With Justin Bieber’s Believe album adopting a heavy hip-hop sound, many are questioning whether or not he belongs in the genre.
In recent years, Canadian singer Justin Bieber has skyrocketed into stardom, establishing himself as one of music’s biggest stars. Even though he is often labeled as a pop singer, Bieber has always embraced hip-hop and R&B. This makes a lot of sense, seeing that he was discovered by R&B singer Usher and is managed by Scooter Braun, the same man who manages Asher Roth.
One of Bieber’s biggest hits to date is “Baby” featuring Ludacris, the first single off his debut album, My World 2.0. The track also features production from The-Dream. A year later for the remix album, Never Say Never: The Remixes, Justin linked up with Will Smith’s son, Jaden, who spit a verse for its title track, “Never Say Never.” In addition to features from Chris Brown and Usher, the album also featured an unlikely collaboration with Kanye West and Raekwon for the remix to “Runaway Love.” On “Drummer Boy” off his Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, Bieber enlists the talent of Busta Rhymes who raps about sipping eggnog with vanilla, and rocking chinchilla. R&B legends Boyz II Men also jumped on the track, “Fa La La.”
While he has always incorporated hip-hop and R&B into his music, Bieber’s upcoming album, Believe, takes things up a notch as it heavily embodies a hip-hop sound. Over the last couple of days we’ve heard a slew of tracks from Bieber that feature some of hip-hop’s biggest names including Big Sean, Ludacris, and Nicki Minaj. In fact, the album’s only features come from rappers. Bieber’s “Right Here” features vocals from Drake and production from “N*ggas In Paris” producer, Hit-Boy. The remix to “Boyfriend,” one of Bieber’s most successful singles to date, features rap verses from 2 Chainz, Mac Miller, and Asher Roth. While the juxtaposition of Bieber’s falsetto following 2 Chainz’s verse might not work for many listeners, the remix as a whole is solid as all three rappers spit dope verses over the Mike Posner produced track.
Similar to Chris Brown, Bieber is also starting to gain recognition for his rapping ability. Even though the “Boyfriend” remix only features Bieber’s singing, the original version of the song has Justin rapping almost as much as he sings. While many speculate that labelmate Asher Roth ghostwrites for Bieber, Mike Posner spoke to Billboard about “Boyfriend” recently and claimed that Bieber is in fact a talented rapper:
“Justin’s a crazy rapper. He’ll do four vocal takes at the beginning of the session of ideas, and the fourth one, always, is all rap. He loves to rap, and he’s really good at it. There was no hesitation. It was just kind of what the song called for. We weren’t scared to take a risk.”
Bieber has also done a couple of freestyles on radio stations around the country including this freestyle over “Otis” for Power 106 in Los Angeles. The freestyle was so good, that many had their doubts about whether or not it was a genuine freestyle.
Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a pop singer crossover into hip-hop. In fact, it’s not the first time a pop singer named Justin has either. On his debut solo album, Justified, Justin Timberlake did a track with Clipse. On his second album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, he built on his hip-hop sound, recording songs with Three 6 Mafia, Timbaland, T.I., and will.i.am. Just like Believe, FutureSex/LoveSounds‘s only features came from rappers. Strange coincidence?
I’m not saying that Bieber is biting off Timberlake. I’m just saying that this trend is something that we’ve seen before and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Personally, FutureSex/LoveSounds is one of my favorite R&B albums of the 2000s and proved to be very successful commercially. It’s very likely that the same will be said of Believe when it hits shelves June 19th.
What do you think about Bieber’s involvement in hip-hop? Do you approve of Bieber working with rappers and hip-hop producers? Do you like his own freestyles/raps? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section and check out the four features off Believe as well as the “Boyfriend” remix below.