By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
April 1997Chris Rock releases the parody song "Champagne," declaring, "R&B sucks! Just a bunch of people singin' over rap beats. Get an old rap record? Sing over it!" His trenchant critique also points out that "now everybody talks about their label... Smokey Robinson wasn't singin' about Motown! The Isley Brothers wasn't goin', 'Teaneck in the motherfuckin' house!' The Jacksons wasn't singin' about Epic... because nobody gave a fuck!"
June 1997On Wu-Tang Forever, RZA indicts, "a lot of n--z trying to take hip-hop and make that shit R&B, rap and bullshit." He also impugns "Cat in the Hat-ass rappers." Dr. Seuss refuses to touch the issue (though his being dead may have something to do with this).
Summer 1997After studying Boyz II Men's success, Lou Pearlman unleashes the Backstreet Boys on America, igniting the boy-band boom and opening the floodgates for 'N Sync, 98 Degrees, O-Town et al. A decade later, the nation's wounds have yet to fully heal.
September 1997Boyz II Men release Evolution, which, despite its triple-platinum sales, manages to be regarded as a creative and commercial flop. This disappointment, coupled with the boy bands' runaway success, marks a shift in the winds, with record executives taking note and continuing to market toward increasingly younger audiences.
October 1998Hip-hop-inflected vocal group Dru Hill see their biggest triumph with the double-selling Enter the Dru. Though the album is quite good, all goodwill the group builds is squandered when Sisqo eventually decides to go solo.
January 2000Fueled by the success of "He Can't Love U," Jagged Edge, an Atlanta-based quartet formed by Jermaine Dupri, release their breakthrough, J.E. Heartbreak. Several years later, half the group will get lost on the way to a concert and unwittingly form Ruff Endz.
December 2002B2K, a teenage quartet from Los Angeles, release their second and final studio record, Pandemonium. The album goes platinum and they break up shortly thereafter, though not before leaving the world with You Got Served, the Citizen Kane of high school dance-off films.
2003-presentThough male R&B continues to factor heavily in the commercial landscape, its most popular acts are all solo artists, from Usher to Justin Timberlake to Marques Houston (formerly of Immature) and Omarion (formerly of B2K). With sales ever dwindling, singers are hesitant to form groups and thereby split the cash, the attention and the groupies.
Boyz II Men performs at Crash Mansion on Fri., Feb. 1.