Stick To What You Know: Singers Who Try To Rap
Hip-hop and R&B genres have been so intertwined that having a singer and rapper on one track has become a common practice. But these R&B singers thought that conquering just one genre wasn’t enough and they tried their hands at rapping.
Chris Brown has proven himself as a talented singer and one of the best dancers to grace the stage since Michael Jackson. But in 2011, Brown decided to try something different. Taking advantage of the bad boy image that had been following him ever since he beat up his then girlfriend Rihanna, the “Loyal” singer put out a whole project that had him rapping instead of singing. His “Boy In Detention” mixtape was met with mixed reviews but thankfully Brown has gone back to singing full time. He recently released his sixth studio album “X.”
Mary J. Blige
When she first emerged onto the scene in the early 90’s, Mary J. Blige was immediately crowned the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Although Blige has collaborated with numerous rappers such as Lil Kim, Nas and The Game, she stepped out of her comfort zone for her hit album “The Breakthrough.” On the song “Enough Cryin,’” Blige became her rapping alter ego Brook Lynn and dropped her own 16 bars. Brook Lynn would also make an appearance in Blige’s 2012 album “My Life II.” Blige was recruited by Busta Rhymes for her rapping skills for his “Touch It” remix.
Music Soulchild helped usher in the neo-soul sound that was prevalent in his hometown of Philadelphia. He dropped his platinum-selling debut album back in 2000 and two years later he had the number one album in the country with “Juslisen.” But since then, Musiq Soulchild’s career has floundered. Hoping to create some buzz, the “Girl Next Door” singer has decided to release some new music as his alter ego The Husel. But if you’re looking for more hits along the lines of “Halfcrazy” and “Jus Friends,” you won’t find them in the self-titled “The Husel” mixtape. That’s because Musiq Soulchild has reinvented himself as a rapper.
We were first introduced to Brandy on the short-lived show “Thea.” Even though she was bit by the acting bug, Brandy still pursued her dreams of becoming a singer and she dropped her debut album back in 1994. While she may be known more for her work on “Moesha” or starring on reality television, the “I Wanna Be Down” singer has still devoted time to her music. Back in 2009, while working on new music with producer Timbaland, Brandy decided to try her hand rapping. “What I’m doing on the album is a little bit different than what everybody knows me for,” she said in an interview. “I’m rapping on the album. Timbaland endorsed that. He changed my name to Bran’ Nu. He really gave me a shot to be different and be versatile. I can’t thank him enough for that. This is a wonderful opportunity. I’m blessed to be here.”
When he opens his mouth to sing, Trey Songz has the ladies going crazy. The “Na Na” singer has worked with many popular rappers including Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill but he proved that he could do his own rap verse when he dropped the freestyle ‘Shoulda Been A Rapper” in 2011. And when Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” became popular, Trigga Trey was one of the many artists who dropped their own freestyle to the beat and he rapped about dressing fresh, stacking piles of money and, of course, being a ladies man.
Long before we knew Keyshia Cole as a singer she was flexing her rap skills. The Oakland, California native first met MC Hammer when she was 12 years old and recorded some music with him. A young Cole also worked with 2Pac, who promised to help her launch her singing career and reportedly asked her to write a hook for one of his songs the night he was mortally shot. So maybe being around rappers early on influenced Cole to drop some bars of her own. The “I Changed My Mind” singer did a freestyle of her own to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” before she got her singing career off of the ground.
When he released his borderline raunchy debut single “Birthday Sex,” crooner Jeremih instantly shot to the top of the charts. His debut album “Jeremih” did much better than the follow up sophomore project, but the Chicago native found another hit on his hands this summer with “Don’t Tell Em.” A couple years ago, Jeremih was experimenting with his sound and he stepped in the booth not to sing but to rap over fellow singer Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” beat. Luckily for Jeremih, he has his singing career to fall back on.
T-Pain brought us the wonderful sound of Auto-Tune, paving the way for other singers to emerge by using the technique. But the Miami artist eventually took a break from his signature sound and rapped on a song. Using Drake’s “Successful” for the beat, T-Pain went in on other rappers for not putting dark-skin women in their videos. He also used the song to address his beef with Jay Z, who infamously had the song “Death of Auto-Tune.”
Ryan Leslie is a gifted singer, songwriter and musician. The Harvard grad begged his parents to let him pursue his love for music and they lent him the money for a production studio. Leslie ended up proving his talent to his parents and launched a successful career in music, including producing songs for R&B, hip-hop and gospel artists. On his latest project, Leslie blended rap and R&B in the song “Joan of Arc.” Deciding that he could both be the rapper and the singer, Cassie’s former flame switched it up by singing the chorus but rapping on the verses.
Omarion first rose to fame with the hit boy group B2K. Following the group’s split, Omarion went at it alone with a solo career. His debut solo album was nominated for a Grammy. But after his career stalled out, the “Ice Box” singer struggled to find a new label. He signed with Lil Wayne’s Young Money but after a few months he was looking for a new home once again. Omarion ended up on Rick Ross’ Maymach Music Group imprint and being around rappers may have influenced Omarion in the booth. On his “The Awakening” mixtape with DJ Drama, Omarion included the song “Luke Skywalker,” which featured the singer rapping. Luckily, he only did that for one song.
In 2004, Ne-Yo penned the hit song “Let Me Love You” for Mario and its sudden success led to a recording contract for the singer/songwriter. Since then, Ne-Yo has branded himself as the gentleman singer, often performing in a hat or fedora. But he took a break from his role as a singer in 2008 when Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” was a smash hit. Almost every rapper dropped their own freestyle to the beat. And one singer. Ne-Yo decided to do his own freestyle and his rapping version included a few random shots aimed at fellow singer-wanna-be-rapper Chris Brown.
We first got to know Justin Bieber as an angel-eyed, baby-faced singer from Canada but that image is long gone. Nowadays, Bieber is known more for drag racing exotic cars, egging neighbors and hanging out at the clubs with the likes of Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Lil Wayne. So it should have come as no surprise whem Bieber did what many singers before him have done and tried his hand at rapping. The Biebs became the rapping alter ego Shawty Mane and borrowed Cam’ron and Vado’s “Speaking In Tungs” for his own version of the song. Chris Brown also recruited Bieber’s Shawty Mane back when he did his own project full of rap songs.