For the past few years, R&B has been experiencing an identity crisis. Tides changed with the 2011 release of Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra—its dark production and lyrics attracting fans of edgier R&B—and with Miguel’s unexpected rise on the wings of impressively avant garde music. Then came a trilogy of disturbed mixtapes from Toronto outfit The Weeknd.
Albums like Ocean’s Channel Orange, Miguel’s Kaleidoscopic Dream and James Blake’s Overgrown have been greeted with rave reviews as well. All these artists fall under a vaguely defined version of “alternative” R&B, which is usually some combination of spooky reverb, Princely falsettos and intense or introspective lyrics, not to mention more cosmetically highbrow. Check out 10 unconventional R&B artists making noise.