It's hard to believe the world continued spinning after such a monumental loss, but 2016 marked 15 years since Aaliyah's shocking death.
It's interesting to ponder what the Princess of R&B's music might have sounded like today, in a world where singers forgo an individual, signature sound and turn to superstar producers' predictable EDM formulas to stay current on the radio. It's hard to imagine Aaliyah trying to keep up with the musical Joneses because she was so innovative and forward-thinking — most notably calling on the then-little-known production team of Timbaland and Missy Elliott to shape her futuristic sound.
Local show curator and Miami New Times contributor Cristina Jerome wants to take us back to the days when artists focused less on saturating radio with generic pounding beats and more on creating certain moods with their music.
"R&B songs are about love — lovemaking. I'm trying to get away with the aspect of making love more and not just people hooking up," Jerome says. "People are out here just fucking and whatnot. I just want to get rid of that aspect and bring back the old-school R&B like Usher, Ginuwine, Brandy, Destiny's Child, Aaliyah — bring that vibe back."
"Vibe" is a word Jerome uses frequently when talking about her event, the adorably named RnBae, a showcase of local R&B talent that's now in its second installment. The first event in May saw about 150 people in attendance. "I always try to get a small venue to make it a cozy vibe because I don't want like a rager or party. I just want a cool setting, a cool vibe for everyone to just chill and relax."
Working in Miami's underground rap scene, Jerome found that R&B acts were getting lumped into lineups with rappers, creating a clash of moods or (dare we say it again) vibes.
For the latest RnBae, Jerome has booked Tampa singer and ukulele player Ari Chi, Latin Grammy Best New Artist nominee Manu Manzo, III Points alum the Loft, and Chicago artist Simone Bisous.
After a rocky start, Jerome plans to make RnBae a monthly event. "I was working with someone at [the first] showcase, but things didn't work out. They were trying to make this a moneymaking thing, and honestly, it's for the culture. We have so many R&B artists here, and they just have nowhere to perform. I'm trying to give [them] that platform."