This time last year, Ashanti, Nelly and Eminem ruled the Billboard year-end R&B/hip-hop charts. This year, it comes as no surprise that one artist dominates the proceedings: rapper 50 Cent.
Parlaying a fervent underground following into record-breaking mainstream success, the Eminem protege claims a host of pop, R&B and rap chart accolades for his recordings, released on Shady/Aftermath/Interscope. His R&B chart achievements include the No. 1 position on the year-end recaps for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists -- Male, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Artists and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album.
But 50 Cent isn’t the only major R&B story of 2003. Several other artists are enjoying year-end chart prominence. Chief among them are R. Kelly, Beyonce and Aaliyah.
Running second to 50 Cent on several recaps -- including Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists -- Male, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Artists and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums -- Kelly outpaces the rapper and other chart rivals thanks to his songwriting and production prowess.
The Chicago native supplants 2002 honorees the Neptunes atop the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Producer recap; Kelly was the go-to guy in 2003. Charting no less than 29 titles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart between Dec. 2, 2002, and Nov. 29, 2003, Kelly produced a diverse lineup of acts from Syleena Johnson to B2K, Michael Jackson and the Big Tymers.
As an in-demand songwriter (with 30 charting titles), Kelly is the leader of a top 10 pack of producers that includes the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, Missy Elliott and Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent).
Having wrapped a U.S. tour this summer, Kelly is a constant studio presence who currently has enough material for four albums, he says, beyond his recently released “The R. in R&B Collection: Volume One.”
Beyonce emerges as this year’s No. 1 Top New R&B/Hip-Hop Artist, despite her career as frontwoman of Destiny’s Child. Her achievement results from the home run she scored as a first-time solo artist on her “Dangerously in Love” album, released through Music World/Columbia/Sony Urban Music.
As happened with Tupac Shakur, Aaliyah’s popularity continues to transcend her untimely death. The singer earns 2003 kudos in the No. 1 spot on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists --Female recap. She finished second in that category last year to title-holder Ashanti.
Reasons to rejoiceWhile it would be easy to lament the state of the industry, there was -- and is -- plenty to be excited about. R&B and hip-hop fully came into their own in 2003. Each birthed subgenres whose impact was heavily felt this year: crunk (Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz), dancehall reggae (Sean Paul) and retro soul (Anthony Hamilton, Calvin Richardson).
The growing mainstream appeal of R&B and hip-hop was validated through sales (50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin”’ clocking in at a record 872,000 units in February and Alicia Keys recently debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with “The Diary of Alicia Keys”). Not to mention recognition from awards shows both new and established (the upcoming Grammy Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, Source Awards, Essence Awards, Vibe Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards).
Aretha Franklin; Al Green; Earth, Wind & Fire; Gerald Levert; and the Isley Brothers recorded new albums that showed they’re not down for the count yet. Luther Vandross scored his best chart showing ever with his “Dance With My Father” album. Capitol got back into the game big-time with Chingy and Javier. And Virgin weighed in with Dwele.