R&B came about during a demographic shift in America that began just before WWII when large segments of the black population moved from the rural South to cities in the Midwest, Northeast and West Coast. This migration created a young, urban black audience with a growing taste for up-tempo dance music. Many in the record industry seized the opportunity by starting independently owned labels and radio stations targeting the black audience. The popularity of R&B music also helped to fuel the appetite of young white audiences for rock ‘n’ roll.
Early R&B centered in Atlanta, where live R&B acts were popular. In 1949, one of the first black-owned R&B radio stations, Atlanta’s WERD, found success with area listeners, especially with its late-night R&B show hosted by Zenas “Daddy” Sears. Other radio stations followed suit and soon R&B artists were recording albums on both coasts.
In the mid-1990s, sampling and scratching became a part of R&B music and can be heard on urban radio stations today. Vocal groups like TLC and solo singers such as Mary J. Blige, Usher and R. Kelly continued the R&B tradition with massive commercial success. R&B in the 21st century incorporates a variety of styles including hip-hop, rap, dance and pop.