul meets half way with more “conscious” lyrics and soulful/jazzy melodies and riffs.
The term “Neo-Soul” was created as a marketing ploy by Kedar Massenburg of Motown Records in the late 90’s. The umbrella term was employed to create a cohesive genre category for artists who thought outside of the typical R&B/soul box, but still exemplified characteristics of both. It helped further define artists like D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill. Unfortunately, being considered a neo-soul artist wasn’t always received with great regard, as it was believed to be a continuation of racist paradigms allowing whites to name black music. It was a popular belief that neo-soul was a fad-counterpart to real soul music, and some artists took offense to the title.
Nowadays neo-soul continues to thrive, proving it wasn’t just a fad, but simply a sub-genre with many musical mothers. Luckily for our music loving stoners out there, the options of neo-soul mashups are endless, but today we will take a listen to 3 artists, both new and old.
For today’s ear high, try a heavy indica strain like Violator. Listening to neo-soul while high can be a great way to catch a feel and really get into the music. Indica is a great choice due to its ability to get you out of your head and into your body. Let the physical be overcome by the mixture of vibey sounds, while your mind is given more clarity to focus on the deep lyrical depictions.
Niambi Sala and Thandiwe are two Manhattan-based vocalists that are a perfect exemplification of the Neo-Soul melting pot style. Their whole essence is beautiful and powerful, as they sing pure truths in the name of advocacy and equality. Their name was derived from the Yoruba deity, Oshun. Oshun is a deity of fresh waters and governs love, diplomacy, wealth, intimacy, and beauty. She is an aspect of the ocean, the essence of motherhood, and a fierce protector of children. Oshun’s entire vocation is to foster her legacy and keep it alive through their musical endeavors. These two ladies seriously kill it on this track, it further proves the fact that neo-soul is based on conscious lyricism. They speak of fighting against typical convention and living within more spiritual confines
Erykah Badu – On & On
On & On is definitely a classic neo-soul anthem. Erykah Badu is a popular singer-songwriter who got big in the 90’s, this track, being the first big single off the debut album, Baduizm. She claims her music is a bi-product of modern R&B, 70’s soul, and 80’s hip-hop, all meshing together to create a style that is uniquely hers. She first received recognition after opening for D’Angelo in 1994, and was later signed to Kedar Entertainment label, where she released several studio albums. Her jazzy vocals fit perfectly over soulful, boom-bap beats, creating an easeful listening experience that still feels like hip-hop. Bag Lady, one of her more popular songs can be found re-sampled in Dr.Dre’s Xxplosive, proving Erykah’s influence on hip-hop of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. These lyrics have stuck with me ever since first hearing them years ago; “if we were made in his image, then call us by our names, most intellects do not believe in God, but they fear us just the same.” She is a Goddess.
D’Angelo- Brown Sugar
D’Angelo is one of the originators of the Neo-Soul movement, and to this day he remains an anomaly amongst a primarily female based genre of music. In 1995 he released his debut album Brown Sugar, this single being the title track of the album. After gaining much mainstream success, D’Angelo became anxious with his role as a sex symbol, nd sadly found comfort in alcohol. He took a 15-year break from releases, breaking the music fast in 2014 with his album Black Messiah, that reached top 5 on US Billboard charts. Keeping the neo-soul movement alive, it’s easy to see why D’Angelo was regarded as a sex symbol. His smooth lyrics, sly cadence, and intellectual lyricism are what put him at the front of this movement.
In summary, Neo-soul continues to flourish as a cutting edge combination of some of the best genres out there. Sit back, smoke one up, and let yourself be transported by the collage of complimentary sounds.