In 2018, we saw the rise and fall of some of our favorite artists. From the discovery of Burna Boy’s ‘Ye’ as people searched for Kanye West’s similarly titled album, the renewed interest in ’90s R&B sensations New Edition and Tevin Campbell, to the backlash Kanye West received for his endorsement of the dude who should not be president. 2018 was an interesting year in the music industry and 2019 promises to be no different after Cardi B became the first solo woman to win Best Rap Album at the Grammy’s.
If you are looking to branch out and hear some new sounds, we have a list of artists and producers for you to check out for every month of 2019… obviously excluding January.
By 18, Koffee had released her debut single and was opening for Reggae singer, Chronixx. At 18, I was trying to figure out how much of my homework I could procrastinate before their due date. With obviously different priorities, Koffee is using her talent to change and inspire the world.
Her songs all have an inspirational and hard to get out of your head aspect to them. Her first single, ‘Burning’, talks about the passion and fire she has to make it, regardless of whatever obstacles she might face. Her lyrics are encouraging and show her gratitude for the blessings in her life, ‘everybody born wid a talent yuh fi feature, blessings in abundance, weh wi fi cherish each-a, Neva be ungrateful, life is such a teacha.’
Even on her celebratory song, ‘Toast’, she says “Blessings we a reap pon we course inna handful, We nuh rise and boast, Yeah, we give thanks like we need it the most, We haffi give thanks like we really supposed to be thankful.’
If you don’t want to take my word for it, you have to listen to Grammy nominee Chronixx, who just so happens to be her mentor and shared a video of Koffee on Facebook with the caption, ‘your next favourite new artist… if you don’t know fix that.’
2. Samm Henshaw
‘Doubt’ has never sounded as good as it does when Samm Henshaw sings about it, on his uplifting single featuring Wretch 32. His reminder that ‘faith won’t pay the bills but doubt won’t save us all,’ comes with the backing vocals of a choir that makes you feel safe and secure, as though everything will be alright and your debts will miraculously find a way to sort themselves out. His most recent release, ‘Church’, borrows from the same leaf, it contains Chance the Rapper Gospel vibes and a soulful feel that makes you want to clap your hands as though you are at a revival.
The 24-year-old has a deep and slightly raspy voice that makes you want to listen to him sing all day long. Henshaw’s lyrics are often delivered in a humorous and conversational way. On ‘How Does it Feel To Be Loved?’ he is an alien that has just arrived on Earth trying to understand how humans do this thing called love. He has also been a recently retrenched Five Guys employee trying to figure out how to win his girlfriend back on ‘Broke’.
If his mixture of humor and incredible vocals don’t do the deal, definitely check out his videos because they are incredibly fun to watch.
Unless you are living under a rock you should have heard of Lizzo and her insanely infectious and affirming tunes. If not, you need to get on the Lizzo train and listen to her latest single, ‘Juice’, so we can all declare ‘heard you say I’m not the baddest b****, you lyin’. With its funky beats and catchy lyrics, ‘Juice’ sounds like it came straight out of the ’80s. Lizzo honors that with her music video which could easily replace the Soul Glo commercials in ‘Coming to America’.
It is hard not to feel as though you can accomplish any and everything when you listen to Lizzo, she makes you feel as though you are ‘100% that b****’. The 30-year-old is nothing short of amazing, she has the incredible talent of being able to play the flute and immediately hit the shoot after. It honestly seems as though the rapper and singer can do it all and is gracious enough to try and help the rest of us see that we can do it too.
She will drop her album, ‘Cuz I Love You,’ on April 19 and kickoff her similarly titled tour a few days prior at Coachella.
Speaking of Coachella, Burna Boy will be one of the two African artists performing at the music festival this year. Undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most interesting artists, his music style is hard to categorize in one distinctive genre, it touches on everything from hip-hop to dancehall to afrobeats, and R&B. From ‘OnASpaceship’ to ‘Ye’ audiences are never too sure what to expect from a Burna album, other than the fact that it will be a banger.
His most recent collaborations with producer Kel-P, bring to mind Fela Kuti style Afrobeat music. This is probably sacrilegious but if there is an African artist that comes close to touching the hem of Fela’s greatness… it would probably be his sons and then Burna Boy, whose grandfather was one of Fela Kuti’s managers.
Known for his acerbic tongue, Burna has courted controversy in the past for calling Kenyan fans ‘paupers’ and this year for denouncing the font size Coachella used for his name in their artist line up poster and referring to himself as an African Giant. Though some thought he had fumbled the bag, he has resecured it by announcing his ‘African Giant’ tour in the US.
Do you ever listen to a song and save it so you can use it for the soundtrack of your life and pretend as though you are in a movie?
But just in case we were to recreate indie movie scenes with our lives, Umi creates the perfect songs for those kinds of moments.
You know that scene in the movie when life does what it does best and wreaks havoc rendering the characters existence somewhat meaningless? Umi’s music would make it even more poignant.
The L.A. based singer has a soothing voice that makes you reflect on all your decisions, even the ones you are yet to make. She has a voice that you easily get lost listening to because you don’t know where she will take your emotions next. On her songs ‘Remember Me’ and ‘River’, she manages to capture melancholy while at the same time making you feel as though it will all be okay one day.
If Africa was a country, Nigeria would be the music capital. They are the dominant force and most prominent face of the African music industry. However, East African artists have slowly been building a solid fan base across the continent. Some of the artists bringing acclaim and notoriety to the burgeoning East African music scene are part of the collective, East African Wave. These artists and producers eschew the “traditional” and “expected” sounds from Africa for a more experimentative electronic and neo-soul sound that they have christened #NuNairobi.
One of the producers is Ukweli, who gained wider notoriety in 2016 after one of his beats was used on a song by JABS featuring Willow Smith. Last summer, the Nairobi based producer released three projects that showed the promise and talent he has.
His first release, ‘How Long’ feat. Kiwango set the stage for the next tracks he would release with a distinct R&B sound with a pop-like aspect to them. With the help of the sultry vocals of singer Karun on ‘Roses,’ he created a track that manages to be the auditory version of someone lightly tracing your skin with their fingers. On ‘Fools Paradise’, the producer combines sounds that you would expect to hear in a sci-fi film with a fun and happy melody that instantly gives it a Summer feel. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the song features the breathy singing of Karun, and the laid back rapping style of late rapper Jason Kalinga.
Currently, the visual artist is working with the four members of the EA Wave collective to release an album that features sounds from Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, and Sudan.
Blessed with a voice that was proclaimed in the pastor’s sermon, anointed by Angels, and baptized by the choir, Kirby makes you want to go to church only to listen to the song selections.
The Mississippi native is heavily influenced by her faith and brings this church-like feel to some of her songs such as on the choir-backed song ‘Thank God,’ which will have you conducting praise and worship for not wasting your time on someone unworthy of your affections.
The Berklee College of Music alum has lyrics and a voice that contain a world of emotion that you have no choice to feel and carry deep in your soul. ‘James’ a song about loving yourself enough not to go back to someone who is not good for you, manages to take you on a rollercoaster of emotions that usually takes a couple of months in 5 minutes.
A skilled songwriter, Kirby was signed to Roc Nation after writing songs every day for her YouTube Channel. She has penned hits for artists such as Beyoncé (‘Die With You’), Ariana Grande (‘Break Your Heart Right Back’) and Kanye West, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney (‘FourFiveSeconds’).
Last fall, the singer began releasing a number of songs that dealt with falling in love, heartbreak and most importantly self-love. For Black History Month, she has been covering some of her favorite love songs. These recent releases and covers hint at something even bigger in store for her fans in the next few months.
Sounding like a hybrid of Brent Faiyaz and a happier, less likely to disrespect women and destroy relationships, The Weekend, Pink Sweat$ joins the cadre of artists promoting the resurgence of R&B.
The 26-year-old released his first EP ‘Volume 1’ this past November. In an interview with Dj Booth, he admitted that he originally had no intention of becoming a performing artist and only wanted to be a songwriter. Which would have been a travesty because his voice is out of this world.
On the single ‘Honesty’ it is sweet, reassuring and breathtaking as he hits the high notes singing, ‘I want you’. The instrumentals on each song on the album are low-key and don’t overpower the New York-based singer. They are the perfect accompaniment as they allow his voice to shine through as he describes the highs and lows of liking humans.
Though his EP is only 15 minutes long, it leaves you eager to listen to whatever he will release next. Which, according to Billboard, is not too far away as he is currently working on ‘Volume 2’.
With the looming exit of the UK from the EU, there is not much to be excited about in Britain except for the artists making waves in the R&B genre. In 2018 we saw Ella Mai and Jorja Smith release albums and hopefully this year, the world will learn of Jaz Karis.
The singer-songwriter from South London has a voice that is easy to listen to and makes you feel wholesome. Even though some of the things she sings about relate to cheating boyfriends or telling an old flame that even though you ‘got a girl, you still look good to me’. According to Karis, her biggest influences are Gospel, Jazz, and ’80s funk.
She has released one EP, ‘Into the Wilderness’, and a live album from her performance at The Dairy in London.
There is this guitar strumming that you hear and it instantly transports you to old school African music, like East African Zilizopendwa and Ghanaian Highlife. This guitar strumming is accompanied by a percussion instrument that I imagine is either the kayamba, the maracas, or green grams in a bottle. It is then capped off with the touch of a saxophone.
It can be found in the soothingly slow African Jazz-like sound that has been perfected by South Africans and is returning to the forefront across Africa with the help of Juls and his production skills on songs ‘Agoro’ and Wande Coal’s ‘So Mi So’.
If anyone deserves the title super producer, it should be Juls. The Ghanaian producer has a music catalog that is as vast and eclectic as the African continent. Whether they are Dancehall style bangers, Afropop inspired or Hip-Hop tracks you can’t help but get swept away by his production skills. Specifically, on the slow and slightly sensual songs from his 2017 EP ‘Ojekoo’. It is nearly impossible to stop yourself from swaying or straight out dancing to the six tracks. No wonder his tag is ‘when Juls on the beat, you know its a problem.’
If melted butter could sing it would probably sound like Kwaye. The UK born Zimbabwean has a voice that soothes, calms, and makes all your problems make sense. Whether he is compelling you to let loose and dance in the ’90s electro-pop reminiscent song ‘Sweetest Life’ or making you reconsider your relationship on ‘Hanging On’, his voice is like wearing a warm coat on a cold day.
The R&B singer got a music deal after playing one of his songs during an Uber ride and his driver, “a former music industry exec”, put him in touch with a friend at Mind Of A Genius records. This stroke of luck led to the release of his debut EP ‘Solar’ in 2017. Blessed with a deep voice that can hit the high notes and mesmerizing dance moves, it is hard not to get lost in the magic that is Kwaye.
If you are interested in listening to any of the artists, check out our playlist on our YouTube Channel. Be sure to subscribe for more playlists and videos.