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Will you be my R&Bae?

I love living my life like it’s golden while I bump and grind. I love coffee in the morning with a side of suga’. You see, I love R&B. It started when I first heard Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” way back in second grade and, over the years, my taste in R&B has evolved and branched out. It has become something I listen to every single day, something I rely on to get through difficult days and to lift my spirits.

With so many artists out there, how am I able to easily proclaim my love for this genre? For me, the ’90s considerably represent a golden era of R&B, with many male and female groups sprouting up and making a name for themselves.

Older legendary artists such as Etta James, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Otis Redding and Michael Jackson paved the way for the great artists of the ’90s. There’s Boyz II Men, arguably one of the greatest R&B groups, who successfully experimented with many types and forms of music, including soul and acapella. TLC is another great group that combined R&B with hip-hop — a combination that is extremely popular in contemporary music.

Then, there’s groups like Dru Hill, who hail from Baltimore, Jodeci, SWV, 702, Shai and Blackstreet, that rocked the music scene and made way for contemporary R&B greats like Miguel, The Weeknd and K. Michelle.

To honor the R&B industry and to commemorate Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, on Feb. 26, UMBC’s freeform radio station WMBC held an “RnBae” DJ Night in Lower Flat Tuesdays. The event featured live mixes from Lewis Chat$ika, DJ Sole and Nod-eezy — all hosts of their own WMBC radio shows.

The event mirrored a typical club scene mixed with Valentine’s Day décor. There were heart-shaped balloons, faux red roses and the room had dim-lighting, with the exception of the stage where the DJ table was.

Things began very slowly. In addition to the DJs and their fellow WMBC hosts, there were only a few people in the room to start out the night. Lewis Cha$tika put on a few slow, throwback R&B jams, like “So Gone” by Monica and “Human Nature (Right There)” by SWV. Even with the few amount of people present, that didn’t stop early attendees from having a good time.

“I heard about this event on Instagram,” said Shanelle, a junior majoring in psychology. “I really like R&B and that’s specifically why I’m here,” she continued.

Another attendee, Briana Jackson, a junior sociology and Spanish major, shared Shanelle’s sentiments. “I’m just here to enjoy the music,” she said, and added, “I love these guys, especially DJ Sole. He’s my fave.”

Things were a little awkward, especially with only a few people dancing and others sitting at the tables or standing in the corner on their phones, but after 45 minutes passed, people slowly began entering Lower Flat Tuesdays and gathering in the middle of the dance floor to “bust a move” to the music.

To get things hype and grab the attention of the audience, the host of the event, put on a “love game” featuring four young men from the audience. One girl was chosen to hide away and choose a guy based off of his answers to various questions such as “what would you name your pet?” and “what would be your stripper name?” She ultimately chose the guy that said his stripper name would be “Misty,” and fed him a cupcake to show his victory in the game.

Things were hot and heavy as people were strolling, dabbing, twerking and doing every popular dance. There were couples on the dance floor grinding and friends dancing together having a good time as the DJ played songs like “Work,” “My Way,” “Trap Queen” and other modern hits.

For some of the WMBC hosts, such events are necessary. “We felt that [R&B] doesn’t get enough looks,” said Cha$tika. “We wanted to give R&B the right notoriety, so that those who weren’t exposed could be exposed and those who were familiar with it could reminisce.” Cha$tika holds his own radio show called “The Pulse,” where he gets to express himself and play music, including R&B, that reflects who he is.

Ultimately, self-expression is where R&B originated from. It began due to the struggle of African Americans and branched out into their rhythmic way of expressing their inner flow. Today, R&B is still a popular genre of music influencing other genres like rock, country and pop. New artists are constantly creating original music, looking for a way to share their talent with the world.

WMBC’s Jeremiah Davis, a sophomore media and communications studies and English major, who hosts “The Evening Experience,” used the new popular R&B artist, Bryson Tiller, who was once a Papa John’s employee, as an example of self-expression through the struggle. “In Bryson’s case,” he said, “he actually gave-up music for his daughter, but he had people making fun of him and doubting him, saying he failed.”

Davis elaborated, “I think having someone doubt you can fuel you to prove them wrong. For a local artist in R&B to get big, creating a sound and sticking to it and being relatable is key because, at that level, you’re going to appeal to listeners who are going through the same thing.”