R&B as a genre distinction is mostly meaningless at this point. There are a host of reasons — the popularization of the rapper-singer, the broadening of what is considered R&B and pop co-opting the sound without taking on the classification — but artists are still down to argue over a throne presiding over a dwindling kingdom.
Jacquees set the R&B world asunder with one bold proclamation: “I just wanna let everybody know that I’m the king of R&B right now,” the Cash Money singer stated in a video posted to Instagram this weekend. “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.”
Everyone reacted swiftly. His current competition, one hit wonders and legends all decided to weigh in immediately, setting Twitter ablaze for most of Monday. Trey Songz and Ty Dolla $ign dropped laughing emojis, which could mean a lot of things or (more likely) be the sassiest of subs. J. Holiday of “Bed” fame decided to record a video outside where he challenged Jacquees’ “bullshit” assertion before a passerby unwittingly asked the singer if he was the valet, possibly proving Jacquees’ point. The most measured artist was the ever-cool John Legend, who questioned the parameters of the genre and whether the biggest artists fit into them anymore.
“Honestly I don’t think there is a king of r&b right now. Anyone consistently dominating the charts, selling out arenas, etc, a la Usher at his prime. Not a comment on quality. I think the throne is open right now,” Legend tweeted. “Part of me is talking myself into saying Bruno or the Weeknd but I’m not sure they neatly fit into the genre.”
To Jacquees’ credit, 4275 is one of the best R&B albums of the year. Although, when it comes to the male side of the genre, that isn’t saying much in 2018. Usher’s A received such a lukewarm reception from fans, a rumor spread that the Atlanta singer had created a burner Twitter account devoted to defending his legacy. Trey Songz dropped two albums that failed to make much of a critical or commercial dent compared to his previous work. Last year, Chris Brown dropped a 57 song album, which seemed like 57 slow grasps at recapturing past relevancy.
In a year, where artists like Janelle Monáe, H.E.R. and Ella Mai are winning acclaim and multiple Grammy nominations, it’s maybe a more fruitful discussion to widen the search for the ruler that’s sitting atop R&B’s throne (Kehlani pointed out the most obvious candidate on Twitter (it’s Beyoncé). They’re not hiding.