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12 Artists Helping Shape the New Geography of R&B Music

3 minute read

From the minimalism of Syd to the progressive lyricism of Kendrick Lamar, here are some of our favorites.





Childish Gambino


Dec. 2, 2016, Glassnote

Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, surprised fans with this funk- and soul-inspired album. Brimming with Gambino’s impressive falsetto and a slow-burning energy, Awaken finds a futuristic R&B groove in breezy bops like “California” and “Redbone.”


The Chief

Feb. 17, Wondaland, Epic

American-born, Nigerian-raised, Stanford-educated rapper Jidenna’s latest injects melody into his songs. He tempers straightforward raps with sung-through tunes like the nostalgic lullaby “Bambi” and flamenco-inflected “Adaora.”


More Life

March 18, Republic

The musical equivalent of a house party, More Life’s songs dabble in global flavors with wide-ranging guest stars. From juicy slow jam “Passionfruit” to his flute-backed rap on “Portland,” Drake shows how to host a relaxed, all-inclusive bash.

Jacob Banks

The Boy Who Cried Freedom

April 20, Interscope

Whether layering his powerful baritone over distorted bass or stripped-down ballads, soulful British-Nigerian artist Jacob Banks takes his cues from blues, contemporary production and African rhythms, all of which come together in this album.


“Keep on Goin”

March 16, Diemon, Columbia

The Jersey-born artist employs his elastic voice to skip from hip-hop to R&B and back in the same song. His most recent releases, the Southern-style “Keep On Goin” and 2016 hit “What They Want” find him teasing out lazy love songs.



Jan. 27, Atlantic

Former America’s Got Talent contestant Kehlani amps up languid, ’90s-reminiscent slow jams with lyrical kick. This debut album swings between emotions without apology, mining vulnerabilities for musical punch, all delivered with her easy swagger.

Bibi Bourelly


Sept. 29, 2016, Def Jam

After writing hits for Rihanna and Selena Gomez, this German-born 22-year-old is set to make a mark with her own voice. Bourelly has a powerful delivery and an open-book authenticity that finds a home in songs ranging from rock to R&B. “Ballin” suggests a slinkier sound for her forthcoming debut album.

Kendrick Lamar

“The Heart Pt. 4”

March 23, Interscope

Master of fiery rhyme Lamar teased new material and a fresh album this spring, kicking things off with this jubilant track, which showcases his dexterity as he moves confidently from slow jams through jazz interludes into burning political send-ups–all hallmarks of his unique flow.

Frank Ocean


March 10

Ocean is generally classified as a rapper or an R&B singer, but he’s an idiosyncratic one in any category: self-releasing, secretive, raw. His approach to music means that many of his most lauded tracks–from “Chanel” to much of 2016’s Blonde—fall into a category all their own.




Feb. 3, Young Turks

The British pop singer and hip-hop producer behind some of the industry’s biggest stars finally gets his own moment to shine on this debut album. Sampha’s music is spare but tender, marked by his flexible, emotive voice and the specter of heartbreak.

Syd Tha Kyd


Feb. 3, Columbia

Syd’s minimalist, sharply produced tracks feel like the R&B of a more evolved society. The Odd Future and Internet member’s first solo project, Fin is subtle, technical and darkly alluring, mixing slinky bops with sultry ballads that still come across as fresh.


American Teen

March 3, RCA

At 19, Khalid’s soulful way with beats and words speaks to the modern experience of adolescence with joyful honesty. The Texan singer-songwriter manages to coyly document the intersection of love, youth and technology in groovy, unhurried jams.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com