R&B's Secret Society: 26 Acts You Should Be Listening To
September 4, 2014 - 4:52 pm
RauryOrigin: Atlanta, Georgia
Raury's sweet mix of gospel and soul was a well-kept secret until he released his debut album, Indigo Child, for free in August. While the singer already has a dedicated following, he's also found fans in Kanye West and Outkast. Raury will take part in the duo's homecoming concert in Atlanta on September 27.
MapeiOrigin: Stockholm, Sweden
Mapei originally started her career as a rapper, but found more joy in singing. One listen to her breakout song, “Don’t Wait,” and you'll find the perfect balance of modern soul and blues. The songwriter is working on her debut album Hey Hey, slated for a September release.
Majid JordanOrigin: Toronto, Canada
Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman, the production duo behind Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” shared more of their talents with fans this summer with the EP, A Place Like This. The OVO Sound signees have an upbeat sound that evokes the feels of the '80s but with a modern twist.
Lion BabeOrigin: New York City
New York natives Jillian Hervey and producer Lucas Goodman released their single “Treat Me Like Fire” in 2012, as well as an unforgettable music video. Hervey, the daughter of Vanessa Williams, has a voice that recalls the neo-soul days. Since their debut, Lion Babe has stayed busy with festival performances, harmonizing with Childish Gambino and working on new music for this fall.
Marlee In The MixxOrigin: Washington D.C
The eight-part collective led by singer/rapper Marlee D came together in 2011 and has been making a creative mix of progressive R&B focused on live instrumentation. The band once opened up for Big K.R.I.T. and debuted its EP 10,000 Hours in June.
Adrian MarcelOrigin: Oakland, California/ Atlanta, Georgia
Adrian Marcel is ready to steer the reigns of R&B in his favor. The singer is a favorite among established acts like Keyshia Cole and Raphael Saadiq. His recent project Weak After Next gives listeners R&B and hip-hop collabos provided by E-40 and Casey Veggies.
Rochelle JordanOrigin: Toronto Canada
Toronto songbird Rochelle Jordan has been churning out music since her 2011 debut EP, ROJO. Her consistency and creative approach to R&B made her a soulful gleam in Canada’s music scene. Aside from her solo projects, she's also worked with PartyNextDoor and Childish Gambino and released her single “Lowkey” with frequent collaborator KLSH.
TinkOrigin: Chicago, Illinois
Tink is a favorite among Hollyweirds like Kylie Jenner. The youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan sang Tink’s breakout single, “Treat Me Like Somebody,” and opened her up to new fans via Instagram. Tink, a Chicago native and member of Mosley Music Group, has been taken under Timbaland’s wing as he works with her on her debut album.
Tay WalkerOrigin: Inglewood, California
Tay Walker balances his solo career and his role in The Internet seemingly easily. You can hear the 22-year-old’s harmonizing vocals on Feel Good’s “You Don’t Even Know” and “Runnin.” His solo work is also impressive on tracks like “Pleasure,” where he belts sweet nothings. He's just hitting the tip of the iceberg in the R&B game.
KelelaOrigin: Washington, D.C.
When you imitate Sound of Music and Janet Jackson videos as a child, you’re bound to make an impact in R&B. Kelela, the soulful butterfly, has caught the attention of Beyonce, Little Dragon and critics alike. "Go All Night” was featured on Solange’s Saint Heron compilation album last year, and the singer continues to make snappy R&B with her latest tracks, including “Want It” with Tink.
Jesse Boykins IIIOrigin: Chicago, Illinois
This critical darling is more than just an old soul. The Chicago native’s eclectic style and soothing vocals (See his recent LP, The Love Apparatus) have earned him a cult following. With its musings on love, the album offers a unique perspective on a feeling that’s impossible to ignore.
CJ HiltonOrigin: Baltimore, Maryland
Son of gospel singer Charles Hilton, the crooner known as CJ Hilton was born Charles Hilton Jr. in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s no surprise that he decided to pursue a career in music. His sound is deeply rooted in soul, bringing back memories of blues singers like ZZ Hill (look it up) and Marvin Gaye. Hilton opened the year with a mixtape titled Sextape and also released a few Marvin Gaye covers that are worth a listen.
Chet FakerOrigin: Melbourne, Australia
Chet Faker may occasionally create electronic music, but his soulful origins seep through. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, the singer's cover of Blackstreet's “No Diggity” was used in a Super Bowl commercial last year. Since then, Faker released his debut album Built On Glass and icy video to the lead single “Talk Is Cheap.”
Camille SafiyaOrigin: New Jersey/ Washington Heights
Camille Safiya’s sound can best be described as elegant and melancholy. On her debut EP, Island Blues: The Sonic Memoirs, she sings about love, pressure and the struggle of making it in the Big Apple. The New Jersey native pulls inspiration from her Caribbean roots, as well as songbirds Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige. She's currently working on her next EP 24K.
Dana WilliamsOrigin: Los Angeles, California
If you’re an avid fan of the ESGN family, chances are you’ve heard Dana Williams' lovely voice on Freddie Gibbs’ “The Hard.” The Los Angeles native is currently in the running for ABC’s singing competition Rising Star, with impressive covers of Sam Smith’s “Latch,” Christina Perri’s “Human” and notably, Rihanna’s “Stay.” Besides killing the competition, Williams released an EP this year called The Lonely Ones and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” with former Gossip Girl Leighton Meester.
GallantOrigin: Los Angeles, California
Singer-songwriter Gallant kept his fans on their toes when he dropped his debut EP Zebra in May. The indie artist’s sweet falsetto and lyrics about haunting love help him form his own lane. During an interview with Billboard, the singer says he spent a lot of time recording the project in a closet. “Sirens” "was done with a USB mic in some random dude’s closet in Hollywood,” he said. “‘Jupiter Grayscale’” was just me lying on my mattress with torn-up notebook pages and box of Oreos.”
Jake & PapaOrigin: Los Angeles, California
Take a good listen to Jake & Papa and if memory serves you right, Brutha will slowly pop into your head. Brothers Jacob Harrell (Jake) and Cheyenne Harrell (Papa) got their start in the brotherly quintet in 2002. After their brothers decided to pursue solo careers, Jake & Papa released a few projects over the years, but their latest EP, Athena’s Erotica screams passion and tones that any lover would enjoy. Turn the lights down low and prepared to jam out with their answer to emo R&B above.
Jade De LafleurOrigin: Houma, Louisiana/Brooklyn,New York
Inspired by legendary acts like Janis Joplin, Mariah Carey and The Beatles, songstress Jade De Lafleur has a simple yet elegant sound. The singer, who's featured on Solange’s St. Heron compilation, gave fans in 2014 the project JADED and recently sexy visuals for her collabo with James Fauntleroy, “Smokin In The Car.”
How To Dress WellOrigin: Chicago, Illinois
Blue-eyed-soul has found its latest poster boy. Chicago’s How To Dress Well, aka Tom Krell, fuses acoustic and electric guitars into his soulful and honest lyrics. Krell made his debut in 2010 with Love Remains, and released his third album What Is This Heart? in June. The lead single “Repeat Pleasure” is a modest love song that will definitely awaken memories of innocent teenage love.
Origin: Baltimore, Maryland
Christina “Brave” Williams returned to the music scene with the summer love melody “Oooh (Luv La).” Brave, who was formerly a part of RichGirl with Sevyn Streeter, Krystal Lyndriette and Audra Simmons, is ready to show off her chops, solo style, with her upcoming project Fearless. The singer plans to release her EP and video for her infectious single in September.
Polly AOrigin: Flint, Michigan/Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Polly A, formerly known as Meleni Smith, is on a mission to spread her newfound appreciation for love, through her music, of course. The singer says her name stems from word “polyamory,” meaning to engage in the act of loving. Polly’s heartfelt disposition caught the eyes of J. Cole, who asked her to write the hook for his hit, “Crooked Smile.” Polly has penned songs for other artists like Alicia Keys, but is now placing her energy into her upcoming project, Ghetto Gold Dream.
SamphaOrigin: Morden, Britain
U.K. visionary Sampha Sisay is known for his work with Drake ("Too Much"), Jessie Ware and Solange, but the talented singer/songwriter has belted out a few gems of his own, including his EP Dual and an instrumental titled “Slow Lights,” off his anticipated debut. Sampha will have a few new songs with SBTRKT for their upcoming fall release, Wonder When We Land.
DaleyOrigin: Manchester, England
Since his debut in 2010, the soulful Daley has comforted fans with effortless vocals. It’s been a long time coming for the singer, who released his debut LP, Days + Nights in February of this year. The singer also dropped a special acapella version of Days + Nights to hold fans over until his performance at the fifth annual One Music Festival in September.
FKA TwigsOrigin: Gloucestershire
Surrounded by music and dance most of her life, FKA Twigs has a seductive and haunting style that captivates listeners. The enigmatic singer got her start by following in her mother’s shoes as a dancer. After performing as a backup dancer for Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran and Jessie J, she released her first project EP1 in 2012. Her music videos have also taken on a life of their own, conveying the art of sex appeal.
Elli IngramOrigin: Brighton, England
Elli Ingram, like the rest of us, is just looking for Mr. Right. Fortunately for the 19-year-old, her vocals may help her get there faster than anyone. Her sound is a clever mix of R&B and hip-hop with vulnerable and blunt lyrics. Bonus: Ingram has sang on stage with Angie Stone and De La Soul.
Janine & The MixtapeOrigin: Brooklyn, New York & New Zealand
Singer and songwriter Janine & The Mixtape delivers raw emotions and smooth beats on her EP, Dark Mind. Standout tracks include “Hold Me” (featured on Love & Hip Hop Atlanta) and “Let It Run.” The indie cutie also announced her plans to release new music under her own label titled, Little Mixtape Records.