2009 brought the most interesting mix in urban music we have seen in years. As R&B music fans anticipated a comeback for real soul music coming to the forefront, the hopes were met with return of R&B/pop diva Whitney Houston and soulful crooner Maxwell having albums flying off the shelves. Even the passing of R&B/pop legend Michael Jackson demonstrated to music fans worldwide the importance of creating timeless music that remains relevant beyond its shelf life. Pop superstar Beyonce may have positioned herself into icon status with the groundbreaking music video "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." Additionally, emerging artists Trey Songz, Chrisette Michele and Ne-Yo seen the best year in music both critically and commercially and new acts Jasmine Sullivan, Jennifer Hudson and Keri Hilson made impressive debuts.
In hip-hop music, the rise of newcomers Drake and Gucci Mane showed that fans could not get enough of their guest appearances and their own hits. Hitmaking rapper Kanye West changed the game of hip-hop with an entire auto-tune album which met with mixed results by critics despite its best seller status. Veterans Jay-Z, Eminem, Ludacris and T.I. prolonged their staying power with chart-busting anthems and club bangers.
With all the diversity in urban music in 2009, what music artist reigned supreme? Check out G-Magazine Now's Top 15 Music Artists of 2009.
R&B singer Chrisette Michele built a nice following of fans amongst hip-hop's elite before her debut album was released in 2007. After shining on appearances on records by Jay-Z, Nas and The Game, Michele caught the attention of new fans of the buying public who loved her bluesy, raspy, wailing voice. Though her debut sold moderately, anticipation built when the sophomore album Epiphany arrived in stores. With the hot single "Epiphany" going to the top 20 of the R&B charts, great promotional tour and winning reviews from critics, the album made the biggest shock of 2009 by taking the #1 position in its debut week over Ciara's Evolution album, which was widely predicted to outsell Michele.
- After a strong impression with her debut single "Need U Bad" on the R&B charts in 2008, R&B songstress Jazmine Sullivan kept the momentum going in 2009 with the follow-up single "Bust Yo Windows." Though the top five R&B tune was considered controversial and silly, that did not deter Sullivan from capturing many nominations as a new artist on several award shows including the Grammys. Jazmine released three more singles "Dream Big," "Lions, Tigers & Bears" and "In Love With Another Man," which became a soundtrack single to the gay cult film Noah's Arc: Jumping The Broom and the buzz single to her debut before "Bad" was released.
Following the monstrous success of her sophomore album effort Just Like You, R&B starlet Keyshia Cole rushed her third album A Different Me to take over 2009. It led with the moderate hit "Playa Cardz" right with the late great rapper 2Pac. Soon, Cole followed up with two more top 10 R&B hits "You Complete Me" and the powerful duet "Trust" with embattled R&B diva Monica. "Trust" created much anticipation for new Monica material while creating a buzz for another great R&B ballad single for Ms. Cole. Unfortunately, a fourth single, allegedly "This Is Us", was scrapped due to the singer's pregnancy. Wouldn't it be nice to see Ms. Cole's child become a musical force to reckon 20 years from now?
Though he did not need an album promote to keep his strong momentum continuing from the surprising success from his 2008 Tha Carter III album, New Orleans emcee Lil' Wayne became the guest rapper du jour to those who needed extra promotion on their singles and albums. The list contained artists from all genres including Madonna, Shakira, Keri Hilson, Amerie, Drake, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes and Chris Brown. From the A-listers to the newest acts, everyone needed a touch of Lil' Wayne in their music.
Fresh off his multiple Grammy nominations for his groundbreaking Year Of The Gentleman album, Ne-Yo delivered two additional hit singles with "Miss Independent" and "Mad." His relevance in urban and pop music appeal made him a sought after guest singer on hits by rap heavyweights 50 Cent and Flo-Rida and on Keri Hilson's #1 hit single "Knock You Down." 2009 became the year in R&B/Hip-Hopfeaturing Ne-Yo.
Urban/pop superstar Rihanna began 2009 with a worldwide #1 "Live Your Life." With T.I. as the lead artist of that hit, it was Rihanna's feature that pushed it to the top of the charts worldwide. She also released "Rehab," the final single from her multi-platinum Good Girl Gone Bad album, which became a modest hit that featured Justin Timberlake. A violent incident involving her famous ex-lover Chris Brown quieted her for months until her guest appearance on Jay-Z's "Run This Town" to which her touch made it become a worldwide hit. The release of her controversial hit single "Russian Roulette" and the R&B hit "Hard" made the anticipation of her new album Rated R very high with her best debut sales week ever in most countries.
9. Kanye West
2009 became the most controversial year for critically-acclaimed rapper Kanye West. His choice in relationships and posse friends have been under scrutiny, though not as much as his music. His latest album 808's & Heartbreak drew mixed reaction from criticism due to his departure from rapping and using the often-mocked AutoTunes in singing every song. The criticism did not prevent West in earning near chart-topping hits "Love Lockdown" and "Heartless." West also spiced up more hits as a guest rapper on chart toppers "Knock You Down" by Keri Hilson, "Run This Town" by Jay-Z and "Forever" by Drake. Being a great scene stealer for better or worse, Kanye's appearance on Beyonce's "Ego" drew more praises than its original song version and music video.
Trey Songz can be crowned as the R&B crooner of the year for many reasons. He earned four top ten R&B singles in 2009 including the #1 tune "I Invented Sex" featuring rapper du jour Drake. The chart-topper was accompanied by a steamy, sexual music video that kept the blogs and fans buzzing about it for days. Songz also saw his singles "LOL =-)," "Say Aah" and "I Need A Girl." finding major success in urban radio. His newfound popularity also drew established R&B acts Toni Braxton and Amerie to acquire him to guest appear on their latest singles. Even, current hip-hop rookie of the year Drake was blessed to have Trey to return the favor on the #3 urban music hit "Successful," an anthem for many fans this year.
6. Gucci Mane
Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane has the success story in hip-hop that only a few of hip-hop's elite can lay claim. Before his official debut album as a major artist, The State Vs. Radric Davis, hit stores a few weeks ago, many R&B and rap stars hired him to create hot verses on their singles. He even stole the spotlight on Mario's #2 R&B hit "Break Up." Pop diva Mariah Carey acquired Gucci to deliver hot sixteen bars on the remixes of "Obsessed" and "H.A.T.E. U ." After appearing on tracks by Omarion, Teairra Mari, Lil' Wayne and dozen other artists, he created more hits as a leading artists with "Wasted" (featuring Plies) and "Spotlight" (featuring Usher). While it is unfortunate that Gucci cannot promote his recent debut album's release because his jail term, his success on the charts will carry him over until his release.
Singer/songwriter Keri Hilson waited patiently to see her dreams as a mainstream recording artist to come to light. It started with several buzz singles that failed to impress listeners and fans since 2007. The breakaway single "Turnin' Me On," featuring rapper Lil' Wayne, took off all the way towards the top of the R&B charts and became a club staple throughout the spring and summer months of 2009. "Knock You Down," the follow-up single, featured Ne-Yo and Kanye West and became a global hit garnered her many nominations at major awards shows as a new artists and her first #1 single in New Zealand and top five pop single as a lead artist in America, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Despite having the help of very popular friends to earn hits, Hilson's live performances, especially at the BET Awards made people take her talents seriously.
If absence truly makes a heart grow fonder, the eight-year hiatus that smooth R&B crooner Maxwell took proved that his fans' wants and desires for new music remained greatly. After many false promises about the release date of his BLACKsummers'night album, fans waited patiently and greeted him to a #1 chart position with more than 300,000 units sold. Additionally, Maxwell earned his first #1 single since 1999 with "Pretty Wings," having that position that position for 14 weeks and tying Jaime Foxx's "Blame It" as the longest-running #1 R&B single of 2009. Follow-up single "Bad Habits" rose to #4 on the same charts and also produced one of the steamiest, sultriest and most talked-about music video of the year. With all the watered-down singing and songwriting that dominated R&B music this decade, Maxwell's achievements prove that timeless R&B music still reigns.3. Drake
If critics cried foul claiming that Lil' Wayne is all over radio and singles in 2009, his protege Drake take the crown for guest rapper du jour this year. The rap rookie appeared on many radio and club singles by Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx, Timbaland, Trey Songz, Birdman, Eminem and Lil' Wayne, two of which made #1 on the urban music charts. His own singles "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful" topped the charts and music video requests in preparation for his highly anticipated mixtape So Far Gone. Seeing his rising popularity, rap icons Kanye West and Lil' Wayne invited the popular rookie to perform on their individual tours as an opening act. He also carried the new Young Money rap collective into stardom with hits "Bedrock" and "Every Girl." If the former TV teen star could garner this much triumph in his first year as a rapper, he may earn icon status sooner than those legends who paved the way for him if he plays his cards right.
While music entertainment legend Michael Jackson worked on his upcoming comeback concert tour This Is It, he died leaving millions of fans and critics stunned. The feeling lies in the fact that there will never be another talent as good as Jackson in our lifetime. The successes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and other music mega stars pale in comparison. Though his popularity grew immensely in life, his death proved that his legacy was no fluke. Since the passing of Jackson, his entire catalog sold out by the hundreds of thousands as new hit compilations from the entertainer's work sold by the millions globally. His impending concert turned into a documentary that sold out in movie theaters globally during its limited release. The years-long debates of whether his Off The Wall album was better than Thriller or "Billie Jean" was better than "Man In The Mirror" demonstrates the genius of a music legend who created the greatest hits of his generation and those that succeed it. Long live the only King of Pop.
Must there be any explanation with Beyonce is the queen of urban music in 2009? Her album I Am...Sasha Fierce outsold all albums released in 2009. She successfully charted seven singles including "If I Were A Boy," "Halo" and "Sweet Dreams." The most noteworthy feat of Ms. Knowles' success this year, and maybe her career, is that pop culture phenomenon creation from her worldwide #1 single "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." Its iconic video won almost every eligible top award have been the most mimicked and viewed video on YouTube. Her worldwide tour sold out in many cities. She became the go-to woman to participate in the line-ups of award shows. Though faced with stiff competition in the pop music market, Beyonce proved to be an unstoppable force in music and entertainment.