I don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s starting to feel like soul music is coming back. After R&B’s over-exposed obsession with Trapp music, there seems to be some young up and coming vocalists who are pulling their style back from the fringes and producing nice, melodic, modern soul music that both young and older heads can enjoy. Artists like H.E.R., BOSCO, Snoh Aalegra, Soia and more are quietly seeding music that captures the feel of vintage soul but wraps that sound in a nice, shiny, new package. The latest artist that’s captured my ears is Miami songstress Sabrina Claudio. One of my twitter connects sent me a link to her recently released project, About Time, which feels so fresh, yet harkens back to the style I use to love in the 90’s. Yet another emerging creative from the Soundcloud Revolution, Ms. Claudio’s previous EP “Confidently Los” is just as soulful and impactful. You need to add her to your list of “Must Listens”.
It’s been hard to find good modern ‘soul’ music, that isn’t filled with trap beats and mumble rap guest rappers. I nearly missed Niia’s “I” project in a sea of noise on iTunes. But then I heard her sultry voice on the self-destructive single “Hurt You First” and I was hooked. The 2017 album sounds incredibly mature with a lot of mellow styling, yet feels fresh and modern at the same time.
I pulled out The Infamous earlier this week. I had totally forgotten how iconic that album was. Even in 1995 when there were incredible releases by Raekwon (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…), The Pharcyde (Labcabincalifornia), Old Dirty (Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version) and others… Mobb Deep’s sophomore album still stood out. They established themselves the standard for East Coast ‘grimy’ Hip-Hop. You could even say they were the Right Coast answer to West Coast’s ‘gangsta‘ trend. Best believe, if you don’t have Shook Ones Pt. II or Survival of The Fittest on your tops tracks of ’95.. something is seriously wrong with you. Peep this episode of Mass Appeal’s ‘Open Space’.
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It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for female soul singers. I’ve always thought that most male singers sound a little whiny. But artists like Soia, Snoh Aalegra, Emmavie, Ego Ella May, Alina Baraz and others sound like heaven to my ears. My latest phonetic crush is Baltimore songbird Beya Likhari. First heard her voice on a couple of J.Robb produced cuts featured on the excellent Soulection compilation Promise Once More. Staying away from the dozen of Beyonce clones who try to sound like they’re singing in church, Beya lets her vocal sound naturally unique.
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I fell in love with Stacy Epps’ sound during my anti ‘church singer’ phase. Listening to every soul singer doing octave runs in there vocals was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Stacy Epps sound was raw and authentically street. Whether she was rhyming or singing, her tracks felt like they were recorded in the basement, right next to Madlib, Dilla and Pete Rock. I think “Floatin'” says it all.
The state of US Hip-Hop is kinda garbage right now. Sure there’s a lot of underground folks doing good work, but the (so called) emcees who are in the limelight just can’t cut it. I don’t know when it happened, but the term ‘Hip-Hop’ became more of a negative connotation, than a badge of honor.
Because of that I’ve been looking in other places for dope music. For me, 2015 was the discovery of UK Hip-Hop. Folks like JME, Hawk House and others have been keeping hope alive. Little Simz really caught my ear late last year with a cut called Wings. Dope flow, message in the music– it’s what Hip-Hop is suppose to be. Peep A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. Real shit.
Born and raised in North London, the young wordsmith known as Little Simz brings a new level of intelligence, creativity and musicality to the global Hip Hop arena.
At just 21 years of age, nothing could have prepared Little Simz for her meteoric rise over the past year. Charismatic, fierce and lyrically mature, the rapper and musician caught the attention of JAY Z’s Life + Times platform in 2013, seeing them premiere her FOURTH mixtape BLANK CANVAS and Simz catapulting into a whole new stratosphere. That recognition subsequently won her an invite to support Schoolboy Q on his Oxymoron tour and saw her tipped to become raps next great hope by Complex, VEVO, i-D, XXL, Variety, The Independent and The Guardian to name a few.
But even with a growing line of high-profile stars queuing up to collaborate and offers from many a major label, Little Simz decided to head back to her bedroom studio to follow the mixtape with her debut EP E.D.G.E and release it on her own label AGE 101 in the summer of 2014.
The critically acclaimed offering (an acronym for Every Day Gets Easier) which married entirely original soundscapes with Simz’ stellar wordplay, flow and content, shunned easily accessible big name features and only featured her Space Age collective, a young clan of North London creatives who Simz grew up with.
After a whirlwind year that followed the release, which also saw her release four instalments in her AGE 101: DROP Series of mini-EPs, Simz can now count Andre 3000, Snoop Dogg, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Yaasin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) amongst many more as fans while her tracks continue to be spun by the likes of Zane Lowe, Gilles Peterson, Huw Stephens, Annie Mac, Mistajam and many more.
Recently winning the ‘Breakthrough Act Of The Year’ award at the highly respected 10th Annual Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards , being nominated for a BET Award (Best International Act: UK), and in two categories at the MOBO Awards (Best Hip Hop Act and Best Newcomer), and her debut album set to be released on her own label (AGE 101 Music) this summer, all eyes are set on the young leader’s next steps.