The Best R&B You Probably Never Heard in 2013

+FE Authenticity • Indianapolis-39
+FE Authenticity tour  (Photo credit: fave :))

A few weeks, back, I wrote about the comatose state of R&B music these days. It was lucky enough to be Freshly Pressed, which inspired a dynamic conversation in the comments section about the evolution of R&B in particular and music in general. I gained a broader perspective discussing and thinking more about the topic.  My amended opinion is that my favorite genre may neither be dead nor comatose, just metamorphosing.

Most of us plaintive fans agreed that we just have to support our favorite artists and hope the record industry takes notice. So I put my money where my mouth is.

While searching for a CD in the store last week, I was flabbergasted to find that R&B has quietly had a solid year of releases with very few radio singles. The artists with new music aren’t artists with little to no cache; these are singers with years of acclaim. I heard about some of the albums from the good folks who commented on my blog. My heart sank. The neo-soul/R&B genre really seems to be suffering from a deaf ear from the radio industry above all else. 

Well, in case you haven’t ventured into a music store recently, I’ve decided to highlight some of the least-promoted new albums from my (past or present) favorite artists. Call it a report from the field. (For all but the first two, I haven’t heard these albums before).

I gave myself fountains and pens for my birthday.

Every year for my birthday, I ask for a CD or two, usually somewhere in the spectrum of neo-soul or R&B. This year, I asked for The Foreign Exchange’s recent release, Love in Flying Colors. First of all, I adore front man Phonte Coleman’s voice. He doesn’t run you up and down the vocal ladder, but his tone is smooth and suits his thoughtful lyrics. This album rocks my argyle socks off. I drove all around Atlanta on my birthday looping “Call it Home” and “On a Day Like Today” and had a marvelous time.

I cheated and bought myself Raheem DeVaughn’s A Place Called Loveland when it came out in September, and it’s classic Raheem baby-making music. My favorite jams are “Love Connection” and “Ridiculous.”

Unbeknownst to all and sundry, neo-soul vet Musiq Soulchild teamed up with R&B Diva Syleena Johnson to create a reggae-inspired project titled 9INE, which they apparently recorded in just nine days of recording sessions.

Glenn Lewis, Amsterdam 2002
Glenn Lewis looking adorbs in Amsterdam, 2002
(Photo Credit: Flickr)

I fell in love with Stevie Wonder soundalike Glenn Lewis’ voice back in 2002 and heard nothing from him since. He’s apparently released his third studio album in October, Moment of Truth. I hope his voice still is (the truth).

The Internet, if not the radio, seems to be buzzing about The Robert Glasper Experiment, which I confess to knowing absolutely nothing about. But respected artists like Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Brandy have all been affiliated with him, so he has some clout. His Black Radio 2 just hit stores within the past month.

Self-styled ghetto crooner Jaheim occupies a unique space within R&B. He’s got a solid following and can be heard on black radio stations, but he’s not largely popular. I heard his single “Age Ain’t a Factor” a few months back and it hooked me with the surprising line, “You look better the older you get: Benjamin Button.” For that alone, his sixth studio album, Appreciation Dayshould be worth a listen.

Continuing with the theme of rugged R&B, embattled singer Lyfe Jennings has a new CD out called Lucid. Again, I haven’t heard a peep of this effort, so I’m curious to hear what he’s doing vocally on the project.  

Keep in mind that the above R&B albums are the quietest ones released this year, but certainly not the only ones. Mainstream radio and other venues have heavily promoted R&B albums from Janelle Monae, Tamar Braxton, Robin Thicke, Rihanna (although I think she’s pop), Justin Timberlake, The Weeknd, Emeli Sande, and Drake (who is a rapper-turned-singer at this point).

You have your list, good people; go, and may your ears and heart be full of soul.

If I missed any great unheard-of R&B/soul/neo-soul albums released in 2013, shout them out! Who are you loving this year? 

13 thoughts on “The Best R&B You Probably Never Heard in 2013

  1. Thanks to this post, my grooveshark playlist is now full of Foreign Exchange….LOVE LOVE. Also check out a few of these artists from my corner of the world (Kenya): ;Dela Maranga especially her album ‘paukwa,, Atemi and Nina Ogot

  2. Oh and Mayer Hawthorne! The album from this year wasn’t as great but if you’re not familiar with his early work you should check him out too!

  3. Check out Roman Gianarthur. He opened for Janelle Monae this weekend..but then anyone that covers Lauryn Hill wins for me.

  4. oooh, I’m always looking for international genres and artists. thanks for the tip! Yeah, that Musiq album was a surprise to me, too. No hype AT ALL.

  5. It’s funny what we’re up on and not. While I been on The Robert Glasper Experiment, I totally didn’t know that Musiq and Raheem Devaughn had albums. I blame distance. I’m definitely not as plugged in as I once had. My tastes shifted a little to some African musicians waving the banner of soul and r&b like Fredy Massamba. For about a month, this was my song by the Nigerian singer, Dipo: I need him to drop an entire album STAT!

  6. Thank you! I didn’t wanna make this post about how much I love +FE, but I could gush about them for days. They really are my favorite music group/artist right now. I was actually disappointed with Raheem’s album, too.

    Love Behind the Melody is his best work and I have a hard time not comparing his latest music to that. I actually just bought John Legend’s “Evolver.” I’m kinda late 🙂

    I do wish Eric Benet and Dwele would come out with something new. I love both of those guys.

  7. Yes, the Foreign Exchange is truly slept on and is one of my favorite groups. I have all four studio albums on constant rotation! They are great live too! I was disappointed in Raheem’s offering though. John Legend’s latest, “Love in The Future”, is
    his best yet in my opinion. Love that album. Great post!

  8. Former Groove Theory singer Amel Larrieux’s Ice Cream Everyday was released in October and it is a stellar album. Ever since her release of Infinite Possibilities I have been a huge fan and she never disappoints.

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