Monday, October 23, 2006

So You Wanna Be A Neo Soul Singer

Part 1 and Part 2

Settle down class. We are now going to talk about the third aspect of Black Hit Records 101: How to be a Neo Soul singer. If you notice, I say singer and not star, because for the most part, even though you have more talent than lots of your peers, you will not sell that many records. Don't let that discourage you though, because you can gain a loyal following and even get your records on 106 and Park. Well, not the countdown, but you can be the new video of the day. Like any genre of music, there are some rules you have to follow in order to be successful in Neo Soul.

Aspiring R&B singer # 1 - What's the difference between Neo Soul and R&B music? Isn't it just a pretentious name that someone came up with to divide us?

It may have started that way, but you can definitely tell the difference. For instance, Neo Soul music utilizes far more live instrumentation than regular R&B. But we don't have time to go over the differences. For the purposes of this class, I'll need you to just accept that it is different.

Aspiring R&B singer # 1 - But...

Not now, let's move on. The first thing you have to do if you want to be a Neo Soul artist is cultivate your look. Neo soul is about being different. I would suggest doing something different with your hair. Grow an afro, loc your hair, get those braids that Thelma wore on Good Times when she was going to marry that African prince, tease your hair so you look like Sideshow Bob off the Simpsons. This will set you apart from the thousands of aspiring R&B singers. It will give you that distinctive Neo Soul look.

Aspiring Neo Soul artist # 1 - I've already started growing my hair out in a half fro like Three Times Dope back in the early 90's. What about that clothes?

Great question. Clothes are just as important to your image as hair is. I would suggest that all women go for the earthy, no muss no fuss look. Wear flowing shirts or dashiki type garments. It gives you the image that you are not caught up in materialism and that you are approachable. For men, it's a little trickier. There are two looks you can go for. One is the regular joe approach. Wear your old beat up jeans and a t-shirt with a message on it. But make sure that it's clever. For instance, if you still have one of those Frankie says Relax or Rolling Stone shirts from the 80's, that would be a perfect fit. Make sure the shirt is about 2 sizes too small. I would suggest Smedium.

Aspiring Neo Soul artist #2 - Where can I find those if I don't have them?

I would suggest a trip to your local Salvation Army or a thrift store. It is a good investment in your career. The other look you can go for is the ambiguously gay, metrosexual look. Raid your sister's closet and find a blouse or some pants that are too small for you. Top it off with a fedora or some kind of head wrap that men don't usually wear. The women will think you are sexy, just ask Maxwell.

Aspiring Neo Soul artist #2 - Is it that easy? Just wear women's clothes?

They say clothes make the man, but it takes a little more than that. It takes months of practice, but you have to perfect your "I'm so sincere" look. Raise your eyebrows and look vulnerable. Clutch your heart and shake your head. This is a staple of the Neo Soul genre.

Aspiring Neo Soul artist # 3 - These are some great tips. How about accessories?

For both men and women, accessories are the key in perfecting your image. You should all start out with buying jewelry with an Ankh on it. No gold, no platinum, no diamonds. Just sterling silver. And when you are performing, make sure you have some incense handy. It doesn't matter what kind, my own personal preference is CocoMango, but any kind will work. Also, light candles whenever possible. It gives off a feeling of intimacy that Neo Soul is known for.

Aspiring Neo Soul artist # 4 - I thought you said that Neo Soul artists have the most talent. It seems like you are just telling us how to give off the right look.

Well, some of you do have talent, but others don't. It's just more acceptable for Neo Soul artists to be different. Even if you can't really sing, your quirkiness can overcome that. The key is to walk the line. If you don't have a traditionally good singing voice, you can trick people into liking you by being weird. Go into your poetry journals and find the piece that makes the least sense. Then find some talented musicians and put it to a bass riff. People wont understand what the hell you are talking about, but they wont want to admit it. They will give you props for "being deep" even if you are too deep for them.

Aspiring Neo Soul Artist # 3 - What about influences? It seems to me that most neo soul artists sound like an old singer from the 70's.

I have 2 words for you. Steveland Morris. Better known to the world as Stevie Wonder. You need to study Songs in the Key of Life and emulate his style. Another artist to copy would be Curtis Mayfield. His falsetto is the basis for many successful Neo Soul singers.

Class: AAAAHHH.

I have one final tip for you. Embrace the musical aspects of Neo Soul. While you may have grown up on hip hop, you have to be very careful which influences you allow in your music. You can make references to rap, but they have to be limited to East Coast hip hop circa 1988. You know Tribe, Latifah, Black Sheep. This shows that you have reverence for the artistic side, and that you don't pander to trends.

Aspiring Neo Soul artist # 1 - Does this make me a music snob? I mean I like some of the music I hear on the radio.

You can like that in private, but when out in the public eye, you have to maintain your sense of musical superiority. Only tour with other Neo Soul artists, and if anyone asks whats in your ipod, you better not say Nelly. That would blow your credibility. You'd be better off saying that you are listening to The Eagles or Muddy Waters. Anything other than what is popular today.

Okay class that's all the time we have for today's class. If you have any questions, please email me at Mo.Deniro@BlackMusic.com. I'll see you all back here next week when I will show you all how to write a hit Black song and how to crossover to the pop charts.

It was written...

13 Comments:

Blogger Miz JJ said...

First!

You forgot to say that looks are less important in this genre than other genres. I am still laughing at this though "you have to perfect your "I'm so sincere" look. Raise your eyebrows and look vulnerable. Clutch your heart and shake your head." LOL!

Mon Oct 23, 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger fallen angel said...

" Even if you can't really sing, your quirkiness can overcome that. The key is to walk the line. If you don't have a traditionally good singing voice, you can trick people into liking you by being weird. Go into your poetry journals and find the piece that makes the least sense. Then find some talented musicians and put it to a bass riff. People wont understand what the hell you are talking about, but they wont want to admit it. They will give you props for "being deep" even if you are too deep for them."

dude, you are hee-larry-tee! in actuality, this statement could also be applied to poets too!

did you mention the out of place facial hair? it goes so lovely with the "regular joe" persona. also known as the "i really am just a regular person and im just keeping it real and doing me" look.
;-)

Mon Oct 23, 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger thee modern isis said...

lol@ ambiguously gay .. that reminded me of the skit on Saturday Night Live. and lmao@ smedium. Yeah, the extra smedium shirts where you can see a man's erect nipples are doing TOO much.

I think they all own stock in patchouli oils.

Nice work Cas.

Mon Oct 23, 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger ----- said...

LOL ~ you are TOO much!!! ;o)

Another good one...

~Trish

Mon Oct 23, 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger i like liquor and tv said...

lol@extra smedium..classic.

lol@the thrift store and sister's closet look. What about the old musty, dusty suit jacket in the back of your closet look?

lol@the Ankh and silver..(and sometimes copper).

Please oh please do one on "I wanna be a music producer"...but on the other hand the lesson will be one sentence long. "get an old song, remove vocals, replace with new vocals" the end.

Mon Oct 23, 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tenacious said...

LMAO

Although dont be getting on Maxwell, that man is fine!!

@ T

Once again, putting me on blast you were supposed to skim over that part

And as a lady I refuse to sleep on the floor. He was under the sheet I was over the sheet for your info, no skin to skin contact

Mon Oct 23, 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger nikki said...

fallen angel's right. this is applicable to poets too. in fact, i saw a number of cats who looked and acted exactly like this at a poetry spot i check out recently.

Tue Oct 24, 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger SandyBaby said...

Love it, love it, love it!!!!!!
And for the record, Maxwell is sexy! Metrosexuals are hott!

Once again, great post!

Tue Oct 24, 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Blah Blah Blah said...

I love a man that wears smedium...so sessy...

Tue Oct 24, 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Priscilla said...

I have a question.
Why do the women have to wear an Ankh? I mean I thought some of us were believers in God.

Tue Aug 19, 08:06:00 AM  
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