New Jack Swing: An Introduction

The purpose of this website is to be the first location in cyberspace to thoroughly pay tribute to New Jack Swing. It surprises me that New Jack Swing is not very well recognized as a stand-alone musical genre by the general public. Sure, most folks can remember the superstars from that era, but very few seem to realize that acts like Bell Biv Devoe, Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown were part of a larger movement.

Although the New Jack Era was short (as most musical "eras" are -- just ask Pearl Jam, Motley Crue, Hanson or the Spice Girls), anyone who lived through that time period listening to hip-hop, pop, and/or R&B music can certainly remember how vibrant that time period really was, especially for Black music.

New Jack Swing had a festive, celebratory feel. Almost always, the music relied heavily on synthesizers and rhythm machines. New Jack Swing had a harder edge than traditional 80s R&B, and a softer edge than 80s hip-hop. The best way to describe the sound of the music would be to ask you to picture a blend of hip-hop style beats, merged with lush, flavorful keyboards.

The New Jack Swing Era marked the first time since the 1970s that Black music had really made an impact on mainstream American popular culture. At its core however, New Jack Swing wasn't originally intended to "cross over" like the earlier pop of the relatively few successful Black recording artists of the early to mid 80s (think: Michael Jackson, Prince); rather, New Jack Swing was being made primarily for urban audiences.

New Jack Swing was very dance-oriented. The style of dancing was not dependent on break dancing techniques -- rather, New Jack dancing required a sense of rhythm, and an ability to move one's body with fluidity, enthusiasm, and energy. New Jack Era acts that were particularly known for their dancers included Bobby Brown (Heart & Soul), Big Daddy Kane (Scoob & Scrap Lover), and Heavy D (the late Trouble-T Roy and G-Whiz).

Popular dances included: The Running Man, The Roger Rabbit, The Typewriter, the Kid'N'Play, the 'jump-over-the-leg-you're-holding' trick, the 'side-to-side-ankle-twist', and more...

New Jack Swing also had a "look", and out of all the groups of the New Jack Era, perhaps 1990's Bell Biv Devoe best captured what that was all about: overalls, rayon and silk shirts, wing tip shoes, high top fades, steps (or lines, tracks), and more.

So that's a small primer into what New Jack Swing was all about. If you want to be introduced to some of the more commercially successful New Jack albums, I would suggest Keith Sweat's "Make It Last Forever" (1988), Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison" (1990), Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel" (1988), Guy's first and second albums (1988 and 1990), Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation 1814" (1989), and En Vogue's "Born To Sing" (1990) to start with.

Feel free to proceed to the rest of the site, and thank you very much for stopping by!


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