Like the gang of neosoul singers who ruled the early aughts, alt R&B has sprung up as a countercultural form of soul music, sung by artists who are wary of labels. FKA Twigs has railed against the alternative R&B label about as vehemently as D’Angelo distanced himself from the category back in the day, likely because both terms have been used as catchalls to describe black creatives who sing indie music. But beyond the debate about what to call it, alternative R&B has unquestionably produced some of the most exciting music of the decade, from The Odd Future spin-offs (Grammy-winning Frank Ocean and Grammy-nominated the Internet) to the Saint Heron crew (a slew of Solange Knowles-endorsed singers, including Kelela and Sampha). Here, a round-up of the emerging names set to further redefine alt R&B this year.
Made up of vocalist Jillian Hervey (daughter of actress Vanessa Williams) and producer partner Lucas Goodman, Lion Babe are hardly new. But five years into their existence as a band — and three years after releasing their debut hit ‘Treat Me Like Fire’ — they’re just beginning to have a global impact as they make the summer music-festival rounds promoting their freshman album, “Begin.” Their mix of '80s soul and funk, which has been touched by the likes of Pharrell Williams and Childish Gambino, resonates strongest when played live, and Hervey, a former dancer, truly understands the power of performance.
The New York-born, London-raised, Atlanta-affiliated singer became famous while popping bubblegum, whipping her ponytail and rolling around in a bed full of stuffed animals in the video for her club hit, "Roses." And while she’s most closely associated with the ATL rap scene after being signed to the male-dominated Awful Records, her music brings to mind a different scene and era altogether: the raw, lo-fi house music of New York during the days of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Vogue has already christened her a fashion-industry favorite. Expect to hear her newly released EP, "Princess," on a New York Fashion Week catwalk or two come September.