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.