16 Queens | An International Women’s Day Celebration of Artists on the Rise
Chicago’s emerging queen of new-age R&B, Aaliyah Allah has been a force to be reckoned with for years now. Releasing a strong series of singles en route to last year’s debut project, Flux/Flow, her crystalline vocalism and calming sensitivities make her one of the more unique soulstresses on the scene today. Merging her glistening high tones and a diary of relatable lyricism that explores a wide swatch of delineations circling evocations springtime love, with her knack for bouncy, electronically nuanced production, Aaliyah Allah is a necessary and experimental force on the direction of future R&B, and her music transcends the very idea of expectation.
The young, French-Caribbean Adeline is a mosaic of musical talent. An instrumentalist, a producer, a songwriter, and a vocalist, hers is a sound all her own making. And what a sound it is. Notably exploding alongside KAMAUU (and just recently, Masego with a remix) for 2020’s most heartwarming, charismatic and necessarily positivist single, MANGO, her contributions to the tough 365 that was 2020 also included a vibrant Neo-Soul EP, Intérimes and its accompanying remix package. En route towards what is bound to be a bouquet of further releases, keep an eye out for more music — of any shape, size, or sound — from one of the most unique forces in music today.
Daughter and Niece to the Isley Brothers Funk collective, Alex Isley was always primed to be a musical force. But for her own part, Alex Isley’s sound edges more towards the tenets of modern R&B and Neo-Soul. Even without the push from her artistically successful family (her grandmother was also a globe-trotting, established opera singer), she would have made it to the limelight. But most recently, in works like collaborate single with rising R&B renaissance man, Devin Morrison, she is crafting a unique, experimentally nuanced lane for herself that stand could one dat ascribe the descriptor legend also next to her name.
You may not know Almass, or you may know her for some of the most unique projects across the music video spectrum. But, you should also know her own work in music. A playlist curator and a DJ in her own right, hers is a sound we’re going to hear in a Boiler Room set at some point. With a diverse backdrop of roots split between India and the UK, and with one of the broader understandings of art at large of any modern creative, a brashly experimental, and yet custom-fit comfortability accompanies everything she puts her creative mind to. So, the next time you’re looking for something to highlight a party or soundtrack the study, head over to the ALMASS SoundCloud, put on a set, and vibe.
Just named Apple Music’s latest Africa Rising Artist, Ayra Starr is the latest must-listen emerging from the whirlwind artistry that is the West African Cultural Renaissance. The impossibly young musician blooms with the Afro-Pop sound of the legends, but has no issue making it oh so very much her own. An exclusive artist development program and companion playlist geared towards identifying, showcasing and elevating rising talent and introducing the next generation of African superstars, Africa Rising hit the nail on the head when it came to acknowledging the promise Ayra Starr carries with her. Just listen to her 2021 debut, self-titled EP, and get hooked for yourself.
From Sydney with a voice that transcends both space and time, Esmé is an eclectic vocalist whose jazz-oriented sensitivities and soulful punch hinge effortlessly to an affinity for more experimental electronically nuanced production. And if that description seems broad, it should. Take into account her latest release, the Brooklyn EP. Folding in influence from her time spent in the New York borough, the short project is a complicated, yet tethered mosaic spanning not only the range in her own sound, but the range possible when a young, willing voice allows so much influence and intrigue from so many differing sources. When looking for something, and open to everything, give Esmé a listen (or two, or three).
From London, with a whole lot of soulful spirituality, Greentea Peng is one of those artists that just can’t really be described with terms that yet exist. Edging on the rangy Neo-Soul scene that has come to define a Renaissance of UK oriented vocalists, Greentea Peng infuses the crystallization of her voice with emotionally evoking curiosity and though-provoking social statement. With a slew of singles in the wake of 2019’s RISING EP which included COLORS Show cut, Downers, she continues to redefine a unique, experimental space for herself and ever-growing listenership.
Yours Truly, Jai
From the bustling creative hub that is Nashville, Tennessee, Yours Truly, Jai stands as a paramount force of necessary Soul and R&B dynamism in a scene of explosive underground rising. Though young, her voice has found its way everywhere in collections from local mixtape curators and rappers on the rise. But more still, her 2020 debut album, Monarch moved well beyond the scope of rising undergrounds and emerging sounds, and into a conversation next to some of the most prominent names in modern R&B. With no ceiling to her talent, and at the heart of a new cultural capital, ours Truly, Jai is a name to know, and a sound to fall in love with.
Garnering a start to her limelight career on an invite to release her debut cuts on Diplo’s label, Kito hasn’t become complacent at any point since. The young Australian producer and DJ who fancies the sensitivities of house and upbeat techno, hers is a poppy, vibrant exploration of electronica. More often than not, she also folds in accompanying vocalists from names big and small across the globe. Take for instance, Recap which folds in the illustrious soul of dueting R&B sisters, VanJess, and the low-toned house vocalisms of Channel Tres. The single is another shining example of why Kito will continue to carve out a space for her unique contribution to the house scene.
A textbook experimentalist, if ever such a thing could exist, Nashville’s Kiya Lacey is an enigma of creative range. Her sound — driven always by the bellowing emotion in her vocalism — is like no one else’s. And her canon — diving back years to 2016 — a much longer runway than most of her rising Nashville compatriots — is a testament to the influence her nuanced, artsy breadth has granted those in her city that have gone on to, too, create sans boundaries. When we talk Nashville — and we do often — there is such an obvious nod to the recent, foundational legends in the work of all those since. And Kiya Lacey, who now works with just about everyone else in the city, is the godmother of the Nashville Renaissance.
Born in Haiti and rooted in Florida, the range in Marlousnly’s past is obvious in the breadth of her music. And though releasing it since the onset of 2016, a slow trickle of releases in the years since has allowed her to slowly and steadily refine her sound. Case and point: 2020’s Lie Again — a pop-heavy radio R&B hit that shines the true star power of the young soulstress in vibrant colors. Along with another trio of releases last year, it seems like Marlousnly is finally working towards a sophomore collection, and potentially even, a debut album. But, either way, hers is a unique and necessary brand of starry, intriguing Soul for a more pop-driven age.
A cornerstone member to the illustrious Spillage Village collective that names from EARTHGANG to JID and 6lack also draw roots, Mereba is well-rounded and talented even in conversation with them. An instrumentalist, a vocalist, and a songwriter, her soulful touch boasts so much directionalism and influence on 2020’s Spillagion collective album. And for her own work, an affinity from playing the bass and merging it with the breadth in her register makes for a unique brand of timeless soul that could attach itself to any soundtrack from any era. With her last collection coming in 2019, hopefully 2021 is the year that she blesses the world again.
All hail the Qveen. Though the stylistically diverse, fashionably jealousy-inducing mosaic of creativity has been at it in one form or another for nearly a decade, her recent self-renaissance left her with even more room to express herself and her idealistic image for what the future of girl-power dynamism could be. Nine (9!!!) five-track EP’s since 2017 have put on an exhibition of sounds ranging from her adept grip on hip-hop to her vocal range. And at each end of the spectrum, and everywhere in between, she has only continued to grow as an artist, and as a symbol for both the creative boundlessness and the unending power of women in the art, and women in the limelight.
Though releasing music for half-a-decade at this point, there is a clear and present case to be made that the Richmond, California crooner still doesn’t get the credit she deserves. A velvety, timeless texture ascribes itself to everything the young soulstress puts her creativity to, and with each passing release — whether a single or a project — her following rightfully grows. In an opening effort for a BJ the Chicago Kid tour just a couple years ago, she’s proved that the stage belongs to her. And with a number of singles coming to fruition at the tail end of last year, there’s hopefully something in the works from her soon.
Another undeniable name from the impeccable hotbed of hip-hop and Soul underground that is Nashville Tennessee, RyAnne, is expectedly well beyond her years when it comes to the grip of uniqueness on her sound. At the beginning of 2021, she dropped her glistening debut, From RyAnne, With Love. And what’s more, it followed up nearly no leading releases, save for a few notable features on friends and collaborators from her Nashville collective. A debut out of nowhere is not rare, but one bursting with the range and comfortability of a veteran is. For RyAnne, Nashville is the foundation for her rangy approach to honest, folky Neo-Soul. But for Nashville, RyAnne will continue to become something even more.
Splitting their upbringings between Nigeria and the US, VanJess are crafting a sound worthy of their culturally diverse roots. More so, they’re crafting a modern take on R&B that bridges a current scene making its own way with an effervescent 90’s scene that many consider R&B’s Golden Era. The two — who are sisters — have a remarkable way of crafting a sound that gaps the sensitivities if any R&B fan, while also giving them something new. This year alone — with Homegrown — they gave us one of the most intriguing, experimental, and widely nuanced collections in recent memory. And so early on their respective careers, they’re only bound to take their ubiquitous range further and wider for years to come.
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