The New Faces of R&B: 6 Artists Tugging Us Back Into Harmony

6 R&B artists

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R&B music has a long and storied history — and for the most part, it is firmly integrated into the DNA of almost all modern music — certainly more mainstream, popular music genres. It would be a rarity to hear any modern pop music that didn’t at least carry with it some influence of R&B, or soul or blues music for that matter!

And just like every other genre, R&B has evolved too; new faces come to the forefront to carry the torch onward and inspire future listeners and musicians.

Here are a few new artists on the scene that have caught our eyes and ears recently, and whose silky smooth music is exactly what we all need right now.

KeiyaA

A multi instrumentalist, producer, and singer-songwriter, the Chicago-born KeiyaA is a powerhouse of talent and drive. After quitting her desk job and couch surfing, she began to dedicate herself to her vision and music. In 2020, she released her record Forever, Ya Girl on her own label, and with no team or label behind her it quickly gained fans and critical acclaim. Bringing her jazz background into her own brand of R&B, she speaks about real life and real issues. In the chaos of 2020, there was no better time for people to listen. Pitchfork called her album “resolute realness” — which it most certainly is. With lyrics like “Get your boot off my neck, so we can both progress” (“Way Eye”), it would be easy to think KeiyaA’s art is about representation, but the singer disagrees: “I do not make art about representation. We are already here. Regardless of you. This is about your participation in reality. We need y’all to catch up so we can continue to be.”

Pip Millett

Pip Millet can perhaps best be described as “blissful soul.” Her bass lines move you, the drums make you nod your head, and it’s not long before you find yourself in an imminently enjoyable, calming groove. Growing up in the British countryside, Pip jokes that her and her family were “the only brown people in town” though she adds they always felt welcome. As a child, she admits to being a bit of an introvert before learning bass and getting into music. Citing influences like Joni Mitchell, Bob Marley, and Lauryn Hill, her sound is a clear callback to some of those vibes, while retaining a modern R&B style all to her own. Since releasing her first songs (“Talk About It,” “Make Me Cry”), she’s gained fans all over the world, including fellow artists like Jorja Smith.

SiR

Sir Darryl Farris (better known by SiR) has soul running through his veins. SiR was born to a household of accomplished musicians; his father was an accomplished background singer for the likes of Micheal Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Tina Turner, and others, his uncle was a bassist for Prince, and his brother is rapper D Smoke. Before releasing his first album, SiR cut his teeth writing songs for R&B stars Jill Scott, Ginuwine, and Tyrese. Since his first album release in 2015, SiR has been bringing chill beats, a velvety smooth R&B voice, and melancholic, moody vibes to the ears of listeners everywhere. Fans of animation may want to check out his video for “John Redcorn,” a fantastic reimagining of King of the Hill, and a character with whom the song shares its name.

Tamera

It’s not often Simon Cowell flips his lid over an artist, but it’s easy to see why he did so with Tamera Foster, calling her “the British Rhianna.” Although he signed her to a three year deal, Tamera felt constrained and ultimately chose to go her own direction. With her new release, it’s easy to see she has her own vision. Hot on the heels of a sold out show, the singer released her debut recording, Afrodite — the title and unique spelling a nod to both her Greek and African heritages. Growing up in a mixed race household, the singer struggled with her identity before eventually learning about the Black Power movement, and influential leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcom X, which gave her a new sense of pride and self. Tamera’s heritage shines through in her recordings; African rhythms permeate the tracks, with buttery smooth R&B vocals soaring above. Undoubtedly, exciting things are to come for this talented artist.

Dawuna

When one thinks of R&B, electronica and ASMR don’t immediately come to mind as compatible sounds. Fortunately for listeners however, Dawuna (born Ian Mugerwa) gave the unusual concoction a try. His debut album, Glass Lit Dream, was dropped into the void of the internet in the dead of night at the tail end of 2020. The artist thought nothing of the fact that it had little fanfare — he had been working passionately on his album as a way of helping him through difficult memories and PTSD. Yet the album soon struck a chord with listeners, so much so that a record label showed interest and paid to get it remastered and re-released themselves. When speaking of his music, Dawuna says:  “Black people created movement after movement which became massively influential on a global scale. Techno, rock, jazz, soul, disco … all that came from this lineage of Black musicians that were doing types of music that could be traced back to Negro work songs, Negro spirituals and early gospel music. Here’s the past, what has happened… and here’s something that could be the next step.”

Chrissi

Inhabiting a niche between soul, pop, and R&B with Trinidadian influences, Chrissi explores the realm of heartbreak and new love in her debut release, Back in the Day. Produced by award-winning East London rapper BERWYN, Chrissi’s intimate, vulnerable lyrics are anchored by tight beats, throwback organ sounds, and popping bass lines and synths. Chrissi comes about her lyrics organically and honestly, as in the case of “Tracksuit,” a standout on the EP. The soul singer had a crush on a guy but couldn’t tell anyone…so she opened up the Notes app on her phone and just spilled her feelings onto the digital page. If her debut is any indication, Chrissi has an exciting vibe to bring to the music world.

Artists are always trying new things. Whether infusing soul with jazz and electronica, randomly dropping a release laced with ASMR and dark techno, or turning your secret crush into an R&B banger about tracksuits, it’s exciting to see what new generations of artists are bringing to the table. If these releases are any indication, the future is in good hands.

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by KimbraCom TruiseJlinRyan Lott, and the acclaimed Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats.

Jlin: Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability

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