*(Southfield, MI) – On August 4th, 2021, The National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame announced its 10th Class of Hall of Fame Inductees with little to no fanfare. The number of inductees has now risen to over 200. The lack of media interest and attention is one thing, but there are other alarming segments of the population that have allowed apathy to sink in, when it comes to honoring and respecting R&B music history and its legends: American R&B fans and more specifically, African-American R&B fans.
One of the huge factors for this wave of neglect could be the blurring of the lines between R&B, hip-hop, and Rock music. Billboard’s charts started listing R&B and Hip-hop together on Dec. 11th, 1999 to reflect the blending and mutual influence that each genre had on the other. Radio stations started playing hip-hop and Contemporary R&B on the same stations. R&B artists and hip-hop artists frequently made cameos on each other’s songs. R&B artists started rapping and hip-hop artists started crooning.
When it comes to R&B and Rock music, one of the biggest factors in R&B’s loss of identity is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Every year, rock purists bemoan the fact that an R&B or hip-hop artist like Jay-Z has been inducted into the Rock Hall. On the flip side, R&B artists and their fans are constantly grumbling about their favorite artist being slighted or overlooked by the Rock Hall. Some of these R&B artists are already inducted by the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, but if you were to ask many R&B fans, they would exclaim that they didn’t know there was a National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. What’s even sadder is the fact that many R&B artists that are inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, don’t even mention their National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame induction. Who’s to blame for the lack of respect for the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, which is a federally trademarked organization established in 2010 with eight induction ceremonies under its belt? Could it be the lack of respect by the artists themselves, or is it a collective and shared responsibility by the entire community of R&B fans, the majority of whom are Black?
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In the Black Community, we have always complained about not having our own. We have always realized that seeking validation from non-black institutions is a slippery slope that often leads to marginalization and heartbreaks. Despite history being the best teacher, the R&B community finds itself struggling to be recognized for being the most sampled, most groundbreaking, most innovative, and most influential genre ever produced. Legendary R&B artists are constantly begging for scraps to fall off of the table of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, only to be patted on the head and told to wait until next year. Why beg for scraps from somebody else’s table, when you can pool your resources and not only buy your own table, but also your own food?
Well, National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame Foundation CEO/Founder LaMont Robinson is not a literal carpenter, but he has been on a tireless crusade to honor R&B legends for the past 11 years, by pitching the idea for a permanent monument, in the form of a R&B Hall of Fame, that would bring jobs and a huge economic impact to wherever it is placed. What’s been the reception from the urban communities that he’s pitched this idea to? So far, it’s been an uphill battle. He often runs into obstructionist politics, hidden agendas, and negativity in the press. The shared vision should be the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame being a once in a lifetime opportunity to affect generations of young African-American kids, who can visit a safe space, where their culture is respected and they can see positive images of people that look like them. Instead, the main thrust of the conversation is: HOW MANY CITIES HAVE YOU PITCHED THIS TO? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PAY FOR THIS?
Hailing from the city of Cleveland and now residing in the Detroit area, Robinson has always wanted to see the NRBHOF be supported in an urban area that would be rejuvenated by its presence. Robinson believes that the positivity of such a sanctuary would reduce crime, blight, and poverty. Robinson also went on to say that he thinks if he were to pitch this concept to other countries like Great Britain or American cities without a Black urban center like Las Vegas or Miami, that it would be a hit.
So, who really should bear the brunt of honoring the legacy of R&B? Who benefits the most from R&B? Who created R&B? When you ask these three questions, you may get a variety of answers from people on two of the questions, but there should be a unanimous consensus on the creation of R&B. If R&B is going to be honored, it’s going to take a push from the Black community. Secondarily, artists, corporations, and record companies that benefit from R&B should also be called to action. Now is a grand opportunity for a city to step up and claim this project. Now is a perfect opportunity for a grassroots campaign in the Black Community to take ownership of a multi-billion-dollar genre that they created. Don’t let all the years of discrimination, Jim Crow, violence, and persecution that our R&B artists had to face be in vain. Let’s make this project a reality!”
Lamont Showboat Robinson – CEO/Founder of the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame – https://www.rbhof.com/