5 R&B Artists That You Need to Be Listening to Before the Year Ends

The past year has seen some great releases in the R&B world. Since spending the past 7 months in quarantine, I’ve gotten the chance to listen to and soak in the newer, promising acts within the industry. Let’s dive into some artists that you need to add to your playlist before the end of 2020.

Mariah the Scientist

Since releasing her label debut album Master with RCA Records in late 2019, the Atlanta singer-songwriter is a budding artist to keep an eye out for. Mariah the Scientist, who derives her name from once being a biology major, dropped out of college in 2018 to pursue music full-time. Despite being a newcomer, Mariah is one of the more interesting artists that I’ve listened to. She has had some interesting collaborations, including songs with Lil Baby and Trippie Redd, but her voice somehow makes it mesh. I’m excited to see how her career grows in the coming years.

Song recommendation: Beetlejuice

Lucky Daye

With his first studio album Painted earning him four nominations at the 2020 Grammy Awards, Lucky Daye has quickly made a name for himself in the industry. Since then, he has collaborated with platinum-selling artist Kehlani and has been featured on the fourth season soundtrack of HBO’s hit show Insecure. His smooth-as-butter voice is either coupled with bouncy production or slow ballads, showcasing how versatile his sound can be. In a DJBooth interview, he cites his musical influences from greats such as Prince, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, and Rick James. Lucky has shown that he knows how to navigate his sound, giving him great potential to develop as an artist.

Song recommendation: Late Night

Victoria Monét

Monét stepped into her debut project Jaguar already with a decorated list of songwriting credits for the likes of Nas, Ariana Grande, and Kendrick Lamar to name a few. Her light voice over groovy bass lines put her in a category of her own. You can hear the influences of disco and funk in her Khalid collaboration “Experience,” in which she sings “I’m all out of love, you gave it away / I’m hoping that experience can get you to change.” Her lyrics are playful yet demanding, which is what makes her music so fun to listen to. Victoria Monét’s confident and sensual songwriting will leave you wanting more.

Song recommendation: Big Boss (Interlude)

Kiana Ledé 

Hailing from Arizona, Kiana Ledé is not from your typical R&B-influenced region. Nevertheless, the 23-year old singer thrives in creating raw, emotional music that has successfully found its way onto the charts. What I admire about her is that she isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve, and it’s reflected beautifully through her songs. In an interview with Elle, she speaks on her ability to share these emotions through her music, saying, “I’m able to be open about them because I’m talking from a healed place, a very removed place; I’ve already processed all those emotions.” Ledé takes ownership of her feelings and is very self-aware, which is what compelled me to dive further into the rest of her discography. Her album KIKI is a project that I highly recommend listening to from start to finish.

Song recommendation: Forfeit

Leven Kali

Leven Kali is definitely the most underrated artist on this list (in my opinion), but that doesn’t stop him from creating absolute bangers. I was first introduced to him through his song “Do U Wrong” featuring Syd, the lead singer of The Internet. He has released music reminiscent of the early 2000’s R&B sound–which can be heard in tracks like “MADE 4 U,” also featuring Syd. If Leven stays this consistent with releasing quality music, he’s bound to gain the recognition he deserves.

Song recommendation: Joy



Written By: Nathalie Lum

Photo Sources: Pitchfork and Lab.fm



5 Hip Hop and R&B Artists to Watch Out for in 2020

At the top of the year, it’s time to see which hip hop and r&b artists will be dropping new projects to hit the airwaves.

Without a doubt, 2019 proved to be another successful year in hip hop and r&b music. Rappers such as Tyler the Creator and Anderson Paak continue to impress listeners with genre bending projects like Igor and Ventura, while artists like Ari Lennox and Maxo Kream provide a throwback to the days when soul and hardcore rap reigned supreme. As the rest of 2020 rolls on, we look forward to new releases from some of the game’s hottest and up and coming figures.

The Weeknd – After Hours

Following a relatively quiet 2019 after the release of 2018’s My Dear Melancholy, The Weeknd returns on March 20th with the release of his fourth studio album After Hours. The first single,” Heartless,” finds the singer shrugging off relationships over a gritty Metro Boomin production, while “Blinding Lights” hearkens back to the 1980s synthpop influence of past projects such as “Starboy.” The self-titled track has been compared by some fans to his earlier work, most notably Trilogy, for its atmospheric production and dark lyrical content. Make sure to check out his After Hours Tour with opening acts Sabrina Claudio and Don Toliver, coming to San Diego on August 9th.

Drake – Untitled 6th Album

Following the meteoric success of 2018’s Scorpion and re-release of his seminal 2009 mixtape So Far Gone last year, it’s only a matter of time before the 6 God returns to dominate the airwaves again. As revealed in his Rap Radar interview with Elliott Wilson, Drake is working on a new album, with consideration towards a shorter track list akin to 2013’s Nothing Was the Same. His recent tracks “War,” “When to Say When,” and “Chicago Freestyle” all seem to hint at an introspective and aggressive rap-heavy vibe reminiscent to fan favorites like “5 AM in Toronto” and “0-100/The Catch Up.”

J.I.D – Untitled Album

The Atlanta-born MC has had a great 2019, largely off the strength of his 2018 album DiCaprio 2 and his contributions to the label compilation Revenge of the Dreamers III alongside fellow Dreamville Records label mates, most notably J.Cole. The sky is the limit for the rapper, as he plans to drop new music as revealed at the Grammy Awards. Whether it is a joint project with veteran producer No I.D. or not remains to be seen. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of fast flows and complex rhyme schemes, J.I.D.’s upcoming work will be worth a listen.

Smino – Untitled Album

Smino has been hard at work since the release of his 2018 album NOIR. The St. Louis born rapper maintains his pace with the release of singles like “Trina” and “Reverend.” Additionally, he and fellow rappers Saba and Noname formed a trio called Ghetto Sage, with a single called “Haagen Dazs.” Smino’s features on Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day and Revenge of the Dreamers III raises the stakes for his next project as he builds his following.

Brent Faiyaz- Make It Out Alive

As previously covered in my previous article, Brent Faiyaz is part of a new wave of 1990s-esque r&b singers, with the release of his EP Fuck The World on February 7th. However, he is not done yet. As reported by Billboard, Faiyaz plans to drop his next project Make It Out Alive “as soon as possible.” Listeners may already have a taste of what to expect with the track “Been Away” off the aforementioned EP. Anyone looking for some r&b with some grit should watch out for Brent’s next moves for 2020.

Get ready for what 2020 has in store for us, whether the heavy hitters of the past decade sustain their run or a new wave of artists change the landscape as we know it.

Written By: Kristian Gonzales

New Music Friday With Mike – February 14

For this week’s “New Music Friday,” we have new releases from Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, Sam Smith, and more.

Happy Friday and Valentine’s Day! We made it to the end of another week, phew. Welcome to the first “New Music Friday” where every week, I update you on what’s fresh out for music. This week we had a ton of new music drop from all of your favorite artists, so let’s dive right in.

Justin Bieber – Changes

Justin Bieber’s highly anticipated new album Changes is finally here and a great valentines day present for all. A lot of changes have happened since the singer’s previous album Purpose, which was released in 2015. He is now married to Hailey Baldwin, which has been an inspiration to the album. The singer also informed us of his battle with Lyme Disease. Justin stopped by the MTV studios and told MTV’s Sway Calloway the vibe of the album is “super R&B influenced” and features include Quavo, Post Malone, Clever, Lil Dicky, Travis Scott, and Khelani. You can stream Changes everywhere on music streaming platforms. You can also check out the tour schedule on his website to find if Justin is coming to a city near you. Good news local beliebers, Justin will be stopping in San Diego on May 26, 2020.

Justin Bieber – Intentions feat. Quavo | Music Video

Billie Eilish – “No Time To Die”

Screenshot of tweet from 007 twitter account stating that Billie Eilish will be performing "No Time To Die" as the theme song for the next 007 movie.
Twitter Announcement from @007 on Twitter announcing Billie Eilish performing “No Time To Die”

The theme song for the upcoming 007 James Bond movie is here. Billie Eilish with “No Time To Die.” Billie and brother Finneas co-write the song which was announced on the official James Bond 007 Twitter account back on January 14, 2020. Eilish, 18, is the youngest person to write and perform the 007 theme song. Other past theme song performers of the franchise include Tina Turner, Wings, Madonna, Adele, and Sam Smith. You can stream “No Time To Die” on music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and more. The movie No Time To Die comes out on April 10, 2020.

Sam Smith – “To Die For”

This week, New Music Friday falls on Valentine’s Day and, of course, I had to throw in a song that fits perfectly for all my single friends out there. Sam Smith’s “To Die For.” Sam expressed to Rolling Stone, “…This is for all the lonely hearts out there on another Valentine’s Day.” Thank you, Sam Smith, I truly needed this one. In addition to releasing “To Die For” Sam also informed us that his third studio album is set for release on May 1, 2020. Pre-orders for the album begin February 15, 2020.

Sam Smith – To Die For | Music Video

More New Music from February 14

Other songs that dropped today include:

What new music are you listening to or have on repeat this weekend? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Instagram @mikestarkca See you next week for another New Music Friday update.

Written By: Mike Stark

Khalid’s “Free Spirit” Album Review

The remarkable R&B innovator Khalid released his sophomore album “Free Spirit,” while working hard to give the fans what they want.

Khalid is no longer “Young, Dumb, and Broke,” but he is an emerging pop star who has been working tirelessly to give his fans an adequate follow-up to his debut album American Teen. The 21-year-old reflected on the pressure he felt while recording Free Spirit in a recent interview with his close friend and collaborator, Billie Eilish.

“You have your whole life to write your first album. You don’t have your whole life to write your second album. And, with your second album, you have to write more of what people want.”

Free Spirit provides a mix of genre-less songs with Khalid’s melodic voice fitting perfectly over every instrumental. With 17 tracks and huge collaborations, the emerging pop-star carries the same beloved style that his first album brought us. While American Teen focused on shouting-out all the sad kids facing regular teenage struggles, Free Spirit attempts to showcase the singers growth as an individual. He is opening up about his true self and embraces what it means to be grown-up.

In the albums intro, Khalid tells us about his struggles with a relationship that is coming to an end: “I can’t even live with being by myself / That’s the part of me that really needs your help / Lately, I haven’t been doing very well / That’s the difference between heaven and hell.”

We can hear a similar story being told in songs, “Talk,” “My Bad,” and “Don’t Pretend,” following the theme that relationships require hard work. Not only do these songs have a relatable message, but they feature powerful collaborations: with “Talk” being produced by U.K. house duo – Disclosure, and “Don’t Pretend” featuring SAFE.

Other remarkable collaborations include John Mayer’s appearance on “Outta My Head,” which features subtle but beautiful harmonizations between the two. The album also credits Father John Misty for his assistance in producing “Heaven,” Murda Beatz, and John Hill (producer for Portugal. The Man).

Hundred” is a song that highlights the battle between staying positive during hard times, stating: “Life is never easy when you need it to be / Try to knock me down but I get back on my feet / Everybody’s angry, and they’re coming for me / But I can’t give them energy that I won’t receive.” These powerful lyrics make this song stand out as he attempts to bring peace amongst those who feel hopeless.

Self” is another powerful song that features the internal dialogue the singer faces in moments of self-doubt, making it one of my favorite songs off the album: “Does my raw emotion make me less of a man? Always had a little trouble with self reflections.”

The album clearly shows the musicians internal battles, and it is hard to hear from someone who is still so young and constantly in the spotlight. With lyrics like ““Heaven, make me an offer / Lord, there’s nothing left for me out here” off of his song “Heaven,” the singer is openly sharing his struggles to the world.

Khalid also offers a range of care-free pop tunes like “Better” and “Right Back,” reminding us that there is still a big part of the musician that is cheerful and grounded. Both songs have beats that will warm your heart and catchy choruses that keep you hitting repeat.

It is always difficult for an artist to top their first album, and it is still undecided if Khalid has done so. However, he deserves admiration for the truth he tells through his lyrics. Khalid has been recognized as a man of the past and present. He is still young, but there is an old-soul tucked away in his heart. He is seeking growth and experience, and refuses to repeat himself. Khalid is a remarkable pop/R&B star of our generation and has nothing but big things in store for the future.

Written by: Brittany Roache