The 1990’s was a remarkable decade for many R&B artists that debuted on the emerging urban music scene while collaborating with hip-hop artists to produce some of the best R&B music ever. During the 1990’s, I loved listening to R&B and became a huge fan of D’Angelo, R.Kelly, Maxwell, Joe, Babyface, and Donnell Jones. Their music brings back a lot of great memories of my life growing up in Toronto, so it’s is no wonder they happen to top the list of the six best male R&B singers of the 1990’s.
D’Angelo – The New York City native caught the eye of the R&B world when he released his debut album “Brown Sugar” in 1995. D’Angelo became famous when the single “Lady” became a Top Ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at #10. However, after the commercial success of “Brown Sugar”, D’Angelo took a five year hiatus from making public appearances and speaking to the media, whereby he only released songs for artists Prince and Lauren Hill. His comeback in 2000 with his second album “Voodoo” spawned one hit “How Does it Feel?” where the infamous music video of him naked created a buzz signifying his status as a sex symbol.
R. Kelly – Born in Chicago, Illinois R.Kelly started his career in the R&B group “Public Announcement.” But after they disbanded, R. Kelly debuted his first solo album “12 Play” in 1993 and his first number-one hit, “Bump n’ Grind,” spent a record-breaking 12 weeks at #1 on the Hot R&B Singles chart. Subsequent hit singles from “12 Play” were “Your Body’s Callin'” and “Sex Me.” Kelly’s success in the 1990’s earned him international recognition when he wrote the song “You Are Not Alone” for the late Michael Jackson and “I’m Your Angel” featuring Celine Dion.
He continued to have commercial success in the 2000’s with “Chocolate Factory” that spawned club hits “Snake” and “Ignition.” But after the scandal surrounding his arrest due to child pornography charges surfaced in 2002, Kelly’s music has been overshadowed by his private life.
Maxwell – I still remember when I saw the music video “Till the Cops Come Knockin,” on Much Music, the day after I went out and got his debut album “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite” in 1996. The second single “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” became a smash hit. I loved his music so much that I attended his concert in 2002 at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto and was blown away by his beautiful voice and captivating stage presence. After taking a seven year hiatus, Maxwell still proves that he is talented as he released his long anticipated album “BLACKsummers’night” in July 2009. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Albums Top 200 chart and at this year’s Grammy awards; Maxwell won the Best R&B Album for “BLACKsummers’night” and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Pretty Wings.”
Joe – The sweet soulful singer Joe exploded on the R&B scene when he released his 1997 album,”All That I Am.” This proved to be his breakthrough album, reaching #13 on the Billboard Albums Top 200 chart and #4 on the R&B charts. The hits from this album included the Top 5 R&B song “All the Things Your Man Won’t Do”, the Top 5 R&B/Top 40 pop hit “Don’t Wanna Be a Player”, and “The Love Scene.” Joe’s success in the 1990’s has parlayed him into the 2000’s with his successful single “I Wanna Know” from his third album “My Name is Joe.”
Babyface – He is one of the most successful producers in R&B and pop music who has worked with everyone from Madonna to Mariah Carey, but Babyface enjoyed solo success in the 1990’s when he released his fourth album “For the Cool in You.” The ballad-based album was a commercial sucess when the single “When Can I See You” reached #4 on the U.S charts. Today Babyface continues to produce music for R&B and hip-hop artists such as Monica and Lil’ Wayne.
Donnell Jones – 1999 was a great year for Chicago-based R&B singer Donnell Jones, when he established himself as a true R&B hit maker with his second album, “Where I Wanna Be.” The album yielded number-one hits such as “U Know What’s Up,” which featured TLC member the late Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes on the title track. Other hits included “Shorty Got Her Eyes on Me” and “This Luv”. The album was successful and sold over one million copies. Jones success has been mediocre in the 2000’s, but “Where I Wanna Be” is still one of my favorite R&B albums to listen to.