The Year In R&B: 2003

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
For many, 2003 was a good year in music. Jay-Z's Black Album, 50 Cent took over the game with Get Rich or Die Trying, and the hip hop genre was seemingly flourishing. In the R&B genre, we had gone through changes, and experienced a Neo-Soul movement, a minimal focus on bedroom anthems, and more of a focus on love, hurt, pain and in a lesser way, empowerment. Alicia Keys and Beyonce seemingly created what felt like women empowerment songs during the change, as their 2nd and debut albums respectively had anthems of that sort, while the down home Southern vibe of an artist like Anthony Hamilton gave a whole different perspective. The year as a whole for the genre was interesting with a lot of diverse releases. Let's get into it.

2003 was a great year for R&B. There were a lot of highlights this year that I'll get right into. Ashanti had become a household name after being hot the last couple summers, and she dropped "Chapter 2", which was a good sophomore project. "Rock Wit U" led the album while "Rain On Me" & "Sweet Baby" are the gems on it.

"The Diary of Alicia Keys" was the follow up to "Songs In A Minor". This album had nice songs like "Karma", "You Dont Know My Name" & "If I Ain't Got You". She also churned out probably my favorite song of hers ever with "Diary", and it's just a beautiful song.

Monica released "After The Storm" which features the hit "So Gone" which recently became even bigger because of the social media craze with the "So Gone Challenge". My favorite song on here is "U Should've Known Better". Also, Kelis was bringing the boys to the yard with her "Milkshake". We know this had the homie Nas hemmed up. Another anthem under her belt with the Pharrell sound.

Beyonce broke away from her successful girl group "Destiny's Child" by going solo releasing "Dangerously In Love" and it was a star studded release with the likes of Jay Z, Big Boi, Missy Elliott, Luther Vandross and Sean Paul. She had a lot a competition with all the female acts who already had their foot in the ground so she had to come out blazing and she did with cuts like "Crazy In Love", "Naughty Girl" "Baby Boy" & "Dangerously In Love", which is probably most people's favorite song on the tracklist, but for me I'll go with "Me, Myself & I".

Around this time, latinos were getting their shine in the R&B realm. Lumidee was popping with "Never Leave You (Uh Oooh)", Baby Bash had the R&B/hip hop mashup "Suga Suga", Frankie J had "Dont Wanna Try" and Amanda Perez had a nice ballad with "Angel".

Other singles that caught my ear on the year are as follows:
Latif- I Dont Wanna Hurt You
Lil Mo- 1st Time & 4 Ever
Avant- Don't Take Your Love Away
Wayne Wonder- "No Letting go"
Ginuwine- In Those Jeans
Anthony Hamilton- Charlene & Comin From Where I'm From

As for the best album of the year, I have to give it to one of my favorite R&B groups, Jagged Edge, as they released their 4th album "Hard". I wasn't sure how this one would turn out because sometimes groups tend to get a little stagnant, but as soon as I heard "Walked Out of Heaven", I was sold. This had your soulful up tempo tracks like "Girl Gone Wild" & "Shady Girl", slow jams like "Visions", "I Dont Wanna" & "In The Morning" as well. The song I loved the most on here was "What's It Like To Be In Love". This was an all around dope album.

2003 was definitely a great year for the R&B genre.

2003 was a very interesting and important year for R&B. This was the year Kelis’ “Milkshake” dominated charts, we saw the beginning of a (short lived) R&B “beef” and a handful of other releases as well as a critical debut. Let’s go through the albums that made this such an important year.

One of my favorite releases comes from Jagged Edge with their album “Hard”, and while this isn’t a perfect album, the lead single “Walked Outta Heaven” almost carries the entire thing. Jagged Edge manages to redeem themselves after their ’01 release by giving us over a dozen love ballads. While the topic choice remains repetitive, and the beats, synthesizers and bass sounds are also familiar, we do get an appearance from Outkast’s Big Boi on the bonus track “Car Show”, which was a great addition. This wasn’t my favorite release of the year but “Walked Outta Heavan” was and still is one of my favorite R&B tracks so their mention is much deserved.

I don’t know how many people remember this guy, but 2003 was the year that “(Fuck It) I Don’t Want You Back” by Eamon was released. No one really knew who he was, where he was from or anything else for that matter, but what we did know, was he sang one of the most emotionally explosive songs of the year. What we tend to forget was the song was part of a full album, but since the track blew up so quickly and fizzled out just as fast, listeners didn’t hear much about it. Eamon appealed to the men more than the women (just by nature of the lyrics), but nevertheless it would result in a “clap back” track by Frankee who released “F U Right Back” some months later (in 2004). It is undeniable that Eamon was talented as he could sing and his slow smooth vocals and tempo were a great addition to R&B, but his downfall would be his immaturity in conveying those emotions. The biggest critique he received was that his songs were more “whining and complaining” than actual recounting of experiences. With that said, Eamon entertained but we didn’t hear much from him afterwards.

The most notable debut of the year comes from none other than Beyoncé. This was the year she released “Dangerously In Love”; which was not only a great album, but it would be the beginning of her “Queen Bey” and “Bey Hive” empire. Since being the most highlighted member of Destiny’s Child, fans knew she could deliver and she did. “Crazy In Love” feat. Jay-Z was the high energy hip hop infusion that displayed Bey’s range and “Baby Boy” feat Sean Paul brought us the sounds of dancehall which was a nice variation and she didn’t stop there. She also featured Big Boi, Luther Vandross and Missy Elliot to round out the album. She keeps the features to a minimum and allows her vocals and talent dominate. I’m not a huge fan of Beyonce, but I do think she did a fantastic job with this debut and it catapulted her to an R&B powerhouse some years later.

Another one of the highlights this year is “Chocolate Factory” by R. Kelly. This was the album that gave us “Step In The Name Of Love”, “Ignition” and of course “Snake”. This was where R. Kelly ventured off and became a little more explicit lyrically, while still managing to incorporate the romantic feel we know we can expect from him. His beats are great, with enough bounce and smoothness that makes the album appealing to just about anyone. Despite being released at a time when he was facing several legal issues, and thus causing some eyebrows to be raised with the lyrics in the songs, this was a well received album and a great addition to the year.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, R&B is a genre incredibly rich with talent and each time a year is highlighted we see just how true that is. While I only named a couple, there were many more. For example, Alicia Keys released “The Diary Of Alicia Keys”, Ashanti released her sophomore project “Chapter II” and Ginuwine released his fourth album “The Senior”, all of which are great albums as well. They really made the early 2000’s memorable and are still appreciated some thirteen years later.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-For me, my favorite moments came from the albums of my usual favorites in the genre like Ginuwine with his 4th album "The Senior", and the legendary Isley Brothers with their album "Body Kiss". As for the biggest albums from the ladies, Mary J. Blige would hit us with "Love & Life", Ashanti came with Chapter II, Alicia released her classic "The Diary of Alicia Keys", while Beyonce released her debut "Dangerously In Love", which featured what I feel is her best song ever "Speechless". However, my two favorite albums on the year from the ladies come in the from of the soulful sounds of Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse, with their "Worldwide Underground" and "Frank" albums respectively. Blu Cantrell would release an album, as would Kelis, which featured my favorite of hers featuring Andre 3000 titled "Millionaire", a great song in general. Monica had what felt like a small comeback, as she had huge singles with "So Gone" and "Knock Knock" off After The Storm, which seemed to rival her projects from the 90s in popularity. Lovers of cornbread and soul vocals managed to be introduced on a larger level to Anthony Hamilton who released one of the most heartbreaking songs in "Charlene" this year. Overall, 2003 is a pretty solid year for R&B, one that has something for everyone.



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