The Nineties gave us many things. Scrunchies, light-up sneakers, Sister Act 1 and 2 and the weird assurance that high waisted, terry towelling shorts were always appropriate attire. A Golden Age for all things Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin, it was also an explosive era for R&B with artists like DAngelo responsible for crafting out the genre as we now know it. Undeniably, that R&B sound so synonymous with the glimmering decade, has outlived many of the artists producing it. Its since become somewhat of an amorphous, chameleon genre, snaking its way through hip-hop, rap and new soul, as per the patron saint of all we do here at the interns, Solange.
Future R&B is the genres most recent and progressive survival tactic. It takes that sonic perfection Timbaland and Aaliyah were once working towards and pushes it further. Its a movement heavily influenced by the underground with producers like James Blake, Kaytranada, Cashmere Cat, Bondax, Ryan Hemsworth and Jamie XX, all considered integral to reinvigorating the classic, gossamer sounds of Mariah, Janet, Lauryn and Brandy. With access to warm gooey synths, glitchy stilted samples and banging drums, producers have been integral to its arrival come survival on the club scene. While it was initially a genre dominated by male artists nudging open the doors to the new-world possibilities of R&B such as The Weeknd, Drake, Frank Ocean and Miguel, since 2012 ensuring the survival of R&B has been a charge placed firmly in hands of emerging female artists such as Tink, Tinashe, FKA Twigs and Kelela. Now less amorphous than defiantly all-encompassing, its a genre open to sparse, minimal beats, dark industrial instrumentals, spoken word, rap, and of course, a whole lot of the electronic synth we know and love. Its fair to say the honey-drippin R&B of the early nighties just got a whole more abrasive and a whole lot more modern.
Read below to solve your perfect future R&B equation and click here for some serious Future R&B sounds.
Chicago + Lauryn Hill + How to Dress Well = Tink
At not even 20 years old, this Chicago-based rapper, come certified songstress has been working for everything and then some, steadily carving out a name for herself over the last two years. Eluding easy categorisation, Tinks honey-flavored narratives oscillate from emotionally-charged R&B vocals lamenting a lover’s infidelity turned unexpected pregnancy (sound like Usher anyone?), to flat out drill raps and get-low hip hop traps. Like 2013s brash announcement of arrival, Fingers Up, Tink is constantly challenging the gender expectations of Chicagos male dominated hip-hop scene and is a unique hook in a city where sky rocketing crime rates and explicit drill music usually hold the limelight. Although Tinks production choices lack predictability, she moves seamlessly between genres with a matured self assurance, telling of an artist going after what she wants. Having made the decision to remain unassigned Tink has worked with the likes of Chicago locals Lil Durk and Sasha Go Hard, Jeremih, Tom Krell from How to Dress Well and New Yorks Future Brown, in addition to releasing four killer mixtapes of her own, from 2013s Boss Up to this year’s Winter Garden 2 which attracted a 7.6 from Pitchfork (take that Lana Del Ray).
Described as: A potential long lost member of TLC
Youll like if: Scrubs aren’t your thing either.
LA + Christina Aguilera + Ryan Hemsworth = Tinashe
Young gun Tinashe, cites James Blake, Little Dragon and Bon Iver among her major influences and grew up in a Californian household filled with Sade, The Jacksons, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey while learning how to sing by mimicking Christina Aguilerias vocal runs. At first encounter, her voice is yet another light and airy treat, encased in a smooth, oozy post-production caramel, befitting of any young LA hopeful with a girl band history, and a couple of obligatory TV appearances under her belt. Here however, is where you can check any further assumptions about the trajectory of this girl’s career at the door. Despite being signed to major label RCA Records, Tinshes last 3 projects have been almost entirely self-produced, free, downloadable mixtapes, either aided by social medias infinite connections, or a crowd-sourced effort. With her first official RCA Records debut, Aquarius, a year in the making, shes made over 100 tracks in the refining process. Dedicated and determined, Tinashes music emerges from a dichotomous desire to showcase her languid, down tempo R&B vocals and the dark, grit of her lyrical content. As she says I always like to play with stuff thats more on the darker side of the spectrum… Because I consider myself to have quite a sweet, quote unquote, voice. Its high, its soft, and so I want to contrast that, have some juxtaposition in the beat. I like there to be a lot of bass, a lot of grit, I like it to be really dark and heavy. A girl who clearly knows what shes doing, Tinashe is at the forefront of the future R&B sound and is constantly finding new ways to resurrect that classic 90s sound through the electronic sound popular today. Tinashe has worked with the likes of Ryan Hemsworth, producer XXYXX, A$AP Rocky, Future, Mike WiLL and Travi$ Scott.
Described as: Reminiscent of Cassie or Aaliyah
Youll like if: You know what’s good for you.
London + Septum piercings + sex = FKA Twigs
Unless you run scared at the thought of feeling a little tingle between your thighs, or are having an enduring dry spell, youve undoubtedly heard of, slash shuddered to, the sounds of Young Turks artist FKA Twigs. Carnal like no other, Twigs catalogue, EP1 and EP2, is filled with sparse, stripped-back, down right naked and staccato pulses that quiver below a perfected whisper of superhuman falsetto. Unlike the narrative turns and story telling of Tink, who similarly debuted in 2012, FKA deals with the deed less plot fillers and supplementary characters. Water Me, Papa Pacify and most recently Two Weeks, are straight up sex jams to rival the pinacle of all sex jams, R. Kelly classic Bump N Grind.
Described as: A contemporary Aaliyah, as remixed by the xx or the Weeknd,
Youll like if: Sex. Just sex.
Washington D.C. + Faith Evans + You have a subscription to Beyonce’s blog = Kelela
Kelela remembers hearing Aaliyahs 1 in a Million for the first time, while driving down the streets of her home town and becoming instantly obsessed. Obsessed in a way, that from that moment forward, Aaliyah, Faith Evans, Mariah, all divas of the day, would infect, and take over her production. Mixing and melting within her to form a unique take on an already contemporary sound. With a desire to be deliberately off-putting, interrupt the space and baffle people in the best way possible, Kelelas brand of Future R&B, is like an ice-cream melting with the promise of a brain freeze: In your face, and jarring but irresistible and totally undeniable. Having released her mixtape The Cut 4 Me, in September 2013, Kelela has been signed to Solange’s label Saint Heron, worked with the likes of Night Slugs, Jam City, Tink and Girl Unit, and, keeping it in the family, has featured on Beyonce’s blog.
Described as: Brandy but weirder
Youll like if: Kelela has said If nobody likes the mixtape, I’ll be pretty comfortable with that, honestly, because I finally got out what I meant to say.” So maybe, you like if you dont like to like? Like totally?