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10 R&B Acts That Defined the New Jack Swing Era

1980s R&B was defined by a myriad of sounds: from the crossover dance pop of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, to the digital funk of The Time and Cameo, to the smoother adult contemporary fare from artists like Luther Vandross and Anita Baker. As hip-hop had begun its rise to prominence, much of the R&B establishment shunned the genre, but as the decade progressed, attitudes and sounds began to change.

A new generation of producers emerged; bold innovators infusing different elements of hip-hop and dance pop into contemporary R&B. Producers such as Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and L.A. & Babyface would all play major roles in pushing this burgeoning sound onto the mainstream, as New Jack Swing would break through in 1987 and 1988 via hit songs and albums from artists like Keith Sweat, Guy, Karyn White and Bobby Brown. These new R&B artists weren’t averse to hip-hop edge and welcomed aggressively danceable production backing their melodic hits. Some rappers like Heavy D and Big Daddy Kane also embraced New Jack Swing production on some of their biggest crossover hits. By the early 1990s, other hitmakers like Dallas Austin, Bernard Belle and DeVante Swing would add to the lengthy list of New Jack Swing songs and stars taking over music.

The New Jack Swing era was truly the first major wave of hip-hop-styled R&B and it set the foundation for the two genres becoming fused. To pay homage to this historical period in black music, we’ve highlighted ten artists that helped define the New Jack Swing era.

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