Neo soul is a genre of popular music. The term was coined by music industry entrepreneur Kedar Massenburg during the late 1990s to market and describe a style of music that emerged from soul and contemporary R&B.
Neo soul developed during the 1980s and early 1990s, in the United States and United Kingdom, as a soul revival movement. It earned mainstream success during the 1990s, with the commercial and critical breakthroughs of several artists, including D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell. Their music was marketed as an alternative to the producer-driven, digitally approached R&B of the time.
Since its initial mainstream popularity and impact on the sound of contemporary R&B, neo soul has been expanded and diversified musically through the works of both American and international artists. Its mainstream presence declined during the 2000s, although newer artists emerged through more independent means of marketing their music. According to music journalist Mark Anthony Neal, “neo-soul and its various incarnations has helped to redefine the boundaries and contours of black pop.”
Though it’s roughly analagous to contemporary R&B, Neo-Soul artists pay more devotion to the era of classic soul, often seeking a sound and a style of songwriting with few concessions to events in the music world post-1975. The work of Lauryn Hill, first in the Fugees and later with her 1998 solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, proved very important to the neo-soul scene, as did the debut of Erykah Badu in 1997. Several more females made splashy debuts around the turn of the millennium, including Macy Gray, Jill Scott, India.Arie, and Alicia Keys, but only the latter broke through to broad stardom. Other figures pursuing the neo-soul sound include Raphael Saadiq, Remy Shand, Sunshine Anderson, Musiq Soulchild, Peven Everett, and Jaguar Wright.