R&B is far from dead. Artists like JAWAN.MP3, Emmavie, Latanya Alberto and Hunnah are proof that rather than withering away, the genre is currently experiencing a reawakening.
Despite cynics on the internet occasionally arguing that R&B is dead, the genre is actually thriving, with quite a few soulful indie artists contributing to its latest iteration. Some are here in the U.S.; a few others are either in the UK or nearby. It’s possible that you’ve stumbled upon these artists while listening to curated playlists on your preferred music streaming service. But for those who prefer to discover new artists in a different way, or are just looking for some supplemental info about a recent R&B find, we’ve got you covered.
On our indie R&B list, there are artists who have mastered the craft of creating easily digestible tracks alongside those that are on the more experimental side of the genre. These are the best indie acts creating R&B you should be paying attention to.
Emmavie has a way with words but she also has a killer ear for production. The singer, songwriter, and producer has a signature sound that can only be described as what happens when an artist is inspired by both ‘90s R&B and soul. Her music has a hint of playfulness that lurks underneath the surface, as is evident in What’s A Diamond To A Baby, her sophomore album. It’s a solid listen jam-packed with wide-ranging sounds not limited to R&B, funk, and hip-hop.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Uh Huh Okay,” “Tune”
Overgrown, Joyce Wrice’s 2021 debut, was a well-received introduction to the San Diego-bred singer’s earnest songwriting and memorable voice. She finds her sweet spot when she tells tales of love and infatuation, but also heartache and falling for a fling that probably isn’t right for her. Overgrown is mainly packed with uptempo tracks, but there are a few that are low tempo (which is what she’s best known for). Joyce gives a voice to millennial women who grew up singing along to Brandy and Mariah Carey (artists that Joyce herself looks up to).
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “So So Sick,” “Blurred Lines”
Alex Isley’s voice is difficult to ignore, especially in an era where modern-day R&B vocalists don’t seem to get their flowers. The classically-trained talent born in Los Angeles utilizes soul and jazz elements alongside rich production to create her impeccable sound. Her music is made up of distinct love ballads that are often joined by enthralling instruments. Music is in her blood after all — she’s the daughter of famed musician Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Good & Plenty,” “Road To You”
Prince George County in Maryland is where Reggie Becton spent ample time preparing to become an artist. Now a Los Angeles transplant, Becton has begun carving out a name for himself with his touching lyricism. He holds nothing back on his debut album California, re-telling stories of love and his emotional state in a way that proves his undeniable talent.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Listenin,” “RM. 143”
Ready Is Always Too Late, Sinéad Harnett’s sophomore album is a distinct effort that led to a bit of momentum for the singer last year. “Take Me Away,” her single with EARTHGANG, presents her take on R&B as a laid-back approach tinged with soul elements. As a native of North London, she grew up between two cultures (Thai and Irish). This blended life and an early interest in music point to why her music pulls from more than one genre, although R&B and soul are the foundation.
“Soul artists have always just spoken to me, [they’re who] I’ve always connected and resonated with,” she said in a 2021 interview with Okayplayer.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “If You Let Me,” “Last Love”
Muni Long is much more than an overnight TikTok success. In fact, the singer-songwriter has been paying her dues for a decade. Her recent success with “Hrs and Hrs” wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t a successful pop songwriter for the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Her sound relies on heavy instrumentation but it also expertly blends hip-hop with pop (and other elements). But the most definitive genre she contributes to is R&B. Her Public Displays Of Affection EP, which dropped toward the end of last year, is proof that she’s working to dismantle preconceived notions about what type of music she’s made in the early stages of her career.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Hrs and Hrs,” “Time Machine”
Ethiopian singer Hunnah is unlike many major label R&B acts who are household names, mainly because her vocal delivery dispenses an air of rawness. Growing up in the Toronto suburb Brampton, Hunnah’s adolescent music experiences — from playing the piano at four to later singing in her church at nine — have played an important part in her artistry. Unloved, a passion project she released last year, is a testament to her musical vision, infallible voice, and knack for emotional storytelling, highlighting just how damn good Hunnah is at making music.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Crush,” “My Man”
The son of a reverend, Samm Henshaw released his latest album Untidy Soul in January. Packed with upbeat R&B songs filled with lush harmonies and stirring songwriting, the album showcases the London-born singer-songwriter’s ability to mesh gospel, soul, pop, and blues to serve up his unconventional sound. He has named Marvin Gaye, Kirk Franklin, and Lauryn Hill as a few of his larger influences.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Grow,” “Broke”
Poetry is the basis of Latanya Alberto’s artistry. As a teen, she often found herself writing poetry that described her innermost feelings and sentiments. She was also raised on jazz, soul, and R&B music courtesy of her parents, who often played music from those genres.
The Netherlands-born artist’s music is a culmination of this, pulling heavily from her larger influences — Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin, and India.Arie — to create a sound not bound by one particular genre.
“My music is fundamental for my identity because for me writing often feels like a therapy session, as I often realize the deeper meaning behind lyrics afterwards,” she said in a recent interview with Metal magazine.
This is showcased on The Royal Escape, her most recent project that’s packed with her angelic voice.
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Red Flags,” “Trouble”
JAWAN.mp3 has a unique approach to R&B, and his latest EP, The Abstract, is proof of that. ” As a whole, the EP intertwines feel-good music with vocals that are abundant in nature, and each song has its own distinct feel, which is an admirable feat. As for the probing lyrics on the project, they are a testament to his relationships, with the Atlanta-based singer and songwriter telling Okayplayer in an email, “My music is where I bare all.”
If you’re not familiar, listen to: “Assurance,” “Only Want U”
Banner Image Credits: Janine Uyanga, Danika Magdalena