In this age music has been "watered down" and we have many acts people feel shouldn't be prospering as much as they are. See, we, as Millennials, can see both sides of the Gen X-er's and the Centennial's arguments of how music is these days. So personally I can see how Lil Yachty is super successful and can acknowledge whatever dopeness he has much as I can do that for Fabolous in his prime. Bryson Tiller taking the world by storm versus the slow hurricane development of THEY. This being said, I'm here to address the "R&B is dead" conversation.
R&B is in an interesting transitional period right now and has many types of artists prospering in their respective lanes. So as someone who really enjoys the vibes around I've compiled a list of select few artists that, in my opinion, should be familiarized with.
"Select few", does not mean these are the only ones out there keeping R&B alive and pumping. I just really rock with these 10 acts. So artists such as Lianne La Havas, Jorja Smith and Ari Lennox are definitely more names to look out for but these 10 below are who I'm choosing to highlight first.
Here's a playlist to vibe to while you read:
Odd Future; Cali
There is no way I could start any list of this nature sans The Internet. Odd Future members Syd & Matt Martians sparked this years ago with "Purple Naked Ladies" and continue to evolve this band into something better & better with each album. With a name like The Internet they naturally spread their musical webs to add in Steve Lacy, Patrick Paige, Chris Smith and brothers Jameel & Ron to round out the group. Like every other Odd Future affiliate, their creativity knows no bounds as they shape this new age R&B full of beautiful bass lines, groovy ballads and softly-sung love notes we can slide into our crush's inbox.
Upon first hearing Snoh Aalegra, I was absolutely speechless. "Under The Influence" remains my go-to song when I need some soul in my presence . The way her voice fills a song is astonishing, to say the least. Something in that Swedish air had her sangin' and with a deal at 14 years old.. here we are 15 years later as she pushes her vibes out of Los Angeles landing under the radar of the likes of Aubrey Drake Graham. Snoh Aalegra sounds like she's straight out of the Jazz Age and you'd find her in some hole-in-the-wall shindig getting all the cheers for her singing... and I love it.
Shout out to Spotify back when I was on it heavy for this one. Alina Baraz and her producer, Galimatias, were slow burners for me but they're lit, nonetheless. Hearing Alina on "Can I", courtesy a Spotify Weekly playlist, put me on to the "Urban Flora" EP late Spring and by mid-Summer the EP was holding me down at least every other night. She sounds as lovely as the name suggests and I'm very excited for the upcoming follow-up.
Xavier Omär fka SPZRKT
Have to shout out Katreena D. on this one. I was starting to hear SPZRKT's name more but never really gave him a shot until I was recommended "Hours Spent Loving You". Then came the name change to Xavier Omär and random placements here & there to back it up. Personally, growing up listening to John Legend and Musiq Soulchild has me gravitating towards Xavier more as he radiates the same kind of soul. He's a man with respect who brings out a loving side of music apart from the druggy "let me fuck you" tunes we hear from R&B recently.
outside of D.C.
Here's another I can thank Odd Future for blessing. Kali Uchis & Tyler, The Creator have been in and out of studio sessions since 2014 (spawning the likes of "Find Your Wings") but the most notable effort for me came just last year with "PERFECT". The way her voice floats on this one makes me want to sit down with a cup of tea so she can tell me every little detail about how her day went. So, me being who I am, I travel back to the project she dropped in 2015, "Por Vida", and feel our relationship evolve from tea time to a series of lunch/dinner dates full of conversation.
As The Daily Note, we always stumble upon new talent. One day Dezzy posted about this new artist, Ravyn Lenae, I had never heard of and, again, me being who I am, made a mental note. Fast forward to about a month ago and here we have her new EP “Midnight Moonlight”. I'm currently entranced by Ravyn Lenae's sound and usually bump the project on my way back from work to either lift me up or soothe me down for the rest of the night. It's a very sensual neutrality in a music world filled with extreme lefts and rights. Learning she was from Chicago wasn't surprising as there's a resurgence of soul the past years with the likes of Chance The Rapper, NoName, Saba, BJ The Chicago Kid & more.
Daniel Caeser has incredible potential. Seemingly arriving out of nowhere he makes sure to leave an impression on every ear his voice settles into. Couple his ability as an artist with his appeal & his memorable performances and you have the beginnings of a star-in-the-making. Just listen to "Get You" ft Kali Uchis and his rendition of Kanye's "Street Lights". Clearly there are eyes on him (he was on Forbes for Christ's sakes) and he'll continue to shine with every new look. Just remember I told you so 'cus this is me telling you so.
Out of all the music spawning from the OVO Workca- I mean, the OVO Sound label, DVSN is hands down my favorite. Y'all can have your Roy Flowers and your Gatherings Down The Block just give me Daniel Daley & Nineteen85. These two are definitely front-runners for the new R&B sound we have coming up. Their project, "Sept. 5th", dropped this time last year and has been in heavy rotation since. I haven't even felt the need for more yet because this project, being one of my favorites of 2016, has incredible longevity. Nineteen85's ear for samples blended with Daniel Daley's craftsmanship expresses that "let me fuck you" music while twisting the sheets into "let me love you" sounds. Very excited for more but, again, very satisfied with what I have.
Y’all should already know, man. Sampha is incredible. After seeing him grace the stage singing “Too Much” with Drake on *insert night live show here*, it was over. Seeking more of this artist was a must. His voice whispers all the pain he's experienced in life and provides the feel equivalent to a grainy 50's movie reel burning onto the screen. After dropping his "Dual" EP in 2013, he cracked down to really perfect his craft while handling his personal struggles (losing his mother to cancer recently, after losing his father to the same illness when he has 10 years old. Also, Sampha is dealing with an inexplicable lump in his throat that affects his day-to-day life). All of this became a part of the process in finally dropping his debut album, "Process" back in February. If Sampha isn't in your playlists, give him a listen and see how quickly that changes.
I'll close this list like I began it: with one of my favorite artists out now. Anderson .Paak is another front-runner of a whole entirely different sound. The first time hearing him was when "Suede" was doing what it was doing in the summer of 2015. There was this WTF moment and constant replay... but I wasn't sure if I actually liked what I was hearing. Like, was I a fan of this sound or was it just so different that it was dope as hell? Then "Link Up/Suede" finally dropped (shout out to the dope producer Knxwledge) and I was slightly impressed. BUT THEN, he let go of one of my favorite projects of 2016 in "Malibu" and I've been a huge fan since. Anderson .Paak's music is just a soul-filled party with incredible cocktail breaks in between. Reading up on his story of homelessness, musical upbringing through church, deals with Dr. Dre and more makes him that much more likable as a person. Anderson .Paak deserves all the light he's getting as he's shining his music on those who need it most right now.