Streaming and digital service platforms or DSPs have made music more accessible than ever, allowing us to play and stream music on a whim. The downside of being able to listen to what we want when we want is that we tend to place heavier weights on the albums and songs we know, often ignoring music outside of our usual rotation.
More so, with all the music out these days, it’s hard for us to hear newer music and keep up with the range of older and newer artists dropping. Playlists have filled that void, giving listeners a chance to hear select songs from their favorites. But what about the artists whose music is fantastic but cannot land on one of the coveted playlists?
Rap and R&B have been off to a stellar start this year, with significant releases from Kendrick Lamar to Beyonce. But there’s a list of other artists, some independent and some signed to majors, who dropped great bodies of work that you may not have heard. These artists and their music got lost in the constant shuffle of releases and rereleases.
The list is full of R&B and rap artists who’ve focused heavily on giving their fans the type of music that transcends the current trends in their fields. Artists like Ambre, Phabo, YG TUT, and more are some examples of musicians you may not hear as much on the radio but can often be found on real music heads’ playlists. Straight up.
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Melli- Medusa EP
Harlem native Melli dropped her first song, “No Simple Chick” in 2017 and from there began making her presence known. Since her debut album in 2019, Melli’s collaborated with a whos who of artists from 6LACK to Tory Lanez while crafting a signature sound.
Standout Tracks: F.B.D.C, Have You Seen Her,
Phabo- Before I Let Go EP
Heavily praised for his neo-soulesque sound, Phabo’s Before I Let Go Ep lives up to the universal acclaim and constant D’Angelo comparisons. A California native, Phabo got his start penning songs for artists at Atlantic Records in 2015.
Standout Tracks-Long Overdue, Luv Me Back, Before I Let Go.
Kur- The Hold Over
Philadelphia emcee Kur has remained popular in real music head circles since he came out in 2012 and is frequently praised for his skill and ability to tell compelling stories with witty punchlines.
Standout Tracks: For My Fam, Road to Riches, Sheist.
YG Tut- In My Head
Chattanooga, Tennessee isn’t often considered when Tennessee’s rap scene is discussed, but ever since YGTUT stepped on the scene with the seminal work, The Preacher Son, that’s changed.
One of the South’s brightest stars, his newest album, In My Head, is his brightest work to date. Introspective, catchy and dense, the album covers everything and every mood.
Standout Tracks: Dolla$igns, Thinking About, New Medallion.
Nana- From the District to the World
Nana came on my radar after his LA Leakers freestyle (Late to the party I know). His newest project, From the District to the World, does a great job of crafting stories of his past and also sharing his vision and hunger for the future.
Standout Tracks: Real Real, Dontplaydat, Live from the District.
The Homies- It’s A Lot Going On
Thank God for weekly music updates. The Homies, a quartet from Louisville, Kentucky, came to my attention after scrolling through Tidal on the hunt for dope music. Good beats, dope rhymes, and songs for every mood is the key to success.
Standout Tracks: Situational, Goat Mami, Thirsty
New Orleans vocalist Ambre is another gem that real R&B heads know of. Ever since her 2019 debut, she’s made nothing but melodic, sensual love songs that articulate all of love’s ebbs and flows. 3000 is full of records you can play for any occasion.
Standout Tracks:3Peat, I’m Baby, Illusionz.
Akemi Fox- You’re My Favorite Day
If you haven’t noticed it by now, the sounds coming off the continent of Africa and also coming from the UK are dominating music. Akemi Fox and her newest project, You’re My Favorite Day, help introduce a familiar but
Standout Tracks: So Fine, See You Soon, I Want It.
Seeing Gwen Bunn’s artistic progression has been inspiring. She rose to fame after co-producing Collard Greens for SchoolBoy Q and in the time since has become one of R&B’s most recognizable young talents. Gwen’s worked with everyone from Faith Evans to Phonte and gets bigger each time.
Standout Tracks: Conversation, 808, Talk to Me-Too Late.
Cashus King- The Weight of Wind
Leimert Park emcee Cashus King has worked diligently over the last year and a half to increase his digital footprint and audience. His recent album, WOW, does a great job of reviving the LA lyricism scene of the past while still managing to analyze heavy social issues.
Standout Tracks: BoomBap Cadillac, Zombie Nation, Black Israelis.