We’ve already talked about five underrated rap albums this year, it’s only fair that we give R&B its turn.
2017 has been a pretty eventful year in rap, with several high-profile releases delivering the goods. R&B, though, has been much more spotty. While there have been few outright bombs (thankfully), we’ve heard more than our fair share of mediocrity.
Frankly, R&B’s kinda been going through the motions. But these five albums shake things up.
Take a look – and a listen – to five R&B albums we’ve yet to discuss here on Soul In Stereo but are worth your ear.
Tone Stith, Can We Talk
Let’s be real, the R&B we grew up with is in hospice on life support with the family putting down a deposit on a tombstone. But Tone Stith ain’t letting it go down without a fight. Tone brings a youthful exuberance and perspective to his music, building upon the foundation of R&B’s great legends. If you miss 90s-style R&B, this is the project for you.
Jhene Aiko, Trip
My biggest complaint about albums in 2017 is that THEY’RE SO LONG MY GOD MAKE IT STOP. Double albums, “playlists,” whatever that thing was that my Cousin Chris Brown dropped – 90-minute albums are becoming the norm. But despite its gargantuan length, Jhene Aiko’s Trip still makes a strong impression. It’s a very cohesive set that boasts strong cameos, breezy production and surprisingly insightful themes. Consuming all this album has to offer is a big undertaking but, hey, sometimes the journey is better than the destination.
Vivian Green, VGVI
While I was a huge fan of Vivian Green’s 2002 debut, her subsequent albums failed to make a mark on me. That’s no reflection on her talent, of course – she’s one of R&B’s most underrated voices. But in the case of VGVI, sixth time’s the charm. Vivian’s longtime partnership with producer Kwame reaches its zenith, resulting in one of the most engaging albums of her career.
Brent Faiyaz, Sonder Son
If you’re a fan of Goldlink’s hit “Crew” (and trust me, I am), then you’ve already had a passing introduction to Brent Faiyaz, whose vocals made that track such a summertime earworm. Don’t expect Brent’s debut to be that bouncy, though – Sonder Son bucks radio-friendly trends for a emotional rollercoaster ride. The songwriting here is the album’s biggest strength, with Brent touching on everything from politics to poverty. It’s a heavy listen in spots but pretty fulfilling.
Kelela, Take Me Apart
There’s been much discussion in R&B circles about the industry’s shift to “alt-R&B,” the electronic hipster stepchild of late-90s R&B, but I’m here for it. When done well, it’s a refreshing take on the genre. Kelela’s debut, Take Me Apart, helps lead that charge. Bouncing from hip-hop influenced bangers to minimalistic soul sessions, Kelela balances tenderness and toughness with her brand of Afro-futurism. If this is R&B’s new direction I’m down for the ride.
What underrated R&B albums got you through the year? Let us know below.