Christian R&B

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Christian R&B (also known as gospel R&B, rhythm & praise music, and R&P) is a subgenre of rhythm and blues music consisting of tracks with Christian-based lyrics or by musicians typically known for writing such songs. Music in this genre intends to uplift, entertain, or to give a Christian perspective on a topic. Christian R&B could be considered a subgenre of gospel music, or a cross-genre under both gospel and R&B.

Origin and musical style[edit]

Gospel music is one of the roots or influences of R&B music.[1][2] While it might seem as if Christian R&B should be the subgenre of gospel music, R&B is rooted in several music genres and has developed over the decades, making its musical characteristics audibly different from the musical nuances of gospel music. Yet some modern musicians mix R&B elements with gospel music elements.

R&B originated between the 1940s and 1950s,[3] and Christian R&B followed close behind. Christian rhythm and blues have the same musical characteristics heard in regular or secular R&B music, with the only major difference between the two being the lyrics. Some Christians who perform R&B may not explicitly mention God, Jesus Christ, or other overtly religious terms, but their lyrics still fit within the Christian moral standards, or may be ethically neutral.[citation needed]

A few early gospel R&B musicians can be found as far back as the 1950s. One R&B vocal group, for example, known as the Orioles, sang "gospel-styled reworkings of songs that had been popular country, blues, or R&B songs."[4] In 1953, the Orioles recorded a gospel song called "Crying in the Chapel"; yet the band was considered to be R&B.

A strong influence on the merging of gospel and R&B came from Sam Cooke. He started out as the lead singer for the gospel group Soul Stirrers, but had always loved blues and jazz.[5] He would incorporate elements from these two musical styles into his gospel recordings. Even though he was making a nice living, he wanted to venture into secular music. In 1956, for fear he would upset his fans, bandmates, and his record label, he released his first R&B single (called "Lovable") under the assumed name 'Dale Cooke'. Because his voice is distinctive, people were not fooled by the name Dale Cooke.[citation needed]

Soon, other singers followed Cooke's footsteps, crossing over from gospel to R&B/soul and merging the two.[6] Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown are other important figures who combined gospel and R&B.

In the early age of R&B, the musicality distinguishing gospel from R&B was blurred. There was little or no way to tell whether a person was listening to gospel music or R&B music,[7] unless they paid close attention to the lyrics.

Public reaction and acceptance[edit]

The success of a person's Christian music is partly based on how the songs are composed and who is performing those songs. Even secular R&B artists are known to record Christian music.[8][9] There are Christian singers with a balanced R&B and contemporary gospel blend whereas other singers fuse hip hop with contemporary R&B, a combination that has been in existence since the 1980s.[10][11] Singers in the former will mainly attract those who prefer gospel music, and singers in the latter appeal to those who favor hip-hop and contemporary R&B. Some artists, like Canton Jones, tend to alternate between both combinations, which may have garnered him a relatively larger audience than those who fuse gospel sounds only or hip-hop sounds only.

Religious reaction[edit]

Many people continuously listen to their favorite style of music after professing their Christian faith. They begin to find sacred music of the same genre. This would mean that those who listen to R&B music could still do so after their religious conversion, embracing artists like J. Moss, Canton Jones, Mary Mary, One Nation Crew, 21:03, Mali Music, Cynthia Jones, and Debra Killings.

Some Christian circles believe certain musical styles are inherently immoral, even if positive lyrics are being sung over the music.[12][13] They say genres like rap, rock, blues and R&B should not mix with Christian music[14][15] and that music should never veer away from the topic of Jesus, praise, or worship.[16] In light of this info, it is no surprise that secular artists are backlashed after releasing gospel records.[9] Several R&B artists like Dave Hollister, Michelle Williams, Shei Atkins, Kelly Price, Coko, Shirley Murdock, James Ingram, Al Green, Montell Jordan and Aretha Franklin[8] are said to have straddled the fence.

In 2012, gospel singer Johnny Mo appeared on Christian television program Atlanta Live singing a Christian imitation of R. Kelly's 1994 hit "Bump n' Grind", titled "I Don't See Nothing Wrong with Living for Jesus".[17][18][19] Some of the comments on Madame Noir[17] supported this song while others rejected it. One of the issues that some Christian music listeners may have with listening to Christianized versions of secular music is that the newer Christian version may cause the listener to have a flashback, tempting that listener to commit behaviors they no longer wish to enact.[20]

Secular reaction[edit]

Devout Christians are not the only ones enjoying Christian/gospel music. As one blogger who claims to be a black atheist said, "It’s not about the message. It’s about the sound and the feeling."[21] He goes on to say that although he doesn't believe in a god nor in the testimonies of gospel artists, he accepts gospel music because it is rooted in his African heritage.

It is generally known that people listen to music that they can relate to. In this case, non-Christians and those who aren't serious about the faith may sometimes come across Christian music that affects them in emotions (giving them hope)[22][23] or entertainment (loving the style of music without necessarily caring for the lyrics).

Mary Mary, the R&B/gospel singing duo, released their single "God in Me" in 2008, featuring Kierra "KiKi" Sheard. On the Billboard charts, the song peaked at No. 68 on the Hot 100 chart,[24] reached the top 5 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart during its 43rd week,[25][26] and went No. 1 on both the Dance Club Songs[27] and Hot Gospel Songs charts.[28] Mary Mary had another popular song, "Shackles (Praise You)", released between 1999 and 2000, peaking at No. 9 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart[29] and No. 28 on the Hot 100 chart.[30]

Yolanda Adams is another popular R&B/gospel singer, whose successes include four albums that reached the top 10 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Billboard chart.[31] Her album Mountain High, Valley Low was on the chart for 94 weeks and peaked at No. 5. Her album Believe remained on the chart for 67 weeks and peaked at No. 7. Day By Day charted for 58 weeks and peaked at No. 4, and The Best of Me peaked at No. 9 while being on the chart for 18 weeks.

Without going into further chart performances for other R&B/gospel musicians, the two examples above reveal that these songs/albums were not only played on gospel channels, and that they were received by secular audiences. Other musicians whose music charted among the top 10 or close to the top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop songs and the top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop Albums are Oleta Adams,[32][33] J. Moss,[34] Trin-i-tee 5:7,[35] BeBe Winans,[36] and CeCe Winans.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Handyside, Christopher. A History of American Music: Soul and R&B. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2006. Print.
  2. ^ Mendelson, Aaron. American R&B: Gospel Grooves, Funky Drummers, and Soul Power. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2013. Print.
  3. ^ Handyside, Christopher. A History of American Music: Soul and R&B. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2006. Print.
  4. ^ Handyside, Christopher. A History of American Music: Soul and R&B (p. 8). Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2006. Print
  5. ^ Woog, Adam (2014). The History of Gospel Music. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books. p. 87.
  6. ^ Woog, Adam (2014). The History of Gospel Music. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books.
  7. ^ Woog, Adam (2014). The History of Gospel Music. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books. pp. 83–84.
  8. ^ a b Breezy, Elle. "The R&B-Gospel Connection: 10 Artists Who Straddle the Line." . Singersroom, March 17, 2013. Web. July 29, 2014. <>.
  9. ^ a b Cadet, Alesha . "Secular Artists Singing Gospel: Is That Okay?." . Tribune 242, February 21, 2013. Web. July 29, 2014. <>.
  10. ^ "New Jack Swing." . Wikipedia, July 17, 2014. Web. July 30, 2014. <[[New jack swing>.]]
  11. ^ "Hip Hop Soul." . Wikipedia, July 30, 2014. Web. July 30, 2014. <[[Hip hop soul>.]]
  12. ^ Solomon, Jerry. "Music and the Christian." Music and the Christian. Leadership University/Probe Ministries, January 1, 1992. Web. July 30, 2014. <>.
  13. ^ "[MUSIC] Raised in the Church, Condemned by the Church: Many R&B Singer's Struggle." The Gabulous Life. The Gabulous Life, July 11, 2014. Web. July 30, 2014. <>.
  14. ^ Woog, Adam (2014). The History of Gospel Music. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books. p. 85.
  15. ^ "Debatable: Is Christian Hip-Hop Ungodly". The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  16. ^ "Bible Guide to Christian Music." Bible Guide to Christian Music. Dial-the-Truth Ministries, n.d. Web. July 30, 2014. <>.
  17. ^ a b Armstrong, Drenna. "He Sees 'Nothing Wrong': Check Out Johnny Mo Singing a Gospel Song to the Tune of "Bump-N-Grind"." MadameNoire RSS. Madame Noir, September 8, 2013. Web. July 30, 2014. <>.
  18. ^ Ortiz, Edwin. "Gospel Singer Transforms R. Kelly's "Bump n' Grind" Into Spiritual Psalm." Complex. Complex, August 28, 2013. Web. July 30, 2014. <>.
  19. ^ "Singer Remakes R. Kelly's ‘Bump And Grind’ Into Gospel Song - CBS Atlanta." CBS Atlanta. CBS Atlanta, September 6, 2013. Web. July 30, 2014. < Archived November 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine>.
  20. ^ Stetzer, Ed. "7 Biblical Tests for Christians and Music." . Christianity Today, June 5, 2013. Web. July 30, 2014. <>.
  21. ^ D'Angelo, Rafi. "Why I love gospel music". So Let's Talk About (SLTA). Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  22. ^ Cusic, Don (2002). Sound of Light. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. pp. 181–182.
  23. ^ Woog, Adam (2014). The History of Gospel Music. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books. pp. 57–58.
  24. ^ "Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  25. ^ "Chart Juice: B.o.B Earns R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 1". Billboard. May 10, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  26. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  27. ^ "Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  28. ^ "Hot Gospel Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  29. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  30. ^ "Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  31. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  32. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  33. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  34. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  35. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. January 16, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  36. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  37. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2014.