Best Male R&B Singers of the ’90s

A couple of days ago, my boys at YouKnowIGotSoul.com raised an interesting question on their Facebook page:

Who were the most successful male singers of the 90s?

Now if you know me (Keith Sweat) you probably knew (Keith Sweat) who would be my personal No. 1 pick (KEITH SWEAT).

But even I’m willing to be objective. This time.

Let’s look at the top 10 R&B singers of the 1990s, one of the most revered decades of the genre. This isn’t just a listing of “best vocalists” or “most Grammys.” The list was determined by the artists’ sales, impact, longevity, and the strength of their material from 1990 to 1999.

The ’90s produced some of the best music in R&B history. Here are the maestros.

Honorable mention: Ginuwine, Gerald Levert

10. Jon B.

Albums: Bonafide (1995, platinum); Cool Relax (1997, 2x platinum)

Edd said: Jon B’s probably the most overlooked hitmaker of the 90s. Cool Relax alone is one of the most complete albums of the decade.

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9. Johnny Gill

Albums: Johnny Gill (1990, 2x platinum); Provocative (1993, gold); Let’s Get The Mood Right (1996, gold)

No. 1 singles: “Rub You The Right Way” (1990, R&B);  “My My My” (1990, R&B): “Wrap My Body Tight (1990, R&B)

Edd said: New Edition’s greatest export (yeah, I said it) enjoyed tons of success in the early ’90s. He stepped away from the solo spotlight during the second half of the decade, dropping him down the list a bit.

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8. Maxwell

Albums: Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite (1996, 2x platinum); MTV Unplugged (1997, gold); Embrya (1998, platinum)

No. 1 singles: “Fortunate,” (1999, R&B and Urban A/C)

Edd said: Man, forget Cool James, ladies LOVED Maxwell in the ’90s. His tender approach won over legions. Arguably, his best work resides in the ’90s.

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7. Usher

Albums: Usher (1994); My Way (1997, 6x platinum)

No. 1 singles: “You Make Me Wanna…” (1997, R&B); “Nice & Slow” (1998, R&B)

Edd said: Before you Usher fanatics cram my inbox, chill. Ursher dominated R&B in the 2000s, but he was just getting his feet wet in the ’90s. His debut didn’t make much noise but his sophomore album put him on the map.

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6. Tevin Campbell

Albums: T.E.V.I.N. (1991, platinum); I’m Ready (1993, 2x platinum); Back To The World (1996, gold); Tevin Campbell (1999)

No. 1 singles: ” Tell Me What You Want Me To Do (1991, R&B); “Alone With You” (1992, R&B); “Cane We Talk (1993, R&B)

Edd said: Tevin practically owned the first half of the decade, effortlessly cranking out hits and serving as R&B’s teen heartthrob. He lost a lot of steam as the decade closed out, though.

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5. Brian McKnight 

Albums: Brian McKnight (1992, platinum); I Remember You (1995, gold); Anytime (1997, 2x platinum); Bethlehem (1998); Back At One (1999, 3x platinum)

Edd said: McKnight was a hitmaking machine in the 90s, conquering R&B and pop and crafting some of the most memorable songs of the decade. The one blemish on his record is that he never had an No. 1 hit.

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4. Luther Vandross

Albums: Power of Love (1991, 2x platinum), Never Let Me Go (1993, platinum), Songs (1994, 2x platinum), Your Secret Love (1996, platinum), I Know (1998, gold)

No. 1 singles: “Power of Love/Love Power” (1991 R&B)

Edd said: Don’t sleep on Lutha – his ’80s material may be his best known but he had plenty of success in the ’90s too. What he lacked in blockbuster singles he made up for with extremely successful albums.

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3. Babyface

Albums: For The Cool In You (1993, 3x platinum), The Day (1996, 2x platinum), Christmas With Babyface (1998)

No. 1 singles: “Love Makes Things Happen” (1990, R&B)

Edd said: When it came to his own material, Face was all about quality, not quantity in the 90s. But, of course, his biggest contribution came in writing dozens of hits for other artists. He racked up almost two dozen No. 1 songs in 10 years.

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2. Keith Sweat

Albums: I’ll Give All My Love To You (1990, 2x platinum); Keep it Comin’ (1991, platinum); Get Up On It (1994, platinum); Keith Sweat (1996, 4x platinum); Still In The Game (1998, platinum)

No. 1 singles: “Make You Sweat” (1990, R&B); “I’ll Give All My Love To You (1990, R&B); “Keep It Comin'” (1991, R&B); “Twisted” (1996, R&B); “Nobody” (1996, R&B)

Edd said: My dude! King Keith ruled the ’90s with an iron fist. Keef went on an undefeated streak of platinum albums in the 90s, releasing some of the era’s best music. He also spent the decade mentoring emerging groups like Kut Klose, Silk, Dru Hill and Ol’ Skool. This justifies my Keith Stan-dom.

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1. R. Kelly

Albums: 12 Play (1993, 6x platinum); R. Kelly (1995, 5x platinum); R. (1998, 8x platinum)

No. 1 singles: “Bump n’ Grind” (1994, R&B and Pop); “You Remind Me of Something” (1995, R&B); “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)” (1996, R&B); “I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)” (1996, R&B); “I Believe I Can Fly” (1996, R&B); “I’m Your Angel” (1998, Pop)

Edd said: It’s not up for debate, Kellz is ruler of 90s R&B. Kelly dominated both pop and R&B with beautiful love tracks, inspiration hymns and downright nasty sex songs. His diversity made him a crossover star and a ’90s R&B icon.

Who did we miss? Tell us in the comments.

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33 Comments

  1. Can’t believe you even didn’t mention JOE….. smh

  2. K-Ci from Jodeci? Dino from H-Town? This list is laughable!

    • Playa you miss the point: “This isn’t just a listing of “best vocalists” or “most Grammys.” The list was determined by the artists’ sales, impact, longevity, and the strength of their material from 1990 to 1999.”

      Neither Dino no K-Ci had a solo career in the 90s. They don’t qualify.

  3. Now you know Jon B and Babyface should be at number 1 and 2 (yes I’m biased). Keith could have been left in the 80s. Jon B and Babyface are still making GREAT music….marketing? well that’s another story.

  4. A friend told me about X102.3 a few days ago. Now it’s programmed as number 1 on my car stereo. The music keeps me jamming, especially during their morning show. It’s always a great way to start my day. Tune in http://www.thex1023.com, you may even win some tickets like I did.

  5. What about Ginuwine

  6. I couldn’t angree with you more. This is perfect… #90’s sound rocks#

  7. Oops!! No JOE?? ‘The All that i am ‘ album in itself was a cure for darkened hearts and a mender of broken dreams. The only unconventional songwriter till date. Every song in that album oozes euphemism!!

  8. This list is perfect. Edd you’re a true music fan. Keith Sweat dominated the music industry back then if R.Kelly wasn’t that powerful he was gon be on number 1 yes he had a squeaky voice but he made sure his fans are never left out, I still listen to his latest music which is featured on most recent romantic movies, big up KS!

  9. Hi! What about James Ingram???-Someone like you! will be the greatest hit the 90’s ever produced.

  10. Tony Thompson ( Hi-Five)

  11. How dare you not mention Gerald LeVert… SMH

  12. Eerrrm dude. Donell Jones?!?!?!?!?!

  13. Bobby Brown?!?!?

  14. WTF!AARON HALL EL DEBARGE JOE ADD A NEW LIST OF 20 AVANT ROME ANTHONY HAMILTON CHRIS BROWN CALVIN RICHARDSON THE GREAT ONE HIT WONDERS GIVE IT UP TO ALL THE GREAT SOLO ARTISTS! LEAVE OUT NOBODY ALL GREAT! AMEN AGAIN!

    • Now, this list does flavor those artists who had more cd’s release in the 90’s then their overall quality in their work!!!

      Also, there should be a list of R&B Artists in generally who had only one studio in the 90’s… GREAT ONES

      Such as Horace Brown self titled cd 1996, Christión their “Ghetto Cyrano” cd 1996, Az Yet self titled cd 1996, Quindon self titled 1996, Chocolate Genius cd “Black Music”, Ricky Jones self titled cd 1998

      Now if you can find these two cd’s YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED, If YOU LOVE R&B MUSIC!!!

      EOL ‎– “Elements Of Life” cd 1998

      4.0 self titled cd circa 1997 – Yes the group name is “4.0”

      But lost in transition because of two cd’s release in the 90’s; Faith Evans, “Faith” Cd circa 1995 needs some major attention and mention!!! Along with 112, “112” cd circa 1996. Tony Rich 1996 cd “Words”!!!

      I could list more and singles from select artists and groups but I’m not trying to start a blog here but you got a good starting point!!! I mean this music is 20 years old and if you were never told, you’ll never know!!!

      Also, their are some unsung heroes R%B artists of the 2000’s that have been overlooked such as:

      Javier self titled cd 2003

      Lathun “Fortunate” cd 2002

      Mario Winans “Hurt No More” Cd 2004

      Raphael Saadiq “Instant Vintage” cd 2002

      Yes, there are more but once again I’m not starting a blog!!!

      Now moving on…

      DONELL JONES was a major omission from this of Solo R&B Artist from the 90’s and not as a Honorable Mention but at least ranking #9 or #10!!!

      JOE should had been on the list and higher up the food chain!

      Rome deserves a Honorable Mention!

      Jesse Powell also definitely deserve a Honorable Mention in BOLD LETTERING

      Christopher Williams deserves a Honorable Mention for his 1992 “Changes” CD ONLY!!!

      Eric Benet deserve a Mention, I said Mention

      Kenny Lattimore deserves More then a Honorable Mention for his self titled cd ALONE circa 1996

      Aaron Hall definitely deserved Honorable Mention or not less a ranking on the list!!!

      I feel Johnny Gill is more on there for his early 90’s work although if 1988 counted as the 90’s then Bobby Brown “Don’t be Cruel” cd would trump Johnny’s status…

      Babyface is overly ranked on the list as this is not a list for songwriting, which he and R Kelly and Brian Mcknight would be easily 1, 2 and 3 respectively!!!

      And Carl Thomas doesn’t qualified for this list because his Emotional CD came out 2000 which is not the 90’s…

      End of Line

  15. Yeah. John B had a good CD, but Gerald Levert had cuts throughout the decade…He should be here. I don’t know about skinny Luther either. 80’s Luther, for sure! Johnny Gill, a little higher on the list. Truth be told, I can’t think of any male vocalist that’s come out after him (minus K-Ci, Sisqo, Jahiem) who can sing as well as JG.

  16. Donnell jones ??

  17. Donnell jones ?? Bobby brown ?? Eric benet

  18. As someone mentioned earlier, and that’s Joe! 1997’s ALL THAT I AM was strictly heat from start to finish. Especially as it to include the smash he’d have a year prior with ALL THE THINGS YOUR MAN WON’T DO. Not to mention his successful collabs with Big Pun, Mariah Carey, and Chico DeBarge. And too, uuuuuuum, where’s D’Angelo?!! BROWN SUGAR was monstrous!!!

  19. Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 asxvx

  20. Wow there is so many great 90s singers. AARON HALL should be on the list!

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