Who do you regard as some of the most important figures in our culture, and why? Well while you think of the answer, here's some of mine: 

How Diddy and Bad Boy infiltrated and conquered pop culture in the 2000s

A year prior to the release of the tone-setting "Special Delivery," the Gregorian calendar simultaneously reached a new century, decade, and golden age of transforming technology and progressive points of view. This important time shift seemed to be the bookend for Bad Boy Records to most critics. With the death of the empire's grandmaster talent The Notorious B.I.G. three years prior—and the aftermath being an onslaught of "he's turning hip-hop into a commercial pop joke" condemnations directed
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Revisiting how Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' era set the pop industry standard

What had also become evident from Thriller, thanks to the executive-producing genius of Quincy Jones, is how each song managed to balance on a fine line of pop choruses and lyrical structuring with R&B-fueled instrumentation and sub-genres. In an internet-breaking interview with Vulture earlier this year, Jones mused about working with Michael Jackson, making some shocking accusations about the singer’s work ethic, but also mentioning something that could explain why Thriller stood out from the rest.

On the dreamlike production and songwriting of Pharrell, as exhibited in "R.E.M."

Prior to the release of Ariana Grande’s Sweetener on August 17, one of the album’s central tracks was already at the top of online discussions. It had slowly trickled out that Beyoncé had once recorded a version of Ari's “R.E.M.,” instead titling it “Wake Up,” for her self-titled surprise opus in 2013, originally intending for the album to be doo-wop centric. Holding her own candle to Queen Bey’s, Grande also executes her version with her own magical touch. Through this, Pharrell alchemised a case of a song being good no matter whose hands it ends up in, thanks to strong producing and songwriting.

7 arguments for why each Beyoncé album could be her best

Dangerously In Love was a debut effort coming from someone who was hungry to captivate the masses with an aptitude for slaying. You could tell by the moment she arrived hanging upside down from a ceiling to perform "Baby Boy" at the 2003 VMAs. Or when she shimmied alongside Prince at the 2004 Grammys—a rite of passage for those deemed talented enough by the Purple One. Beyoncé made performing look effortless, and in the process she trademarked her signature, grandiose stage presence which matche

Revisiting Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love" 15 years later

On May 18, 2003, it didn’t take long for music listeners to hear the brassy gogo-funk horns at the start of “Crazy In Love” to know that Beyoncé had her first solo hit on her hands. What was even more impressive about the Rich Harrison-produced track—at a runtime of 3 minutes and 56 seconds—is how it established Queen Bey as the dominating entity we know her as today, making for a larger impression as a debut statement.

Revisiting Aaliyah’s Strangest Song, An Homage to Soap Villain Erica Kane | Pitchfork

Thirty-eight years ago today (January 16, 1979), Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn. Nine years earlier to the day, the biggest diva the soap opera world has ever known made her debut, when Susan Lucci joined the cast of ABC’s “All My Children” as Erica Kane. The connection between the divas runs deeper than the same birthday. On the remastered edition of Aaliyah’s final album, 2001’s Aaliyah, as well as her posthumous greatest hits compilation, *I Care 4 U *(2002), appears a peculiar bonus track title...

From Aretha Franklin to Beyonce, 50 Lyrics Celebrating Female Empowerment

What does it mean to be an empowered woman in 2017? Whether it's a punch line delivered by today's biggest powerhouses and newcomers or the gritty bars of the game-changing female MCs of hip-hop, every artist can agree that it's harder for a woman to make it in the industry while balancing everyday life. For these hip-hop and R&B entertainers, each act has delivered lyrics that challenge the notions of how women should conduct themselves in society while striving to be her own independent woman. Here are the Top 50.

Nelly Furtado's 'The Ride' May Be the Most Slept-On Release of 2017: Critic's Take

Over the weekend at a karaoke bar in the southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a couple got up to sing Nelly Furtado and Timbaland's "Promiscuous." After they finished their sentimental moment, I turned to a friend and asked, "Did you know she just released an album at the end of last month?" "Wait... What? No way! What has Nelly Furtado been doing?" It wasn't the first time I received that type of reaction. In fact, it's been universal for the past few weeks since the pop star released her sixth studio album, The Ride.

Toni Braxton’s 25 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Often when discussing the elite pack of divas who ruled the '90s and early aughts, Toni Braxton is cast aside. This shouldn’t be the case — there’s way more to her story than ”Un-Break My Heart.” Known for her sultry, low-ranging contralto voice, Braxton -- who turns 50 this Saturday, Oct. 7 -- provided the R&B, pop, and adult contemporary hemispheres with a slew of signature classics. The dramatic flare of these songs, matched with her film noir aesthetic and style, convincingly sold Braxton’s...

Why Nas' "Not For Radio" deserved more recognition this summer

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. As summer officially winds down and seasonal recaps start to finalize, I feel the need to express gratitude to Nas—who also celebrates his birthday today (September 14)—for making "Not For Radio" the opener of NASIR. It's the regal attitude of "Not For Radio" that makes it stand out as one of summer's best.

It's been five years, and no one has truly lived up to Kendrick Lamar's "Control" verse yet

If hip-hop had a timeline of milestone dates that placed the game in disarray, it would have to include August 14, 2013. If hip-hop had a list of lyrical giants that shook the table, then give that crown to Kendrick Lamar. If today's hip-hop needs to find a way back to the real competitive nature that first built this genre, they've got to start following the example of his "Control" verse.

This Black Music Month, Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music reset the gears of hip-hop

This June of G.O.O.D. Music Fridays was meant for the contrarians, which might have been the point of all Kanye West's publicity stunts leading up. Lately, fans of various artists have been finding themselves questioning the extent of their investment in music— from the "Mute R. Kelly" movement to the recent murder of XXXtentacion to participating in Drake's #ScorpionListeningParty knowing "you are hiding a child." Idols have transformed into false role models for some, and who you listen to in your personal music library has now become the new "what you do behind closed doors."

A personal love for The Notorious B.I.G.'s "My Downfall"

When debates arise about the best song from The Notorious B.I.G. many will pinpoint to “Juicy” for the superior storytelling skills and its mainstream breakthrough. Some will say it’s “Big Poppa” for establishing one of his many monikers. Others will argue “Hypnotize” for its addictive chorus and being his first to go No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “One More Chance” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” also come in the running for their iconic music videos and legendary samples of DeBarge and Diana Ross,

The School of TLC: Matching 10 of the Group's Classics With '10s Songs Modeled After Them

The music of TLC taught three valuable lessons: How to navigate the changing waves of R&B with melodic pop hooks and swagged-out, hip-hop funk; the importance of sel- love, especially for women unafraid of expressing their rights, political concerns, or true desires; and most importantly, the definition of a “scrub." One of the most successful girl groups in the '90s into the early '00s, the trio consisting of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas laid out....

The School of Janet Jackson: Ten Songs From the 21st Century Modeled After Her Classics

The School of Janet Jackson: Ten Songs From the 21st Century Modeled After Her Classics This Sunday, May 20, Janet Jackson will receive the Icon Award at this year’s Billboard Music Awards. It’s a fitting honor for a triple threat who’s navigated the terrains of a constantly changing music industry for generations, and whose music seems just as relevant today as it was 20 or 30 years ago.