Just a little piece in the Detroit Metro Times, Review of the Decade – January 6, 2009 edition. Thanks, W. Kim Heron – editor.
This decade, African-American music did not die — as has been rumored.
Though James Brown — the architect of contemporary black music — passed away, and the end of the decade was marked by the death of Michael Jackson, their passing solidified their seminal influence of popular music.
The re-emergence of R&B’s Maxwell (Black Summer’s Night) is a return to the sheer musicianship and showmanship of bygone days. His bespoke, Marvin-esque persona makes him, along with R&B artist Kem, exemplars of the Rebirth of the Cool or, if you will, the Return of the Grown Man.
Neo-soul newcomer Chrisette Michele’s stupendous, lyrical vocal instrument (Epiphany) is a throwback to Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday, devoid of hip-hop tremolos and atonalism. Marvin L. Winans released a breakthrough tour de force, Alone But Not Alone, the gospel musical equivalent of “spiritual, not religious.”
His brother, Bebe Winans, recorded Cherch — an homage to traditional gems of the sanctified church. African-American music found new life and expression in the last decade, and I am hopeful that it will continue to evolve, true to its roots.