For Jacquees, “king of R&B” is a mantra, a statement of purpose, and it bears repeating. He’s a confident man, and to have a conversation with him is to have many sentences end with the punctuating “I’m the king of R&B.” Discuss the growing controversy around his grandiose assertion, he tells the competition to “thank the king.” Cash Money’s resident crooner will interrupt mid-question to make a correction about his debut — 4275 isn’t one of the best R&B albums of the year, it’s the best R&B album.
All of which to say: Rodriquez Jacquees Broadnax isn’t subtle. The 24-year-old has been blunt for the entirety of 2018 and, so far, the gambit has paid off. In September, his Quemix — a combination of his name and the word “remix” — of Ella Mai’s “Trip” briefly eclipsed the original, thanks to the firestorm Jacquees stoked around it (and his acrobatic take on the hit). Eventually it would lead to some controversy: A retweet from a questionable South African news outlet claimed that the “B.E.D.” star was forced to remove the Quemix from SoundCloud and YouTube. It became a trending topic, and Mai’s producer DJ Mustard had to come to the defense of his artist. Jacquees reaped the benefits of the free publicity.
Three months later and Jacquees is at it again. After a show in Rochester, New York he decided to post a bold proclamation to Instagram: “I just wanna let everybody know that I’m the king of R&B right now… For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it’s my time. Jacquees the king of R&B.”
Shit hit the fan. Fans took it as a free-for-all, and R&B stars from past and present rushed to give their own take. Everyone, from J. Holiday to John Legend, weighed in. Diddy’s response was likely the most passionate. “I understand that we’re all kings, I understand the concept of that. But if we’re talking about the competitive arena of music, cats give away the king thing too early,” he shared. “A couple of hits ain’t gon do it.”
Amidst the anger, takes and shenanigans a simple fact remains. Jacquees is a good artist on the precipice of greatness. In many ways, he’s a man lost in time — 4275 is his monument to a style of R&B that’s had a resurgence in 2018, but is far from ruling the charts. In a genre of rappers-turned-singers and singers-turned-rappers, Jacquees is committed to the vocal athleticism that defined R&B for decades, and that most of his competition wouldn’t dare attempt. It’s indebted to the ’90s and early 2000s, when his mother was playing Ginuwine, Jodeci and Boyz II Men.
Over the phone, Jacquees discussed why he’s the king of R&B, his relationship with Diddy and his favorite meme.
In terms of success was 2018 the type of year you’ve been building toward?
2018 has been my biggest year. I thank God every day. This the biggest year I’ve ever had.
4275 was one of the best R&B releases in a stacked year. Were you happy with the recep—
It was the best R&B album this year. It was the best R&B album. You could play it all the way through, no skips. It’s the best one. All the way real R&B, no pop records, none of that. It’s just straight R&B.
Were you happy with the reception from fans and critics?
Yes, I was very happy. At first, I know a lot of people didn’t get it, but now I know they really understand. Now my album in stores. The album sales done picked up, doing really good. My single done picked up. Everything just picking up. I think everybody [is] real satisfied with it, and I know they’ll be very satisfied with my second album.
One of the most touching lyrics on the album is, “My Grandma’s prayers and all of her believin’ / I’m having more success seeing all my ‘chievements / When times get hard, we need someone to believe in.” As far as musicians, do you feel like you’re that person people can believe in?
Definitely, when I was like, “When times get hard, we need someone to believe in” I was just really speaking on my family, but I was speaking for the world too you know? But I definitely think R&B can depend on me for that. I definitely know that R&B can depend on me. I’m the king. I’m in first place of my generation.
What inspired you to name yourself the “king of R&B” for your generation?
That’s a fact.
What inspired it, though? When did you have the idea for that video to be like, ‘This is the time to say it?’
Well, I got off stage and I had just performed in Rochester, New York and it had been on my mind anyway ‘cause I was just thinking like that. People ain’t really doing what I’m doing right now. I listen to everybody’s music. I’m a fan of it all, but for real R&B, ain’t nobody doing what I’m doing.
So I get offstage. I get in the car. I turn on the radio and they like “Yeah, Jacquees just got offstage. He just left Dallas. He on his way to Tampa. Jacquees real work real hard. Man, if you think about it Jacquees the king of R&B for this generation.” They was like “I mean think about it. Think about the kids. Think about you 25-years-old, you 16-years-old, that’s who you listening to. He the most consistent right now and the music he’s dropping right now is R&B. Jacquees is the king of R&B.” I walked in the airport. I sat down and I’m just like, “You know what man? I’m the king of R&B.” That’s what’s going on. That’s how I feel. I been feeling like that before I heard it, but that’s what it is.
For you what’s your distinction between real R&B and R&B that isn’t real?
The beat gotta kinda, the subject, you know — all that kind of stuff.
Did you expect the video to go viral, or be so controversial?
Nah, I ain’t even know it was gonna do all that. I ain’t know they was paying attention. Nah, I’m just playing.
See, if I wasn’t the king of R&B, I really just saved R&B. So everybody who do R&B should be in the studio right now. ‘Cause they paying attention to R&B right now, and they doing it for me. So thank the king. Jacquees of this generation.
I believe you were part of Bad Boy South when you were younger and you’ve met Diddy. What were your thoughts when he posted a video to the [king of R&B] debate?
I know what it is. I’m standing my ground. Puff my man. I went out there and played my album for Puff. I talk to Puff every other day. So it’s like, can’t nobody change my mind. My brother can’t make me say I ain’t the best. I gotta stand my ground. That’s just what it is. I don’t care what nobody say and I ain’t against nobody. I just text Puff. I just sent him a record, because it was like a sample or something like that. It’s all good. You know I’m the king of this generation. So that’s just what it is.
How long by your estimate have you been in the music industry? Because you started really, really young.
I been out here since I was 13.
How did you build on that? Were you handing out mixtapes, were you shaking hands?
Yeah, I come from that era. I know that artists don’t do that no more, like artist development, print your mixtape, print your flyers. It ain’t no internet, for real. I remember when everybody first got on YouTube. When people first started doing all of that. I jumped right on it. I come from all that.
What separates your upcoming sophomore album from 4275?
Subject matter, of course it’s always going to be like the same type of subject, but in a different way of saying it. Different production, this time I’m trying to make you dance a little more. I’m just on a different type of cool. I just want you to get out your seat if you’re in a club or if you’re somewhere I want you to turn it up and jam. I want you to feel like you want to dance, like you want to step or something.
This year, it seemed like you got better at using the internet. Whether it was the Ella Mai controversy or the “King of R&B” comments, your humor about each situation was always at the forefront. How did that happen?
I’m just me. I wasn’t built in the industry. I’m a real person. I just brought my realness to the industry and people think it’s funny, I guess.
What’s been your favorite Jacquees meme of the past couple years?
Probably the “eeEeeeEe.”
The mechanic one?