Yesterday we looked at 5 unsung hip-hop projects you may have overlooked in 2016.
But I didn’t forget about my R&B fans.
If your only exposure to R&B has been urban radio stations, this next statement will shock you, but believe me, it’s true:
This has been a pretty solid year for R&B.
You just have to turn off the radio to hear it.
KING and Maxwell have given us two of the best albums of ANY genre this year. Ro James, Tweet, Lion Babe, Solange, Eric Benet and my boy Keith Sweat also are among the many highlights. But here are five albums that may have slipped by you in the past few months.
Az Yet, She’s Magic
Oh yes, THAT Az Yet. After a 20 year hiatus – and more member rotations than 20 Destiny Childs and 3LWs – the collective of crooners returned with a surprisingly solid collection of covers and new material. Don’t expect any awkward attempts at Top 40 radio play or rookie rappers slapped on hooks – this is no-frills, 90s-era R&B that’s heavy on sentimental ballads. These guys deserved to bask in the spotlight one more time.
NAO, For All We Know
Alt-R&B is the new catch-all term to describe any young singer who doesn’t sound like Usher or Alicia Keys circa 2002. But here’s a newsflash – R&B always has been in a constant state of evolution, and NAO is simply helping to push the sound forward. The British singer’s sound is a cocktail of traditional soul, electronica and funk, which gives her debut album a unique yet subtlety familiar feel. Throw any label you want on her, just don’t miss this album.
Dave Hollister, The MANuscript
Dave is one of those artists who never seems to sleep. The guy consistently, yet quietly, drops a new album every couple of years, and they rarely fall short. His latest, The MANuscript, stays true to his pedigree – soulful harmonies and life lessons delivered with his unmistakable gospel-tinged vocals. The brief running time leaves little room for fluff, so we’re treated to a tight, concise project. Critics might turn their noses up at the gospel harmonies and preachy life lessons, but I’m here for it – I’m just glad Dave is sticking to the script.
Kandace Springs, Soul Eyes
Kandace first caught my attention by providing vocals on Ghostface’s stellar 36 Seasons project. Now she’s in the forefront and making the most of the opportunity. More Sade than Beyonce, Kandace brings a much-needed jazzy element to R&B, utilizing simple acoustic arrangements to drive her emotional lyrics. Kandace’s understated yet moving tracks might not resonate with some impatient listeners, but trust me, there is beauty in every note.
Christopher Gallant has to be a student of the game. His debut album Ology is like a musical history lesson – tracks pivot from 80s pop, 90s slow jams and 00-era neo soul on a dime. The arrangements are definitely a draw but Gallant’s soothing vocals are the real star. His poetic lyrics are delivered with aching passion – you feel every single note Gallant delivers. If you love R&B, you’ll love this project.
What other R&B tracks flew under the radar this year? And don’t forget to check out 5 rap albums you may have missed this year.