Celebrating Black History Month with My Top 5 RnB Artists
By Jillian D'Mello
5. To start off, we have no other but Solána Imani Rowe, better known as SZA. SZA began her career as an RnB artist in late 2012 when she released 2 albums; See.SZA.Run and S. Although these albums are not displayed on her Spotify discography, they can be found in leaks on SoundCloud and YouTube. In July 2013, she signed with Top Dawg Entertainment, her new record label, through which she released Z, her third album and first retail release. Later in 2017, Sza released her first studio album, Ctrl. Many of the songs on the album began to become popular just recently through social media platforms. Ctrl is one of my favourite RnB albums to be released to this day. Listening to the album for the first time almost felt surreal. SZA goes in-depth about her life as a black woman who has struggled with aggression, which is especially displayed in “20 Something”, “Normal Girl” and “Anything”. Throughout the album, she explores the aspects of love, intimacy, and relationships. Not only is Ctrl a coming of age album, it also explores the deeper confidence, vulnerability, and mental health issues of adults. SZA’s latest release, Good Days, came out on December, 25th, 2020, and has been on the Billboard top 100 ever since it was released!
4. Coming in at #4 is Christopher Brent Wood, better known as Brent Faiyaz. In 2014, Faiyaz started uploading his experimental music to SoundCloud and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina from his hometown of Columbia, Maryland, before finally settling in Los Angeles, California to further his music career. On January 19th, 2015, he released his debut single, “Allure,” which can be analyzed as a song in which Brent encounters a woman, as is suggested by the cover art. Brent, who knows it is time to go, cannot resist the lure and entrancing nature of the woman. Later on in October of 2017, Brent released his album “Sonder Son,” in which he blends beautiful melodies and harmony with simple yet catchy beats creating a minimalist dream. Brent manages to create an album with so much meaning and narrative in only 12 songs and no skips. Throughout the album, Faiyaz reflects the uniqueness and strength of becoming an independent artist without the dependence from the machine of a major label to craft an authentic body of work. Sonder Son is a cornerstone for sustainability and legacy, two qualities that should be pursued by all musicians. He later releases his most popular album F*** The World in 2020 with my favourite song “Rehab (Winter In Paris)”. In this album, Faiyaz is on the search for meaning. Both of the two singles that dropped before the release of the album, “F*** the World” and “Rehab ( Winter in Paris),” seem to show Faiyaz engulfed in a world of the darker things in life. His need to be impulsive and careless in relation to the order of the world is expressed through the drastic pitch transitions from extreme high notes to the lowest of lows. Brent’s latest release “Gravity” (feat. Tyler, The Creator) has definitely made its way up to my top 10 songs. The chorus of “Gravity” is based on a line from the first verse where Brent Faiyaz exclaims that “she hold me down like gravity”. The "she" would have been a girlfriend. And basically, the metaphor at hand means that she has and takes very good care of him and is ever-faithful. The way he sees the case, though, is that if they just called things off, it would be best. That is because the "superstar" lifestyle is now lived by him.. Overall Brent's music will always have a special place in my heart.
3. Although some may not consider Drake to be an RnB artist due to most of his discography being hip hop/trap music, in my opinion, that statement is false. Drake has lots of RnB albums and singles which were released earlier in his music career. Albums like, “Take Care”, “More Life”, “Thank me Later” and “Views” are some of his most popular and top albums. These albums tend to focus on heartbreak and love which is especially displayed in his album “Take Care”. This album features a mixture of braggadocio and emotional lyrics, exploring themes of fame, romance, and wealth. The album also highlights other topics, such as Drake's relationships with friends and family. In Drake’s album “More Life” he described it as "a body of work [he's] creating to bridge the gap between [any] major releases". He further commented on the project during an interview with Complex, detailing his intention to "[create] a playlist to give you a collection of songs that become the soundtrack to your life". Drake’s old RnB is still a must-have and is a large part of my musical identity.
2. In second place is Giveon. Giveon is a bit of a newer artist compared to the other RnB artists on my list. Giveon self-released his debut single "Garden Kisses" in August 2018. In November 2019, he released the single, "Like I Want You". He recently released his album, “When It’s All Said and Done” which consisted of only 4 songs. Many of my favourite songs by him include “Still your Best”, and “Stuck on You”. He also released the album “Take Time” which includes my favourite songs, “FAVORITE MISTAKE”, “HEARTBREAK ANNIVERSARY” and “VANISH”. In this album, Giveon describes the stages of heartbreak. Each of the eight tracks that make up “TAKE TIME” depicts him as a peerless R&B purveyor. The emotional plea of "THIS AIN'T LOVE" delivers a multi-dimensional appeal to relationship dynamics, while the minimalistic soundscape present on the EP's closing track "VANISH" demonstrates his power even when painting with the softest brush strokes. On the underlying inspiration behind TAKE TIME, Giveon shared;
"What I want people to take away from this project is relatability. Each song on the project is based on a true story. Most of them are me looking back at past situations, but a few are inspired by what my friends went through."
He did just that! Taking us along on the journey of love to heartbreak.
1. Finally at number one on my list is Tyler Gregory Okonma, better known as Tyler, The Creator. Tyler, The Creator is not only my favourite RnB artist but just my favourite artist in general. I have always admired the amount of effort that goes into the planning and execution of music, especially albums like “IGOR” and “Flower Boy”. Flower Boy was a concept album that contains a very clear, well-executed narrative and a number of thought-out symbols and themes. All the imperfections and risk-taking of Tyler’s past efforts bloom into fruition now on Flower Boy, making it his most advanced and well-written album yet! IGOR on the other hand is a completely different story, which is about falling for someone. They reciprocate but refuse to go all-in. So you exist in limbo, waiting on them to bring you heaven or send you to hell. Consumed by the lack of closure: you wallow, you hurt, you rage. But eventually you come to your senses and move on. The difference between the two albums has always found a way to amaze me. The perception between love and development.