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ON R&B: MEET
THE PRESS

For our recent Black Music Month special, we surveyed industry peeps about the R&B records that moved the needle, reshaped the genre and rock their worlds personally. This time, we hear from Warner Chappell Music A&R chief Ryan Press.

Why do you think R&B’s had such longevity?
R&B is at the core of nearly all popular music; so many top artists, from Pop Smoke and Lil Durk to Dua Lipa, Doja Cat and Justin Bieber, are releasing songs with melodies and lyrics influenced by the genre and putting their own spin on it. Silk Sonic is another great example; Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars are truly bringing back funk and soul in an exciting new way and reintroducing it to the world.

We’re also seeing artists like Summer Walker, DJ Mustard, Roddy Ricch and Lil Mosey sampling ’90s R&B classics. The genre as a whole will continue to evolve and inspire a range of music creators.

How has R&B injected social consciousness into American life?
Music is a major part of culture, reflecting what people are experiencing in the world, and R&B has always served as the soundtrack to important social-justice movements. Two of music’s most historic labels, Motown Records and Philadelphia International Records, have catalogs filled with songs about social change and activism, from “Wake Up Everybody” to “What’s Going On” to “Ball of Confusion” and many more.

Today, as we continue to fight racial injustice here in the U.S. and around the world, artists are still using their platforms to give voice to the movement—often drawing from R&B and soul influences. Warner Chappell producer Section 8 worked with Lil Baby last year on the two-times-Grammy-nominated protest track “The Bigger Picture,” which became one of the most important cultural anthems of 2020. And .Paak’s “Lockdown,” which won a Grammy for Best Melodic Rap Performance, was inspired by his experiences at a Black Lives Matter protest.

What have been some of your most meaningful personal intersections with R&B?
To me, R&B music has always been “popular” music. Growing up, my mom was a piano player and would listen to Anita Baker around the house. With my dad [Ron Tyson] a member of The Temptations, the great classics of Motown also influenced me. I would see his band performing with The O’Jays and The Four Tops and was heavily affected by how their music moved people. Their shows were always filled with really diverse crowds, and I realized that R&B had the potential to reach people of all races and backgrounds and bring them together. These experiences shaped my decision to pursue a career in music and work in publishing, where I felt I could have a real impact.

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