The endless debate about crowning the king and queen of R&B has been infuriating. The world of rhythm and blues operates on a complicated set of rules that are not always notarized by Grammy nominations and Hot 100 hits. Instead, it is governed by a culture of telling it like it is, but saying it with love.
R&B’s queendom is robust because it is represented by H.E.R, Summer Walker, and Jazmine Sullivan, who co-parent the throne with elegance. The undisputed queen of RnB has a slim waist, sultry legs, and multiple heads, and Muni Long submits her bid with her cheeky EP, Public Displays Of Affection Too.
Although she is known for her break-out 2021 single “Hrs & Hrs”, Muni Long sustained a long career as a songwriter, co-writing some of the biggest hits behind Fifth Harmony, Rihanna, and Pitbull’s commercial success. Muni Long has the longevity and resolve of a queen, releasing her debut album Jukebox in 2009 and her follow-up Coloured in 2018.
Shortly after, she rebranded from her birth name Priscilla Renea Hamilton to the stage name Muni Long, putting one-hit wonders to shame with her resilience and passion for making music. The rebrand came with a new attitude, inspiring the independent release of her hit “Hrs & Hrs”.
The widespread industry popularity and TikTok virality of the slow jam led Muni Long to sign a record deal with Def Jam Recordings, the home of superstars like Jhene Aiko and Teyana Taylor. It was refreshing to witness an old-school-sounding R&B single going viral in an atmosphere where hollow, upbeat pop music seems to dominate social media algorithms.
After Muni Long’s followers went up and the hype surrounding her music went down, many people were anxious to see what she will come up with next, and I am happy to report that she did not disappoint.
Public Displays Of Affection Too obeys R&B’s rules of feminine strength, sensitivity, and enigma. The 5-track EP slopes upwards gradually, telling us how she is longing for better treatment from another. The first two tracks are reminiscent of the ‘heartbreak’ R&B that we all know and love, with relatable images of suffering through a dying relationship with an incompetent partner.
After an unexpected intermission from sadness that features rapper Saweetie, the EP takes a ‘City Girls’ turn with Muni raising her self-esteem and asking price. The project has a very out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new vibe to it, disseminating empowering energy to those who share her sentiments about moving on and moving up. The desire to be quotable dominated the music’s lyrics, and I foresee many bars resonating with her target audience.
Muni Long’s 15 years of experience as a songwriter made the project sound like a seasoned veteran who knew what she is trying to say and how she is trying to say it. EPs are traditionally antenna projects that undergo minimal label influence but Muni treats it as an opportunity to express herself beyond the love-struck femme she was portraying in “Hrs & Hrs”.
“Go try that shit with another / N***a, don’t call me another” is the most fed up you will hear her being in the entire project. She starts herself on the backfoot because it is a setup for the growth she will undergo from song to song.
She clearly illustrates her agony in the second song “Pain”, saying, “So if you didn’t love me, baby / Why would you pretend?“. However, she doesn’t just want to process her pain, she wants to export it to the person who caused it and the song’s fade-out allows the silence to emphasize the pain she felt.
Muni exchanges agony for apathy in “Baby Boo”, “Crack”, and “Cartier”, tapping into her feminine strength by reminding her admirer that she knows where power lies. Her attempts to extort her subjects using her feminine wiles is chucklesome at best, but it ties the message of the project in a neat bow that gifts R&B heads with something to obsess about this summer.
The replay value is the number one indicator I use to measure the success of a music release. I am happy to say that Public Displays Of Affection Too has a fairly good replay value, roping us all into her frustrating, painful, empowering, satisfying, and liberating adventures of finding love. Muni Long can spectate in the debate about R&B’s kings and queens because soon she will be an unquestionable contender for the throne.
Listen to Muni Long’s Public Displays Of Affection Too below and stream it everywhere else here.
Words by Nonjabulo Malinga