Last year's list of New Times' picks of R&B artists to watch was more of a celebration of the genre than anything else. It put a spotlight on several compelling artists who have their own set of styles and flavors. And although many have claimed that the mood-setting genre is slowly dying, they couldn't be more wrong.
R&B is forever — and it's only evolving.
Though hip-hop has been at the forefront in the Sunshine State for some time now, Florida's music scene is much more than that, featuring genre-bending artists who are reimagining nostalgic sounds such as late-'90s neo-soul, dance, and indie rock. These acts are also introducing new sounds that some listeners aren't even ready for.
This year's 12 R&B artists seemingly came out of nowhere. Some are just now getting the attention they deserve, while some are just starting out. Either way, the groove-laden dozen remind us that there's nothing like discovering a new artist for the first time.
You know that feeling when you hear a song for the first time, and you just know? Flozigg's "Mutual" is a perfect example of that. Off of his 2021 EP Beige, "Mutual" is evocative, vibrant, and enthralls the listener with zestful drums and melodic soundscapes. The Ghanaian artist is not afraid to be unconventional — though saying Flozigg is unconventional is an understatement. Beige is merely a glimpse of how he combines his cozy vocals and euphonious production to make a project that's packed with harmonious flavors. He steps into different musical realms, such as the impactful elements of indie-rock with the eccentric auras of neo-soul and rap, where it just seems boundless. Cleveland Rowe
Hailing from the streets of Harlem, Gen Bello is one of TheNuMiami's latest signees. Filled with authenticity and vulnerability, Bello's songs sound like they're coming directly out of her diary. Drawing influences from Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Kehlani, and Kiana Lede, the singer channels the same soul-baring and cutting-edge sound that her inspirations carry. Last year Bello released her first single, "Done," off her EP Geneses; it's an unapologetic anthem about escaping a nauseating relationship and setting boundaries. The single has atmospheric pads accompanied by rhythmic drum patterns and her reverberating sound that sinks within you — a feeling evident throughout the EP. Songs like "Crash" and "That Girl" are meditative, enticing, and possess grooves that are tough to detain from. Her soft, velvety vocals demand attention without trying yet are powerful enough to make the listener beg for more. Cleveland Rowe
The Miami-based crooner's unique tone sets him apart from his peers. His 2021 EP, Everything's Going to Be Alright, displays his multifaceted abilities as a singer-songwriter. He bears it all on the ambient track "Jorja" but switches gears on his latest pop release, "Holding." Hoosh's range has been the catalyst for his diverse projects and a testament that fans can expect a different side of the budding singer as he continues to grow and introduce his indelible sound to the rest of the world. Shanae Hardy
To call Hush Forte an R&B artist doesn't do his genre-bending catalog justice. His most recent project, Look Closely, is a cornucopia of alternative and groovy beats. With assists from Q, Saint Lyor, and Love Mansuy, he combines elements from myriad genres to underscore his layered, intimate performance. Carving out his own lane, the multi-instrumentalist uses experimental productions as a conduit for his diaristic confessions. He analyzes the unrequited chase of material possessions on "Impulse Purchases" and personifies the inner turmoil of stress on "Frustration." His intimate lyrics provide catharsis from clichéd braggadocio, making him one of the most exciting and refreshing artists on the rise. Shanae Hardy
Saying Hydra is a soulful artist who bares her deep emotions doesn't do her music justice. Her songwriting is evocative and lucid; her EP, Hydra's Demo, is packaged with toxicity, sincerity, and lust. On the track "Homie," she dances with her demons by attempting to have an affair with someone who was already taken: "You so cool but you got you a girlfriend/I want you but you don't want two girlfriends." Throughout Hydra's Demo, Hydra floats through these lush soundscapes where her voice is rich and luscious. The singer, who grew up in Seminole County, between Altamonte and Sanford, shows ambition and expansiveness in her own right. With her picturesque pen game, she carves out a lane that will push her forward into the spotlight — especially in the bedroom. Cleveland Rowe
Born in Brooklyn, now based in Tampa, Kai Baez embarked into the trap-soul and dark R&B territories. His debut EP, Send a Message, is reminiscent of Bryson Tiller, PartyNextDoor, and a hint of Ryan Trey. Inserting himself within '90s R&B samples, Kai Baez lays it all on the table, never hesitating to speak his truth. His latest EP, Acoustic Tales, sets Baez's vocals against mostly strumming guitars that'll pluck at your heartstrings. The minimal production only helps highlight Baez, placing him in the center and letting the listener fully absorb his gentle voice. While Acoustic Tales is an unwinding of emotions from the singer-songwriter, it's nonetheless a project that states that he has much more in store. Cleveland Rowe
The moment you hit play on one of Kayland's songs, you're immediately entranced in an atmospheric beat forming a cloud for her feathery melodies. Her 2020 singles "Match Made" and "Coolin'" provide a sensual soundtrack for date nights, smoke sessions, and all the vices betwixt guilty pleasures. A force on and off the mike, the singer-songwriter is also making a reputation for herself, penning tracks for emerging singers Zya, Gen Bello, and Erykah Officer. Keep an eye out for her new single and video, "Control," slated for release in February. Shanae Hardy
Part Colombian and Nicaraguan, Marcos G draws from an eclectic variety of styles and influences. The singer-songwriter takes inspiration from dance-pop, Latin music, and, of course, R&B. His latest project, Looking for Something, is heartfelt and endearing from start to finish. The former educator presents his songwriting with lustrous production that takes the listener on a roller coaster of emotions. Marcos G takes pride in being true to himself, and it shows. With his infectious sound and charming vocals, he makes it known that he wants to continue enticing audiences and bringing everyone closer together. Cleveland Rowe
Muni Long is no stranger to the music industry. For many years, the Vero Beach-based singer-songwriter worked behind the scenes, helping put together records for the likes of Rihanna, Fifth Harmony, Kesha, and Selena Gomez. It wasn't until the end of 2021, when Muni's "Hrs & Hrs," an addictive and irresistible ballad that begs for repeated listens, hit airwaves and became everyone's go-to on TikTok. Having has amassed more than five million streams on Spotify and charted at number two on Apple Music, she's not just a TikTok phenomenon. Her latest album, Public Display of Affection, is a testimony to her alluring and intimate songwriting abilities. Her honeyed vocal tones and vigorous sound remind you why you fell in love with R&B. Cleveland Rowe
A purveyor of vibes, Nemchel has the ability to translate life's angst into a melodic salve. On her latest EP, Dreaming But Wide Awake, she explores the complexities of being a budding young artist while refusing to be relegated to the background on dogged tracks, like "Did Enough." In an industry where Black women are given their flowers years or decades after they've released their magnum opus, Nemchel combines that familiar Black-girl ingenuity with the self-assuredness of an artist on the precipice of a breakthrough. She embodies a new crop of R&B singer-songwriters expanding the scope of the genre — and she's just getting started. Shanae Hardy
Photo by Orville “Juice” Roberts Jr.
When it comes to embodying the elements of seduction and intimacy, Nil Bambu does it effortlessly. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Bambu bestows a vocal prowess that can be hypnotic. She dabbles in late-'90s grooves, fusing contemporary sounds made up of warping 808 bass, meditative atmospheres, jabbing kicks, and snappy snares. And with Bambu's Caribbean background, she's more than capable of making dancehall records that are just as vibrant, including on "Believe." Bambu has the dexterity to have her voice give earworms the stimulation they yearn for. For example, "Dangerous" is what it feels like to sink into a blissful headspace. If there was ever a question about the resurgence of R&B, Bambu puts that debate to rest. Cleveland Rowe
After a two-year hiatus, Ryahn's newest earworm, "Deeper," is making a buzz on Instagram and TikTok, signaling to fans she's back like she never left. Bridging a catchy chorus with an up-tempo beat, Ryahn's voice blossoms with a soulful delivery. The Fort Lauderdale native has already teamed up with hitmakers Sango and Ye Ali on earlier tracks and is currently teasing a new project she plans to release later this year. If "Deeper" is any indication of what's next for the emerging singer-songwriter, fans have a lot to anticipate in this next chapter of her evolution. Shanae Hardy
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