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The quality of full-length R&B albums released in 2019 were both captivating and unique. The sound of the genre was either delivered through the lens of hip hop or through its soulful roots of love. But, either way, Rhythm and Blues certainly had some defining moments the proved why it is here to stay.
As the genre continues to go through a transformation that has taken a moment to understand, the sound of new school and old school R&B married in an inescapable 90s bliss while the other half basked in a trapped-out Neo-Soul dream.
The tinge of trap soul heard in most R&B songs that came out this year is a charming display of what this generation of music lovers’ desired, which was a taste for something new mixed in with a little bit of the old.
As 2019 comes to a close, REVOLT ranks the nine best R&B projects of the year. Check them out below.
9. Ye Ali — Traphousejodeci 2
Ye Ali’s Traphousejodeci 2 was one of R&B’s worthy waits and came just in time for cuffing season. It’s a panty-dropping soundtrack, filled with electric guitar riffs and lustful words meant for bedroom intimacy.
Production is handled by the multi-platinum artist himself, as well as the blessings of Mike Zombie, Th3ory and the 15-track project’s executive producer Bizness Boi.
On Traphousejodeci 2, Ye Ali is a lover, not a fighter. Songs such as “HMU,” “Rehearsal,” and “Leave It In” place come-through activities at a priority to the tune of a vibe that lovers of Jodeci and Silk would appreciate.
The project shows why Ye Ali continues to be one of the genre’s most promising acts, as he continues to churn out infectious slow jams for the Grammy award-winning star Chris Brown and himself.
8. Snoh Aalegra — Ugh, Those Feels Again
Swedish singer and songwriter Snoh Aalegra knows exactly how to move the soul and proves it with Ugh, Those Feels Again. The star’s prominence heightened in the US when Drake sampled her Feels track “Time” for his More Life song “Do Not Disturb” in 2017 and again this year when Boogie featured her on his debut Everything’s For Sale.
Now, the talented singer has 14 songs of encapsulated emotions from her sophomore debut that landed on the Billboard 200 chart.
On Ugh, Those Feels Again, Snoh navigates the realities of dating in this online-obsessed, afraid-to-love generation with songs such as “Sitiuationship,” “I Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love” and “Peace.” Her voice is smooth with a personality of its own and delivers a unique sonic experience.
At the beginning of 2020, she will embark on her “Ugh, A Tour Again” with fellow R&B singer QUIN.
7. Mahalia — Love and Compromise
UK singer Mahalia invites listeners on a journey of self-discovery for her second album release, Love and Compromise. Mahalia demands her love to be pure with each song and the 21-year-old singer communicates exactly what she needs with her passionate vocals.
Her sultry track “Simmer” featuring Burna Boy has over 26 million streams between YouTube and Spotify, and “What You Did” featuring the Grammy award-winning Ella Mai boasts over 30 million. The project also features Los Angeles jazz musician Terrace Martin on “Good Company” and is home to the ever so relatable and popular single “Do Not Disturb.”
The entire Love and Compromise project is evidence of the promise that lives in Mahalia through her songwriting and voice.
6. Emotional Oranges: The Juice Vol 1
Emotional Oranges brought all the feels with their debut EP, The Juice Vol. 1. From beginning to end, the mysterious R&B duo loved by Michelle Obama and JAY-Z converse over futuristic New Jack Swing production.
“Motion,” the project’s bright and funky opener, is one of the Los Angeles-based duet’s most popular joint with over 9 million YouTube and Spotify plays along with its dramatic number hit, “Personal.”
Emotional Oranges’ addition to the genre this year definitely didn’t go unnoticed. With sold out shows across the nation, their fanbase seemed to grow thanks to not only word-of-mouth, but their insane musical chemistry, as well.
It was divine intervention that allowed for loving jams such as “Good To Me,” “Built That Way” and the climatic fan favorite “Corners Of My Mind” to come together.
Emotional Oranges’ The Juice Vol. 1 soulfully permeated with an impassioned rollercoaster of feelings in eight spirited songs.
5. Tinashe: Songs For You
Tinashe fully came into her own with her independently released project Songs For You. The long-awaited 15-song studio album — recorded from the comfort of her Los Angeles home studio — is the follow-up to last year’s Joyride.
The talented singer’s creative and melodic songwriting skills are on full display throughout the project, especially on memorable tracks such as album opener “Feelings” and slow jam “Touch & Go” featuring 6LACK. She also expertly expands her palette with the comforting dance number “Die A Little Bit” with Ms Banks.
For an indie project, she was successfully able to come from under the thumb of her previous label to the Billboard 200 and Top R&B Albums charts.
Listening to Songs For You, it’s easy to experience the liberation and excitement Tinashe expresses, and has been longing to release. Her creative dexterity deserves all the praise.
4. SiR: Chasing Summer
Top Dawg Entertainment’s addition to the R&B discussion came big with the release of SiR’s hot season opener Chasing Summer and it was one of the most original R&B projects to drop this year. It’s dark and hazy production drape as a canvas for the Inglewood-native to croon affectionately over the plight of love and all of its circumstances.
Its standout track “Hair Down” featuring Kendrick Lamar is a summer dream, reflecting the freeing motion of what it means to finally be liberated from life’s stresses — even if it’s just for the moment.
The project features a verse from Lil Wayne on the tripped-out bluesy cut “Lucy’s Love,” Jill Scott on “Still Blue,” Smino on the West Coast vibe “LA Lisa,” and TDE label-mate Zacari featured on the relatable joint “Mood.”
As SiR combs through the viability of romance as he sees it on Chasing Summer, he sings through each situation while sharing ordinarily vulnerable moments through song.
3. Jacquees: King of R&B
Jacquees confidently considers himself the “King of R&B” for this current generation so much so that he named his sophomore effort after the controversial title. King of R&B is his rightful exhibit to his claim.
Jacquees’ serenades and belts out like he was born for it on the loving “EEEeee” and opts for a Donnel Jones-esque vibe for the Lil Baby-featured single “Your Peace,” which has nearly 50 million streams between Spotify and YouTube. The 25-year-old gives his all and sings with a purpose on King of R&B, delivering true Rhythm and Blues with a collection 18 memorable melodic tunes.
The project hit No. 4 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart upon its release and No. 20 on the Billboard 200 chart.
His tour in support of the album kicks off in January and wraps in his hometown of Atlanta in March.
2. Summer Walker: Over It
Summer Walker’s debut album, Over It, epitomizes the sound of R&B in 2019. The sound of the project was orchestrated by her current beau, London On Da Track, and these two certainly make beautiful music together.
Dripping in 90s persona mixed with a touch of autotune and the realities of trying to love in today’s digital landscape, Summer Walker had everyone who could relate singing along to Over It tracks such as “Girls Need Love” and “Playing Games” including unofficial pop culture A&R Kylie Jenner.
Over It saw the re-emergence of illusive R&B boys PARTYNEXTDOOR and Bryson Tiller. Legendary R&B singer Usher even made an additional surprise appearance for the track “Come Thru,” which samples his 1997 hit single “You Make Me Wanna.”
The album hit the Billboard 200 chart at No. 2 with a historic win in streaming for an R&B album by a female artist.
Summer’s honest crooning is magnetic and hypnotizing. Though the 24-year-old talent canceled a few of her tour dates and has become notorious for her “lazy” stage sets, the greatness of her songs seem to outshine those flaws. Regardless of the live stage situation, fans who come out to see her perform will not only receive live vocals backed by a live band — and the singer playing on her own guitar — but fellow energetic crowd members to yell all the words to “I’ll Kill You” and “Anna Mae.”
1. Ari Lennox: Shea Butter Baby
Ari Lennox’s voice is an intoxicating drug on her Dreamville debut album, Shea Butter Baby. The entire LP proves she knows exactly to do with her vocals and that her pen game is elite. The star makes for easy listening, as she takes every person tapped into the Shea Butter Baby experience through a soulful trance only her voice can pilot.
The album is the purest R&B album of the year from it’s funky, Neo-Soul-inspired production to Ari’s vocal acrobatics across each track, and her songwriting prowess. Though she may speak of quitting music, this greatness of this album should be reason enough to not.
Her shea butter affections ultimately made it’s way to the Billboard 200 chart and entered at No. 7 on the Billboard R&B Album chart.
Ari brings a jazzy expressive nostalgic vibe together with the movement of sexual freedom on tracks such as “B.M.O.,” “Up Late” and the album’s titled track, “Shea Butter Baby” featuring J. Cole.
“Speak To Me,” “New Apartment” and the noteworthy jam “Whipped Cream” are memorable and make up the impeccable cohesiveness Shea Butter Baby presents, creating the best R&B album of 2019.