Like clockwork, conversations about the commercial viability or relevance of R&B and Soul music have resurfaced via social media. It started recently when Didi asked a simple question about Twitter – “Who Killed R&B.” Of course, the tweet provided mixed responses. This ultimately led to the Bad Boy Records founder having a powwow with R&B notables including Mary J. Blige, Tank and even Kehlani.
Although Diddy later refutes his own gender claim, his initial feelings make perfect sense. For nearly two decades, the hip-hop icon was known for churning out hits with artists ranging from Mary J. Blige at Faith Evans and Total. However, as artists and music fans become more and more genre-agnostic due to music streaming, the room for more traditional R&B/Soul artists has shrunk. It’s happened in almost every other genre, including hip-hop, rock, and even country.
RELATED: Mary J. Blige on R&B became ‘popular’ when Adele released a song of the genre
A quick look at the best-selling albums of the last year and the closest conventional R&B/Soul album was Adele’s 30 album. Whitewashing Racial Conversations genre aside, elements of R&B are present on more than half of the other albums on this list. This includes by Drake Certified lover, Doja Catit is planet she, Doua Lipait is nostalgia for the future, Justin Bieber Justice and even The weekendin 2020 after hours album.
Although major labels still release music from successful mainstream R&B/soul artists, including Jazmin Sullivan, Summer Walker, SiR and lucky day, 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 past decade carving her own path within the independent R&B scene. The distinctive voice of the Cameroonian native has managed to secure her notable collaborations with notable artists from Janelle Monae at Jamila Woods.
Originally from Atlanta Tanerelle not only has a very unique style, but has the musical abilities to back it up. The singer/producer recently released 82 moons EP which features Camper’s production (Brandy, HIS, big-sean) and is an intergalactic ride of romance.
If the release of his collaboration with Tim Hall “Orange” is saying anything, Ballad will perhaps bring back the male falsetto that has been missing for some time. The Brockton, Massachusetts-based artist (via Luanda, Angola) is definitely succeeding on her Instagram handle Mrloveballad with his unique take on R&B.
When native of San Diego Joyce Wrice doesn’t sing the main theme song for Disney’s reboot of the classic animated series The proud family, she joins forces with Kaytranada for the dancing “Ice Tea”. Last year she released the incredible Too developed project featuring guest features from lucky day, Masego, Freddie Gibbs and more.
R&B artists from across the Atlantic are also working in the genre and the most notable example of this year is certainly Sam Henshaw. The London native released one of the best R&B projects this year through united soul with popular tracks such as “Still Broke” and “Grow”.