How to get started as a producer of R&B music
This is a difficult genre to work in because there is a lot of competition. You need to understand the rhythmic elements of modern R&B and how they combine Dance Music elements with traditional rhythms harking back to an earlier era of the genre.
You need to have an awareness of Hip Hop and Rap. R&B is generally a softer, gentler genre, but there has to be a view to the street - perhaps from the window of a luxury apartment though.
An R&B producer needs to be a musician, at least in spirit. Too much dabbling with the equipment will take your focus from the music. You need to know how to get a sampling expert to do that for you, and how to get a recording engineer to get the right sounds for you. If you do it all yourself you might learn some interesting stuff, but you're taking your eye off the target. R&B is music of the heart and of life's experiences, not clever manipulation of technology.
The equipment you need...
You don't need equipment as much as the right people to work with. You need someone who has a studio, including a sampler, and knows how to work all the equipment well. This leaves you free to concentrate on the artist. In Hip Hop, the producer is very close to the technology. In R&B it is better to keep your distance.