While soul singer Blacc is hardly under the radar, his smooth style, reminiscent of Al Green’s, deserves extra attention. The 31-year-old crooner began his music career as part of the Los Angeles rap duo Emanon. Blacc found success in Europe with his second album, Good Things, and its inaugural single, “I Need a Dollar.” Blacc gained even more notoriety when a video of him performing “You Make Me Smile” in the Paris Metro went viral. Right now, Blacc is working on Emanon’s ninth studio album, scheduled to release this year.
Captions by Joshua R. Weaver
U.K.-based experimental R&B songstress Triana masters the art of blending distinct sounds into a melodic tune. Her debut album, Lost Where I Belong, captivates from song to song with an unadulterated grace. While Triana has yet to hit the big leagues, her infectious voice is bound to garner widespread attention.
This Nigerian-Parisian singer-songwriter delights with lighthearted and catchy R&B tunes. Asa (pronounced a-SHA) quickly became a sensation on the other side of the pond after releasing her debut studio album, Asha, in 2007. Her newest album, Beautiful Imperfection, which reaches the U.S. this fall, has already climbed charts across Europe with its first single, “Why Can’t We.”
Hailing from Mississippi, Big K.R.I.T. changes up the Southern rap game with heavy lyrics and unique sampling, taking elements from Southern rap’s all-stars and blending in his own rap technique. Named one of XXL magazine’s top 2011 rap freshmen, Big K.R.I.T. has already grabbed the attention of hip-hop Hall of Famers Bun B and Ludacris, who joined K.R.I.T. on his newest mixtape, Return of 4Eva.
Detroit’s Big Sean has come a long way since his days of weekly rap battles on the Motor City’s Hot 102.7, where an unlikely stumble into Kanye West launched him into the big league. Three mixtapes and more than 50 songs later, Big Sean’s debut studio album, Finally Famous, is scheduled to drop at the end of June. Its first single, “My Last,” featuring Chris Brown, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Rap charts after its March release.
Blitz the Ambassador
Ghanaian-American rapper Blitz the Ambassador has been in the rap game for a while, gaining notoriety in the Ghanaian rap community after laying down a verse for fellow Ghanaian artist Deeba in 2000. After moving to the U.S. in 2001, Blitz gained the attention of the New York hip-hop community, including Public Enemy and the Roots. The artist’s sixth album, Native Sun, was released in May.
While actor-comedian Donald Glover may be better known for his role on NBC’s Community, his leap into the hip-hop game has not gone unnoticed. In fact, Glover, known by his rap moniker Childish Gambino, has garnered attention from BlackBook, Complex, XXL and more. In April, Glover took to the airwaves to promote his “IAmDonald” tour, performing alongside the Roots on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. His latest EP, EP, was released in March and contains the popular single “Freaks and Geeks.”
U.K. jazz songstress Jordan hints at the British smooth-jazz powerhouses of the 1990s, such as Sade and Incognito. Her airy voice is backed by a light yet soulful accompaniment of brass and percussion. Jordan got her start with the jazz band Panacea. Jordan released her newest album, What You See, in December 2010.
The eldest of Odd Future’s gang of 11, Ocean has branched away from the experimental hip-hop group to work on his debut solo mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra. After giving away his mixtape on his personal blog in February, Def Jam signed the 23-year-old artist and plans to re-release his mixtape as an EP July 26. The mixtape’s first official single, “Novacane,” was released May 31.
U.K. rap artist Ghostpoet rocks the mic with his candid, witty and soulful lyricism. Ghostpoet adds an experimental fusion of bass and electronic music elements to his solid rap verse to create a unique and infectious combination of sounds. His newest album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, was released in March.
Adele isn’t the only Brit with soul. While it hovered at the bottom of the Billboard 200, Blake’s eponymous debut album rocked Europe. Blake experiments with unique uses of percussion, synth and piano to create his innovative and atmospheric sound. The leading single from his inaugural release, the hypnotizing cover of Feist’s “The Limit to Your Love,” climbed charts across Europe after its November 2010 release.
British experimental R&B artist Woon gained attention in 2010 after the release of his leading single “Night Air.” Woon’s style blends classic R&B, new age soul and trace amounts of dubstep, a U.K. bass-heavy, electronic music genre, to create his hypnotizing sound. Woon’s debut album, Mirrorwriting, was released in Europe on April 18 and has already climbed charts across the continent.
Norwegian crooner Bernhoft proves that Scandinavians have soul with his fascinating blend of inventive techniques and classic soul. His second solo album, 1: Man 2: Band, is a double live album that is distinguished by his infectious voice. Before he was known for his soulful renditions, Bernhoft was a part of the Norwegian rock band Span. His rousing live performance of “C’mon Talk” even got the attention of CBS News.
Lianne La Havas
This London songstress boasts an airy voice that induces goose bumps. La Havas’ sound may have an uncanny similarity to her fellow British singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, but her impressive and organic talent won’t keep her in Rae’s shadow for long. Although Havas is still unsigned and has no album in the works, music enthusiasts have already been raving about her vocals and guitar talent. Head over to her website to check out a couple of her songs.
Born and raised in North London, Szjerdene (pronounced jhur-DEEN) impresses with her spellbinding voice and deep lyrics. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter recently released her two-track digital single, “Lead the Way/If 6 Was 8,” in May. The recent college graduate credits Mariah Carey as her inspiration for diving into the music business.