What The 10 Best Neo-Soul Artists Have Been Up To

Neo-soul has become a genre that has sadly fallen under the radar. After its prime in the late 90s and early 2000s, many artists have been fairly quiet and outshined by other contemporary R&B artists. But fret not, many of the defining acts of the neo-soul era are proving they're not going anywhere and have plans to continue to make beautiful music—that kind you can feel from your soul.

Flip through to find out what our favorite neo-soul artists have been up to recently.  —Shannon Powell

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1. Maxwell

The sexy singer (who just turned 40) made fans wait eight years after his chart-topping album (NOW), before hitting the studio again to drop BLACKsummers’night. When he swaggered across the stage at the 2009 BET awards with a flawless falsetto, we knew he was back with a bang. The album was rumored to have been a part of a collective, but after another hiatus, many fans have been left wondering the status of the soul man. Would he be coming out with any more music? And more importantly, when?!

He teased us with his dynamic duet with fellow soulful singer and good friend, Alicia Keys, with Fire We Make. He has since taken to his Instagram and Twitter accounts to hint at an apparent new album and complementary tour.

No word yet on when the album is expected to drop, but it seems fitting that it will hit shelves sometime this summer. Until then, catch Max at his upcoming concert dates: July 03 at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi; July 05 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in  New Orleans; and July 06 at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

2. Lauryn Hill

The woman often regarded as the queen of hip-hop and R&B made a name for herself with her groundbreaking album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. Her legendary performances on the album made her not only a standout singer, but also an equally gifted rapper, gaining her 10 Grammy nominations.

Earlier this month, Hill’s newest single “Neurotic Society” hit the internet waves amidst her ugly tax battle. The 38-year-old made a deal with Sony Records to launch a label and release records (including the single) with hopes to collect enough money to pay off her tax debts. But, unfortunately the soul diva still came up short and landed a 3-month prison sentence. Hopefully some good will come out of the situation.
3. D'Angelo

With his erotic visual to “How Does it Feel”, D’Angelo proved that he is one fine man who looks pretty damn amazing greased up with no clothes on.

Not only was he sexy (as hell) to look at, but ooh-wee, he had the voice to match. But then again, you already knew that after listening to his debut album, Brown Sugar.

After years of dealing with legal troubles, the sensual crooner hit the stage once more at the 2012 BET awards showing that he still had it. The 39-year-old is now working on his third studio album, James River, alongside Questlove. There has been no  release date for the album yet, but we’re anxiously waiting.

4. Erykah Badu

A true afrocentric queen, Miss Erykah Badu has been her own woman since day one. Whether rocking a headwrap, a badass fro or an iced out ankh, Erykah has always been the embodiment of black beauty.

She further expressed this through her songs and made a name for herself in the neo-soul genre with an extensive list of awards including 19 Grammy nominations, four of which she has won.

This year, she was featured on Janelle’s Monae’s "Q.U.E.E.N." track and in a recent interview with Billboard, she hinted at new music in the future.

"Soon. Me soon come,” she said. “I'm writing right now. Sometimes it takes a little while. When it happens, it does.”

5.  Jill Scott

Jill Scott has been noted for her smooth, sensual voice and telling it like it is in her songs—whether it’s about her sexual escapades, dealing with haters or simply what food she made this morning—and she tells it all so sweetly.

She first hit the scene in 2000 with her album, Who is Jill Scott, but after 3 more albums, 13 Grammy nominations (including three wins), and a successful acting career, the world surely knows who she is.

She continues to show off her acting chops, hitting movie screens nationwide in Baggage Claim, set to be released September 27, but Jill Scott hasn’t completely left behind what got her to where she is today: music. Jill is likely performing at a festival in a city near you this summer.

6. Musiq Soulchild

When Musiq Soulchild hit the scene in 2000 with his chart-topping singles, “Just Friends,” and “Love”, the Philly native let the world know he was a force to be reckoned with.

Thirteen years and five albums later, the Grammy-nominated crooner continues to create magic whenever he hits the studio. Unlike many artists within the neo-sould genre, Musiq has proven that he truly is a child of soul, consecutively cranking out album after album, without any long breaks in between.

With his latest studio album, 9nine, we’re sure the 35-year-old will continue to give fans what they want and we look forward to hearing it.

7. Raphael Saadiq

A member of the 80's and 90's R&B sensation Tony! Toni! Toné!, and the short-lived Lucy Pearl, Raphael Saadiq has been in the game for awhile. With his unique tone and creative genius, he has been a part of some of the most defining tracks of R&B and neo-soul music.

After nearly 30 years of doing his thing in the industry, Saadiq hasn’t slowed down. He continues to tour and has a spot on a 2013 Toyota Prius SOULED commercial. He also acts as a mentor to fellow Oakland-native, R&B up-and-comer Adrian Marcel. But we don’t think he’ll stop making music of his own any time soon. We only expect him to continue to make classics.

8. Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton has that sort of voice where you can just feel what he’s saying with every note. The grittiness of passion, hurt, love lost, love found—he can make you feel it.

It’s this voice that has made him a standout performer. He began his career with Nappy Roots and has since made five studio albums and the 42-year-old is still at it.

He was nominated for two Grammys for his 2011 album “Back to Love,” as well as having his track “Freedom” included in the Django Unchained soundtrack. This summer he’ll be touring at intimate venues nationwide.

 9. Angie Stone

Her track, “Holding Back the Years,” was a hit in the classic love story, Love and Basketball, and her  single, “No More Rain in this Cloud,” made Angie Stone a standout soul performer.

After six studio albums and multiple movie appearances, many are wondering what the soulful songstress has been up to. She continues to promote her 2012 album, “Rich Girl” by touring at intimate sold out venues nationwide and we can only hope she continues to sing her way through our speakers.

10. Jazmine Sullivan

With only one album, Jazmine Sullivan has set the R&B world on fire. Her vocal capability is like no other. Her passion could be felt with every verse—take a listen to “In Love With Another Man,” we trust you’ll get chills.

Sadly for her fans and the music world alike, the 26-year-old Philadelphia native is said to be done with music. Shortly after her successful debut album, “Fearless,” Sullivan took to her Twitter to express that she would give singing a rest.

“I'm making an official announcement that i am taking a break from music ... i'm trying to figure out who i am ... w/out a mike, paper or pen. i promised myself when it wasn't fun anymore i wouldn't do it. and here i am. i love u all and appreciate u soooooo much ... u have no idea how much u've inspired me and fed my ego. but the truth is that i have to believe in me whether you all do or not. and thats what i'm lookin for. that belief in myself. me. I. i love us. thanks for being here for me and riding with me on this journey. let us continue.”

That was in 2011. We haven’t heard too much from her since, but we hope she’ll have a change of heart. A voice like hers needs to continue being shared with the world.

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
KMazur/WireImage

Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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