Fueled by the success of Frank Ocean and Miguel, the most critically contested ground in pop music over the past year has been the evolution of R&B via digital recording technology and the Internet. A lot of two-dollar terms have been tossed around — "hipster R&B," "PBR&B," "Indie R&B," and by SPIN, "Alt R&B" — to describe a so-called new generation of self-sufficient and individualistic artists, terms that have been met by noisy protest from longtime devotees and artists themselves who feel the genre is being colonized by trendy newbies or limited by buzzwords. Regardless, everyone can agree that there are indeed a multitude of fresh, exciting new voices who deserve to be heard and even celebrated. SPIN's Brandon Soderberg wrote a much-discussed essay at the end of 2012 assessing the phenomenon, and this H∆SHTAG$ documentary, produced by Red Bull Music Academy, serves as somewhat of a companion to that piece. Though the artists discussed by Soderberg and spotlighted by RBMA differ, the basic point is the same: R&B is evolving and this is a thrilling moment for fans of the music.
The Red Bull Music Academy's new H∆SHTAG$ series examines the relationships between music and technology. The docs, which will also focus on Internet pop, cloud rap, and U.K. bass, will stream on redbullmusicacademy.com until early March.