Like clockwork, conversations in regards to R&B and Soul music's commercial viability or mainstream relevance popped up again via social media. It started recently when Diddy asked a simple question on Twitter - “Who Killed R&B.” Of course, the tweet provided mixed responses. This eventually led the Bad Boy Records founder to pow-wow with R&B notables including Mary J. Blige, Tank and even Kehlani.
Though Diddy would later refute his own claim about the genre, his initial feelings make total sense. For nearly two decades, the hip-hop icon was known for churning out hits with artists ranging from Mary J Blige to Faith Evans and Total. However, as music artists and fans become more genre-agnostic due to music streaming, room for more traditional R&B/Soul artists got smaller. It’s happened in nearly every other genre including Hip Hop, Rock and even Country.
A quick look at last year’s best-selling albums and the closest conventional R&B/Soul album was Adele’s 30 album. Racial conversations about the whitewashing of the genre aside, elements of R&B are present on over half of the other albums on that list. This includes Drake’s Certified Lover Boy, Doja Cat’s Planet Her, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, Justin Bieber’s Justice and even The Weeknd’s 2020 After Hours album.
Though major labels are still releasing music from successful traditional R&B/soul artists including Jazmin Sullivan, Summer Walker, SiR and Lucky Daye, the DYI indie scene is more alive than ever. For those unfamiliar, we’re here to give you five of our favorite indie R&B singers who are thriving.
Lorine Chia has spent the last decade carving out her own lane within the indie R&B scene. The Cameroon native’s distinctive voice managed to get her notable collaborations with notable artists from Janelle Monae to Jamila Woods.
Atlanta native Tanerélle not only has a completely unique style of her own but, has the musical abilities to back it up. The singer/producer recently released 82 Moons EP which features production from Camper (Brandy, H.E.R., Big Sean) and is an intergalactic joyride of romance.
If the release of his Tim Hall collaboration “Orange” says anything, Ballad might be bringing back the male falsetto that’s been missing for quite some time. The Brockton, Massachusetts-based artist (by way of Luanda, Angola) definitely makes good on his Instagram handle Mrloveballad with his unique take on R&B.
When San Diego native Joyce Wrice isn’t singing the main theme song for Disney’s reboot of the classic animated series The Proud Family, she’s linking up with Kaytranada for the danceable “Ice Tea.” Last year, she released the outstanding Overgrown project featuring guest features from Lucky Daye, Masego, Freddie Gibbs and more.
R&B artists across the pond are putting in work within the genre as well and this year’s most remarkable example is most definitely Samm Henshaw. The London-native released one of the best R&B projects this year through Unitdy Soul featuring popular tracks such as “Still Broke” and “Grow.”