Originally published for The 405.
As we near the end of the year, we only have time to squeeze in one last handful of hot new R&B for 2016 and, as always, we’ve got some absolute tunes for you all to enjoy.
This month, we’ve been blessed with a new Tinashe mixtape, the debut EP from Jorja Smith, the announcement of a new Childish Gambino album, a new single from LA duo THEY., the debut mixtape from Liana Bank$ and we even got to have a quick chat with exciting newcomer Ama Lou, following the release of her debut single.
Tinashe – Nightride
If you, like many other R&B fans, were stunned by Tinashe’s early mixtapes but have been disappointed with the musical direction she has taken since then, fear not as her new mixtape Nightride takes us back to old school Tinashe.
Along with the mixtape, Tinashe released an accompanying short film of the same title, directed by Stephen Garnett. The opening scene sees Tinashe expressing her frustrations, seemingly alluding to her ongoing struggles with her record label and not being able to put out the kind of material she wants.
To clear up any confusion over what Nightride is, Tinashe confirmed that it is the first of a two-part project, which is to be followed up by her continuously delayed second album Joyride early next year. Whatever it is, it’s Tinashe at her best.
Jorja Smith – Project 11
19-year-old Jorja Smith has been steadily releasing singles throughout the year, which have showcased her R&B, soul, jazz and hip-hop influences, culminating in the release of her debut EP Project 11 this month. Her soulful voice, clever lyrics and storytelling delivery prove Smith to be wise beyond her years and draw more than a few comparisons to one of her biggest influences Amy Winehouse.
The EP covers a range of styles: beginning with the jazz-influenced opener ‘Something in the Way’, followed by the piano-led ballad ‘So Lonely’, the delicately soulful ‘Carry Me Home’, which sees Smith team up with Maverick Sabre once again, and concluded with the politically-fuelled ‘Imperfect Circle’. Project 11 is a triumph and positions Jorja Smith as the most exciting new voice in UK R&B.
Childish Gambino – Redbone
Is there anything that Donald Glover can’t do? Fresh from creating and starring in the critically-acclaimed HBO TV series Atlanta, he has announced a new album under his musical alias Childish Gambino, titled Awaken, My Love! and due out 2nd December.
To whet our appetites, Gambino dropped two new singles this month: ‘Me and Your Mama’ and the more recent ‘Redbone’. Both tracks suggest that Gambino has taken a turn for the experimental, with the former a mammoth psychedelic, gospel-influenced track, suggesting that Gambino’s been listening to a lot of Pink Floyd, and the latter so funky it could bring Prince back from the dead. *Disclaimer: I cannot guarantee that this track will bring Prince back from the dead but it is very good.
THEY. – What You Want
If you thought R&B couldn’t be heavy, then think again because LA duo THEY. are proving just that. Drew Love and Dante Jones have cited their eclectic musical tastes as the reason for their genre-defying sound: rooted in R&B but also taking influence from rock, rap and pop.
Latest single ‘What You Want’ is taken from the duo’s upcoming debut album Nü Religion: HYENA, due out in February next year, and combines a guitar-led hook with R&B sensibilities and sparring rap verses to form the duo’s unique sound. THEY. were definitely listening when Kanye said “rap is the new rock’n’roll.”
Liana Bank$ – Insubordinate
Sometimes you just want to put something on to turn up to and Liana Bank$ has given us just that with her debut mixtape Insubordinate. Not a stranger to a hit, the Queens-based singer has already racked up writing credits for Rihanna and Nicki Minaj but she has decided it’s her time to shine now; and shine she does. Bank$’ style is very much radio-ready R&B, with tracks like ‘Plead the Fifth’, ‘Stamina’ and ‘Lost’ demonstrating this perfectly. However, Bank$ also shows her softer side on the more downtempo, trap-influenced ‘LVLUP’ and ‘Off’. If you like sassy, party R&B then Liana Bank$ is the one for you.
Ama Lou – TBC
With the year drawing to a close, it seems like the perfect time to look forward to next year and the artists we think are going to be huge in 2017. One of these artists is 18-year-old North Londoner Ama Lou, who recently dropped the video for her debut single ‘TBC’. We had a quick chat with Ama to talk about her new single, North London and her plans for 2017.
Can you explain a bit about the inspiration behind your new single ‘TBC’?
‘TBC’ is about race relations in the US – historic and modern, feminism and the revolutionary revolting youth of today. I wrote it from an observatory point of view and then in first person when it come to the chorus. I was inspired by my recent time spent living in New York and all the people I met, as well as historic and recent events in North America today, such as Black Lives Mattter, police brutality, slut walks and LGBTQ rights. But I was inspired by anyone and any movement that stands up for rightful change, these usually being movements against oppressed minorities: race, gender, social injustice or otherwise.
Exmoor Emperor produced the track – how did you meet and what made you decide to work together?
They’re amazing. My manager found them and asked if I liked their sound. It was random and by chance, but we clicked instantly. They are true creatives. I think we just vibed off each other because they got exactly what I was trying to do with my writing but then brought a whole other sound to the table. They’re just amazing guys.
You worked with your sister Mahalia John and Jack Bowden on the video for the track – what is the concept behind it?
I did – great team! The concept was that we wanted to introduce me as an artist but then replicate visually the space I had been in when I wrote ‘TBC’. The video is a day in the life of Ama Lou, intertwined with the subtle undercurrent of all the issues that the song represents. The people in the video are genuinely my best friends. We are just hanging out, skating, but then the cutaways reference police brutality.
I wanted it to represent how all this stuff is going on around us and we are constantly reminded through social media and TV but however much we observe and feel, it sometimes lacks the knowledge of how we can do anything about it. I wanted to use my life as an example of the juxtaposition: me being from and growing up in London, observing all the awful things going on in the US and the world today; that juxtaposition being a representation of how most of the world sees hardship and oppressive events. But then, on a more positive note, showing the hope in my generation and a lot of the refreshing ideology that we have and work we do.
The Levi’s Music Project recently released a short film about North London’s, particularly Tottenham’s, creative history. Being from North London, how much do you think the creative scene in that area has influenced you?
I love North London. I think it’s so powerful creatively because of its diversity. It sounds cliché but I know that for me at least, growing up I was surrounded by people of all different cultures, races, religions and classes and all those different factors just melded together so you all identified as being from an area rather than being separated by your different factors. I think being from North London means you are unforgivingly inspired by the different cultural traits and ideologies created by such a diverse community.
You’ve said that you spent five weeks in New York by yourself after you finished school – why did you decide to do this and why did you choose New York?
I knew I wasn’t going to university so I wanted something to throw myself at. I wanted to avoid that weird waiting period of nothingness after you finish school. I chose New York as I think it just seemed exciting, like there was a lot going on there. It’s also a transport city, which was essential as being completely independent while I was over there was really important to me.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2017?
Bangers, just absolute bangers.