2012 was the year R&B music began regaining momentum for a thunderous return. With the passing of legend Whitney Houston earlier in the year, it had artists from all musical spectrums questioning how true they were to their craft. Artists concentrated on the presentation of their material and not so much of the instant hit formula.
Brandy and Monica, who both were mentees of Houston, stuck more to developing their brands of contemporary R&B which fit and reflected their personalities. The former teen queens had their work cut out for them due to an industry that’s fixated on meshes of hybrid ‘Rhythm & Hop’ (collaborations with Hip-Hop artists).
There were also artists who challenged the evolution of R&B with perfectly done songs that instantly defined their arrival on the music scene. Elle Varner had one of her biggest hits so far with “Refill” and fans enjoyed her country twang with an R&B feel to it. Britain’s Emile Sande came out swinging with the nicely done Heaven adding her to the likes of Brit Soul greats. Beyonce’s little sister Solange took her creativity a step further in releasing her hipster EP “True,” a collection of abstract flows for the soul.
The men in R&B music came far, few, and in between. Yes Usher and Ne-Yo had a couple of top hits last year but the focus is setting in on Robert Glasper and blossoming R&B standout Miguel.
Miguel, who was upset about not receiving a Grammy nomination last year, wasted no time in perfecting his craft. One of the best songs released last year happened to be “Adorn.” The hit was smooth and definitely something people wanted to hear after a long day’s work. Glasper released his critically acclaimed disc Black Radio which some are gunning for a Grammy win.
Black Radio featured some of the titans and underrated performers in R&B music. There was jazz, rock, soul and even a little ‘Teen Spirit.’ He took what most high profiled labels try to do with collaborations and made the material a heavyweight champion across the board.
As we look into what’s to come for 2013, will the music keep growing stronger or will it have setbacks? The new artists on the horizon have a lot to think about in the coming year and will they live up to the expectations?
Take a look at UrbanBridgez.com’s artists to check for in 2013.
10. Sebastian Mikael – Born in Sweden, Sebastian Mikael is the latest signee to Epic Records by Sylvia Rhone through her imprint Vested In Culture. Not only a singer and songwriter Sebastian is a musician who plays guitar. He moved to America and enrolled at California’s Musicians Institute to study audio engineering in 2008. He later relocated to Boston to continue studying at Berklee College of Music. In 2011, Sebastian released his first mixtape, “J’Adore,” which received great reviews.
From that mixtape Sebastian filmed a video for the single “Beautiful Life” and posted it on YouTube which caught the eye of Sylvia Rhone and as the saying goes…the rest is history! Currently working on his debut album with a who’s who of collaborators which include Jim Jonsin, Rico Love, Benny Blanco, Salaam Remi¸ Naughty Boy, Mike Posner and the Underdogs.
Sebastian’s new single “Take Me Higher” was recently released and showcases his creativity as a songwriter and his amazing vocals. He’s one to watch for sure this year, talent like this doesn’t come around often these days!
9. Marcus Canty – Marcus is best known for making it to fourth place on the first season of the highly successful talent competition show X-Factor in 2011. Shortly after, L.A. Reid who was a mentor on the show and president of Epic Records signed the 21-year old to the label.
Marcus was born in Washington, DC and has the type of voice that makes you fall in love with R&B/Soul again. Since signing with Epic Records Marcus has released “In & Out” featuring Wale, “Won’t Make A Fool Out Of You” and his new single “Used By You.” His debut EP “This…Is Marcus Canty” will be released soon.
Anyone who can sing Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to a live audience and receive praise, is someone to keep an eye on. We expect Marcus to deliver some great music this year and continue to build his name as a brand.
8. Ca$h Out – Turn on the radio or step in the club and within 15 minutes at the most, you’ll hear Ca$h Out. Whether it’s his #1 single “Cashin Out” or his current hit single “Hold Up” featuring Wale, he’s the most talked about new Hip-Hop artist to come along in awhile.
The 21-year old Georgia native was signed to Epic Records last year by L.A. Reid. Last year the Hip-Hop star dropped two mixtapes entitled “It’s My Time” and “Keisha” which quickly created a buzz and after L.A. Reid heard “Cashin Out,” he set up a meeting and signed him immediately.
He’s currently finishing his debut album “Patience,” due out later this year. If the singles and mixtapes he’s released thus far are any indication of what’s to come…we expect heat! Hip-Hop isn’t dead…CaSh Out has arrived!
7. Sevyn Streeter – In 2009 a new R&B girl group hit the scene, comprised of four young ladies who called themselves RichGirl. They dropped a few singles that year that included “24’s” featuring Bun B and “He Ain’t wit Me Now (Tho).” A few years later after an EP, mixtape and being the opening act for Beyonce’, label issues arose and the girls decided to separate to work on individual projects. Before RichGirl, Sevyn had been a member of the Chris Stokes group TG4. Last year she released her first solo single “Red Handed” and signed to Chris Brown’s label CBE via Atlantic Records.
Originally from Florida, Sevyn has since written songs for artists such as Brandy, Alicia Keys, Kelly Rowland, Estelle and her label head Chris Brown. Brandy recently shared her feelings towards Sevyn saying “Sevyn is such an amazing talent and person. I am so thankful she took the time to work on my new album. Slower is one of my favorite songs on the project. I can’t wait to hear her new music!” The first single from her up-coming debut album “I Like It” is currently creating a huge buzz for the star and anticipation for her debut album.
Remember the name, because you’re going to hear it a lot this year, her time has arrived and we’re excited about what she’s about to bring!
6. Azealia Banks – Everyone first got their glimpse of the “Liquorice” chick on her “212” single. It was chic, edgy and bold, everything Banks appeared to be. Some called her a Nicki Minaj knock-off while others applauded her for her unconventional take on Hip-Hop.
“Jumanji” caught a lot of Hip-Hop heads off guard because of the gritty styles and the wittiness of her delivery. The 1991 EP was one of the best short-form discs released in 2012. The blends of dance, electronic, trip-hop, dub step, took us back when it was hot to have a rap track backed by dance music. Her boldness to go against the grain without doing the typical cliché styles is something listeners should take heed to.
“Liquorice,” “Van Vogue” and “BBD” are all tracks that are noteworthy. Banks puts you in the mind of a futuristic Jody Watley bringing her “Still a Thrill” steez to modern times but in her own style and grace.
Banks is slated to release her full-length album later this year and she’s one of the most watched artists so far in 2013.
5. Kendrick Lamar – This upcoming rapper is being hailed as the one that will revive the west coast better known as the left coast. Plenty of acts have graced the mainstream music industry in for more than 20 years but there’s been a decline in talent actually making it to the national stage.
Kendrick Lamar looks to change the game with his current release “Good Kid, m.A.A.d city” and he has everyone buzzing, including his mentor Dr. Dre. After years of being a free agent, Interscope and Aftermath completed a joint venture in ensuring Lamar got proper treatment in the industry.
Lamar’s style isn’t your typical West Coast style. It’s a collage of dirty south, a little Midwest, funk & soul. Something every lover of Hip-Hop will fall in love with regardless of location.
His official debut album has everyone talking including Ms. Poetic Justice herself, Janet Jackson. Jackson got wind of his catchy sample of “Anytime, Anyplace” and fell in love with what he did to his ode to her “Poetic Justice” featuring Drake.
While his album was released in the later part of 2012, Lamar will have lots of ground to cover with songs like “Sherane,” “Swimming Pools (Drank),” and so much more. He’s guaranteed to be on the lips of everyone.
4. K. Michelle – “Don’t shake the table, unless you’re ready to get shook,” was by far the best line from a reality series last year, said by R&B songbird K. Michelle on VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta.” K. Michelle may be known to millions as the sassy, takes no none-sense chick on a reality series, but fans alike have known of K’s real gift for years.
K. Michelle released her first single in 2009 entitled “Fakin It” featuring Missy Elliott. She released two more singles, “I Just Can’t Do This” and “How Many Times” before leaving her label Jive without ever putting out a full-length album. Soon after K collaborated with such artists as R. Kelly & Bobby V while putting out numerous mixtapes including “What’s The 901?” and last years “0 Fu*ks Given.” In 2012 she was hand picked by “Love & Hip-Hop” creator Mona Scott-Young to join the Atlanta cast, she quickly became the main reason to tune into the successful show every week.
Last year K told UrbanBridgez.com her reason for joining the cast saying “I thought it was something good for me because I do have a story. It was an opportunity for me to really tell my story to people.” With the success of the show and her new found fame, K. Michelle signed with Warner Bros. Records and will finally release her debut album this summer.
K. Michelle has a voice of an angel and the personality of someone everybody wants to know. We’re sure 2013 is going to be a very successful for the girl from Memphis, TN, that just wants to sing!
3. Ester Dean - Songwriter, Singer and Actress Ester Dean has a resume’ that reads like an artist that’s been doing it over a decade. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma she’s best known for her debut single “Drop It Low” featuring Chris Brown from the “More Than A Game” soundtrack released in 2009. Behind the scenes she’s best known for writing hits for an A-list of recording artists that include Rihanna, Britney Spears, Monica, Usher, Ciara, Nicki Minaj and of course Chris Brown.
Music isn’t her only talent, last year she lent her voice to the film “Ice Age Continental Drift” as the voice of Sloth Siren and she made her acting debut in the hit comedy “Pitch Perfect” playing Cynthia Rose. Ester Dean has no problem getting her hands in anything, she told UrbanBridgez.com last year to “say yes to everything, besides drugs!” That advice has clearly helped groom her career into being one of the most sought after songwriters and actresses to come along in awhile.
As a recording artists Ester is signed to Interscope and managed by Jay-Z’s ROC Nation. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her self-titled EP that will be released later this year.
Keep an ear and eye out…Easter Dean has entered the building!
2. Luke James – The name Luke James was mentioned everywhere last year, to the point where one not knowing would think he was on at least his sophomore release by now. However New Orleans native, singer/songwriter Luke James will in fact release his debut album later this year via Mercury/Island Def Jam and New Age Rock Star Records (NARS). Luke is formally of the R&B duo Luke & Q and was signed to hit producers the Underdogs imprint under J Records, they released the single “My Turn” in 2006 and shortly after decided to go their separate ways. Luke later started working with super producer Danja and helped create songs for artists such as Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Brandy.
In 2011 Beyonce’ selected Luke to be the lead in her music video for the track “Run The World (Girls).” That year James also released his first offering to the world as a solo artist with the release of his first pre-album entitled #Luke. Last year the lead single from his up-coming debut album was released, “I Want You.” The song quickly created a huge buzz for the young artist and soon Luke James became a hot commodity for R&B lovers and the single earned him a Grammy nomination this year for Best R&B Performance.
Luke James performed at BET’s 2012 “BET Honors” & “Black Girls Rock” with both performances causing James to trend on Twitter with tweets expressing how great he was. Last month he released his second pre-album entitled “Whispers In The Dark” in preparation of his full length album “Make Love To Me” dropping later this year!
Luke James is the truth, we’re sure 2013 is going to be a huge year for R&B and Luke is going to be at the head end!
1. Tamar Braxton – She’s not new to the music industry but definitely has been on hiatus after her underwhelming, self-titled debut in 2000. “Tamar” was supposed to be the breakout album after she left the group she started with her sisters “The Braxtons” for solo success. Tamar spent years with her sisters doing background work for her superstar sister Toni on numerous tours and album efforts.
Fast-forward to 2012, she was on two hit WE tv series “Braxton Family Values” and “Vince & Tamar.” We saw Tamar striving to break free from the shadows to claim her moment in the spotlight. She recorded “Love & War” to critical acclaim and even held the top spot on iTunes digital charts back in December.
She also gave us a sneak preview of a track called “Hot Sugar” which she refers to as ‘ratchet’ or her hood track which fans of the show enjoyed.
Can Tamar stand the test of time and hang with the young artists currently dominating the scene? With the help of her super-producer and manager Vincent Herbert and her Streamline Records team, the answer seems clear. Tamar is slated to finally make her wishes come true. Her re-debut is slated to be released this spring.
Tamar has been waiting for her moment for awhile…it’s here!
(CJ, Skyyler and Aries – UrbanBridgez.com)