Earlier in the decade, there were a lot of critics claiming that R&B was dead, or at least in a coma. To their credit, the genre had gotten a bit stale, and most of the content was trivial at best. Due mostly to the fact that R&B and Contemporary Hip-Hop were essentially the same, it became hard for genuine Soul Music to find its national spotlight. However, towards the latter half of the decade, artists like Bryson Tiller, SZA, Summer Walker, Ari Lennox, Frank Ocean and more have completely flipped the narrative and smoothly steered R&B back towards the right direction where now, it’s better than it’s been in a very long time. This renaissance sparked a militia of upcoming artists, and created a substantial springboard for aspiring singers to be themselves, and not a caricature of what’s on the radio. Looking to accurately carry the torch, here are five upcoming R&B artists who have the chance to define 2020.
One of the more traditional vocalists on this list, Virginia singer, Marco McKinnis is without a doubt one of the most intriguing artists on the rise right now. Utilizing his vast vocal range to diversify the type of music he makes, Marco is able to jump into a few different lanes, sounding like a young Marvin Gaye on songs like, “Forever,” while staying contemporary on records like, “Energy,” where he showcases probably his best talent, his pen. With a resume of heaters under his belt to go along with a great team and promising trajectory, put your money on Marco to thrive in 2020. Check out the video for “CPR,” below.
Point, break, period: Nigerian duo, VanJess (Ivana and Jessica Nwokike) have had the best album rollout in the last 5-years, or so. Signed to Keep Cool Records, they burst on to the scene in 2018 with their groovy debut, Silk Canvas, which featured collaborations from Kaytranada, Masego, GoldLink and more. Meshing futuristic production with relatable songwriting and impeccable voices, singles from the project such as, “Addicted,” “Honeywheat,” and “Cool Off The Rain” became fan-favorites and ended up sparking remixes with artists like, Bas, Ari Lennox, Saba and more, which led us to part two of their amazing rollout: The Remix Album. Utilizing the attention stemmed from their debut to prolong out its impact, the duo released a full body full of remixes from the album that gave fans an essential breath of fresh air. With a new album said to be in the works for 2020, it’s only a matter of time before they take over. Watch the video for, “Addicted,” below.
Probably one of the more younger names on this list, 23-year-old Connecticut singer, Norman Perry more than has the potential to still be here in 2030 and beyond. Expanding upon the sing-rap style popularized by artists like Drake and Bryson Tiller, Perry adds his own signature flare by completely shaping his records in a different way. On songs like, “Too Many Times,” he showcases his pen, one that’s honestly up there with the best in the game right now, as he croons one of the better R&B records to come out in all of 2018. He followed this up in 2019 with the single, “Something For You,” a beautifully crafted record that leaves no emotion unchecked, and Foreign Perry, an appetizer of a project that highlights more than just his knack for engineering brilliant R&B records as it illustrates his ability to rap his ass off as well. In all, Norman Perry has the potential to rule over multiple kingdoms during the 20’s, and that’s exactly what makes him so intriguing. Check out “Too Many Times,” below.
Similar to our last entry, and many others, Southern California crooner, Kalan.Frfr is more than just a singer. In fact, throughout some circles, he’s known as a scathing lyricist that’s not to be trifled with, as evidenced in this freestyle. Still, he’s no fool, and he knows where the money is, branding himself as The Hood’s Favorite Lady’s Man–that’s a good one, right?–with certified hits such as, “Naked,” and “Right Wit It,” which earned him a remix from YG and co-signs from damn near everybody in California. Following that up with a string of features on releases from Rucci, 1TakeJay, Casey Veggies and more, his brilliant 2019 project Leak The Tape, solidified his space as So Cal’s Prince of R&B (with an eye on the crown) with songs like, “Arch It Back,” “Speed It Up” and, “Cuckoo,” all of which have been burning a hole through the internet and made Kalan viral beyond explanation. With his city growing at a similarly rapid pace as he, it should be no surprise to see Kalan on this list. Listen to “Right Wit It,” below.
One of the newer names on this list, North Las Vegas artist Impact RH is one of the more naturally talented artists that I’ve come across. Breaking onto the scene in 2017 with his single, “Boricua,” the Vegas native has built a fanbase utilizing his infectious signature croon, genius knack for melodic direction and his affiliation to Platinum Las Vegas production group, Real Hits. After taking most of 2018 to complete features and song-write for others, which led to a bit of an anticipation for his next release, he used 2019 to drop well-received singles such as, “Brand New,” and “In Rotation.” Following the drops, the demand is at an all time high for his new album, Norf Pole, which is set for a 1/25 drop and is slated to place him among the cream of the crop in the genre. While it may sound premature to place him next to these names based on merit, just put their records up against one another and think again. Check out, “Brand New,” below.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Eli Sostre was the first artist on this list that I ever came across. In fact, if you read some of my first published pieces, they’re about Eli and my prediction that he would someday rule R&B throughout the five boroughs, and guess what? My prophecy is looking better than ever. Taking 2019 to come back and drop a bomb in the form of EROS, the mysterious crooner silenced all of the doubters who said he had fallen off after not dropping in 2018. Instead, he provided a wonderful follow up to the classics that are, Sleep Is for the Weak and Still Up All Night, allowed for his supporters to double down and made a whole lot more fans. After being placed on our Top 25 of Artists of New York City, regardless of Rap or R&B, Eli Sostre‘s appearance on this list just seemed imminent.
Last, but not least, we have British singing sensation, Mahalia. In all seriousness, I can’t see any reality in which she’s not ruling R&B, whether it’s in 2021, or 2030. Gaining critical acclaim on the back of her ridiculously relatable single, “Sober,” Mahalia then appeared on the popular artist discovery publication, Colors, where she garnered the viral attention that she now has for her raw, authentic and incredibly engaging live performance of the aforementioned single. She then followed that up with an even more successful single in, “What You Need,” an Ella Mai collaboration that cleverly utilizes a sample of Cam’ron’s, “Oh Boy,” to accurately play on everybody’s love for nostalgia, as well as giving Brit’s a sense of pride knowing that two of their leading lady’s are dominating American music. With her debut album Love and Compromise, which reached top 40 in the U.K., serving as her springboard, pay attention to her 2020 as she looks to expand even further on that. Check out her performance of “Sober,” below.