A Little Less Ratchet, A Little More Romance: Where’s The Love In Hip Hop And R&B?

February 11, 2013  |  

Whether it’s Trey Songz crooning he’s about to “Dive In” or Chris Brown moaning about how he’s going to make me “Wet The Bed,” I must be getting old and sensitive because love and hip-hop is a little too raw for me.  Not even 5 years ago, I was attracted to men who were vulgar and explicit and thought those sweet, sensitive guys singing lullabies about walks in the park and candlelit dinners were clowns.  But after years of blatant honesty, I find myself missing the days of middle school when a guy would send me a candy gram in class asking, “Will you go with me?”

A few months ago my colleagues and I decided that we needed some music to break up the monotony of our office days that are otherwise filled with calls from probation officers about parenting classes and random UPS diaper deliveries.  With the help of Pandora, soon we had Marvin Gaye and Sade to serenade us through those long eight hours.  We chose channels that we thought were “safe” for an office of women ranging from their early twenties to their late fifties.  And by “safe” I mean we didn’t want to run the risk of Rihanna exclaiming, “I love it when you eat it,”  in the event that a donor walked through the door. By choosing the Toni Braxton channel, I figured we were in the clear.

Nonetheless after a few times haul assing to my phone to change the channel when I heard the first few notes of “Neighbors Know My Name” drop, it hit me: There aren’t too many men singing about love anymore.  Even back in the day our parents clearly knew exactly that Ronald Isley wasn’t just talking about a hug when he sang “I feel your love surrounding me” on “In Between the Sheets,” but it was a lot more subtle than, “Girl I like the way it opens up when you throw it back baby,” as Chris Brown sings  on 2012.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I have my random ratchet moments where a little wine and some Rick Ross “Diced Pineapples” or “She Will” by Lil’ Wayne doesn’t make me feel like the sexiest broad to ever sip Yellowtail on a Saturday.  When it comes to raunch and romance, I like Chris Brown and Trey Songz because they “go there.”  But sometimes I just want to fall back and hear a man tell me how beautiful I am, not how fat my a** is.

It’s not like thug love didn’t exist when I was a teen. Boys II Men might have been on bended knee begging to make love, but Jodeci didn’t hesitate to hump the stage and let us know that every freakin day they wanted to freak our bodies in every freakin way.  A few years later even LL Cool J and Fabolous had their share of public displays of affection through singles like Hey Lover and Baby. There was a balance back then, but recently when I try to think of anyone mainstream that’s actually singing about love the only artist who comes to mind is Ne-yo and recently he seems to making more songs for the club than for couples.  It’s no wonder why teens today can’t see anything beyond breaking headboards when it comes to relationships.  Women are becoming the worst offenders. When did a man become soft or a sucker for being a gentleman?  Any time a man reveals the slightest bit of sensitivity or emotion we are quick to label him as “soft” or “gay,”but don’t let him refer to us as “bitches” and we’re ready to swing on him…unless of course he’s a rapper and he’s telling us to drop down and get our eagle on. There’s nothing like a little fame and money to make the rules of the regular not apply. Even I must admit it’s been me on some occasions looking all silly and doe-eyed when a man tells me how “bad” I am or that I look like a video vixen. But on some level it’s sad that “I can tell that you’ve been practicin’” is seen as the ultimate form of flattery these days.

I think it’s great that people are talking so openly about sex especially when it comes to people not fearing they’ll be judged for what gender they choose to love or young people being able to ask questions without people assuming they are trying to make a pregnancy pact.   But sometimes people being so TMI about their sexual intentions kills the mystery which as a result kills the mood.  I think that’s why I enjoy Drake so much; he can just as easily hold his own surrounded by bouncing booties on a single like “Pop That” and then turn around and express how vulnerable he actually is on a song like “Hate Sleeping Alone.”

There’s time and place for passion, but as women we can’t wonder where the romance and respect  went when any man who isn’t telling us to bend over and look back at him is considered a clown.  Ladies if we want romance and candlelight, we have to think more about love than dropping it low and spreading it wide.  Fellas, sometimes revealing what you want to stick and lick isn’t nearly as arousing as telling a woman that you just want to hold her.  Romance and ratchet don’t mix and we don’t always want baby-making music as much as we want to boo love.  The subtle art of flirting and courtship needs to be brought back not only to hip hop, but to relationships every where.  That doesn’t have to mean cliched rose petals leading to the bedroom or Barry White and candlelight, but try being a little creative.  I like it rough, but take a note from Otis Redding and try a little tenderness.

Can you think of any R&B artists who still sing about love?

Toya Sharee is a community health  educator  and   parenting education coordinator who has a passion  for helping  young women  build  their self-esteem and make  well-informed choices  about their sexual  health. She  also  advocates for women’s  reproductive rights and blogs about  everything  from  beauty to love  and relationships. Follow her on Twitter   @TheTrueTSharee or visit  her blog Bullets  and  Blessings .


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  • Lily

    Being born in 1993, I didn’t get to grow up with the 90s R&B that I now love. I wish that I could truly anticipate going to a Jodeci, R. Kelly or Babyface concert and having a good time listening to smooth songs about love and passion. The only people I see still trying to sing about love is Jagged Edge. Their 2011 release, The Remedy, was a refreshing mix of ballads about love and heartbreak and songs that refer to sex, but isn’t disgustingly raw. I can’t wait to hear JE Heartbreak II. I’d also like to hear more from Tamia, she’s too underrated.

  • Lauren Love

    The females are going through something too. I like Kelly Rowland and I want her to be successful but these 3 last singles that she has put out have been about nothing but sex. And it makes her seem to a degree. She had “motivation” then “ice” then this kisses down low song. There has to be something more our another way to deliver it. They were saying how done of the other guys were just being guys. Is she just being a girl? Or is this one of those situations where the woman is just saying what she wants?

    • Ce1999

      I have to agree. Kelly seems like she’s trying Rihanna’s route.

  • Leila

    I’d say Mario although he has a few sexual songs too. He had a song called “I choose you” on his last album D.N.A but it was written by Babyface. I’m nostalgic of the early 2000s. It’s funny that I came across this article because I’ve just downloaded Craig David’s “Born to do it” and “Slicker than your average” albums. I was like 9 when his first album came out and I was way too young to really appreciate it. There are so many underrated artists like him, Mario, Tiffany Evans, JoJo, etc. If we really want good music, we should support real artists. I used to love Chris Brown’s music but I got really turned off when he released “Exclusive” because I perceived like a failed attempt of showing how grown he was.

  • FunnyChick

    Although i dont trust him, but i thought what Yandi did for her son’s father was sweet. I mean he is lower than a piece of excrement (although he was found not guilty, i still get bad vibes from him) i thought Yandi making that video for him was creative… and very refreshing to see over all the arguing.

  • Is It 5:00 Yet?

    That’s why I listen to my Pandora radio more than the actual radio.

  • BedStuyBklynChica

    I have noticed for a longtime that R&B has gone in a completely different direction. That is why I keep old school R&B in rotation at home, in the car and work!! On any given day you will hear me rocking out to Teena Marie, Rick James, Teddy Pendergrass, Prince, Teedra Moses, Earth, Wind and Fire, Isley Brothers, Jodeci, Guy, SWV etc. This is what I call grown folks music!!!! 🙂

    • Observing

      Amen! I could ride with you.

      I can’t ride around listening to Riding round, I’m gettin’ it, Nikki Minaj, Future, Chris Brown, etc. People really bother me with this mess. And it REALLY kills me when adults want to play that crap around me. I swear, I feel ratchet just thinking about that horrible music….lol.

      But you, you have GREAT taste in REAL music. Bless you girl!

  • Aneesah

    Hmmmmm. No mention of Miguel whose biggest hit “let my love Adorn you” or Frank Ocean’s entire album, “channelORANGE” that was arguably one of the best R&B albums in awhile and the most vulnerable I’ve ever heard. Jhene Aiko? Solange? Do you even listen to R&B? lol

    I agree there is a surplus of vulgar R&B artists like Trey Songz and CB. But there are also artists like those mentioned above who are fiercely innovative and are changing the face of R&B and how we think of and listen to it. Please don’t let Pandora or the radio be your only representation of what “good music” sounds like.

    • Toya Sharee

      Thanks, Aneesah. I knew there were some others out there (still nearly not enough). But even when I made these suggestions to friends before I wrote this article, some of them responded, “Well Frank Ocean doesn’t count because he writes songs about men.” Miguel is pretty good though. Obviously it doesn’t matter who the songs are about; love is love. But here’s an experiment we all should try: Turn to a popular radio station and see how often they play Frank Ocean or Miguel in comparison to Chris Brown, Trey or even Lil’ Wayne. I’m curious to see if they’re qually played. (Oh and I know damn well they don’t even have Jhene or Solange in rotation although I loved Sailing not Selling).

      • guest

        maybe some women can relate to Frank, however, id rather listen to men who sing songs about women, not other men. People say love is love, but they are still different.

        • pretty1908

          some of your favorite male r&B singers sung about men but disguised them as women what’s the difference?…..ill wait

          • guest

            seriously how about the fact they presented them as women. That is the main difference..come on now.

            • pretty1908

              oh !

      • Observing

        Kills me when they say that, ” I don’t listen to Frank Ocean. He’s gay”, crap.

        Who gives a fvck who he fvcks. ITS ABOUT THE MUSIC! AND HIS IS AMAZING…

        Thank you for your comment.

    • Ooh La La

      Miguel has a song on his latest album called “Tell Me That That P*ssy Is Mine.” And others that are highly sexual too. He definitely in the CB/Trey Songz category.

      • Is It 5:00 Yet?

        He also had a song called Quickie on his first album. It’s not talking about a quick breakfast either.

    • Observing

      OMG! Truth….

      Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is simply brilliant.
      My heart beats faster just thinking over some of those songs from that album. Its pure art and pure beauty.

  • Meyaka

    I just had words with someone about this very topic yesterday,I don’t have the energy but I will say this:” ratchet music for ratchet females”,basically this generation has no standards and no moral so Hollywood is banking on it.

  • FB

    Hahaha… ..My wife will not ride in my car unless she play her music instead of mine. I don’t think I have bad taste in music. I mean…You’ll find a little bit of baby face, r kelly, elton john, u2, heather headley, the isley brothers. I think these are good music.

  • OSHH

    This newer R&B is just vulgar, stupid and emotionless for the most part.

    No subtlety, or finesse, or cleverness, or romance and unfortunately like mentioned in another comment it is “art” (used loosely here) imitating life.

    I thought my generation was crass and misogynistic but this newer one takes it to new heights.

    I feel bad for these younger girls and women but I hope and pray they have some type of example to show them that respect is just a minimum and they do not have to go along to get along etc, that they should have standards, self love, self respect etc and not to lower them for some idiots attention and or advances.

  • bluekissess

    Unfortunately, times have changed for the worse. Apparently, sex sells. I really don’t buy it. It’s a desensitization. People need to wake up and take a stand especially mother’s.

  • pickneychile

    They say art imitates life, but these days life imitates art. I can’t deal with overly explicit music period. It doesn’t “turn me on” to hear Trey or Usher or any of those artists singing about what they do and how they do it. If anything it actually turns me off. Reminds me of those lame kids in high school who would hype themselves up to make themselves seem cool…go away with that foolishness.

  • Taj

    Instead of going too deep into this trend, I am just going to call it like I see it. When I see people like Trey or even Chris Brown, I still see “Boys” trying to prove their MANHOOD through their music. As a connoisseur of R&B music, I remember how there was a transition from Freddie Jackson and Luther Vandross in the 80’s to groups such as Silk, LSG, and Jodeci in the 90s. Even though groups such as Silk and Jodeci had some explicit and slightly raunchy lyrics in certain songs, they still have the notion of courtship, art of seduction, and appreciation of the female form in many of their music. But today, it is all about the Ego of the artist as opposed to conveying a feeling and being creative. However, I don’t feel that their music are geared towards women like me who wants music that speaks to them mentally but young girls and impressionable women who thinks a man making notice of their assets is a compliment.

    • pretty1908

      exactly the notion of courtship and actually being connected to someone outside of having their genitals compressed…i miss those days when love is celebrated not treated as an affliction and disability.

      • Ce1999

        “i miss those days when love is celebrated not treated as an affliction and disability.” Yes! So eloquently put.

  • J.Reed

    Tank has great balance. He’s a grown man (every man) who will give you “Don’t Give Up” and”When” but will also put his heart on the table with “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, “Next Breath”, or “Please Don’t Go” etc….. He makes it cool to be vulnerable but also reassures you that he’s a man. It seems if you’re over 30 and singing about real love they label it adult contemporary and no one wants to hear it in the mix of all the b.s.

  • Clara

    I’m so glad people especially women have began to take notice on this growing trend. It seems to me that there is a lack of subtlety and dare I say it.. Respect that these artists have for women. I am a human being and a woman and don’t want to hear how you’re gonna “dive in” I have morals and standards and I want to be talked to and treated with respect and NOT TREATED like I’m some object. Idk how we’ve come to a time where most men think that just talking like that to a woman will get her. It may work on other women but definately not me.

    • bluekissess

      It’s allowed because women allow it. Fans allow it. Sold out concerts that formula has been working

  • Nikki

    There are still some wonderful R&B songs out there, but many of them are dirty and graphic.

  • pretty1908

    i agree